Sometimes we just need to say ‘I’m sorry’, so here goes.
Dear Person in the Starbucks Parking Lot,
It wasn’t you, it was me. And I’m sorry.
You probably remember, but last Friday was a bright and sunny day that felt more like October than early January. The parking lot at our Starbucks is usually problematic and Friday was no exception. It’s small and nestled into a corner of a busy intersection–so even when it’s half-full there are traffic jams. On Friday, it was completely full.
The deserved honk and utter overreaction
You were simply trying to park your car so you could run in to grab your caffeinated beverage of choice. I was lost in thought with my door wide open, completely in your way. You were patient and when I hadn’t moved in a reasonable amount of time, you (like anyone would) gently honked your horn to let me know you were waiting for me to do so.
Not all honks of the horn are created equal. There’s the lay-on-it honk used to prevent an accident. Not to be confused with the sharper lay-on-it honk to make sure someone knows you’re calling them an a*&hole. My personal favorite is the friendly and short, rapid honk-honk that says “hey, I’m right here…just letting you know.” To be clear, that’s the type of honk you used, rightly so, and in a friendly manner–but I didn’t take it that way. And I’m sorry.
I was startled by the honk and flashed you a nasty look with open hands that were saying “what the h#$@ are you honking about?!?” As soon as my eyes met yours, I knew I had overreacted. Still slightly frazzled from the honk startle and completely annoyed with myself (and more than a touch embarrassed), I told you that I was sorry for overreacting. You acknowledged my apology with a nod and warm smile. From there, we each moved on with our day.
I had just hung up the phone with Mom. She was upset and I couldn’t fix it, which left me sad for her and frustrated with the situation. I was momentarily frozen and didn’t even realize my door was w-i-d-e open. In my head, I was still on the phone, silently cursing dementia and trying to figure out how to fix things for Mom. When I heard the horn, I instinctively (and unnecessarily) projected the angst and frustration I was mentally digesting in that moment, onto you. For what? Because you were simply trying to park your car in the only available spot? Nah. It was all me. My behavior was completely wrong and uncalled for. And I am sorry.
I thought about our meeting this past weekend. A lot. We had closure (I apologized and you graciously acknowledged) but I haven’t been able to put it out of my head. So I’m determined to learn from it. Replaying the situation in my mind (again and again), I found myself thinking about this quote–or some variation of it–often throughout the weekend.
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. –Philo
Last Friday, you were a living and breathing example of what Philo was talking about. Instead of engaging my ridiculous overreaction, you were kind. Calm. And kind. Thank you for showing that restraint and kindness and reminding me of this important lesson. I need to do better.
And a reminder
Our meeting also reminded me of something that will make me a better caregiver. I can’t fix everything. When it comes to Mom and her dementia, I can’t even fix most things, never mind everything. I know this and thought I’d accepted it–but clearly I have more work to do.
My purpose as a caregiver is to make sure Mom is safe and supported, not fixed. Safe for obvious reasons and supported such that she can live her best life. Fixing isn’t possible in this case. Focusing on the fix is what left me stressed and lost in thought when we met–and it was a factor in my unacceptable behavior. And I am sorry.
I’m sorry. And thank you.
I don’t know what kind of battles you are fighting, but I hope you’re winning. How you handled my overreaction helped me with mine. Thanks for the lesson.
That was you, not me.
Overreacting Jack%^& in the Starbucks Parking Lot
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