There’s an old lady at the local library that I’ve had two bad interactions with. One involved her banging on my van window then proceeding to yell at me and ask me if these were my children or if I was just the babysitter and launch into a tirade that somehow ended in her recounting a local news story that ended in horror. (Granted I was illegally parked in a handicap spot–apparently HER handicap spot…so yes, I made a very bad decision and take full responsibility for it) I tried to kind of smile and play dumb and nod my head and act respectful as I listened, but the interaction left me quite shaken, angry, and embarassed. I tried to write it off as “just some grumpy old lady with nothing better to do than go around yelling at people”.
The second took place inside the same library when my kids exuberantly headed to the children’s section (which is in the farthest corner of the library from the entrance) and she muttered not at all under her breath but very much out loud some unkind words about “where is the mother?” and other gripes about children and parents these days…
Now whenever I see her car (the mint green Prius hybrid parked in HER handicap spot) I warn the children that the “grumpy grandma” is here and that they have to be silent and uber obedient in the library so she doesn’t yell at us again.
She sits at the same computer kiosk. She wears orthopedic peds with very thickly uneven soles (I’m assuming this is what has earned her the handicap status). She has giant glasses perched on the end of her nose and mutters out loud, peering over her glasses as if she’s looking for her next target.
For a long time, I was pretty scared of her.
But recently, I had a pretty bad case of walking pneumonia. I kept telling Dan, “I feel like I’m 80” as I was trying to do simple tasks while clinging to a chair or countertop for support, or buckled over in a coughing spasm. After a month and a half I’m just starting to feel better and realizing it’s taken quite a toll on me physically, mentally, and emotionally. And, unfortunately, on my family as well.
While I was ill, and even still now, I would find myself snapping at anyone and everyone and everything around me. Having to function despite sheer exhaustion and not able to feel well, be, or do things myself had completely set me on edge and made me frustrated and angry at the drop of a hat. The “hurt people hurt people” bumper sticker has flashed into my mind often, and now it makes SO much sense to me.
And so does the “grumpy grandma” at the library. And other cranky people I’ve encountered in my life.
And instead of being afraid of them and their lashing outs, I simply harbor pity for them.
I understand why they do it. They don’t feel good. They don’t want to feel the way they do. They don’t want to act the way they do. And after they snap, if they’re anything like me, the guilt and frustration and awful sadness at your inability to act good when you feel bad just rips you apart even more.
So I’ve been trying to head into public places and spaces with a little bit different mindset these days. Ready to be patient with grumpy people. Trying to control my rambunctious crew so they don’t bother people who are just trying to get from point A to point B. Trying to find someone to give a smile or a kind word to. And I’m trying to make up some lost ground at home too–listening to my kids use unkind voices with each other which are simply mimicking what they’ve heard me using with them. Ouch! So painful to realize that I’m responsible for that.
My kids are learning about kindness this month at church (treating others the way you want to be treated) and I’m finding that I need to re-learn it too, apparently. Ephesians 4:32 has been my mantra as I attempt to shake off the rancorous rut I’ve fallen into the past month.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Although I can’t stop the aging process or keep my body from letting me down, I CAN do something about my attitude. I am determined that I am NOT going to turn into the “grumpy grandma”. (Or park in handicap spots ever again…)