Have you ever made a multi-layered hate cake?
I made a monstrous one today. Ten delicious layers of built up resentment, fear and worry.
It’s really ridiculous. It was about nothing serious. Taking care of some business related to a support group.
But the woman who requested that I take care of this issue talks a lot, and is needy. And yes, she reminds me of my mom. So out of the gate, I have an uneasiness and impatience with having to deal with her. Layer one.
Then, the thing she requested me to do had hazy details, so I wasn’t sure how to respond. Gray area. I might make a mistake. Layer two.
I began to picture her hovering over my every move, questioning my handling of it. Future projecting. Layer three.
Then I contacted the business she had the problem with and I kept getting a message saying they were not taking calls at that time. What. The. FUCK!!!!! Layer four.
I waited a day. Called back. Same thing. I started imagining her hounding me for answers while I deal with a business that can’t get its fucking phones straight. Layer five.
I finally found out the phone list I had was incorrect – a hot wave of resentment at the “stupid motherfucker” who put it together. Layer six.
I imagined myself holding the phone list in front of his face and quizzing him like one of those pompous British guys with the powdered wig. “So you knew the citizenry depended upon the phone list in question, yet you abandoned the duties bound by your oath? Hmmm. No further questions.” – cut to him being beaten by peasants while a butler serves me a single egg.
I found the right number and called the most horrendous phone system I have encountered in my entire life. No exaggeration. Seriously. The hold “music” sounded like squealing bombs going off. Screeching, distorted sounds so loud I was afraid my phone was being damaged. And of course I sat on hold forever. Layer seven.
I could feel my face getting hot. I fantasized about finding the owner of the business and telling them they should be ashamed to call themselves a business.
I finally got through and the person I was told to talk to, Karen. She told me to talk to someone else. Layer eight. I wanted to tell her she should be ashamed of herself for not caring about her workplace and pawning me off on someone else, and stuffing that feeling made my heart beat faster. I could feel adrenaline surging, like my tongue was in a horse gate at a race track, just begging to let loose.
I was then transferred to a dude who sounded as uninterested as he was dumb. He said I needed to talk to Kenny. Layer nine. I asked if I could leave a message for Kenny; of course not. He was too busy sounding dumb and uninterested. I probably caught him in the middle of staring at a lamp.
I couldn’t resist telling him about the hold “music”, and reminded him to pack a sweater because fall can be chilly at The Hague.
I went to write down Kenny’s extension.
I couldn’t find a pen. Layer ten. Timer dings. Cake done.
I wanted to scream. I wanted to drive my car through my front door. I wanted to put my fist through something.
I hung up the phone. I felt warm rage in my face. I could feel it tingle my scalp. I wanted to cry.
And here is where all my therapy and support group work paid off.
I recognized what I was feeling. I didn’t brush it aside. I felt it. I didn’t judge myself for feeling it. I asked myself “What am I doing to contribute to what I’m feeling? What do I have control over?”
I went back to the beginning of what I was doing and I realized I was anticipating the needy woman’s disapproval of my handling this. I was anticipating being overwhelmed by her phone calls, her micromanaging and complaining, or worse, her being passive aggressive. I was looking into my broken, useless crystal ball. It’s where my addiction and mental illness lives. It presents itself as the truth, I believe it and act from a place of fear.
I anticipated me not being able to set boundaries with this woman. I anticipated letting someone down. I anticipated me not being perfect.
THAT is the problem. Not the woman, not the business, not their shitty phones, not their uninterested employees.
I had become ATTACHED to an outcome: I HAVE to solve this. I HAVE to please this needy woman.
I should have approached it with the INTENT to solve it, the ACTIONS to do so, but the resignation to ACCEPT that I MIGHT NOT solve it. That someone somewhere in the world might be upset with me.
Suddenly I could see the ridiculousness of my fear, which led to feeling frustrated, which led to ten layers of anger.
So the next time we find ourselves screaming, “WHERE ARE ALL THE FUCKING PENS?, “ stop, take a deep breath, let go of expectation and focus on what we have control over (which is usually very little) and accept what we don’t.
I’m having a great day now. I’ll call that business tomorrow and if I can solve the problem, I’ll solve it. If I hit a dead-end, so be it. The needy woman won’t die. She’ll probably be upset. And if she’s lucky she’ll know to stop, take a deep breath and accept it.