“The simple moral fact is that words kill…Don’t hit back at all. If someone strikes you, stand there and take it…love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.”
(Warning: Explicit, but not Gratuitous – Language)
A few years ago, upon my return to work from paid medical leave, full of disbelief, a scoffing, rude manager asked me, “Did you REALLY have a heart attack?”.
The first response that came immediately to mind: “No! I just faked my E.R. bloodwork, EKGs, 11 heart caths, 3 stents, 2 – 100% blockages to my Left Circumflex & Left Anterior Descending Arteries, 1 Trauma Center helicopter flight, and 12 months of Cardiac Rehab. And the insurance company bought it!” However, thinking better of it, looking the manager directly in the eye without hesitation, the actual words that came of my mouth were:
“As soon as my local hospital saw my EKG, they put me on a helicopter to the nearest hospital with a full heart cath lab that could do more than just diagnostic heart caths and actually do angioplasties with stent placement. The flight nurse sitting next to my gurney on that cold winter helicopter flight didn’t even want to look at me. He didn’t think I was going to make it. After the first stent was placed, I was recovering in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit the next morning, looking up from my chart at the foot of my bed, the unit’s charge nurse, she commented, ‘You had a hundred percent blockage there? 100 out of 100 people who have those normally….die. You’re damn lucky to be here.’ .” Continuing to articulate my reply to my incredibly insensitive, scoffing boss, I said, “11 heart caths later, several near-fatal responses to nitro later, 2 more stents later, 12 months of cardiac rehab later, all, after already being in triathlon condition as an athlete, I’m just happy to still be here. Any day six feet above ground, is a good day.” This very same scofflaw manager, I already knew, had eliminated my position while I was recovering, offered me a lower position upon my return, and, at that very moment, beat a hasty retreat, not being able to get away from me fast enough. 3 1/2 years later, that very same manager’s spouse had a heart attack and almost died. That manager wasn’t aware that even in a hospital w/specialized cardiac care, the survival rate is *still* only 24%.
25 years earlier, “You’re such a f*cking baby” I was told by someone accompanying me in E.R. immediately after I screamed in pain caused by a bi-lateral testiticular torsion.
The attending E.R. Trauma Director immediately responded, “Get them OUT OF HERE! NOW!!!” and the incredibly insensitive person was promptly escorted out the the E.R. by several panicked RNs, LPNs and security. I was then immediately prepped for emergency surgery to surgically resolve one of the most severe, intense forms of physical pain that ANY human, male or female can experience. I had unknowingly cried out in pain during examination on an E.R. bed, seeing and feeling only a white-hot flash of the most intense pain throughout my entire body then immediately blacking out. When I came too, the entire E.R. was silent, all eyes on me. That’s when the person who’d accompanied me to the E.R. blurted out their comment in shame and disgust. The entire E.R. staff, nurses, nurse aides, security, doctors, interns, other patients, every one of them, including myself, watched in silence as the person was hustled out of E.R., into the waiting area, realization dawning on their face.
Almost 3 years later than that,”You’re such an *sshole. Why are you doing this? What’s the big deal?? Dragging me all the way here, on a Saturday MORNING of all times?” I was stunned. The person who’d accompanied me to the police station insultingly hurled the words at me. “Get this person OUT OF HERE. NOW!!!” barked the senior detective taking my statement. Unbelievably, it was the same person who’d accompanied me years earlier to the E.R. mentioned above. I had just finished identifying and providing a complete statement after being carjacked in my then employer’s parking lot while returning to work from getting a late night pizza, working overnight with others to correct a payroll system crash. The senior detective continued, just before the incredible scofflaw was removed from the interview room, “He did exactly what he needed to do to come back to you, ALIVE, after staring down the barrel of a cocked, loaded, .45 AND a hand on his neck, squeezing. He did it while remembering every turn, every street name where he’d never been before, following the carjacker’s instructions, all the while, WITHOUT doing what everyone else would have done: dropping a LOAD of shit in their pants. Get a clue by four and wait outside.”
30 years ago, shivering, suit-clad w/coat and gloves, in a kitchen on an icy cold, gray, snow-filled day, the words shocked me: “I absolutely FORBID you from going!! It’s too sad and doesn’t concern US!” my friend’s parent said evenly and coldly to them while looking directly at me. My jaw dropped, stunned. I stared in shocked silence back into their parent’s incredibly uncaring eyes gazing down their nose at me. Gasping, my friend’s other parent rebuked their spouse sharply. My friend, amazingly, put their arm around me, lovingly turned me around, and as we walked out the door into the single digit cold, looked back over their shoulder and replied, “I hope MY brother NEVER does what HIS brother did. If he ever would, *I* would know why and *YOU* would know just how much more suffering your uncaring callousness just caused.” We were on our way to my brother’s graveside closed-casket funeral. I was 19. He was the 2nd brother I’d lost to suicide. A decade later, that parent’s son lost HIS best friend to an alleged suicide, and realized the same pain when he had to attend HIS best friend’s funeral.
Every day, at work, at home, in ‘safe’ places, with ‘safe’ people, many have had jaw-dropping, stunningly painful moments on the receiving end of incredibly insensitive, cruel, hateful, spite-filled venom at the most vulnerable, unexpectedly honest, raw, painful moments imaginable. In everything, through the pain, the anger, the hurt, the frustration, the gasping shock and grief, the very ‘WHY?’ of it all, we have a choice: to show compassion, restraint, and self-control, or, vent our wrath.
Please. Remember it – the next time, EVERY time, you’re tempted to scoff, dismiss, discredit, put down, ignore, condescend, judge, shame, scorn, deny and disbelieve someone for the greatest crimes of all: Being different from you and reacting differently than how YOU THINK you would. You have absolutely NO IDEA what they are experiencing. The universe is listening. When you LEAST expect it, the gift of EMPATHY may be bestowed upon you by an indifferent, uncaring universe, giving birth to a rare concept today: Compassion. The universe just may visit the same upon you. Did your jaw just drop? I hope so. We Will Do This. We are each others keepers. Be grateful shame still exists in today’s charged atmosphere. It just may be your own. Be careful out there when bragging about a verbal or literal bullet to the head. Two of my brothers were willing to, and did just that to themselves to escape others’ abuse and hate as well as their own pain. God knows how I struggled with the same 30 years ago. I do have a very educated idea at just how statistically significant it is that I’m still here – in light of, everything. And yes, even though my comments are colored by Survivorship Bias, it doesn’t make me special. It only means I’ve had direct experience. I may be an object lesson, but I’m not perfect. I still feel pain, and others’ hate at time. Grateful to not respond in kind – grateful for every single breath every day. Violence of any form, whether verbal, spiritual, emotional, or otherwise is NEVER the answer. Only Love is, just “Look at Me” don’t “Blame each other…Blame yourselves”