After working another 16-hour day this past Wednesday, I was ready to go home.
There are days when I appreciate my unique perspective of being both a customer and a retail worker, but Wednesday was not one of those days. The customers were a little more trigger-happy than usual; the employees were a little more frazzled and worn around the edges.
Two days before Christmas, and everyone around me seemed like they relished being a little more grumpy, and excused their behavior because of The Holidays. Complete strangers can wait in the same line and bond over how horrible certain employees were, and all the things they still needed to do if they can just get through this line. At the end of their grumbling, the usual head shake, the shared knowing look: “What do you expect: It’s The Holidays.” Some employees were no better, excusing their short, callous behavior with a shrug, and a glare: “Look, Lady, it’s The Holidays.” Like The Holidays is a disease and grumpiness is a symptom, like a runny nose, or a sore throat.
With each step to my car, I worked on releasing all of the negativity that I didn’t want to carry home with me, pretending the frosty breath I exhaled carried away one more complaint that I didn’t need inside me.
My car was easy to spot. It’s one of the only ones left in the middle of a nearly deserted parking lot. It’s also nicely frosted over.
I sped up a little bit, knowing that thawing out my car will add another ten minutes to my “going home” time. Then, I remembered a co-worker who slipped and fell in the parking lot of her full time job the day before, breaking her knee in six places. I continued my pace, but this time adopting a penguin-shuffle to keep me more stable as I eyed the parking lot for hidden patches of black ice. By the time I reached my car, and resigned myself to scraping the ice off the windshield, I decided that another ten minutes was nothing to an end of a sixteen-hour workday. And, I didn’t break my knee.
Scraping done, I waited in my car for just a few more minutes to get warm and defrost myself. While doing so, I wandered over to Twitter to see what my friends were up to. I remembered that there was something that a friend wanted to share, but I didn’t have the opportunity to see what it was.
So, I clicked on the link she shared, wondering if it was going to be a silly Holiday comic or something like that. Her story was definitely not a silly comic, and I was definitely not prepared for it.
So there I was: the only soul in the middle of a semi-dark, nearly empty parking lot, crying in a defrosting car. Everything I experienced that day, the endless hours, the clingy, needy mass of humanity, issues so petty and useless in the light of the story she shared, washed away from me in one cathartic haze.
Sitting there, I realized that even though I thought I was immune to The Holidays, I caught it too, though my symptoms were different. Co-workers and customers alike praised my cheery attitude, and I thought, “How wonderful: I can show them all that The Holidays can be a happy time. They’ll see, they’ll all see!” But my symptoms were not the grumbly kind. They were more the cynical and jaded kind…the I-expect-you-all-to-be-horrible-so-I-will-rise-above-and-be-perpetually-smiley kind…the kind that created distance between me and the rest of the population, distance that didn’t allow me to love and appreciate people like I ought…the kind that made me forget for a moment that behind all the hubbub of finding the perfect gift is the love that the gift is supposed to represent. And, sometimes, expressing that love is difficult for some people, especially if they’ve recently lost a loved one, or three. As an Encourager and a Servant, I lost my focus. For that, I have no excuses.
I forgot that The Holidays is about love, pure and unconditional. Thank you @WookiesGirl for the reminder.