Being Called “Trash” and Eating a Cookie: Veronica Farrell

So, I genuinely tried to come up with other topics for this blog. I had a list. I was brainstorming. Madly typing to keep from staring at the endlessly blinking cursor that is writer’s block.

However, I just spent the morning at work covering the front desk and had a conversation with a participant who only addressed me as “trash.” Yes that’s right, trash. As in, I’m a piece of. So that’s what you get to read about today.

A participant called me trash today all because I was curt with her after she repeatedly cut me off. I politely (at least I genuinely think so) told her to let me finish explaining the service she was asking about because it would answer most of her additional questions and we could move on from there. Unfortunately, she didn’t seem to like being spoken to that way and I think she got quite a bit of pleasure out of making sure I felt the same way. For example, when I tried to pull her away from the volunteer medical professional she chose to rant at, who was providing free heart health screenings, I was told, “don’t worry trash, I have a college degree like you. I know how to play stupid too.”

So I let it go and went back to the front desk shaking with anger, getting supportive pats on the back from volunteers and coworkers. “It happens” and “it was mental illness” and “there’s nothing you could do” and “I would have done the same” were traded around the circle inside the welcome desk. I appreciated the understanding from my peers and the comfort of shrinking into my seat behind the raised desk, enjoying the barrier it created.

About half hour later, the volunteer medical professional returned from her lunch and over that wide, protective welcome desk counter she delivered me a jumbo chocolate chip cookie from the convenience store across the street. “I’ve been in this field a long time,” she said, “don’t stress.” I almost cried, people. I have no idea why that cookie meant so much more to me than anybody’s words, but it did. Although, it might just be a sign of sugar addiction.

Sitting in the kitchen shoveling my lunch and cookie down, all I could think about was what I did wrong and what I could have done better. Flipping through my planner to distract myself, I came across a couple end-of-month reflections where I had listed the same area of improvement back-to-back. Suddenly, I remembered a conversation I had with my spiritual director a long time ago about planning for failure. I asked for a fancy passion planner for Christmas and it has lots of space for making long term goals and outlining short term steps throughout the week. It’s really useful, but one afternoon I shared with her a goal for this program and how I would achieve it. To my surprise, she responded immediately with “what’s your plan if you can’t make that happen?”

I can’t say that was exactly what I was looking for, but when it comes to working with other people (especially those in marginalized populations) I can’t control every interaction and outcome. So how am I preparing myself for when things don’t go the way I planned? How can I handle imperfect situations and still be happy? What’s my Plan B for acceptance and letting go?

I may not have the answer just yet, but I’m a whole lot closer to it with such supportive living and work environments. And jumbo chocolate chip cookies.


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