Well a little “red flag” waved like mad right in my line of vision this week. When I stopped to heed my little “self-warning”, I was even able to trace it back to when it started. You see, I was developing a bad attitude! Not a bad attitude about any one person in particular, but towards a group of people. A bias, really! It all started when I went shopping at Wal-mart last Tuesday.
Chloe has a ball in Wal-mart. This is a good thing, for her enthusiasm is contagious and – frankly? Wal-mart is not one of my favorite places to go, so I can use a little infectious enthusiasm about the money-saving, weekly task! You see? There are a LOT of things to pick up off the floor at Wal-mart.
Chloe does an “automatic retrieve”. Granted, sometimes this is a real pain! For example, when you are in a store that is notorious for having things all over the floor, Chloe is stopping every few feet to hand me something! An automatic retrieve is when Chloe sees something that I’ve dropped, she automatically and immediately fetches it and brings it to me. She also does directed retrieves, which means she will fetch things I point at, or identify with words she recognizes. Having Meniere’s disease insures there are days that having to reach all the way to the floor, means I’ll also be sprawled out IN IT. Chloe keeps that from happening. If items are just laying around, Chloe really shouldn’t go and pick it up as it wasn’t something I dropped (automatic retrieve), nor is it something I’ve asked her to do (directed retrieve). However, coupons and bits of plastic have a tendency to “be stirred up, move, and re-land” as a shopping cart goes by. Since Wal-mart has shopping carts… everywhere… Chloe thinks every new thing that lands in front of her is something I need. For awhile I was telling her “phoeey” or “drop it”. This hurt her feelings. (She’s very sensitive). I didn’t want to break her solid retrieve commands, so I play along as she gets such a kick out of it and as it is such good practice.
Last Tuesday we were in the baking section of Wal-mart and I was looking for pancake mixes. A man and woman walked by me from behind. The man said “Oh bruuuuther!” very loudly as he walked by me. I looked up to see what he was talking about, just in time to see him tap his wife’s arm and point to Chloe and again explain, “Oh bruuuuther! Can you believe it? What will they think of next?” The MEANNESS pouring off of him completely shut my mouth. (Rare thing, THAT, believe me!)
I’m pretty sure my mouth dropped open. The sarcasm and disdain in his voice were very apparent. My mind raced with what I wanted to say, and how I wanted to explain that for ME, Chloe’s partnership was invaluable. I stood there trying to think of what to say, and how to say it… yet I was angry and hurt. He rolled his eyes and again looked at his wife. She said what I WANTED too… “Just shut-up Chuck!”
The entire experience probably took 2-3 minutes of my time. Yet I stood there, rooted to the spot, for at least twice that long.
One Bozo ≠ Everyone Else
I’m not sure why I pondered and perseverated on that as long as I did. Have you ever had something happen before where you spent a great deal of time thinking about what you WISH you would have said or done? Little by little, I could feel my attitude changing.
I have a red flag that I’ve set up in my mind to identify when I get an “us” versus “them” mentality. The “us” is any individual, including myself, who lives with a disability of any kind. The “them” are people who do not have a disability. When I start thinking or saying things like the following… I know I need to stop. That red flag will be
1. Well, you couldn’t understand because you have normal hearing.
2. You don’t know how I feel… you can’t! You don’t fall all day long and run into things!
3. You are a HEARING person. (Like that is a cut-down of some kind!)
4. If you could live one day in my shoes…
Those kind of thought processes tend to foster one major PITY PARTY. I can feel myself start to feel resentful. It can get ugly pretty quickly left unchecked. In this case… I let one BOZO represent everyone else I know. Truthfully, those with extreme prejudices are the exception, not the rule.
Battling a Negative Pattern of Thinking
So other than seeing that red flag, and recognizing my faulty thinking… what can I do? Very likely every person has a way to battle negative thinking that works for THEM. For me, I may do any of the following:
1. Count my blessings with deliberation and certainty.
2. Remind myself why ALL biases are wrong.
3. Make a list of all the people in my life who “get it” and do not have disabilities.
4. Hug and groom my dog, Chloe.
5. Listen to positive, up-beat music.
6. Do something for someone else for no particular reason.
7. If it would be constructive, confront an offender with grace, respect and firmness.
Red Flags are Good Things!
Do you have red flags in your life? These are necessary self-warnings that all of us should have! What are some red flags that you have and pay attention to in your life? Some of my own:
1. Spiritually: Does my walk TALK, louder than my talk, talks? Am I daily checking in with God through prayer and reading my Bible? Do I seek to be a blessing to others? Does that start at HOME?
2. Physically: Have a walked at least 4 days this week? Am I watching what I eat? Am I taking my blood pressure medication each day?
3. Emotionally: What have I done for ME this week to just relax and unwind? Do I need an attitude adjustment? Am I living in peace or allowing anxiety to wreck havoc?
4. Mentally: Am I growing? What am I learning in school? Am I giving my best to my team and individual assignments? Are these things helping me reach my goals?
© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal