I've written about a bad experience I had on a local bus recently in a posting entitled Workplace Abuse: Learning through experiences on the road to recovery. It was horrendous when it was happening. Afterwards, I had strong mixed feelings. Feelings mostly of guilt at first which slowly began to be overtaken by other, more positive feelings. With the help of others, I began to see the experience in a different light. I finally, for the first time, realized the impact of one lie I had internalized from both workplace bullying situations: that being loud was wrong. It made people "uncomfortable" and that was more important than anything else. Believe me, I was loud on the bus that day and I'm sure the people around us felt uncomfortable. However, I was feeling very uncomfortable as well. In that seat. With that man glaring at me, shoving me, judging me, condemning me.
I learned that day, that situations like that are not comfortable for anyone involved. Neither the instigator, the target or the bystander.
That one experience has since become a pivotal experience on my road to recovery as I processed and analyzed the experience in the light of things I'm learning currently and have already learned on the journey.
For one thing, I realized that this was one experience in a life time of experiences. One experience in a lifetime that spans six decades of riding buses.
This concept is from Jan Silvious's book Look at it This Way, which is a resource I've used on the road to recovery (and is included in my bibiography - another posting).
Silvious urges the reader to look at experiences - both good and bad - in a more realistic light: the light that this is just one experience in a lifetime of experiences. This one experience does not define our lives - or our value. It does not define who we are.
While I am admittedly still struggling with applying and internalizing this concept to my experience in the workplace - especially the second workplace which lasted for four years, I am starting to realize how I can apply this concept to other, shorter incidents. Like the one on the bus.
Taking one small step at a time on this path to fully recovery.
Concurrently, my therapist has told me that I have a tendency to personalize things that might not be meant personally - which gave me a lot to think about. It's hard not to take the workplace incidents personally - as they were meant personally.
But, the bus incident is in no way personal. The man's behaviour in reality had nothing to do with me. Who I am. My value. My worth. He didn't know me. I believe that his behaviour would have been the same for anyone in that seat - particularly if that person was a woman. It does not define me.
Which makes this incident easier to look at from the light of being "one incident in a lifetime of experiences".
Another thing I realized almost immediately was the importance of not hibernating in my "safe" room. That I needed to get up and go out again. As soon as possible. Two days after the incident, I got on the bus again - and have ridden it several times since then.
Nothing bad has happened. In fact, I see the opposite occurring.
On one occasion, I got on a bus which was starting already to get crowded at the downtown terminal and slid into a window seat. I put my purse beside me between the window and my body leaving the aisle seat open. I felt a body slide into the seat beside me. Not looking over, I moved my purse onto my lap and slid over. Then I looked at the person, smiled, and said "this should give us more room". It was an older man. And yes, I did check. No hearing aids. It was not the same man as before. He gave me the most beautiful smile. Had I not gotten right back on the bus, had I let my fears metastasize and grow, had I not immediately endeavoured to let go and move on from that one bad experience. this heartwarming experience would not have happened. I still smile thinking of it.
The same day, I got on a bus that was again already filling up at my transfer point. There was some confusion as a person with a service dog was getting on in front of me and couldn't decide where to sit. So I waited patiently. A woman I assumed to be much older than myself was sitting there and I asked politely if I could sit beside her. She gave me a warm smile and we started a conversation which lasted until her stop. She had a rich Scottish accent. I thoroughly enjoyed just listening to the cadence of her speech. Another good experience which would not have happened had I not decided to let go and move on.
Lastly, saving the best for last of course....
Last week, I was getting on the bus to go home. I rarely notice who the driver is, but recently I've noticed I've had this one driver several times. He started to automatically reach for a transfer, looked at me and then said: "You're going home, you don't need ones of these!" I asked him if he recognized me by my face, my colourful coat or my smile. He bantered back, saying: "all three". Then he added for good measure, "You're always smiling." I had to ask him after that comment what he would do if on the rare occurrence I wasn't smiling. Quick as a wink he said: "Then I wouldn't recognize you."
I don't think I've laughed so hard in weeks.
It was a good experience. Something positive.
Until tomorrow ....