The Smell of a Tuna Fish Sandwich –
My wife came home early from work on Friday. She wasn’t feeling well and had a stomach bug. I’m not a natural caretaker but was able to get her settled in the bed and bring her something to drink with saltine-crackers. She slept most of Friday and Saturday was feeling better. She still wasn’t eating much and when I asked if she would like lunch she opted for a bland bowl of cereal. I, on the other hand, fixed myself a fresh can of tuna, with mayo and pickles. When Beth fixed her cereal I noted she was on the far side of the counter. “What are you doing over there?” I asked. “The smell of your tuna is not helping my stomach!” she replied and told me it was the last thing she ate Friday before getting sick. The smell of my Tuna Fish sandwich was threatening to make her sick again.
Scientists tell us that smell is one of the greatest memory triggers. However, all our senses, particular situations, certain people, can trigger pain, shame, emotional, mental and even physical reactions in us or others. This is why it’s so important making sure we don’t judge or label others who may react differently to events and experiences. The path of their life, which intersects ours, could be fraught with challenges and difficulties we’ve never encountered. Knowing each person has a unique path helps us be aware, accepting, adaptable, and non-judgemental toward each other.
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Malevolent or Benevolent –
Last night I listened to a podcast about the psychology of a stalker. A young woman, through no fault of her own, had encountered a patron at her work and treated him nicely, the way she did every customer. The man who received her professional courtesy and kindness took it as a gesture of a personal declaration of her love for him. From then on he would show up at her work, her home, parties and other places. At first, he would watch her for hours, then he began writing poetry, calling her at home, declare his love for her and her for him at different and unexpected places. She reported his behavior to the police, depended on friends to keep him away, moved twice to locations almost five-hundred miles apart. Still, he found her.
He wrote a blog about being a stalker in which he wrote about a love that was benevolent; kind, kindly, kindhearted, big-hearted, good-natured, good, benign, compassionate, caring. He insisted she misunderstood him and accused him of being malevolent; malicious, hostile, evil-minded, baleful, evil-intentioned, venomous, evil, malign, malignant, rancorous, vicious, vindictive, vengeful. He had plans of “fake” kidnapping her and after she went away with him, falling in love with him. His behavior was spiraling and finally, after attacking another woman, he was put in jail for thirteen months for assault, stalking and predatory behavior. Before, during and after being incarcerated, he wrote a book about a man who fell in love with a beautiful woman who eventually learned to love him. People can find the book for sale online today and the blog he still writes.
Love gone wrong, gone bad, corrupted, coercive and corrosive is not love but selfishness painted in illusion. As I listened to the podcast last night I couldn’t help but think a lot of what’s wrong with our world today is people not knowing the difference between malevolent and benevolent.
Spoiler Free –
I spoiled a television show for someone. I didn’t mean to. We were listing what shows we liked and followed and she mentioned one in particular. I told her it was a good show and the way she talked about the episodes and the people and certain situations I thought she was on season two when in fact she was still working her way through the first season. I said; “Can you believe he killed that guy?” and all I received in return was a blank stare. My stomach dropped and I knew what I had done and there was no way out of it. “I am so sorry. I thought, from the way you were talking, you knew this! Again, I am so sorry!” She said it was; “okay” but I know from having television or streaming shows and movies spoiled for me it just isn’t the same when something shocking happens and you know its coming.
I was talking with another parent a couple of weeks ago about children. We agreed that life is anything but a spoiler. Twins, raised in the same way, can turn out completely different. Situations, events happen to one group of people and they all react differently. We are in every way a unique creation never to be repeated. Yet, at times, we give out advice like we know what’s going to happen. A person comes to us with a problem and instead of listening and simply being present we say; “Oh! That’s happened to me. Here’s what you should do.” We think, speak and act as if we have the answers to a problem we’ve never encountered before.
Wisdom teaches us to be careful with advice and to respect the one of a kind journey we all travel together.
Heart Space –
This morning at worship service with my mom I bumped into an old friend and asked him how things were going. His birthday was a few weeks ago and he said that he was going to celebrate with a trip but had encountered some heart problems and wasn’t able to go.
I’ve reflected on the short conversation several times today. It is Advent season. A time of joy and celebration but our hearts are heavy with the passing of my dad. As we sat in church this morning, visited a home improvement store (which my dad loved to do), did some work around the house our hearts just haven’t been in it.
We know this is the path we must travel and one day much of the pain will dissipate but right now, this evening, it is not the time. Our broken hearts still ache and space which my dad filled is empty. There is no template for mourning, no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve. We take it one day at a time, one moment, one tear and laugh as the memories, experiences, and love flood us and fill us.
The late Stephen Covey tells a story about a time he was speaking to a group of people in Sacramento, California:
… I was speaking on the subject of proactivity, a woman in the audience stood up in the middle of my presentation and started talking excitedly. It was a large audience, and as a number of people turned to look at her, she suddenly became aware of what she was doing, grew embarrassed and sat back down. But she seemed to find it difficult to restrain herself and started talking to the people around her. She seemed so happy.
I could hardly wait for a break to find out what had happened. When it finally came, I immediately went to her and asked if she would be willing to share her experience.
“You just can’t imagine what’s happened to me!” she exclaimed.
“I’m a full-time nurse to the most miserable, ungrateful man you can possibly imagine. Nothing I do is good enough for him. He never expresses appreciation; he hardly even acknowledges me. He constantly harps at me and finds fault with everything I do. This man has made my life miserable and I often take my frustration out on my family. The other nurses feel the same way. We almost pray for his demise.
“And for you to have the gall to stand up there and suggest that nothing can hurt me, that no one can hurt me without my consent, and that I have chosen my own emotional life of being miserable well, there was just no way I could buy into that.
“But I kept thinking about it. I really went inside myself and began to ask, ‘Do I have the power to choose my response?’
“When I finally realized that I do have that power when I swallowed that bitter pill and realized that I had chosen to be miserable, I also realized that I could choose not to be miserable.
“At that moment I stood up. I felt as though I was being let out of San Quentin. I wanted to yell to the whole world, ‘I am free! I am let out of prison! No longer am I going to be controlled by the treatment of some person.’ ”
It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.”
Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, tragedies, sickness, and death, but for the most part, we are a direct result of the choices we’ve made with the experiences we’ve encountered in this life.
I read a quote yesterday that I’ve been reflecting upon; “The world we see and interact with is the product of how our mind perceives the world.” We are assaulted each day by an overabundance of visual, auditory, sensory stimuli. It is hard not to be separated by what we experience. However, if our minds, emotions, and spirits are ever to be free we must train our minds to be still so we can experience the world anew and break free from what we’ve known, what we’ve thought, the life we’ve lived.