Connecting with Their Pain

I was working as an onsite property manager for a large real estate management company. Although, I was successful in turning over units, leasing quickly and creating community, I was struggling to work with my new supervisor. My background as a tenant advocate was the antithesis of the traditional role for most managers. I’d negotiated and accepted the position with mutual agreement that my unique approach of community-building v. the typical landlord/tenant adversarial relationship would serve to foster efficacy, site security, thereby reducing turnover and benefit the bottom-line. It proved to be true, in short order. However, neither of the executives with whom I interviewed and negotiated bothered to convey this alternative approach to my subsequent supervisor. Consequently, she and I found ourselves at loggerheads.

Although I continued to perform my duties effectively, my health was severely impacted by mounting stress. When my office computer went down, it took the supervisor a month to replace it. I was able to use my personal computer, but it didn’t have access to the proprietary software I needed to conduct business. I had a company smart phone, but its version of the software was the micro-version. Business letters had to be written on my personal computer and sent to my property’s email to be accessed through the phone. It was needlessly labor intensive. At the same time my efforts to improve the safety and security of the property were thwarted needlessly. The accumulation of stressors served to exacerbate a preexisting medical condition which had been well managed without medications for two years. I was overwhelmed to the point where I had to be hospitalized. Upon discharge, I was put on extended medical leave. And, unable to perform the duties of my position because of the work prohibition, I faced eviction.

One morning I got up early (before dawn), took my newly prescribed medications and went back to lay down. As I nodded off… not to sleep, but to that sacred space between sleep and consciousness, I felt myself transported to a mid-century pediatric hospital room. In a crib close by lay a small child, about three or four years old. I recognized this child as my preschool-self. For years I gave lip-service to the trauma of my early childhood hospitalizations. In that moment, my body became heavy as I physically experienced the overwhelming terror and sense of abandonment in that baby. I began to cry…. well, actually, to travail. My chest heaved as I wept. I spoke to this child between sobs, “I am so sorry, Baby. I didn’t know.”

It took several minutes for me to recover and I will never be the same. I was afforded a gift and an opportunity to see how impactful these early childhood events were; how each subsequent life-event was seen through the filter of this experience; and most of all, to offer myself the compassion I’d have for anyone else I cared about who was so horrifically traumatized. I understood so much more about my fear of vulnerability, need to be accepted and not abandoned, as well as how deep those feelings were when this visceral experience made them real for me. My mind felt expanded with this insight. Some people spend thousands of hours and dollars on therapy and here I had been ‘gifted’ this break-through. Even though I was still battling a debilitating, stress-induced depression, the euphoria I experienced from this event lasted for several hours and the insight was uplifting.

I continued to work on my recovery and future plans throughout the day, as I took frequent and needful breaks I called members of my support network (which I’ve deemed my “Family of Choice”) and shared with them the story of my epiphany.

My sister called me to say my father had passed away while she was on an errand to the store. She was determined, as when we lost our mother four years before, to “take care of everything.” Little more was said and I did not share my story with her. I didn’t wish to burden her further.

The next morning I awoke before dawn, as I had the day before. I wandered into the bathroom, downed the AM prescriptives and went back to lay down. I wasn’t anticipating it, but yet again I found myself in that hazy place between consciousness and sleep. As the veil lifted, I realized I was in the same mid-century pediatric ward. However this time I saw a familiar young couple peering through the observation window toward the child of my experience. As before my body began to tighten and I began to travail. I felt the overwhelming fear of losing a child and the crippling feeling of helplessness. I’d never understood why my parents treated me so differently from my siblings, why so many topics weren’t discussed and information was withheld. I’d always felt slighted, but the truth I was offered in this moment was that it was my parents’ trauma driving their decisions not to burden me and it was their experientially-perceived and internalized fear of my fragility guiding them. As I witnessed the young couple, with tears in their eyes and as my body heaved with its travailing, all I could say was, “I am so sorry, Mom and Dad. I didn’t know.”

The first epiphany allowed me insights to my own thought-processes and subsequent value systems that I could mindfully and rationally apply. It offered me the empathy for myself I’d never had and the permission to render myself needful kindnesses. However, with both my parents now gone, I questioned the purpose for the second revelation. I certainly couldn’t share with either of them that I now understood their reasoning (conscious or subconscious) for treating me differently. Nor could I apologize for bearing a grudge about it and ask their forgiveness. I sat with those thoughts ruminating throughout the day, around my mind and memories, in and out of phone calls, naps and packing moving boxes.

Although the depressive symptoms had yet to abate, I found that after a day full of busy-ness the heaviness of it retreated enough to let my appetite pique. I had a meal and sat sated on the end of my bed. I thought about the gifts of the previous two days. I realized they were solely for me and that I was the one that needed to face, address and resolve my anger and resentment to avoid its devolving into bitterness. These were my gifts; Divine interventions and epiphanies of empathy for me alone and me to treasure forever.

 

Self-identifying as a neurodiverse, two-spirit, elder storyteller deeply rooted in The Great Pacific Northwest, Lindsey Morrison Grant attributes success and survival, if not salvation, to a superlative support system, mindfulness practice, and daily creative expression in words, sounds, and images.