People I’m Thankful for Even Though I Hate Them
Well, “hate” is a very strong word…
(Making my “thoughtful” face.)
What would you say? Certainly there are people in your life – at least one person, right? – who rates anywhere between “always annoying” all the way to “Satan’s little helper” on the “makes my life a piece of present hell because they’re in it” meter. And yet that person, if you look carefully – and I mean really look: Go back and go over your history – this person probably has also been – reluctantly speaking – a blessing to you as well.
This is, of course, one of those “the glass is half-empty or half-full” kinds of analogies. In my opinion – which, you know, you can take with a grain of sea-salt – there are no mistakes. Even the tiniest horrors of my life have given me strength and taught me lessons I never would have learned otherwise. (Like the time I found out I can’t do roller-coasters anymore. Saaaaad day that was.) But I choose to see life this way and frankly, it makes it a lot more bearable. It even invites good things to come along as well when I’m not wallowing in the awfulness of the awful. (…like good friends who stand guard at the ladies room door as I puke my brains out.)
Thankful for VinDiesel look-alikes
Let’s take my trainer at the gym. (You might relate to this.) He’s a really buff guy. Like, VinDiesel-buff. He’s obviously been at this work-out thing a long time and quite obviously loves it. I admire him and I like looking at him, but I also hate his guts. He has forgotten what it’s like to be out-of-shape. As such, he pushes me “too hard.” These are words I never thought were capable of escaping my mouth. I-I-I have a tendency to push myself too hard and I’ve never had anyone accuse me of not giving my all to whatever I’m doing.
However, I have found in these latter years that my body is no longer 20 nor does it recover quite like it were either. A full-on, 100% workout for me at this time in my life means a full week of recovery. Not merely from sore muscles. If ‘twere simply from that, ‘twouldn’t be a problem. No, I literally get ill – shakes, chills, vomiting, headaches, inability to digest anything, etc. – when I push myself “too hard.” And so, the responsibility to reign-myself-in falls upon me: Which I really hate. If I want to come back to work out another day (this week, anyway), I should not, in good conscience, give the 100% he is asking of me. At least at this point in my “get healthy or die” plan, I can give 70-80%, reserving that precious 20% for recovery… which I KNOW I’m going to need.
I hate that I have to do that and I hate that he puts me in the position of having to explain it to him. I am, by my nature an over-achiever. (I know you couldn’t tell that about me, could you?) So when he looks at me and says, “Oh come on, I know you have another 20 in you,” and I must respond, “Yes, but only if I don’t come back this week.” Then he looks at me incredulously like I’m just another lazy bum. I kinda want to call in my pet Terminator and work him over a bit. Or, better yet, wouldn’t it be something if I could transfer the pain I feel in two days to him right now: just so he could understand what I’m talking about. THEN maybe he wouldn’t think I was such a wuss. As a matter of fact, I guarantee he’d fold like a bad hand.
Nevertheless, I am grateful to him because this means I must take the responsibility for governing not only how far I’m able to push myself, but also how far I should. I’m forced to exercise wisdom as well as willpower.
Thankful for smelly old piano teachers
And how ‘bout them piano teachers? (Nice segue.) As we moved a lot when I was a kid, I had several piano teachers: one for each new locale. One of my favorites was Mr. Raymond who had this uncanny talent – I’m gonna call it a talent – to fall asleep during the lesson. But he was good – oh, so good at it! He’d start me off on a piece with a good three movements. And by the end of the first page I could hear the gentle mellifluous snores coming from his half-agape mouth. The thing is, though – like the three-headed dog in Harry Potter – you had to keep playing to keep him asleep. Once you stop, he’s awake. “That was very good,” he’d say. “I can tell you’ve been practicing.” When, in fact, I hadn’t practiced at all. I even learned that I could slow down the piece to extend the time that he was asleep. Oh, I had a lot of fun with Mr. Raymond.
But I digress; the piano teacher that I absolutely loathed was Mrs. Stover. Why I despised her so much is still one of those odd mysteries to my parents who never understood why. I, of course, have my own reasons. For one, she was a smoker and the keys of her piano were stained with nicotine, not to mention every microscopic particle of her house and the air that saturated me when I was there. The first thing I did after every piano lesson was to take a shower. Another reason might have been that she didn’t know about personal space: specifically MY personal space. I took lessons from her for almost three years between the ages of 11 to 14. These were tender years full of angst for me. I generally didn’t like people touching me: especially old women who reek of nicotine and too much perfume.
And yet, my father has always said that my piano skills developed more under Mrs. Stover than any other teacher that I ever had. This was because I practiced incessantly under her tutelage. You see, if I didn’t make a mistake, she wouldn’t lean over to correct me. So I made very few mistakes. It made me a better piano player.
Thankful for ignorant doctors
Thankfulness utterly gushes when I remember the doctor who put me on a diet at age 14. My mother walked in on me one day as I was dressing and noticed a few white lines running along my thighs. Concerned, she took me to the doctor. I had, by then, reached my full adult height of 5’5” and weighed in at a whopping 106 pounds, soaking wet. The doctor took one look at the white marks on my legs and pronounce that they were stretch-marks. He then proceeded to put me on the first of many diets that would follow me into adulthood. This also began the lifelong loathing I’ve had for my body as it manifests under the influence of its naturally occurring female hormones.
My guess is, I’m not alone in this. As a matter of fact, I know I’m not alone in this. That’s part of my thankfulness: To know that I am not alone with this misery. (Misery loves company.) But also, my gratitude for this experience and the many that have followed stems from the perspective that I am now oh so wise because of it. I’ve been tutored by pain and borne along by my will to live. I’m stronger for it. Wiser, most certainly. And I know absolute empathy with those experiencing the same.
Thankful for frustrated film critics
I also had this Film Theory Instructor in college who, for whatever reason, had it out for me. She denied my entrance into the class that I needed for my curriculum and made me stand there and beg her to be allowed in; explaining the “why’s and wherefore’s” that I needed this class for my major. Reluctantly, she allowed me in and proceeded to take a special delight in taking every opportunity to make me look stupid in front of the rest of the class.
One day we watched a silent film and afterward were instructed to offer a brief oral critique before we were “allowed” to leave the classroom. Wait, this is UNIVERSITY, isn’t it? Not grade school. “Allowed to leave?” Really? I had a shoot to get to. I had made an appointment to shoot a final scene of “B roll” for the film that I was actually making – not merely jabbering about. Because I needed to go, and soon, to make my appointment with my cinematographer, my hand shot up. I was ready: first one. She looked around the classroom of about 30 students as her eyes skimmed over me. Calling on another student, they proceeded with their impromptu report. And another. And another.
The clock is ticking and my hand is still in the air. There it is. It is now time for me to leave. I packed up my books and slung my backpack over my shoulder as I stood. “Wait a minute,” she booms, “Where do you think you’re going?”
All my life I’ve been subject to authority. I’ve never talked back to an adult and especially never a teacher at least to this point. This is what I’ve been taught and how I’ve been raised: to respect my elders and those in authority.
But at that moment, a brilliant light went on in my head and I saw the situation for what it was. I saw her as a frustrated critic who wanted to make my life miserable because I was doing what she only talked about… endlessly… in class after belabored class.
“I’m going to my film shoot now,” I said very calmly. “You may not have noticed, but I’ve had my hand raised for the last 15 minutes with, as you requested, my response to this film. Apparently, you seem not interested in what I have to say about it. So I’ve decided to keep my appointment rather that sit here and be ignored.” With that, I walked out.
Hate her? How could I hate someone who showed me how to stand up for myself?
Thankful for left-handed compliments and more
And so, on this Thanksgiving, I will remember to be thankful for the left-handed compliment that I’d be pretty if I’d just lose a few pounds; for the calloused remark about how I’ll never be cool no matter how hard I try; and for whoever it was that forced me (a natural lefty) into right-handedness. I’ll be thankful for the ignorant boss who thought he could micromanage me (Boy, was he in for a surprise!); for the thoughtless coworker who wondered aloud about my past until I finally told him and he never spoke to me again; for the discrimination of being an outspoken woman in a man’s company; for the low pay and double standards of corporate America.
In short, I’m thankful for the thorn on the rose and the fly in the ointment; for rainy days and Mondays; for chipped nails, chipped china and chipped teeth; for pied beauty in all its forms, and broken hearts – because to break it, it had once to be whole.
This is the stuff of life: the bitter to the sweet. Without it, oh how frail we’d all be. This Thanksgiving, I’ll be grateful to be strong; and thankful – really, truly thankful – for all the people and all the experiences that have made me so.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!