Have you ever felt like the Universe played a “Gotcha!” moment on you? It’s one of those times when maybe you’re a little too cocky or judgmental, and right as you feel relief or triumph for putting someone in their place, the Universe puts you in your place. Here’s what I mean…
Several years ago when I worked in the emergency room, one aspect of my job was to answer the calls from the patient rooms and either take care of what they needed or call their nurse. This is an ER in a major metropolitan area which has 80 beds. That’s enormous for an emergency room. We were almost always extremely busy. On one particular day, I was entering doctor’s orders, preparing charts to go upstairs, answering the phones, answering questions from doctors and nurses, and answering calls from the patients’ rooms. (I’m trying to gain your
sympathy understanding here before I explain my Gotcha! moment). There are people everywhere, coming in and out, some people are shouting in the hall, there are beeps and buzzers going off and phones ringing…It’s loud, it’s crazy, it’s hectic…you get the picture.
So, I’m running around, and there is a very time-consuming patient right by the nurses station where I work. First she calls me in for some ice chips, then she’s too cold and needs blankets, then she needs her bed up, then she needs it down, then she wants the TV remote, then the phone, then hang up the phone…each of these tasks is a separate time she’s called, I’ve answered, and I’ve gone into her room. Each time I go into her room, she whines as she’s telling me what she needs, as if she’s at death’s door, which I’m sure she’s not. Being around really ill people makes me think I can spot people who are just big whiners. Most of the time I’m right, but sometimes…
Each time I go in there, I’m getting more and more irritated. It’s really the whining that does it, I think. I just keep thinking about all the people in the ER who are too sick to worry about whether or not they can reach their TV remote, and she whined pathetically as if her dog had just died or something.
Riiiing! Riiing! It’s her again. I don’t even answer, I just walk in. Looking back now, I wonder if she just wanted some company. It is no fun being in the ER, and maybe she just didn’t want to be alone. Now, of course, I can feel compassion for her. At the time, I was tired, busy, and wanting to quit my job. I talk more about that in an earlier post.
Back to my story…
I walk in her room and this time she’s wanting her bed raised again because she can’t quite get the right angle to watch the TV. She sighs and moans as she says it, basically saying, “Isn’t my life just so hard?” Not to me, it wasn’t. She was just a big ol’ whiner.
So I think, this is my chance. This is my chance to give her a proper perspective on her situation and help her to realize that really, she’s got it good. It kinda felt like my duty. Like I’d be doing her a favor. So I said lightly, “Well, at least it’s just an issue with seeing your TV. Seems like a sweet deal compared to the guy who’s dying in the next room.”
“What?! Oh my gosh!” She hollered.
Now I feel bad. Technically there’s not a guy right next door to her who’s dying. He’s three doors down. I say, “The guy next door isn’t really dying, but there are plenty of people here in pretty dire straits, so you’re doing pretty well to be concerned about watching TV.”
“Wow,” she says, and it’s obvious she got the lesson I intended.
I sauntered out of there, feeling very proud of myself. Some people just don’t know how good they have it, I thought. She called me back into her room a few minutes later. She was wide-eyed. “I just want to tell you how thankful I am that you told me that. You really gave me a new perspective. You’re so right. I should be thankful I’m here and doing okay.” That made me feel even better. I really was in the right. I really did a good thing.
I decided to look and see why she was in the emergency room in the first place. Probably a hurt toe or something lame like that. I looked at her chart. Heart transplant recipient, renal failure, blood transfusion, etc. etc. She was only in her 30s. That was my Gotcha! moment from the Universe. I felt like I’d been hit with a brick. POW! I was definitely put in my place. And there she was, thanking me for helping her to see that her situation wasn’t that bad. Oh. My. Goodness. That just made it worse. I wanted to walk in there and say, “You know what? Your situation IS bad! You want some more ice chips?”
There are other Gotcha! moments that aren’t quite so dramatic. One time I was imitating a patient’s annoying mother – voice, gestures, and all – only to turn around and see her standing behind me. Gotcha!
Why do these moments happen? The first story was my reminder that I don’t know enough about anyone else to judge them. Sometimes it’s so easy to say what’s right or wrong about another person’s behavior, but we just don’t know what they’re really going through or what they’ve already been through. It’s much more loving (and less humiliating) to give them the benefit of the doubt and feel compassion.
The second story was my reminder that my mom is right. She always told me, “Don’t do anything you don’t want the whole world to know about…eventually they’ll find out.” If I’d thought about that before imitating the patient’s mother, I would have saved myself the embarrassment. She didn’t realize I was imitating her, but I felt guilty just the same. What if I had hurt her feelings? A woman who is already having to deal with her daughter being in the hospital. I’m convinced that she didn’t hear as a gift from the Universe to her, not to me. I just happened to benefit too.
So what’s your Gotcha! moment? Let’s see if you can top mine!
Learning my lessons,