Monday, June 19, 2017

Giant Peeve Fest

Friday night I was on call at the other campus and, before rounding, read through Anita’s evaluation of me for the third unit of our four-unit clinical pastoral education program. I felt extremely angry at her after I read it. Her words of praise seemed faint or were my very own words, quoted from my self-evaluation, whereas the criticisms were lovingly detailed, it seemed to me.

I was so furious I decided to tell her that I no longer trusted her and would only discuss this vile document with another supervisor present. I decided never to tell her anything important or personal again. I wrote down all of my counter-arguments and all of the points I planned to nitpick over in classic Bugwalk style. Quite a number of hours were spent in this mode, with tremendous suffering resulting: my own. It even briefly crossed my mind to quit the whole program, which even in the midst of my giant peeve fest I was able to recognize as an overreaction.

I went to bed at 9:30 and, defiant, remained there until 9:30 Saturday morning. A couple of housekeepers poked their heads in, and I said, a little too loudly, “I’m still sleeping.” When I finally got up, I was still in a state of anguish and decided that I had better meditate for 45 minutes instead of the token 10 minutes I usually do when on call. That was the first time I’d ever meditated for 45 minutes while on call, and probably the last.

I went to the cafeteria for breakfast—two pieces of pepperoni pizza and green tea—and then to the student office, where one of the housekeepers was vacuuming. I said, “Good morning,” but I didn’t make eye contact; there was some residue from my earlier irritation with her and her colleague. Thank goodness, before she left the room I came to my senses, at least in that regard, and greeted her again, more warmly. I also apologized for keeping her and her colleague waiting. (They do not have to clean at any particular time, but I wanted to show extra respect.) She turned out to be this very adorable person, with a charming smile and even a charming name. (When I saw the other housekeeper later, I also apologized to her and received another winning smile.) Those might have been my nicest interactions of the whole day, since my bad attitude otherwise lasted all day.

I reread the offending evaluation several more times to see if it would start to look less bad, but it didn’t, really. At the end of the day, I walked all the way home, which took about an hour. I stopped at Whole Foods for three delicious slices of cheese pizza (making it a five-pieces-of-pizza day), which I ate while walking through the burning hot afternoon.

I called Sam after I got home and he said he hadn’t read his evaluation yet, but speculated that maybe they make a point of being kind of harsh after the third unit. That actually makes sense. My first evaluation, written by Jodie, was balanced and gentle. The second, written by Anita herself, was extremely glowing, which is why I was all the more surprised Friday night. There are two sets of “outcomes” we’re supposed to meet in the course of the year, one for each six months. It is possible that—OK, maybe this is paranoid—they purposely give you a great review after unit two, to put a burst of wind in your sails, and then let you have it after unit three, since unit four is your last chance to meet all of the remaining outcomes.

On Sunday, Tom and I went to Berkeley to meet Ann for lunch at Au Coquelet and the stage production of Monsoon Wedding at Berkeley Rep. Alas, Ann got stuck in terrible traffic and decided to head back to Sacramento. I’m sorry she didn’t make it. The show was just fabulous; she would have loved it. When we got to our seats, there was a card on one armrest thanking Ann for her support of Berkeley Rep and inviting her to have refreshments in the “VIP Lounge” at intermission, so Tom and I went up there. Now that I’m probably permanently in economy mode, I really appreciate, even more than before, getting to go to Berkeley Rep, and getting to visit the VIP Lounge, both due to Ann’s generosity.

Over the course of the day, I heard myself speaking to Tom in an uncharacteristically low-key and relaxed way: where did that come from? Tom is so extremely easygoing that I easily go right to the other extreme around him: tense and controlling. I recognized that gentle, quiet voice as belonging to one of the palliative care social workers, who had a huge effect on me. I include her in my metta meditation every single day just so I don’t forget her.

I felt tearful—exactly why, I’m not sure—at the end of the play, so full of color and song and giant emotions. I picked a fake Diwali marigold off the floor and brought it home as a memento.

I have written here about my 40-year friend, Chantal, opposite from me in every way. We haven’t spoken to each other in months for reasons outside the scope of this post. I let her birthday go by, and she did the same when mine came. But I could not let the anniversary of her mother’s death pass, so I sent an email on that day saying I was thinking of both of them. After a couple of days, I realized she hadn’t answered. Yikes! I felt kind of mournful about it. When I saw her note in the inbox Sunday night, I was pretty sure it was going to say, “You and I just don’t have enough in common. Goodbye forever!”

But it said this:

Thank you so much for your sweet note. One of the things that gets to me is thinking how few people remember, but you did. It means so much.
Thank you again.

I wrote back:

Dear Chantal,

Oh, thank you! I thought maybe this note was going to say “Get lost!” I’m relieved and touched that it didn’t say that. Thank you. I hope we’ll get things straightened out one of these days. I always trust your good heart.


She replied:

Dearest Bugwalk,
As I do yours. More things unite us rather than separate us.
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