Disclaimer: I drop the F bomb a lot in this particular blog.
Remember when I told you guys about that game that my friend Diandra and I play with our children? In case you didn’t read that blog, the idea behind the game to teach the children that life is filled with roses and thorns and how you deal with it is the true test.
Well, this past week has definitely been filled with roses and thorns. I didn’t actually deal with it all very well but I tried, I really did.
In all honesty, I definitely find myself in a battle with myself always saying to myself, “Be kind, don’t say anything rude, don’t judge others, have patience, stay polite.” Most days, this is a challenge.
Let’s start with last week… I had to go to the hospital again to visit a pulmonologist to see where my breathing levels are at. The new pulmonologist asked me about 100 questions regarding “my condition.” You would think that a pulmonologist would be familiar with ALS since respiratory failure is how one kicks the bucket with ALS. You would think that they would have mentioned this at medical school. My pulmonologist acted as if this is the first time he had ever heard of it. I was teaching him. Subsequently, our entire visit was filled with me rolling my eyes and breathing the word “moron” under my breath. And then the little angel on my shoulder pipes in and says, “Be kind, don’t judge, maybe your disease is rare and not an everyday occurrence in the pulmonology ward.” So I had that to grapple with on Tuesday.
The rest of the week was spent hating Paris. I decided I hate all this stone. I hate all of the perfectly manicured gardens. I hate that dogs have to be on leashes. I hate that Parisians don’t return calls and that they consider their jobs an annoyance outside of their weekends. Just as I was about to fire off two rude emails to the real estate agents at Emile Garcin for their ineptitude, I had to remind myself, “Be kind, don’t judge, maybe they don’t get paid enough to return your calls. Maybe your flippant urge to move to Normandy is not a high priority for them.” I found myself wanting to move back to New York City where people are just regular assholes but at least you get an Everything Bagel out of it. So that was Wednesday through Friday.
I tried to cheer myself up on Saturday by going to the flea market. I love 95% of all of the vendors at the flea market but there’s that 5% that just piss me the fuck off. These are the ones that think that their goods are worth their weight in gold. Sometimes I think to myself, “Do I need to remind you that you are selling shit on a sidewalk, Sir?” Be kind, Ellie, be kind…Yes, they are selling shit on a sidewalk and that cannot be exactly a joy, so be kind. I decided to just get myself out of the situation and leave this crappy brocante and just go to where the good stuff is, the March aux Puces. My spirits were lifted because I found high quality items at a justifiable price. Not cheap but then again why do I want cheap items for my little shop? If I want quality, I know that you guys want quality as well. So Sunday turned into a rose...For about a minute.
Saturday afternoon I found myself walking through Saint-Germain-des-Prés in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. And by walking I mean my caregivers pushing me in my wheelchair. I was accompanied by my husband. I didn’t even really want to go out because lately I’ve been tired or maybe just bored. We passed by one of my favorite churches so I decided to go in and ask God to take away my ALS. Is that called wishful thinking or what! But I still did it. As I was saying my prayers, a Romanian Gypsy walked right in front of me, interrupted my prayers with her 12-year-old son who was in a stroller and asked me for money. My response: “For the love of God, are you kidding me? Can’t you see that I’m having a serious conversation with God right now? Do you see this wheelchair? Do you see this breathing machine and why is your near adult kid in a fucking stroller?” The kid wasn’t handicapped, I checked. She got the hint and kept walking. Literally two seconds later I thought, “Oh my God, Ellie, you failed the test. God tested you right smack dab in the middle of the church and you failed. What if that Romanian Gypsy was Jesus in disguise and you just shut him down. Be kind, Ellie, be kind. Do you really think that that woman wants to be begging for money on a Saturday with her kid at a church? She probably has some abusive threatening husband 5 feet outside of the church waiting for her to come back with euros… Or else! You should have just smiled at her and given her the money. Her kid is probably not even in school, for fuck’s sake. Even though you have ALS, you have a warm home, food on the table and a daughter that is receiving an education.” And it’s true, I should have been more loving even though the Gypsy was totally annoying. I should have been the better person. And then I thought, “OMG, I get it.”
And yet, I was tested again. One block from the safety of my apartment we unexpectedly encountered my sister-in-law on the street next to the garden. She was on her way to take her two children to play. You might not know this but I absolutely despise my sister-in-law. And it’s totally justified, trust me. Just before I was about to give her the evil eye, the little angel on my shoulder said, “Ellie, check yourself.” So I did, I did the right thing. I just kept my hat down, avoided eye contact with her, and said hello to her children (it’s not their fault). I am sure that God would have wanted me to do more… Probably say hello to her or something but I’m doing the best I can.
On Sunday there was an event in Paris where no cars were allowed. That’s a great concept except I hate concepts. Secondly, all of the Parisians overly took advantage of a car free Paris. They all felt it necessary and “their government given right” to walk down the streets in the opposite direction just because they could which totally annoyed me. And to top that, most of them were rollerblading which you know I hate when adults rollerblade. It was a hard day for me.
On Sunday afternoon, I found myself in yet another church. This is the church that I go to every weekend. It’s my safe place. I explain the whole story of this church in my book which is almost finished, by the way! Anyway, as I was saying my prayers, this woman starts coughing. It wasn’t regular coughing… She definitely had the bubonic plague combined with bronchitis, Ebola and some form of hepatitis. She most likely should’ve been admitted to the hospital, but no, here she was at church coughing all over everyone. She finally got up and went to the back of the church but her coughing continued and it was ricocheting through the entire church. Why didn’t she just go outside, for fuck’s sake! Step outside, lady! And then I caught myself… “Ellie, be nice, just pray for her.” Why is this so hard!
Why is all of this so complicated for me? I have no idea. I think I over-think things. I judge too easily and I don’t have a lot of sympathy or empathy. I wish I could be more like my husband… Completely oblivious. Sometimes I just think as Oprah says, “If you know better, do better.” Why can’t people just do to better if they know better? The flea market vendors, the real estate agents, my sister-in-law, the Romanian Gypsy, the church cougher… And myself included.
My friend, Yolanda, has this uncanny ability to call me exactly when I need her to call me. She always sets me straight with the right advice. Mostly her advice is, “lower your expectations” which makes us laugh hysterically but it’s the truth. Yolanda always keeps her cool. She says it’s the Dutch in her. The Irish Aries in me behaves the opposite. I tend to explode and Yolanda always says to me, “Do not say something you’re going to regret.” I usually don’t regret what I say because I usually mean it but I get her gist. Maybe it’s not an angel on my shoulder, maybe it’s just Yolanda. :-)
So this brings us to the moral of the story. Everyone is just trying to get through the freaking day. We have no idea what that person is going through, what brought them to this point, what their journey is, why they behave as they do. Ourselves included. So just be fucking nice. The moral of life: Just be fucking nice.… Even if you have to bite your tongue, grind your teeth, lower your eyes… Just be nice (even if you don’t mean it).
*Something you don’t know about me? Surprisingly, I can also be nice. As I was walking around Paris this weekend with my caregivers, my husband and my husband’s friend, I heard someone say out of the crowd, “Ellie!” My very first thought was, “Please God, let this be a friend from America who is a girl. I’m sick of all the men I am surrounded by 24 hours a day and I’m sick of all these French people. Please let it be a long-lost American girlfriend that I can talk to about makeup and clothes.” I swear all of these thoughts went through my head within three seconds. Alas, it was not an old friend, but even more exciting, it was a new friend! I don’t actually know her but she reads my blog and I consider all of my readers friends. So, that was super exciting. She lives in Germany but is originally from Boston and could not have been nicer so that made my entire weekend! (And she was dressed really well.) We took pictures and my mood improved. My husband said to me, “How can you be so nice to some people and to other people you are so harsh?” My response was easy, “It’s a gift.”
Now it’s your turn, do any of you have these inner judgmental thoughts or are you all just peaches? Do you have to check yourselves or are you all just nice all day? I hope I’m not alone so be honest.