Ever show up in a way that you’re soooooo not proud of? We often don’t talk about it because we’re ashamed. But we’ve all been there. It’s true. I wanted to share with you one of my most embarrassing moments of being bitchy, because the turnaround is amazing.
We’d finally returned from a long trip from Nepal (rickshaw pic to the right), and I finished up my Soulcrafting retreat in Colorado with el maestro, Bill Plotkin. I returned to Alaska refreshed, renewed, tapped in and turned on…and somehow still managed to rip some unsuspecting nurses a new one when I went to pick my mom up from dialysis that Monday.
It was ugly. I was shaking from fury. I could feel my head pounding and my vision narrowing. All I could think of was, “If my mom dies because of some dumbass, I’ll never forgive myself.”
But perhaps we should back up a little.
I was feeling quite raw after my retreat. It had been almost 2 years since I took any time for myself alone in the wilderness. And that’s even with me including a solo trip to Hawai’i when I was 7 months pregnant…and not exactly in wilderness. Let’s just say it was high time for my retreat to be happening.
I had some amazing numinous experiences with nature in the desert of Colorado. We’re talking communicating-with-trees-and-plants-and-other non-humans kind of numinous. Completely sober. Yes, it’s much easier to have a chat with a Mormon Tea plant in the desert with the aid of certain psychedelics, but after my years of experimenting with such things, I now get off on being able to get there on my own devices.
I had moments of collapsing to my knees, sobbing with deep gratitude, deep love, and profoundly deep grief at all the suffering going on today. I cried so hard, at times no sounds came out of my mouth (you now that one, right?). And other times it was so loud it echoed back at me from the canyon walls. I committed to a long journey in those sacred canyons – one I am deeply immersed in to this day. I returned with the most overwhelming appreciation for my loved ones, and I was particularly excited because my mom was visiting us in Alaska after just starting on dialysis after her heart attack earlier that fall.
Then, one Monday morning, she woke up with a fever and chills. She had a temperature of 100.4 degrees F, and was fatigued with a headache. Important note: one of the more common complications of dialysis and causes of death is sepsis – systemic infection. Dialysis patients are much more prone to serious infections for myriad reasons. And older people sometimes don’t even get a fever with infection (or a very high one).
I called the dialysis center and said that my mom’s kidney doctor in the SF Bay Area wanted blood cultures to check for systemic infection, and that if they wouldn’t do them there, I would have to bring her to the ER. They agreed to do them there when we dropped her off that day. I asked if I could give Tylenol for her headaches, because then she would not have a fever as high when she showed up and they said it was OK.
My husband told me to not rush home and that he could bring her. He promised to make sure she got blood cultures. He dropped her off, asked the nurse if she would draw blood cultures, and she said yes. I go 5 hours later to pick up my mom, right before they close, and there are no blood cultures.
No. Fucking. Blood Cultures.
No blood cultures that would help us feel confident that at least whatever was going on was not a potentially life-threatening infection. I asked what happened since I had called three times to confirm they’d be done AND my hubby made sure too. The nurse said she evaluated my mom upon arrival and my mom didn’t have a fever high enough to warrant blood cultures.
I was livid. My mom was tired. Had a raging headache. Was weak. She had lost so much weight since I saw her last. And now they were about to close.
I. Went. Off. I am pretty sure I turned red. I threatened to call the better Business Bureau, to speak to the supervisor the next day, to get them all written up for this clear act of negligence. They called the nurse I spoke to earlier and she said she forgot to pass on the message to the new nurse that she had agreed to draw blood cultures.
I felt so…powerless. I had done everything short of dropping everything and walking in there and making them draw the blood cultures in front of me. I called THREE times after we had made the plan to make sure. My husband verified. I. did. so. much. And still, I had no control over what people would end up doing. Now, if my mom was indeed septic, we had lost precious treatment time. And they didn’t even draw a CBC, but I won’t go there.
All I could see was my mom going into full blown sepsis in her frail state. Me wishing I had not been so lazy and letting my husband take her in. Her dying because of one thing I could have easily done to ensure she received quality care – watch them do it.
It has taken me a long time to learn to trust and delegate. And this shit wasn’t helping.
After enough of my ranting, they agreed to draw the blood cultures. I quietly, and in complete contrast to my earlier tirade, said, “I wish I didn’t have to get so pissed for the right thing to get done.” My mom got up, I walked her outside, helped her over the cold snow and ice, and into the car. I couldn’t speak a word. I was so scared (and fear is often where anger stems from, BTW). I am sure my mom thought my silence was because I was so pissed.
Later that night, I felt deep shame. Yes, people had made a mistake. A mistake I tried to prevent by calling and double checking and checking again…but not again. Yes, my mom could indeed have a bad outcome because of this.
But that was no reason to be a bitch. To be mean to another human being.
I then went to a place of self-compassion. I acknowledged that I was afraid my mom would die and that I could be partly to blame by my lack of vigilance. My fierce and rageful ranting was because of my love for her, and my wish that is wasn’t so easy for a loved one to leave forever.
I vowed to call the nurses in the morning and apologize. The next day, when I finally had a calm moment, I called the center and the same exact nurse answered.
“Hi there – it’s Ana Verzone.” “Yes?” I could tell she was not excited it was me.
“I wanted to apologize for the way I got so mad at you yesterday. You absolutely didn’t deserve that. I thought I had done everything to prevent that mistake from happening, and it was so scary to see that even then, it didn’t matter. Things hadn’t been done, and then I was afraid my mom would die from an infection. I am really sorry that I treated you that way.” She replied, “OK. Thank you. You know, I told everyone, ‘This is all because she loves her mother so much.'”
I couldn’t believe it. I thought for sure that she went around saying I was the biggest bitch ever and that they should try to get my mom transferred or something. But she…forgave me. What if I hadn’t called back? I would have forever thought I was hated by her.
I broke down crying. I breathed out, “Thank you for understanding. Thank you for managing to be compassionate and to try to see where I was coming from. You have no idea how much that means to me. Thank you.” She saw through it and saw that I was scared.
We hung up.
I felt human again. I am grateful for so many things. But right now, one of the things I’m going to hold particularly dear is the near-magical capacity we have to empathize with another.
And to forgive.
I can’t help but invite you to consider this gratitude as we come upon Valentine’s Day – that others have had empathy for you, understood you, and forgiven you when you were being human in the messiest of ways. And even if not everyone did, there can be gratitude that you can offer the same gift to others.
Today, I dare you to either ask for forgiveness, or to forgive someone. We are all human, in this together. Which is it going to be for you? Forgive? Or ask for forgiveness? And yes, you can forgive yourself.
Often, that’s where this all starts.