Her car barreled up the drive. The kitchen door banged shut and with her teeth firmly hidden behind a white-lipped smile she joined me at the table. Her eyes narrowed and tilting forward slightly she proceeded to ‘rip me a new one’ with three and a half days’ build-up of her own blackened emotional spew.
Turns out, not only had I “talked too much” I had also “not talked enough“. I “hadn’t supported her”. I, me and me alone, Marti McGinnis, the creative coach, facility provider, lunch chef, animal activity and art coordinator had been solely responsible for letting the talkative fellow ruin everyone’s morning.
The discussions had been Villomina’s only responsibility. It never occurred to me to step on her toes during the facilitation of any of the structured dialogues. I had wanted to cut that dude off immediately (Dive! Dive! Dive!) but figured Villomina was intuiting something valuable in his hijacking the conversation for the benefit of the group. Rather than make an attempt to take charge of her portion of the workshop she had been waiting for me to step in. Funny, right? Because that’s what I was waiting for her to do!
In her mind, I had “created such a fiasco” she was going to have to hold a special session with the attendees and most definitely NOT me to “repair the damage” I had done! She had more: “Everyone who’d been present,” (except a personal friend of mine) “had communicated their disappointment in me” to her. Weirdly, and I’ll never forget this, the more she went on, the bigger her smile became. She was enjoying herself!
As I let her words flow over and through me — because until a nanosecond ago I had held her in high esteem, a venerable resource, a powerhouse of truthiness — it was hard to integrate the meaning of her venomous diatribe. I went into that auto-polite mode of the well-trained apologist and slid the neatly stacked $1000 worth of booty at her – refusing to take my 50%. “Please give back my share to each participant at your fix-it event and tell them I’m so sorry.” I bleated. She offered to let me keep $100. But that felt like an insult. So she left with it all.
In the end I felt used and violated. My house felt sullied and my barn made impure. This was emotional rape! How had I let this happen? I Tibetan belled, sage smoked and swept the physical spaces, brushed and bathed the horses and deconstructed the art I had created during the workshop. The ol’ scrub, purge and burn! Though these exercises helped alleviate some of the pain I kept wondering why I had let this happen?
In the year since I’ve come to some conclusions, accepted my responsibilities and discovered the gifts in all of this.
In his book, “The Four Agreements”, Don Miguel Ruiz suggests the following:
- Be impeccable with your word.
- Don’t take anything personally.
- Don’t make assumptions.
- Always do your best.
For me 1 and 4 are easy but in this situation I had completely ignored numbers 2 and 3. I had made a whole crazy series of assumptions about Villomina and had taken everything she said to me deeply personally, from the compliments all the way through to the accusations. You have to. If you accept the apparent positive you are then duty bound to to accept the negative. And you know what they say about assuming stuff.
This entire uncomfortable situation revealed to me in illuminated detail just what I need to work on! It was an experiential learning opportunity for me to make a deep connection with a better way of assessing my role in this and all future situations. So that’s the gift. It’s huge and wonderful and hard won.
And here are the take away stocking stuffers also gleaned:
- Just because you ask someone to refund money on your behalf doesn’t mean they’re going to.
- Home is haven, barn is sanctuary, their occupants all worthy — steward them well.
- Gossipy malcontent isn’t the typical descriptor you should look for in a workshop collaborator.
- Beware of people who remove their teeth during polite conversation- they may throw them at you!