That’s Gonna Leave a Mark

I run into stuff. Doorframes, mostly, but sometimes walls, the corners of my bedframe, counters, car mirrors.

Last night, I ran into the sliding glass exit door at Walmart. The door was open, mind you—just not quite open enough for me and my lost-in-thought-ness to make it through. And I didn’t just bump the door, either. I hit it hard enough to knock it off its track. I didn’t register what I’d done until I was halfway to my car, and there was no way I was going back in, because, well, that would’ve been an awkward conversation:

Hi ‘scuse me. Hey, ummm, your door’s broken. No, don’t thank me for telling you. Why? Well, because I’m the one who broke it. You see, I didn’t quite clear it. Yes, I know it’s six feet wide. No, I’m not kidding. Yes, you’re understanding correctly: I broke your door with my right shoulder. Yes, yes you’re right: That’s pro’ly gonna leave a mark.

I find a new bruise somewhere on my person at least once each week, and often in the most unlikely of places: the back of my left knee, the top of my left foot, the inside of my right forearm. I’m not aware of the new mark  until it hurts, at which point I look down to discover a rorschach-ish bloom of purple or yellow-green: “Huh. I wonder where the heck that came from.”

It’s not just physical bruises I discover. I often—more often than I care to admit—respond with horrifying immaturity to the slightest of slights, and then once I’ve settled down, I think, “Whoa. Where the heck did that come from?”

A counselor-friend and I used to joke about how much easier relationships would be if we all wore Yuck Tags:



Maybe we’d be more gentle with one another if we had a clue where one another’s pressure points are. Maybe we’d be more gentle with ourselves.

Of course, there’s a difference between gentleness and excuse-making.

Before I go on, please remember that I have empathy oozing from my pores. I can explain away anyone’s lousy attitude and actions with a quick exploration of their situation—current or past. I am not prone to tell people, “Just get over it.” In fact, I’m of the opinion that “Get over it,” is one of the most hurtful, disrespectful, dismissive combinations of words in the English language.

However, if I lose my mind in a situation that can be traced back to whatever’s written on my Yuck Tag(s), it’s not your responsibility to apologize to me, anymore than it’s Walmart’s responsibility to apologize for that sliding glass door. (Unless you’re one of those people who intentionally push buttons, in which case, you do get to apologize–on your way to therapy, please. But I digress.)

Okay, I’m circling the airport here, so let me land the plane:

  1. We all have Yuck. (If you don’t think you have Yuck, that’s your Yuck.)
  2. It’s our responsibility to know our own Yuck and how it manifests in our daily life.
  3. It’s helpful if we’re honest about our Yuck and make sure the people around us know our pressure points. We have to be willing to be known.
  4. We get to apologize when we lose our mind in a Yuck-related situation.

But wait . . . there’s more:

  1. Other people have Yuck, too.
  2. When they lose their minds, we do not get to just write them off as as . . . jerks. Instead, we get to ask, gently and without attack, “Whoa! Where’d that come from?”
  3. And then we get to listen.
  4. And then we get to say, “Well, that sucks” or maybe even, “Me too.”
  5. We do not get to say, “Get over it.”
  6. Some people, because of their Yuck, behave like tantrumy four-year-olds. They are not our responsibility. We can work hard not to intentionally push their buttons. We can care about them—even love them—but we do not have to fix them. Nor do we get to try.

So, wanna know my Yuck Tags? I have a lot, and I’m aware of most of them (I hope). Here’s one that’s on my mind today:

When my eldest daughter (now a freshman in college) was 14 years old, she wanted to die. That’s really her story to tell, so I won’t go into details, but here’s what that means in terms of my Yuck: I do not respond well to the finger gun or to phrases like, “Shoot me now” and “Just kill me.” I will not be courageous enough to confront you about it, because I have a deep fear of being thought of as a self-righteous know-it-all. I’ll still love you; I’ll just be less-inclined to want to be around you.

Normally, I’d end a post like this with a simple, “So? How ’bout you? What’s on your Yuck Tag?” That seems too terribly personal, though. Just know that when we’re in the same room together and you lose your mind, I won’t be judging you. I’ll just be wondering what’s on your tag.