By Sheena Serrão
Posted on July 24th, 2017
I am fully aware that the story that follows is not the most flattering introduction of myself to those of you who don’t know me. But it is honest and it is very real. And I am of the opinion that we will not find our way, en route to compassion, if our journey does not begin with honesty and realness.
So here goes.
On the days when my family is busy or fed-up of cooking, they will order food or pick something up for me while they are out running errands. They think me a picky eater, but truly I mostly only have a distaste for junk food. Anything fried, overly fried, oily and gross is 98% of the time crossed off my list. But fried, fast food is usually the easiest thing for someone to buy when they are short on time.
On several occasions, because I was not willing to starve, I have eaten “chicken and chips” from the likes of Church’s Chicken (no comment), KFC (people with chronic inflammation know how this usually ends) and Royal Castle (the best of these three Dark Lords). I have felt ill on every one of those occasions. So I pleaded with my family to buy me either chicken sandwiches or nothing, if there are no other options.
They have since complied with my request, and I thought we had all moved on with our lives...until about a month ago.
Get familiar with this name, because you may see it crop up from time to time on my blog. Roslyn is the mother. Roslyn is also usually the lesson. Aside from lessons about being a more compassionate human, Roslyn brings with her a wealth of entertainment value that you’d better appreciate, because you get to laugh at it, whereas I have to live through it! For some women, like myself, our mothers are in many ways the greatest challenge we face from the day we are born, until the day one of us dies. I am crying with laughter as I write this by the way. But do not think me mean, unloving or unkind. Just know that there is nothing and no one to feel bad for whenever I write about Roslyn. My mother has a lot to do with the way I’ve turned out. So just keep reading!
Roslyn comes to me, what feels like a month ago, and says, “We bought you a chicken sandwich for lunch”. I say, “O.K., great. I will eat in a while. Thank you”. I go next door to my grandmother’s house to get my chicken sandwich (yes, one of my grandmothers literally lives next door to me). I heat it up, take a seat next to Roslyn and take a big bite, for I am hungry and looking forward to my sandwich. It is then that I realize that the chicken inside my sandwich is covered in mustard. Mustard. Everywhere. This has never happened to my chicken sandwich before.
I hate the taste of regular mustard. So I begin to complain to Roslyn while I eat (which is awful for your digestion and an ungrateful thing to do), that I don’t understand why there is mustard all over my sandwich. I went on and on, because life is troublesome enough, can I at least enjoy my lunch?
As I continue to eat begrudgingly, I lament, “Who did this?! They never put mustard before! Is this the new thing now!? I hate mustard! It’s all over my sandwich! There’s no way to fix this, it’s everywhere! It cannot be undone! I don’t like this! There’s nothing else to eat, that’s the only reason I’m eating it. Damnit. I appreciate you getting me a chicken sandwich, but next time don’t let them put mustard in my sandwich, Roslyn! God damnit! Tell them no mustard!”
Roslyn looks at me with raised eyebrows and a bit of a smirk on her face, and responds, “I don’t know why they put mustard in it. No mustard. O.K.”
Fast forward to a few days ago.
Roslyn: *knock, knock, knock.* “There’s a chicken sandwich for you, it’s in the microwave.”
Me: “O.K. I’m coming to eat it now.”
I’m in a great mood at this moment, but I’m also very hungry. Little did I know, my hunger would morph into unbridled hanger in just a few short moments. And here is my lesson, and my shame. It is my fowl temper when I feel cheated, especially when the thing in question is minuscule, that is my Achilles heel. Because it is the simple things in life that rattle me and cause me the most grief when people get them “wrong”. My thought pattern has been this way for a long time, “It’s so small, and it’s so easy, so why can’t people get it right?”
I open my sandwich to place it in the mini-oven to heat it up, and what do I see? Chicken covered in mustard? Ha! Yeah right. It’s never that simple. It was a DRY piece of chicken, between two DRY pieces of bread. I stared at my naked sandwich as I felt my volcanic emotions begin to rise within me. I thought, “Is this really my lot in life?”
Self-defeating and negative thoughts. They bring so much drama with them. I was hungry, but mostly I was disappointed. More than anything, I was tired of being disappointed. Hence my outburst. The more I angrily questioned why my chicken sandwich was dry, useless, no lettuce or mayo in sight, the angrier I became. It did not help that the answers that came to me were unacceptable.
One person said Roslyn told them not to put anything on the sandwich, that’s what happened. Roslyn then retorted that she never said that, she told them, "No dressing". She had forgotten what it was I did not like about my last sandwich, and therefore had not been more specific.
Me: "MUSTARD. I SAID NO MUSTARD. JUST THE ONE THING. I NEVER SAID I WANTED A DRY-A$$ CHICKEN SANDWICH! LOOK AT THIS. WHAT IS THIS?! I'M SUPPOSED TO EAT THIS?!"
And it was at end of that rant, when I angrily dropped the sandwich on top of the stove, that I realized I was behaving like an a-hole again.
I’m getting better at this though. On a lovely weekday afternoon last year, I was so stressed out by life and enraged by an order gone wrong, that I behaved much worse. I had ordered an arepa with shredded chicken, black beans, plantain and cheese, only to realize as I was about to nom it, that there was NO CHICKEN in it. My order had been lost in translation. I roared like the prince in Beauty & the Beast, and slammed it so hard on my desk that most of its contents all but scattered. Again, I felt cheated.
I don’t slam arepas anymore. Not only because it’s childish to slam and throw things during a tantrum, but because black beans are really difficult to clean up. You’d be amazed at how many they can cram into those little round sandwiches! Days later I was still finding rogue black beans that landed themselves in bizarre places, left behind no doubt as gentle reminders of my poor anger management skills.
Since then, I had put an end to my food slamming ways. Until the dry chicken sandwich came along. And though there’s been a marked improvement—I gently dropped the sandwich, as opposed to destroying it— I clearly still have a way to go. I noticed my penchant for wanting to return to the Universe what it has delivered to me, when I don’t like it. Even if that meant symbolically throwing it back into the direction from whence it came. Maybe I slam things downward because that’s where Hell and Satan reside?
I joke of course. And I also do not condone unwarranted hostility. But I am a realist. If you can’t cure the crazy, the least you can do is mellow it! And the sandwich drop was much mellower than the arepa catastrophe.
Anyway, I caught myself a moment too late, and regretted it. Not only had I riled myself up, turned myself off of my free meal, I had also caused a fight between the two people who had different recollections of why it happened. In truth, my anger was not because there was no lettuce, tomatoes and mayo in my sandwich, it was because I did not feel heard. Maybe I felt my request was not important enough to Roslyn for her to remember? Also if I can’t have anything else go the way I want, can I at least have a pleasant meal, Universe!?
When I calmed down, I remembered that Roslyn is ageing, and is literally deaf in one ear. It does not help that she is in pure denial and refuses to wear her hearing aid. I have compassion for all these things. I can forgive honest forgetfulness, and I can forgive the partially deaf. If only the forgiveness came before the annoyance. I just need to work on accessing that compassion, when my old brain patterns are urging me to act out. The only way to change these old impulses is to short-circuit them, and re-route my brain. It takes time, but I will get there!
At the end of the day, sometimes the mess we make when we cannot conduct ourselves from a place of calm and compassion is just not worth it. And in the end, my dry chicken sandwich was not as bad as the mustard-covered one. Just like my behaviour, it was not ideal, but there was a slight improvement. My goal is to be better than a dry chicken sandwich. I know I have it in me. Don’t be a dry chicken sandwich people. Somewhere, deep down, we’re all beautiful chicken sandwiches, with all the right vegetables and condiments. Unless you’re vegan, but we'll save that topic for another blog post. Happy eating! And try to be grateful for everything you receive out of kindness, even if it may not be everything you expected!