I met a woman a couple of months ago who may have saved my life. At the very least, she brought a much needed spark of laughter and joy into a dark time. And I don’t even remember her name. She was a short woman, with slightly beaver like teeth, but it was a faux-masquerade ball at the local science museum for geeky adults and she was wearing a sequined mask, so I never saw her face. I went because not only am I a geeky adult, I’m also a member of the museum so it was free.
In the course of talking I mentioned that I had 5 kids and was separated from their dad. Turns out she was divorced as well. I listened to her story and expressed sympathy for her painful experience. And then she turned to me and said, “well, and I hate to be a Debby Downer here, but you do know you’re never going to get another man again. Not with 5 kids you’re not. No way. You’re going to spend the rest of your life alone.” At which point it took every ounce of self-control for me not to burst out laughing. Who says something like that? What is wrong with this person? How do you even respond to something like that? Do you burst into tears, confess your fear of being alone forever and let her shake her head knowingly at the shame of it all? If you try to protest that you’ll be OK she’s just going to assume you’re in denial and maybe humor you. I could have told her she was rude, but she was such a character I hated to see her leave in a huff. I told her I hadn’t started processing that aspect of my loss yet.
Now, if this had been all the woman said, that would have been enough to make it worth my drive out that night. But I will take it that God knows my sense of humor and put this dear woman in my path that night. As she was leaving my company she told me, “I’ll be praying for you. I really feel for you; you’re just at the start of many long years of pain and suffering.” YES SHE REALLY SAID THAT! I thought I was going to die. The memory of it is making me giggle right now. Why would you say that to someone? I swear to you, she kind of laughed to herself as she walked away. Like she felt better about her own life than she had in years after talking to me. (Let’s just say that subtlety wasn’t something she prided herself in.)
I don’t know why but people who engage in catastrophizing with a straight face just kill me. I’m convinced that the reason I don’t suffer from anxiety is because I automatically catastrophize until I hit that point where I get so ridiculous that I have to laugh about it. To have someone come and say these sorts of things to me as if I should be afraid, very, very afraid makes me laugh. I can’t help it. And this woman was so absurd. I have laughed until my sides hurt at the memory of her almost gleefully telling me, “you have many years of pain and misery to face before you die! Bwahahaha!” (OK, she didn’t say the “before you die” part or do the evil laugh thing. But she wasn’t far from it.) I’m telling you, I think she was plant. I have laughed in the middle of some very dark places at the memory of her. It’s helped keep me from actually giving into the sort of mindset which could ever say, “no man will ever want me again – woe unto me” with a straight face. Life is hard enough without making unnecessary detours into the land of overwrought self pity, thank you very much.
And so, I must thank and pay homage to this woman of doom and gloom. She gave me a gift that keeps on giving. And it doesn’t even require ointment to treat.