[This series is about working with a now-28-year-old homeless-man-by-choice, whom I hired to help me clear out my double-car, dirt-floor garage that was piled high with boxes and maintenance paraphernalia. I first met him two years ago when his pal was flying a sign — “Will work for money” — at the Wal-Mart exit.
Last week, I shared my journal notes about Greg Braden’s perspective on “mirroring.”* This post is an example of applying those mirrors.]
The gifts of working with The Drifter were beyond simply getting the garage cleaned out. But I wasn’t aware of those gifts until the rainy days brought uninvited reflections on my experience working with him. Those reflections led to identifying the specific behaviors that got charged emotions from me.
- He sees himself as “The Street Prophet”
He says that he helps others with his vast knowledge of diet and how to survive, and he calls himself “The Street Prophet.” The ire I experienced each time he demonstrated that behavior was expressed in quotes from actual research.
- He is strongly invested in “doing it HIS way.”
Who isn’t? But the difference in this situation is that I hired him to do it MY way. I tried to help The Drifter understand the difference between “figuring it out for yourself” in school or as a child at home versus working for money. I am not his mother or his teacher where exploration and discovery might be rewarded; I’m his BOSS, paying him by the hour.
- He was seldom on time, despite his choosing the time and telling me when he’d be here.
I was raised to be on time whether it was for school or work or meeting with a friend. When I told him he was late again, he complained that he could be picking apples. So I asked why he wasn’t doing that. Was it because he would have to show up WHEN they said, DO what they said, do it HOW they said? When it was clear he wouldn’t “be on the clock” until he owned that, he finally agreed to my assessment: he thinks he can do what he wants and still have this job with me.
There were other things about working with The Drifter that evoked ugly feelings in me, but those three were the most aggravating.
When I finished emptying the last 40-gallon trash can, I had completed the project by myself, abandoned again by The Drifter who neither showed up or called. The heavy rains punctuating that closure gave me plenty of time to explore the disappointing relationship I experienced in working with this guy.
I learned that these “mirrors” were all in the first two categories from Braden’s article: what we are in the moment and what we judge in the moment. That is, all the galling behaviors he displayed were mirrors of my judgment about him or reflections of my own “irritating” behaviors!
Understanding evolved into appreciation of the gifts received from contemplating these questions: Why am I so angry with him? Do I do what he does that irritates me so? Or is there something in my past that gets triggered when he does what he does?
- Like the Street Prophet, I want to share what I know
When someone tells me about their physical discomfort, they trigger the massage therapist, Holistic Health Practitioner, yoga teacher, academic part of me who believes that “You’ll feel better if you do what I tell you to do.” If someone tells me about a personal problem, they evoke Dr. Young who counseled students as part of her job and colleagues who asked me because their students referred them to me. Depending on the issue, they might also invite my Alchemical Hypnotherapist, psychotherapist, or even my Minister of Metaphysics self! Unlike the self-appointed Street Prophet, this girl’s got skills she paid for dearly over a lifetime.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to share them without permission! I’ve been working on this since I retired, trying to use this blog as the “okay to do it here” venue. Because I was SO offended by this kid preaching to me, I believe it’s obvious that I have more work to do on restraining that natural tendency!
- Like The Drifter, I am strongly invested in doing it my way, but only when I hire someone to do a job for me. (The operative words are “… when I hire someone...”)
I had no problem telling the woman I paid to help me with kitchen stuff after elbow surgery that because she had not done it as I had asked her to do, the three large, organic avocados she chopped up like a chef had turned brown and were inedible in a day instead of the three days. I needed them to last, especially now – just as they had done when I did “the avocado job” before surgery!
Working with the Drifter was different. I told him many times how to do something. But it wasn’t until I realized I had paid him three times to do the same thing (cover boxes with plastic) because he refused to do it my way that I “got it.” And that is the gift of his aggravating behavior: me, being able to draw a line and express myself when the guy I hired refuses to do it as I asked him to do.
As an educator who never had that issue on the job, I can say that just because we know how to do something in one situation doesn’t necessarily mean we do it in all situations. We have to work at generalizing such skills.
Standing up for myself with males has always been challenging, even though I finally mastered it for a specific situation, the one that created that weakness (raped at 14). I had generalized that strength to deal with other professionals and clients, but apparently not in hiring guys to help me with home maintenance! Huge gift! I will be more conscious of my tendency to let those guys get away with”hurting me” with their sloppy work.
- He was seldom on time, despite telling me when he’d be here.
Oofdah! What a trigger! In the contemplation of my response, I immediately flashed on events that happened so many years ago when I still worked at the college. My best friend was always late or changing plans at the last minute.
On “Mad Monday night” when Oldtymer’s cafe had their famous burgers on sale, I’d show up when we agreed to meet, and I’d wait in the long line to get a table. I heard their comments in the line about “that woman sitting alone at a table! Why isn’t she at the counter?” Thirty minutes late, my friend would show up, offering excuses.
That same friend would invite me to join her for the symphony. I was ready in plenty of time. Then she’d call five minutes before time to go and say she wasn’t going, but I could have the tickets if I wanted to take a friend. As if that were even possible. Grrr.
Finally, I told her I couldn’t do it anymore. The Drifter reminded me of that sore spot—that I do have a judgment about people who are habitually late or who change the plans in the 12th hour, plans they had made! I hadn’t thought about that in years because I had chosen not to hang out with such people. But the drifter’s gift was showing me my judgment. And I am grateful because we’re bound to experience whatever it is we judge!
The gifts of working with The Drifter on this project were mostly about helping me to identify my hotspots. No one likes a know-it-all or someone who gives unsolicited advice. The Drifter did both, and my gut response to his behavior made it clear to me that I was equally guilty! No wonder I attracted so many know-it-alls and people who give unsolicited advice! -0-
Coming up next in The Drifter series: “Gifts of clearing clutter (from the garage) with Feng Shui”
Till next time,
“Please be kind to everyone you meet, for we all have our hidden sorrows.” ~Tzaddi