Hedgehog Love

I am not a comfortable caregiver. Fierce in my concern, yes. Willing, practical, knowledgeable, and undauntable, yes, but adversity does not bring out my better angels. Sweetness and forbearance are not my defining traits. Kindness eludes me.

So does patience. I struggle to be patient–with myself, with friends, with situations–at the best of times. And so of course I am impatient with patients.  I can empathize about pain, oh, you betcha. I grok respecting safe limits. I have great affection for resting.  But I instinctively see limits as things to be challenged and tested as often and as quickly as possible. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be functional. So…that mindset inevitably transfers to my dealings with others.

I’m pushy. I’m brusque, and my sympathy is limited to understanding, not indulging. I’m the kind of nurse people get well to get away from. I know this, I’ve made my peace with it, and I’m totally up-front with people about it.

This knowledge is why I always snort or giggle (or snort-giggle) when people remark about my patience with others. How empathetic I am. How kind, even.

People do say such things. Regularly. Truly, it bewilders me, because I know exactly what I’m feeling and how I express it, and I don’t think any of those things apply.

I instinctively suspect it’s a reinforcement thing. You know, those situations where people will praise even the tiniest success from someone who’s historically incapable of achievement. Rationally I know that’s not the real reason for the compliments. Intellectually I do know the difference between inner life and outer, and the praise is for what gets done, not for the prickly, annoyed, irritable feelings that accompany the actions.

But emotionally, I have to laugh because otherwise I would cry. I am not patient or kind, those traits require doing things with grace–I am not now and have never been graceful. s When a flaw is praised as a prize, it creates a painful cognitive dissonance.

So I snicker, which often sounds mocking, but it isn’t.  It’s armor. Humor makes everything better, at least for me.

Was there a point to this post? Not sure. It’s just a thing I felt deserved sharing. And so I have.