"...if we love one another,
God abides in us
and his love
is perfected in us"
- 1 John 4:12
I didn't recognize her.
I young girl with long dark hair in a sparkly, bedazzled t-shirt and Hollister sweatpants was at my door.
My apartment is always hot so I leave my front door open. The screen door is like a window into my world. I'm told that my apartment looks welcoming, and so it is.
There she stood outside my screendoor, not saying anything.
I thought it was a friend coming to surprise me.
'Hi' I said.
I could hear her crying.
"Please...I don't know what to do..." she sobbed.
I tossed my laptop aside and rushed to the door.
She asked to come in.
I went outside onto my porch instead.
I wasn't about to let some random stranger into my living room.
She said she needed to sit down.
I pulled my outdoor chair open and offered her a seat.
"No, my husband might come! Please, can I come in?"
I went into crisis mode. Was she being battered? Stalked? I opened my screendoor, pushed her into the living room, and slammed the big door behind me. She went right over to my power seat on the sofa. I let her sit.(no one but no one sits in my power seat and only on the rarest of occasions do I let anyone sit on my sofa with me).
I asked if she was hurt, had someone hit her, was someone after her, all the questions we'd learned in crisis counseling. It's amazing what you remember when you're called upon to act.
She sat there sobbing, out of breath, could barely get a word out. Her eyes were wide with panic.
I hopped up and grabbed my oils.
Peace and Calming was first, then Lavender. She could barely follow my instructions as I put a drop in her left hand, had her rub her hands together, then take deep breaths. She was so out of breath and talking incoherently with an upper caste Indian accent. I put Lavender on my hands and rubbed her forehead, her upper back, and smoothed the hair off her face.
I got her calm enough to talk.
She was not in urgent danger.
Then I smelled the liquor on her breath.
It's hard enough to calm a person down when they're hysterical, even harder when they're drunk.
Drunk people repeat themselves often during a conversation. You calm them down then they'll get worked up again and start wailing.
I kept dosing her with Lavender and Peace and Calming, rubbing it on her wrists and forearms so she'd breath it in.
She's 28 years old. She is here on a visa and is able to work. She told me of her troubled marriage with a depressed husband. She's on her second marriage. She told me of her rough divorce from the first. She told me about her in-laws and her parents. To sum it up, she already suffered shame for her first divorce and now her second marriage was making her miserable. She felt she had brought shame and sadness to her family. She had suffered for 3 years in the current marriage but didn't want to put her family through the heartache of another divorce even though she was neglected and unhappy. She said she had given her mother diabetes by being divorced and remarried. I told her that was not possible. She said she had no more expectations from life and she wanted to die. She said her only option was to kill herself.
No, no, no, no, that was not an option. I reassured her that she was going to figure a way out of her unhappiness.
Part of me was in crisis counselor mode, part of me was stunned at the absurdity of the situation. I have never seen this girl before. She is my neighbor but a complete stranger. She saw my Indian cloth lantern hanging outside and assumed I was from India like herself. She said my apartment looked so sweet and lovely but she never knew who lived here. She kept apologizing for troubling me. I kept reassuring her that God had sent her to me.
I had to really sift through the desperate drunken rambling to get to the heart of the matter. I had to offer her hope when she talked suicide. I had to remind her of all she had going for her. I kept giving her hope and options.
I told her to look outside at the nice neighborhood we live in.
I told her to think about her Master's degree in communications and how that made her employable which gave her freedom. I had to remind her that she had resources. I kept laying positive options out in front of her ...and then it happened.
I should have seen it coming.
I should have recognized the swaying.
She started to puke.
I had nothing to put in front of her.
I grabbed the ashtray but it wasn't enough.
By the time I put my garbage can underneath her she had already projectile vomited all over my floor.
A big stomach full of curry chicken and red wine was emptied onto my floor and all over her.
I had to flip into nurse mode.
I got paper towels and wet wipes and got her cleaned up first.
The floor was next.
Now that her stomach was empty she was able to move a bit. She helped me clean the floor.
Funny, even though I wasn't out of paper towels Spirit told me to buy a new roll today at the supermarket. Good thing I did.
We worked together cleaning the floor as she heaped apologies on me.
I told her it was ok and that she owed me a big favor.
I told her she could cook Indian food for me.
It took us a while to get the floor clean. First the sopping, then the blotting, then the washing of the rug.
Sobered up a bit, she finally asked me who I was.
She asked me if I lived alone.
She asked if I'd ever been married.
She asked how it was possible to be alone and still be happy.
I told her I had men like her husband in my life; charming at first but never living up to what they promised to be. I told her of the cheat I lived with for 4 years. I told her I'd rather be single than be married and miserable. She perked up. Hearing that I lived alone seemed to lift her mood.
She kept asking me how it was possible that I was single and happy with my life. She wasn't asking for my sake she was asking for her own sake. She needed hope that she would be ok if she got out of her unhappy marriage.
She said she sees a man with a guitar coming over here all the time and how she loves to hear him singing to me when she walks past. She wanted to know why I didn't marry him. I explained that he was just a friend.
We talked a bit about my basic knowledge of Hinduism. This gave me a doorway to convince her that God wanted her to be happy, to live, to learn from her suffering.
She kept asking why God wanted her to suffer.
I said, God doesn't want you to suffer, he wants you to learn how NOT to suffer.
All these experiences of pain were God's way of showing her what NOT to do with her life.
I pulled out the Joy oil.
I told her to sniff the oil in her palms and say,
"I am free to move forward"
It's my favorite affirmation.
She did as she was told.
I got her calm.
I got her to smile.
I gave her hope.
I told her I had to get back to work. She apologized again and again. I told her God sent her to the right doorway.
I know that tonight's strange visit was not just about her and her desperate, drunken, cry-fest. I know that she is a mirror for me and I was a mirror for her.
I've had my chances to be married to men who would have made me unhappy with their criticisms, depressions, rage, unfaithfulness, and need to control me.
I dodged quite a few of those bullets in my life so far.
And yet I spent much of the visit convincing her that happiness was possible.
I needed to hear myself say that in service of saving someone's life, but also to save my own.
I kept telling her that she was so worried about making other people happy that she forgot to make herself happy. When we were talking religiously she said she knew that we can only make ourselves happy and that we can't do that for others. She kept recounting the ways that she tried to make her husband happy, her in-laws happy, her parents happy, and yet she was so sad. I had to remind her over and over of her own words about making herself happy first.
Take care of Self first.
Make Self happy first.
But what do you do when all your life you've believed that happiness comes from others?
We're conditioned to get our needs met by soliciting behavior from others or gaining their approval.
How do you break the habit of wanting others to be a certain way so that we can be happy?
I guess Sulagna and I are going to figure that out.
I also need to do a better job on my rug. I can smell wine, curry, and sick.
Entertaining angels unawares, right?