Saturday, 15 November 2014

The Challenge of Caring

This week has been particularly challenging.

My parents rang us with the news that Kenai, our little family dog, had died suddenly in the night.  We had our own distress to deal with in regards to this news as well as totally feeling the distress of my parents.  Kenai was after all their little baby of 14 years and nothing you can say, absolutely nothing, can make the situation feel any better. They rang us in the early hours because they needed to tell us and they knew we would understand.  Phil and I had known her pretty much all her life and had on many occasions looked after her as my parents would never had gone abroad to visit my sister without us personally caring for her.

The thing is that not everybody would understand this loss;  and I mean really understand; not just a 'I'm really sorry to hear that' but an almost unspoken look that truly says 'I cannot express it but I feel your pain'.  For these little creatures that we share our homes with are truly members of the family that leave a jaw clenching, head dulling, lung emptying, limb weakening, sore eyed effect when they leave us.  You can tell yourself as much as you like that they had an amazing life with our family, that they were rescued from the streets and were pampered and loved beyond what most people might have done but it still leaves the essentially selfish feeling of grief that they are no longer there to share our lives.

So at work I sought solace from the few that I felt would truly understand, told a few others to counteract my resulting behaviour throughout the day and hid and kept silent from the rest for fear of being misunderstood.   The day ticked along.

However another event was hanging over my grief this week.  The work's Christmas 'party' event was being planned.   The list of names had been put on the noticeboard to assess attendance and, in fairness to my boss, he had included any dietary requirements that needed to be considered within the planning for our meal.   I was warmed by the fact that out of a team of twenty five, four of us had written down 'vegan'.  That was the positive bit. Unfortunately, despite the fact that it did not necessitate it, someone had decided to write 'carnivore' and then shortly after another member of our team decided to write 'murder'. Like 'sheep to the slaughter' other members of the team randomly decided to write 'meat'. Perhaps the fact that if they didn't write down anything related to meat, they might end up with some form of lettuce leaf, led them to such a weird reactive measure.  Perhaps they felt they had to belong to some random non vegan club.  

I'd had enough.  I think the majority of my team had underestimated the strength of my beliefs and how upsetting it was to me to join in with 'team events' at times like this.  Maybe I should just not join in but then what message does that send out?  After the day I'd already had I decided to 'take a step back' and tackle it the following day when I was feeling a bit more level headed.  

It seems however that the person who had put 'murder' on the list had been tipped off about how pissed off I was about the situation.  In his defence he then came to speak to me and in private I explained in no uncertain terms how it had made me feel.  After all this was bordering on abuse and discrimination.  He apologised and I accepted it as such but only hope that he left with a broader understanding and sensitivity.  He said he did.  The fact of the matter though is I am not convinced people do generally understand.  I get it quite a lot where people will eat meat in front of me, apologise but with a bit of a laugh thrown in for good measure.  Whether that is nerves, defence or a weird form of understanding is unclear.  Maybe they just don't really think about it and maybe I over think it.

All I do know is that it has indeed been a challenging week where having a sense of caring and compassion felt like an alien concept on an uncaring planet.

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