There are countless people that we will encounter in this life and many will have lessons to teach us. Sometimes the lesson will be obvious and straightforward but other times... well, other times you begin to wonder if the lesson doesn't have something to do with finding out how hard you can punch.
At times these lessons are easily won, beautiful nuggets of soul wisdom that inflate your confidence, morale, etc for days or weeks on end. Yet at other times, by the time you've finally figured out what it is you're supposed to learn you're sweaty, pissed off, at your wits end and wondering why the fuck the universe has decided to piss in your cheerios for so damn long. And if there's one thing I've found in this short life of mine it's that the hard won lessons are the ones that stick with us the longest and that even as you're shaking your fist to the sky you've grown in ways you may not realize for weeks, months... maybe even years.
Personally, these latter lessons tend to come to me in the form of Gods and Goddesses of Discord or Misery. Not the deity sort; as far as I know Eris isn't following me around flinging apples. (At least, I sure hope she isn't.) But the sort you find in your day to day happenings, the sort of people that can't help but pick fights, disagree with you loudly or have to rain on your parade because they are just so damn unhappy with their own lot that they can't let you have a good time in peace.
For nearly two years now I've been spending a huge chunk of my time with one such Discord Goddess. I've written about her before when I've spoken about my day job. She's so hung up on how she thinks the world *should* work, her own religious upbringing, her own seeming unhappiness with her life that she has been a fairly consistent thorn in my side. There have been times when just seeing her has set my teeth on edge and made my blood pressure rise as I waited for whatever hideously judgmental thing she had to say that day to pass her lips. But somehow, I've managed to bite my tongue (nearly off sometimes) and keep a relative peace when discussing issues that I feel have no place in a professional setting and on which we will never in this lifetime even remotely agree. (religion, politics, marriage equality, etc.) During this time, I've also managed to keep a good bit about myself cloaked and safe from this woman - she knows nothing about my triggers, my religion, my political leanings, or anything else that I deem (again) to be unprofessional to discuss.
Now, my friends and family who I've spoken to about this have wondered why in the hell I don't turn her in to HR. And I have two reasons: One - I have a temper and I know a lot of my discomfort not only stems from disagreeing with her, but from that rage center of mine and Two (my main reasoning) - I know that every night she goes home, eats dinner and goes to bed alone. Other than that and church, we are the entirety of her social sphere - a group of people who are 20+ years her juniors. Her husband is constantly on the road for work, her sons live far away and while her daughter and granddaughter live with her, they keep their own schedules and she doesn't see them all the time.
I'm not going to lie, about a month ago I wanted to not only pummel her but give her the yelling at of her life and tell her exactly how shallow, close minded and pathetic she is. I was so full of anger and righteous indignation on the behalves of women who have to make a tough choice, the LGBT community, the umbrella category of heathens and non-believers (as she calls them) that I could have set her on fire with my eyes. But then, something shifted.
Like, really shifted.
And while I still am frustrated by my crappy schedule every week (which she makes), I'm no longer glaring daggers and trying to set her on fire with my mind. I still get twinges of hot rage when she says things, but now rather than angrily walking off I shift the conversation to something else. There's no progress to be made in screaming matches and I know she won't listen to what I have to say rationally, so I simply won't discuss it. Nowadays I find myself feeling badly for her; not in a pitiful way, but in a compassionate one. I think about the fact that she's never known any other sort of life and that those beliefs that she has lived with for her entire existence are slowly dying around her. I acknowledge that she is probably very lonely, not really leaving the house aside from work and her family not being around very often. I understand that she has a very low self image and lashes out at others out of hurt. And when I think about these things I don't feel angry and I don't want to take her out back and scream at her anymore.
And while I don't know that I will ever necessarily like her, I have genuine compassion for her.
And this is the lesson that I believe this Goddess of Discord was sent to give me: The gift of genuine compassion.
That and getting my ass in gear to get out of the thankless customer service job, because life is too damn short to spend doing something that makes me miserable - but that's neither here nor there for the moment.