Bad news has never been an easy thing for me to deliver. Just thinking about it makes my palms sweat and heart beat irregularly. The stress from facing conflict and/or disappointment crushes me and instantly releases something toxic into my bloodstream. It leaves me with a swollen tongue and deaf in my left ear filled with only the sound of fluttering wings.
The bad news doesn’t even have to be particularly bad; it can be merely unpleasant or unfortunate. For example, I might be tasked with telling someone that their home delivered meals will be delayed just a few hours and suddenly I’m feeling a little nauseous. Someone once told me that it was just anxiety and meds might help. I laughed, just anxiety? This is a full blown condition that is bigger than meds or seeing someone to get a diagnosis. I call it exaggerated living.
Fortunately, no one reacts in the crazy and over-the-top way that I expect which helps me to emotionally recover to a normal level pretty quickly. Let me clarify, people usually don’t react in the way that justifies my fears. Today, my reluctance at being the bearer of bad tidings was validated a hundred times over when someone reacted exactly how I expected to eventually happen, with the full wave of emotions. Her day was darkened and her course was invariable changed. I couldn’t help but to feel her pain in an untouchable way as she cried and I watched, like a bystander to a terrible accident.
I realized that my problem with bad news wasn’t about me- it was about the recipient of the news and how they would feel. I avoid stepping on cracks when walking on the sidewalk to avoid smashing an ant with my clumsy feet, I swerve for squirrels, and can’t pull a band-aide off the arm of a friend because I don’t want to cause pain. When my brother and I used to get spanked for using curse words or carving our names into wooden furniture, my dad always said with a grimace, “Trust me, this hurts me than it hurts you.”
I get it. It has to be done, but it’s going to hurt.
cover image: Mental Anguish from fineartamerica.com