I spent my weekend in the garden.
Now, what did you think as you read those words? Did you imagine I spent a couple of long lazy days, lying in a hammock, frosty glass of wine to hand, reading a good book? Or maybe you saw me tenderly transplanting seedling flowers and vegetables, my hands patting down warm earth around fragile roots.
The reality was rather different.
Having been ill (in the down part of my cycle) from September to Christmas, and off my feet entirely from mid-February until just last week, my garden resembled a jungle. In places I needed a machete!
Now, unlike my friend from the Deep South of Georgia, USA, I did not come face to face with an alligator while weeding, but those lush and rampant weeds could have hidden anything! I felt like Livingstone hacking my way through the African Rainforest; very adventurous!
And this morning my neck, shoulders and back were insisting that I pay heavily for that adventure.
I popped a couple of ibuprofen and reached for the Deep Heat Rub, idly reading the packaging as I did so. "Do not apply to sensitive areas such as your eyes," it said. Oh yes - this stuff hurts as badly as raw chillies. "Do not apply to broken skin. Do not take by mouth."
Well – duh! Just the idea had me wincing.
And then I thought of something else.
Last week a business contact of mine sent round an email that offended a few people. She meant what she said to be helpful, but some took it the wrong way. Last night I had to make a difficult phone call. What I had to say could certainly have been taken the wrong way: as interfering; as gossip; as sheer malice, when I meant to be caring. That was one reason I choose to phone rather than email: it's easier to misinterpret an email or text. I didn't want what I had to say to be misinterpreted.
We all know people who seem to take a positive delight in being offended. While I hope none of us are in that number, in this community we tend to be a little more sensitive and thin-skinned than some. Maybe we can be offended or hurt through robust comments. Even when those comments are made with positive intent.
Before we react, let's just look at what was really meant, rather than what was said and what we made it mean.
We need to metaphorically read the label. There are people with hearts of gold who are incapable of tact. We need to apply their words to the places we need a brisk rub, but not to any delicate areas. Sometimes we need to ignore their words, because our skin is broken and because we cannot swallow them just then.
After all, Deep Heat is excellent treating the pain of the adventurous, but not when used orally.
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