Who Knew Imaginary Rats Could Shed Light on Humanity

For the last several weeks, Mrs. G. has had recurring nightmares about rats running around inside her house walls. She hears the scritching and the scratching and wakes up in a full body sweat. For the first few weeks, Mr. G. would calm her down and comfort and reassure her. Now he just pokes her and says, "NO RATS." 

Today, someone was mean to Mrs. G, cruel really. This person, not a particularly close friend -- more of an occasional coffee date, laid out her years of grievances with Mrs. G. Grievances Mrs. G. was legitimately unaware of, which is weird because Mrs. G. is pretty in tune when she's being a jerk. She has been known to apologize for things that other people have completely forgotten. She's certainly no saint but she's not completely detached when she acts like an ass. She's not in a fugue state when she's being mouthy. But the truth in this situation was she was blindsided. Mrs. G. thought she was having a triple latte and a how's life conversation without the heaping side of you are a bitch and have always been a bitch.

Mrs. G. was so exhausted by the end of her friend's list of all the shit she had done wrong, Mrs. G. didn't have the energy to defend herself or disagree, plus she didn't buy the bill of goods this person was selling, and that just took the wind right out of her fishwife, harpy sails. Mrs. G, solid as a rock, heard the imaginary scritch scratch of rats in her walls. "No Rats," as Mr. G. would mumble in his sleep.

So Mrs. G. chose kindness. Does this make any sense to those of you who have not been not diagnosed as off-base by paid medical professionals? There were no rats -- only the nightmarish shadows of ill-natured vermin so many of us fear, so Mrs. G. finished her latte, hugged her friend and wished her the best.

Mrs. G. thinks she just happened to be at the wrong coffee shop at the wrong time, and her friend was loaded for bear.

Since third grade when Philip Wong called her four eyes and heifer, Mrs. G. has built some fairly solid suppositions on bullies.

1) If you are mean, the chances are you know you are mean and are an insecure mess. Get some help.

2) If your parents were mean, Mrs. G. truly feels for you and, again, encourages you to get some help.

3) If you are mean, your kids are likely mean, so don't act so surprised when the school calls.

4) If you are mean, surround yourself with kind people and try to reign your hostility in. Kindness is catching.

5) If you are mean, find the courage to let someone love you, because they will.

Mrs. G. is not a therapist, psychiatrist, a hairdresser or a bartender -- she hasn't been schooled in counseling people, so take everything she says with a grain of salt and the reality that you can't squeeze blood out of her turnip. She's just a human who has been human.

Mrs. G. left the coffee shop satisfied with herself. Kindness is sometimes hard, especially when you are dealing with assholes ( See, Mrs. G. still struggles), but it's light and airy in comparison to the brick-like solidity of hate.

As Mrs. G. slides past middle age, she wants to leave the planet and her people safe and secure in the knowledge she loved them hard during the good times and the dirty dog bullshit. She wants her kindness to prevail in their memories of her crazy ass.

For your information, despite this post being all over the place, Mrs. G. is sober. Tonight she is just feeling defensive for love and light, and she felt the need to fling it on the page before she went to bed.

In summation: Be kind, be kinder even when it hurts, peace to you and yours and sweet dreams.


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Reader Comments (44)

I've been in that position, only the person wouldn't even tell me what I had done! And yes, she's a mean person and the sum total of all her crappy breaks in life that she has chosen to deal with poorly. (And I had been a VERY good friend to her.) Get some help, get some perspective, and start acting like a functioning adult, OK? You'll feel better all around.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGretchen

You did the right thing, Mrs. G. If it prevented a scene and you left satisfied then it was well done. But you ARE dropping that punk-ass bitch, aren't you? At least until she gets help. Who needs rats in the walls?

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNacCrackHouse

I am sorry that this person was so awful to you. I am so in awe of you for taking the path of peace and love. That's more than I think I could have done in your position, so BRAVA to you.

Also, I adore you and think you are a wonderful person.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJen on the Edge

It puzzles me, just puzzles me. Why would someone choose to spew out all this bitterness? If I don't like someone (and it seems she doesn't like you) I just walk away from them. Why feel compelled to explain your departure from the so called friendship? I guess I can understand this kind of rant if it is in the heat of an argument but it sounds like you two were just having coffee. Rats indeed! You handled it well Mrs. G.


April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDarla

Kudos on taking the high road. The older I get the more I recognize how much we need to remove toxic people from our lives in order to be really happy. Life is too short to put up with nastiness and bad attitudes. Keep on smiling and spreading the love.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter1Les

I love this post. I love your description of hate as a brick. One time, a friend of mine asked me, "Isn't it exhausting being kind all the time?" And I just laughed and changed the subject, but her comment stayed with me and I've come to the conclusion that kindness is not tiring at all, it's holding on to resentments and hurt that saps your energy and exhausts you. And no one needs to carry around that kind of burden.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteralison

This is lovely. You are something else, Mrs. G.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAunt Snow

What do mean people get out of being mean? I will never understand them. My husband says their punishment is being them, but I'm not sure they even know how awful they are, so that's not much in the way of justice.
The only way to fight it is to not be one of them. And you aren't, Mrs. G.
And if I could have written what Alison said, I would have. Exactly right!!!

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterknittergran

I think you just preached a beautiful sermon that the world needs to hear. Amen.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterlauri

Yes, it is all about choice. I choose everyday to be as kind as I can be. I choose to love rather than hate. It is the right thing to do.
I had a very toxic Mother-in-law and she did not like me. As a young wife I couldn't understand why she hated me so. But I learned to be stupid and cheerful around her, never trying to explain when she would try to "set me straight" about some issue. I would simply smile and say something like really or is that so and leave off the word bitch at the end. Then I would smile and change the subject. We spent 40 years playing this game. It infuriated her, I'm sure , but it worked well for me.
Cheerful and stupid...confuses those bullies every time.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlbug

Hi Mrs. G! You chose love over fear and as the Course in Miracles people would say, that's a, well, a miracle. : )

I have a long time friend - we were once roommates - who I have made the decision to "drop" this year. I love her dearly because she is fun and funny and giving and smart. However, once in a while she gets totally paranoid and lashes out - usually via email - that I am a terrible friend and have been talking about her and her problems behind her back. WTF? This results in me walking on eggshells around her and as an almost 54 (!) year old woman, I refuse to do that anymore. I just can't handle the drama.

It makes me sad though.



April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie

I think you left her even more pissed. It sounds like she wanted to rile you up and when you just gave her a hug and moved on she was probably a little disappointed that you were the better person. The kindness that you showed her put her in her place.... who's the one being a jerk now.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLizzie

I like you so much. :-) It takes a healthy and strong person to be as kind as you were in that situation. Thanks for sharing that story.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKeetha

Yes definitely, most of the time we should repeat the mantra "There are no rats" as our default but sometimes it is necessary to look someone in the eye and say "No one here likes you."

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commentertrash

I had a friend of the same thing a few months back, but it was by text. I can't say I was as kind as you. I like the way you did this.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBecca

Thank you for spreading the love, Mrs. G. You are a class act - boo to the haters.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLori K

I totally get this. Some people are just unhappy, and you can't help them be happy. I had a similar experience recently (after years of cutting this particular person slack for her behavior because I felt she was a good and generous person underneath all the crap); and I finally realized it was hopeless, after she verbally vomited all over me in a Dunkin Donuts. I think people like that can't even recognize true friendship when it is staring them in the face. Reminds me of the passage in The Last Battle with the dwarves in the stable, not able to see where they really were, not able to recognize the smell of flowers even when they are right under their noses.

I'm still really sad, though. I liked her (minus the craziness) and her kids were good friends with my kids. What a waste.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersuburbancorrespondent

Well said Mrs G! And also suburbancorrespondent. I guess many of us have had someone we thought was a friend suddenly do the verbal vomiting. Sadly people do use their unhappiness and jealousy of things to treat others poorly. Learning to be kind in the face of viciousness is difficult, but the better thing to do. Excellent post!

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJennie

Wow, I think you handled that beautifully. If a friend sat me down and gave me a chronological list of my supposed failures, I'm not sure I'd be that gracious - but it was the BEST possible thing you could have done. Kudos to you.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercariba

This happened to me 8 years ago. Someone I loved spent a day talking about all the ways I had probably not been a good mother. I was crushed, because my kids, husband and mother have always told me what a good Mom I have been.

I turned around and walked out of the house and didn't speak to her for 4 years. Now we speak when necessary (she's a relative) but I couldn't forgive and forget. I don't hate her.... it's worse. I don't care what happens to her for the rest of her life.

You handled it with grace and dignity. Rock on Mrs G!

Since I had that person follow me here and make friends with friends of mine to make me look like the bad one.
I still don't know what to do with that.
Rats are in the kitchen walls....

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterI can't tell you who

Wow. In this case, kindness was sweetly double-pronged. She probably came undone the first moment she was alone after the hug. If you'd invited her to dinner she would have melted like the Wicked Witch of the West.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjack

What a beautiful post! I love your advice to mean people.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPatience

Actually you handled the situation with perfection.

Think about it, this person had rehearsed what she had to say over and over again, which is exhausting. Plus she was more than likely all bowed up waiting for you to pounce back and she was braced for a rebuttal. You took the wind right out of her sails and she's probably sitting somewhere mortified that she was so horrible to you. You have to keep us posted and let us know if she's a big enough person to apologize.

Have a good weekend!

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine Aucoin

Mean people suck, but usually in the end they are the ones that end up alone, without a many true friends. It is so easy to be polite and kind to people, but there are those that want to raise a stink and stir up the pot. Thank you for writing such a meaningful piece, I too hope that she is rethinking her bahavior.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKari

toxic people. I've had enough of them in my life too. be gone. go Mrs G! Kindness can be so very hard indeed. what an absolute truth.
Little Miss Sunshine: you are so right when you say, " I don't hate her.... it's worse. I don't care what happens to her for the rest of her life."
I know that feeling.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAngAK

This is touching and inspiring and recognizable -- and I laughed out loud at "For Your Information..."

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMiri

I am sorry this happened to you. You didn't deserve it. I have had a rough couple of years with friend and family alike. While I'm always up for allowing a bad day or week or whatever to all I love, sometimes I look to Maya Angelou.

'I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel"

"The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them."

I have found this to be true.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKarenA

Oh yes, been there done that. Sometimes people can be such idiots and they think they are sensitive. How long do you put up with it? If you don't just outright out them, how will they know what idiots they are, sometimes

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermered

Mrs. G., can I just say...I love you? I salute your ability to demonstrate grace under fire. You make the world a better place.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEllie

The way you choose to handle this was great...when what you really wanted to do was hit back. A very wise person had recently given me some great advice....the behavior that we show and put out there is what we want to see in return! Perhaps these cruel and clueless people will take a hint and behave properly in the future. I'm just really sorry that this happened to you, Mrs. G. Karma!

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermaggie

That happened to me once and I, too, just apologised and calmly walked away. And then I never spoke with her again.

Sorry this happened because it really sucks.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRockyann

So very true.
I poured on loads of this kindness to some asshole boys I've been teaching. Except for one. I just have nothing left for this kid, except maybe a roundhouse kick to his huge, coked out head. Try as I might, I just cannot endure him.
But the kindness always pays off. This is a good reminder.

April 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGreen Girl in Wisconsin

I'm proud of you, Mama. I like who you are.
Jen H

April 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJen H

Sorry you went through that; impressed you soared high in response. I've had this a few times; felt like doing it a few times. I lost a friend over a decade ago and always wondered if should have told her what went wrong. She showed back up in my life a couple of years back and I invited her to visit. I had hoped the giving, thoughtful person might have re-emerged. No, sadly. The bitter, angry, self-involved person had won the battle. I did recognize that telling her the first time would not have made a difference, and would have just been mean. Those who've done it to me: I consider their words. If there's validity, I'm appreciative. If there's not, I try to figure out what is going on with them. If it's someone for whom I care deeply, I'll put myself back in the way and slog through the shit to find them. Sometimes it works.

I do have one phrase (or a variation) I repeat a few times a week and tell others to repeat so it's handy in situations like that: "I need to think about what you said; I'll get back to you later." That allows me to step away from the conversation, gives me time to consider what was said and whether to address it. Most importantly, when someone bitch slaps me unawares, that phrase allows me to respond later. How many of you have been stunned into silence, only to realize later what you want to say but it's too late to say it? AAAAAAHHH! Not no mo when you say that.

Good on you Mrs. G, you wrapped it all up nicely - no return trip necessary.

April 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commenternaomi d

That settles it. I am going to write the post I've been on the fence about. Mrs. G. it's like you were inside my head. I'm sorry you went through this and glad you handled it with such grace. Not that I'm surprised.

April 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJenn @ Juggling Life

Good for you, Mrs. G. You did the right thing.

Amen! This is so true. You chose wisely. The older I get the more I realize that being nice is highly underrated.

I try to remember at times like this that it really is all about them, not you. We all operate in our own reality, and her's was f**ked up. Your's was well done. Really well done.

Congrats on taking the high road. It's a tough climb sometimes, but the view is sweet.

April 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKaye

I'm sorry you had to deal with that-- and happy that you had the presence & kindness to give her some compassion, which she probably doesn't get enough of, thus, the lash out. I hope you know you're loved lots here.

May 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterShe Curmudgeon

I have a friend like that. I have given up on her. I'm sad about it, but then...what did I lose? Someone who keeps lists of the ways I've hurt her feelings. I'm not clueless. I have a lot of friends, and like you, can usually figure out when I'm being lame. If I haven't and it's brought to my attention, I'm quick to apologize. I don't think I'm perfect. But seriously, who keeps lists of all the ways you've hurt her and then sits you down over coffee to tell you your faults? Not a sane healthy person, I can assure you.
So for my own sanity, I have had to tell her--I'm happy to see you at group events, I wish you all the best, and we're never getting coffee alone again unless I've gone deaf and you're paying!

May 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteredj

Well, I don't know about Mrs. G, but all these comments talking about similar situations are sure making me feel a whole lot better about my "friend" doing the same to me. I guess it is a common sort of thing. What a waste of a friendship, though...

You did well. The best part of it for you is that you don't have to those repetitious second thoughts about your actions. You took the high road and she didn't. Way to go, Mrs. G.!

May 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

I love that picture of the two little boys! Sorry your friend was so jerky :-)

May 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

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