In September 2015 I went on a trip to Denali National Park in Alaska to visit my lady partner in crime Maritza who used to work in Denali in the summer. Being the wise woman she is, she told me to bring my warmest clothes for my end-of-summer September trip and I was mighty glad I listened to her. I had just come back form Japan where the heat and humidity was suffocating. Alaska’s climate is not to be trifled with. The temperatures were below freezing and it snowed for most of the week I was there. In September. But we didn’t let the cold stop us from exploring and goofing around in the wilderness:
Maritza and I have been gal pals for awhile and we made more mountain-woman adventures together with hikes bus tours through Denali National Park. On a day that she had to work, I signed up for a half day trip to visit Husky Homestead, the home of Iditarod champion Jeff King which was a full-on puppy-love experience which I recommend highly to anyone visiting the Denali area. As a side note, Jeff King is everything you’d expect in an Alaskan heartland-dwelling sled dog racing champion: a tough personality, dry humor, an animal lover, and full of stories about living and sled dog racing in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. What I didn’t expect is that he’s also a raging feminist (my words, not his). He spoke candidly and humorously about what it’s like to raise and race sled dogs in the Alaskan and northern Canadian wilderness with a blend of humor and some other stories that had us in the audience on edge. He also spoke admirably about the women in his family and in his sled dog racing circles which made him even more likable to me.
To get to Jeff’s place, a van picked me and some other tourists up from a few different locations to drive us 30 minutes to the homestead. At one location, we ended up waiting a few extra minutes for someone who was on the roster who wasn’t at the pick up location. Finally, the person came up to the van a few minutes late, and announced to the bus: “So sorry to make you all wait”. This “sorry” seemed appropriate; this person had, for whatever human reason, kept us waiting a few extra minutes. She was sorry for taking up everyone’s time. Remember when we talked about sorry before? This was one of those times I thought it was appropriate to say: “I’m sorry”. I approved. I smiled at her as if to say: “It’s okay. Glad you made it. We’ve all been there.” before pulling my coat a little tighter around myself to keep out the cold Alaskan air. “Let’s get this bus moving and the door closed,” I thought to myself. Onward to see husky puppies!
What happened next was so unbelievably cruel, it made me freeze and cringe. One of the other tourists on the bus replied to the late arriving person’s apology by saying in a vengeful tone of voice:
“You’d better be someone worth waiting for.”
I was so struck by the harshness of this remark that I felt blind-sided in disbelief that someone would say something like that to another human.
In retrospect, I wish I would have said something. I wish I would have gotten beyond my shock and spoken up on behalf of that person. I wish I had said something along the lines of: “That’s not an appropriate thing to say to anybody. This person doesn’t have to prove her worth to us as a human just because she’s a few minutes late. Pipe the f*** down.”
This story reminds me of the delicate nuances of apologizing and setting boundaries and standing up for yourself or others. In this situation, as I mentioned, I think it was appropriate for the person to apologize; she kept 10 or so people waiting for 10 or so minutes. But to have someone challenge her worthiness as a human for keeping us all waiting? That was just vicious. And in the span of a few seconds, that woman was felt called to apologize then also had to make a choice: should she also stand up for her worthiness?
Here’s what I wish I had told that woman directly: “You’re worthy enough. Just as you are. You don’t have to prove your worth as a human who’s deserving of love.” Thinking about saying that rather than confronting the woman who was so unkind feels even better. Because ultimately we know that those who criticize others so harshly are doing so because they feel that their own worth is in question. As the saying goes: hurt people hurt [other] people”.
Ooof. That was heavy.
I feel like we need a puppy chaser. After that incident and 30 minutes of silent bus ride later, we were greeted with armfuls of Alaskan husky puppy love.
They were even cuter in real life if you can believe it. Also I’ve never seen so many dogs be so happy and just be dogs without being scolded for peeing on outdoor furniture, sniffing butts, and barking out of sheer pack enjoyment. It was a delight. Let sleeping dogs lay… and let Alaskan husky dogs pull a sled? Or maybe even a 4-wheeler.
Have there been times in your life where you’ve been blindsided by someone else’s cruel remarks and you didn’t know what to say? Has your worth as a human ever been challenged by another? I’d love to hear how you reacted and how you were able to navigate that awkward and emotionally taxing situation. And I can only hope that you had an actual armful of puppies or something else of equal joyful equivalence to help you realize: “I’m worthy enough. I don’t know what that person’s going through.”
Breathe and believe beauties!