Inner Michael » A Glance in the Mirror

A Glance in the Mirror

Yesterday at school, one of the teachers started talking about how another nurse on the case had “changed the nose and put a new one on just yesterday.” One Teacher’s Aid commented how at first she thought that “artificial nose” referred to some kind of cosmetic surgery.

So one teacher looks at the other and says about my client: “Maybe we should start calling him Michael Jackson because they keep changing his nose and putting on a new one. It keeps coming off; he keeps losing it… (laughter).

The Occupational Therapist chimes in: “Oh well maybe his nose fell off because of that disease that he had… (wink, wink) the one that changed his color too… (more laughter.)

You can only imagine where the conversation went from there. And you can imagine where my mind went from there. And my temperature. Where… I… went from there. I could feel my Inner Michael…

I was surprised at the level of anger I heard in my voice when I had heard enough: “You know, Vitiligo is a real disease and it does make skin pasty white. .. please, the man is dead!” and that is as far as I got. I must have turned white myself with anger. One look at me and the room went silent.

It took me a long time to breathe myself back down the adrenalin slope but it didn’t take long to realize how I had mishandled that situation. I had a perfectly good opportunity to be calm, to state the facts about Vitiligo and Michael Jackson but instead I let my shadow off-leash to run loose. To growl. My shadow, under her breath, called them “ignorant” and thought them “moronic.”

I immediately regretted not having rehearsed a little speech for just such an occasion. If It comes up again, I promise you I will have one ready. Why? Because the moment that was teachable (pun intentional) called for response, not a reaction. And now it is forever lost. Instead of making them feel uncomfortable and myself seem aloof and superior, I could have educated them in a kind way and turned a shadow situation into enlightenment for everybody.

Yes, I was raw and tender having spent so much time already wandering around in the dark with Michael and I admit it wouldn’t have taken much to push me over the edge, but instead of making the world brighter, I added more shadow.

The one thing you learn as a peace activist is that when you are standing on a corner holding a sign, the last thing you or anyone in your group should ever do is engage in a verbal war with a person from the opposing side. The training preparation involves learning how to not be pulled into an argument and to listen, really listen to your opposition. (“No one wants to be defeated.”) And the other thing that is really savvy is to prepare in advance answers to the questions you are likely to be asked. Then if a reporter comes up and sticks a mic under your mouth, you have something coherent and intelligent to say.Yesterday I was neither. I should have known better.

It was painful because there were children in the room. I was not being a very good role model. I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t thoughtful or warm or prepared to go toe-to-toe in a civilized way. We all might have learned something important had I taken a breath first and handled it differently. ‘I’m sorry Michael; it won’t happen again. Promise.’


  1. Anonymous said . . .

    I am grateful to you for sharing
    your experience–I had not thought
    of being prepared for any similar
    encounters. His passing and my
    struggles to understand my emotional response has taken so
    much energy that I forgot–I forgot
    that disrespect and insult directed
    at Michael is still so prevalent.

    I am feeling raw and sensitive and
    hurting over the injustice done to Michael while he was here; I
    am certain I would have reacted very much the same. But you are

    the lesson is not lost. I will be
    ready–and thanks to you–maybe I
    will be able to take a little shadow out of the world.

    Posted January 18, 2010 at 4:28 am | Permalink
  2. Rafaella said . . .

    I am sorry, I don’t know if I agree to you when you say you could have taught them something. Maybe it is different because you live in another country than I am but here any attempt to explain what is Vitiligo, Lupus and that the man managed to turn his diseases into something even more sparkly would just turn into more laughter and more personal attacks to Michael. Or any other person. As a teacher here, I really try and try again to find a way to bring light to those people but the truth is: at the moment, for me, it can´t be done in a normal conversation. Actually they tend to not allow you to speak but speak louder than you or mock you for “liking a pedophile” like Michael. And when I hear this, I understand that there are people who are not prepared and therefore do not deserve to know Michael. Making a parody, “light comes when the shadow is ready”.

    Posted April 28, 2010 at 3:45 am | Permalink

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