We were seated near the front of the bus, and he was busy talking to me about all the buildings, cars, trucks, other buses and the other things he could see. He was pure 2-year-old enthusiasm; happy, joyful and excited! I was enjoying his enthusiasm despite feeling bus-sick (yes, I am an adult who still gets motion sick…)
An older man sat down opposite us and started chatting to my little boy about what he could see out the window, and asked if he was excited about being on the bus. I thought nothing of it, as it was generalised friendly chat and harmless.
Conversation gets too personal
Then, out of nowhere, this man directed his attention to me, and the first words he uttered in my direction were, “Why don’t you have another child? It would be good for your son to have a sibling.”
I was shocked.
All the emotions that I had been keeping in check since the loss came bubbling up and I bit my cheek hard to stop myself from exclaiming. I responded simply, “I had another baby, but he died”, hoping that statement would shut the conversation down and we could continue the bus journey without confrontation or further questions.
But no. He asked again, “Why haven’t you had another one then? It’s not that hard to make babies!”
Again, what?! Why did this man think this was something appropriate to talk about with me, a complete stranger on the bus? Given I was still grieving, plus we had been trying desperately to conceive again, this hit a very raw nerve.
I can’t recall what I said to him. “That’s really none of your business”, is what I wish I said. But I know I didn’t. I just shrugged, stopped talking and then sat blinking back tears and silently seething for the remainder of the bus trip.
Should have got off the bus
In hindsight, I should have got off the bus. Literally pressed the button and stepped off at the next bus stop, to remove myself from the situation that was causing so much unnecessary angst and pain.
But, of course, I did not.
I was vested in this bus ride – for my 2-year-old son. This was his treat! And he’d been looking forward to it and talking about it all week.
But he was, and continues to be, a sensitive child, and he could sense that I was getting upset. He held my hand a little tighter and said in his soft voice, “Don’t be upset Mummy”, and gazed up at me adoringly with those big eyes.
The man on the bus probably felt his comments were well-meaning.
But when you are in the midst of pain, well-meaning comments can feel far from kind.
Choose to get off the bus
Figuratively, I also should have got off the bus. If I had been able to disengage with the individual and his comments, and chosen not to either have the conversation or go down that thought path, I would have coped better that day. I may have maintained my sense of well-being, and remained feeling joyful as I appreciated the happiness of my son.
But of course, that knowledge comes with the passing of time, not in the moment of insult and pain.
So, I am giving you permission to get off the bus.
Either literally, or figuratively – which ever and whenever you feel the need.
No explanation required.
If you are facing insensitive, thoughtless questions, or in a situation where you are feeling uncomfortable, you can remove yourself.
No, you don’t technically need my permission. But I wish someone had told me it was Okay to choose to get off that bus. To choose whether I wanted to engage or not. In essence, to acknowledge to myself that my wellbeing was important. Important enough to choose to get off the bus.
It’s Okay to get off the bus.
Getting off the bus in your life
I share this story, despite the fact it happened many years ago, because it still feels relevant now.
Just the other evening, I was speaking to my husband about a decision I was weighing up. He reminded me that it’s okay to ‘get off the bus’. Just because you made the decision once, does not mean you need to stick with it forever.
If something you are doing is no longer bringing you joy, making you happy, or bringing fulfilment, there is no harm in choosing to do something different. In fact staying on the bus, or sticking with that thing, can be more harmful than getting off.
So please remember, if you are feeling stuck, whether it be literally or figuratively, you have the power to choose.
And it’s okay to choose to get off that bus.
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I love to support people through transitions, whether it involves getting off a bus or not – and I’d love to help you! Get in touch to have a chat about how we can work together.