- This past weekend, I flew to Rochester to spend a few days with my sweetheart while he’s on the road. When I got to the airport, I went to the ticketing desk to check my suitcase, and was in line behind a couple who were chatting with the ticketing/bag check agent. The agent was lively, engaging with both of them, laughing, etc., and a small part of me was happy about that because I always enjoy interacting with people who are obviously having a good time doing their job, or at least are friendly, because it makes the whole stressful travel thing a lot easier to navigate. But when I got up to the counter, it was like his face went dead, and he could barely be bothered to speak. It was noticeable, and it was weird, and a little disappointing because my first inclination was to wonder if I’d done or said something wrong. He was decidedly NOT friendly, but still efficient and effective at his job, and I was on my way. He wound up working the ticket desk for my flight and was, again, cold and borderline snarky.
So, a few things. One, I noticed my immediate shift to wondering if I’d done something wrong or if there were something wrong with ME, to cause this guy to go from super friendly gregarious desk agent, to stone-faced perfunctory person, in the span of 30 seconds. And THAT is something I need to work on fixing, but I guess it’s so deeply ingrained, to assume there’s something wrong with me first before looking externally… it’s going to take some time, and some intentional observation and processing.
Two, once I got out of my brain long enough to stop assuming it was my fault, I started questioning what it might have been instead. I mean, I guess he could have known those folks he was talking to, but I don’t think so. Which lead me to wonder… in the past, especially 5-10 years ago, I’d had years of being told I was attractive and that I was INTIMIDATING to men. I guess I was told that so I’d dumb it down enough to make men feel more comfortable being around a pretty woman. Being pretty AND smart is too scary? Anyway. I got used to being treated a certain way because of my looks.
So… was this guy being an asshole because he found me attractive and that put him on the defensive and he didn’t want to give even the slightest hint of his own feelings so he went straight into asshole mode? Or was it the opposite? Where I am no longer considered attractive, and so he decided upon first glance that I wasn’t worth him putting forth any effort in the personality department?
Or… did it have absolutely nothing to do with me? I mean, I guess that’s always an option. 🙂
- What do you do when someone you are close to is in complete, utter, damaging denial? I mean the type of denial that is affecting other people who may or may not be able to discern what’s real and what’s reasonable from what’s happening as a result of this person’s determined and willful ignorance? At what point do you stop trying to shed light or change minds, and instead step back and let the havoc be wrought? At what point do you concede defeat on trying to introduce facts into an emotionally-driven situation?
When people I care about are going through tough situations, I am immediately inspired to get invested, involved, and try to “fix” things and solve issues, because I don’t really know how to not do that. I don’t know how to sit back and observe and provide feedback without having some emotional involvement, taking it on as my responsibility as a person who cares to DO something about it. And when there is pain being caused by the problematic people/beliefs/etc., I don’t really know how to just sit still and let the experience belong to the other folks.
But then I think back on the last “relationship” I had before meeting my husband. The person who lied, manipulated, cheated, and was (is) just overall a horrible excuse for a human being, as confirmed by some of the other women he’d damaged along the way. I had something to learn there, and I certainly learned it, but I also had to be in my own little state of denial in order to stick around long enough to get the lesson. Some of my friends determinedly stood by me, while still being honest and forthcoming about their opinions about that dude, and I am eternally grateful for that. For their honesty, because that is brave to me and shows they aren’t the types to go along to get along, and also for their willingness to stand by me and give me room to screw up. Maybe because they had the faith that I would eventually figure it out, and maybe also because his behavior wasn’t affecting them directly, I don’t know.
Whatever the case, they were able to support me and be invested in me that way without trying to actively fix or change anything; instead, they let me be the one who did the work. As it should be. So I guess, ultimately, I need (and want) to learn how to show up, be honest, and be present, without feeling like I need to change or manage anything for other people. That’s hard. When people I love are in pain, I want to FIX it and STOP it, but unless I’m the one causing the harm, there’s nothing I can do to change it or stop it.
And that all comes back to the way I’ve learned to sit in my own discomfort, instead of trying to wish it away or drink it away or eat it away or just ignore it or shove it down. Feelings are fleeting, and they can’t kill you, but they can sure as hell distort your perception of reality and drive you to act out in response. Learning to sit with feelings, acknowledge them, honor where they’re coming from, and then let them pass… that’s key. And it doesn’t have to just be my own struggles; I can learn to sit with the pain of others and just be present with it without trying to change it so that I’LL feel better.