After reading the Happier Now book, I’ve been carefully observing what brings happiness into my life. What has also become clear for the past week or so is how easy it is to have your happiness squished. Now, intellectually, I’ve known this a long time. Haven’t you read somewhere that it takes some large number of compliments to override one put-down?
For me, one of those “highly sensitive persons,” some of the unkind things that were said to me stuck for decades. I thought of myself as “fatso” even when I was of an average size. And as an adult, there have been a few things people said to me that I couldn’t shake. I let their perceptions of me affect my self esteem.
These days, I’m doing better, and that’s great. Yay me. Still, you can’t avoid negativity and negative people in life. Some of them you’re related to or have to work with, you know. And, as we have been talking about this morning, as we sip our coffee, there are some folks who just don’t like to see someone else happy or doing well, so they try to pull them down to their level (apparently this is common in all the families of origin in my household).
But, what has shocked me, and what I’ve decided I need to figure out how to handle better, is how easily my happiness can get squished by people around me. I’m sharing some personal examples next, not to criticize others, but to talk about how we might interact more successfully.
This holiday weekend has had some rough weather all over the US, and I am grateful to have had nothing worse than fog and light rain. But still, I got quite a weather surprise last night. All day it had been damp, a bit chilly, and breezy. I was glad to have my coat on for horsing around and walking with the dogs.
So, around 7:30 or so, I went over to Mandi’s house to look for rattlesnakes…um, no, to watch her make pies and talk to her kids. I put on the same coat I’d worn all day, and stepped onto the porch. WHAT?? It was HOT outside! Yes, after sunset it had warmed up at least ten degrees, maybe more. Now, that is NOT a usual weather pattern! It appears that the front that had stalled over the state had moved back to the north and brought sauna-like conditions. That’s a new one! And right now it’s almost 80 degrees, on the last day of November!
I realize I could have made two posts, but since no one’s really reading this stuff this weekend, I’ll just combine topics.
You see, I have been struggling with kindness in some areas of my life. Since being kind is important to me, I’m trying to build new patterns and attitudes toward people I come across. To be honest, there are always people we find hard to be kind to, whether it’s someone who treats us or another person rudely, the person whose driving puts you in danger, or a coworker with no boundaries (made-up examples; please don’t worry if I am referring to you).
This morning, Anita and I were talking about how some of our circle participate in conversations. There are some issues where a couple of the folks really like to be correct and make sure everyone knows their version of the facts. Other people are sensitive about being “corrected” in public. During these conversations, I am mostly conspicuously quiet.
Why am I quiet? When one of these fact-slinging fests starts up, I quickly decide for myself whether MY version of what is correct is important enough for me to interject it and possibly get into an argument or make someone feel stupid. Usually, it simply isn’t. Whether Family Member A is citing outdated statistics to prove a point or Family Member B doesn’t remember a historical fact accurately is really their problem.
What happens is that the conversation is effectively killed when someone declares, “This is the only answer. The end.” (Meanwhile, I’m over there googling.)
Hey, kind readers, thanks for all of your feedback on yesterday’s post about friendship and jealousy. You all gave me a lot to think about, and the BEST part was finding out I’m not alone in having difficulty becoming a member of a group of friends. It’s important to think about it, and I realize I do it a lot. I even wrote that “friend” is my favorite word back in May!
A couple of comments made me think about WHY some of us have this issue. My son’s partner realizes she has some issues being in groups, thanks to her autism symptoms, which make forming friendships difficult for her, but make her value her real friends even more (I am happy she is MY friend!). She’s not alone. Many of us note that forming friendships is hard due to personality challenges. Some of us are shy; others aren’t great at (or fond of) the kind of bonding but non-substantive conversations that lead to deeper friendships. [Insert your own reasons here.]
A neighbor texted me wondering if people even realize I want to be their friend. I found that amusing/ironic, since this was someone I want to be friends with and have no idea if they realize it. The point was that sometimes people appear to others as if they have some kind of boundary or other presentation that makes them appear to want to keep their distance. Aha! That was an insight to me. Maybe people misinterpret my “resting hermit face” for not wanting to socialize. And maybe I misinterpret others, too!
Here’s a fact about me (I know you were dying to read one): I’ve never had many close friends. Let me explain. I always have a few people I can talk to and do stuff with. But I think I always wanted to have a group of close friends who could get together and talk, travel, and share experiences. The couple of times I’ve tried that have made it clear in no uncertain terms that I’m not cut out to do that and will end up being “that member” that everyone talks about behind their back and wishes would stop showing up (hello, yarn store clique; I still like many of you as individuals). No wonder I have so much sympathy for the pariahs in my social circle and keep doing my best to be kind to them.
Why is this relevant?
Well, over the past weekend, I watched as a couple of groups of people from work went on fabulous trips and had fabulous times together. I found myself wishing I could go along. These are friend groups I tried to be in, but didn’t fit in. Yep, I had a bit o’ jealousy. I’ve always wanted to be a member of a close group of friends that were drawn together because of shared bonds, not because they are members of the same club or somehow paid to be together.
Maybe this all stemmed from when I was a kid growing up, when our neighborhood was a merry band of young folks who did everything together, regardless of our differences and actually cared about each other (I feel warm when I remember how the autistic child, Gay, came along with us wherever she could, and stood on the sidelines, rocking back and forth, but a part of the group; of course we had never heard of autism).
Earlier in the week, a series of events unfolded in a group, the details of which are irrelevant. The outcome is where I’m focusing today. As people interacted, the scene became more and more like ones I went through very frequently when the organization I was working for was undergoing a crisis. And it was hard on the participants.
I needed to provide input, redirect the conversation, or in some way diffuse the situation, but I could not. I mentally froze up, as I retreated into a way of feeling and acting from over a decade ago. I didn’t get memory flashbacks, but my emotions went into overdrive and I could FEEL the atmosphere at my old job when volunteers I directed and others at the organization were engaged in unpleasant and unproductive exchanges.
I was triggered, I guess. My current set of coping mechanisms helped me, at least a little. I didn’t burst into tears or run out of the room, like I might have over a decade ago. Instead, I played a word game on my phone, since all my life I’ve coped with being overwhelmed by doing something with my hands (hence all that knitting and playing of Bejeweled). I find that when a good chunk of my brain is busy on a soothing task, I can make better use of the rest of the ole noggin.
I was rather surprised at how many people looked at my post about changing my medication and food patterns yesterday. If I were out to make money, I know what kind of stuff would work and what would not work (hint: self examination wins, plant pictures and book reports lose, unless an author tweets about your post, which did happen last week). But, I’ll just forge ahead and write about what interests me, and I’ll enjoy whoever tags along. This here blog is not intended to lead to fame and fortune, like some people’s are.
What about my PRIVACY? You ask?
I am open and honest about myself here on the ole blog, or at least I try to be. I know some folks who are not comfortable doing this, and I totally respect them. Maybe they have something they need to keep from their employers or family members, and I get that. Other people fear the nefarious spies lurking all over the internet just looking for information on them so they can do…something…with it. (I know some folks who have dealt with stalkers, and I get that, but I also know people who use some totally made-up name and obscure their location.)
As for me, well, my boss and family know all my stuff, and there are a couple of things I don’t talk about because THEY own their stuff, not me. So, whatever’s going on in my head won’t ruin my “career” (ha ha, I believe I have a series of avocations, some of which pay money). I do not intend to run for public office, so none of the dumb stuff I did in my twenties or forties will ruin those aspirations. And I believe in learning from mistakes, which requires a lot of introspection. I “introspect” by typing. So, here’s a blog full of that.