I had a revelation a few minutes ago. It’s long but it was worth it for me to write it down.
Back when I was maybe 19 or 20 and washing dishes in a restaurant, the baker’s appearance had gone downhill. Meaning she quit wearing her hat and apron and never tucked in her shirt. She looked like she absolutely didn’t care, frumping around and all.
One day my boss asked me what was up with her and I’m like, “I dunno but she looks a little slobby.”
He stood there for a few seconds and then went over to her work station. He said something along the lines of, “you really need to wear your full uniform and tuck in your shirt.” And he said it…not like in a jerky voice…but I could hear some emotion in it. It’s never easy to basically tell someone they look like a slob and need to step up their appearance. People take how they look very personal. I know I do.
He also called her out on this out in the open, not behind closed doors. I heard it and so did everyone else around. I’m not saying he raised his voice but if you were standing within 25 feet you would’ve heard him. I assumed he did this so he would have some backup in case the confrontation got out of hand. Always good to have witnesses. Plus, if you got something to say, say it now. Sitting on something is akin to revving up your engines before barreling off.
So the next day the baker has her hat and apron on, shirt’s tucked in, you could’ve done a photoshoot with her on how to “dress for success.”
But she had a tension around her that was thick as bricks. I didn’t even want to look at her. Any minute she was gonna start breathing fire and shit.
So earlier this morning while I’m getting dressed for work my mind wandered back to all of this. I started to wonder if maybe she wasn’t about to breathe fire, but instead maybe she felt so self-conscious that her mental defenses had gone code red. Maybe she was simply projecting an attitude of “don’t fuck with me” because she was overwhelmed with shame, embarrassment, whatever.
In situations like this I’ve always, always assumed that people like the baker were angry at the other person who called them out. Getting ready for another fight and all. Round two.
But maybe they’re not. Maybe they’re simply angry and upset with themselves. Maybe all that leaky angst is really projected inward.
By default I take things way too personal, assume someone’s hostility is my fault, absorb negativity whether it’s mine or not. I’m also prone to be emotional, hold on to things way too long. I mean here I am thinking about the baker and my boss some 20 odd years later.
And this one time at band camp…
Anyways, back to my point. Was she upset with my boss or was she upset with herself?
Revelation: it doesn’t matter.
When I need to confront someone I need to say my peace and move on. How they react and act afterward is their burrito to deal with. I don’t need to “police the universe” as they say. When my peace is out in the open, my job is to treat them once again with the love and dignity they deserve. If what I’m saying comes from a good and true place — I can have the confidence to move on and look at any memes I missed while toiling around with life’s never ending anxieties.
Me holding on to my emotion in anyway only continues to feed the tension, propagate the myth that I’m not okay and neither are you. It doesn’t promote my own well being or yours. Me treating you as if “it” never happened lets everyone get on with life. It says that we are indeed okay. I get to see you as a happy, healthy human and I get to be one myself.
We all struggle to fit in, to be accepted. Especially in social situations. Nobody wants to be told that they look like a slob. Sometimes we need to hear that though, it puts us back on track when we’ve wandered off course. I just trust that the people who are pointing out my flaws are doing it because they love me.
Peeps, I accept you as you are, flaws and all. And me accepting you when you fuck up…well, maybe you’ll be more accepting of me the next time I do.
This isn’t anything new, I’m sure any good self-help book will tell you the same.
The thing is though, I can read books all day long but what counts is when I apply the words to very specific situations in my life — in the present or in the past. Internalize them against memories that are still kicking around in my head.
Afterward I get blessed with closure and am able to move freely about the cabin. Or cosmos. Whatever you’re into.