Wherein fate is for people who have given up, part 3 of 3.
I’m going to jump right in because this story is already long enough in my head. And it’s taken far too long to write. I’ve grown weary of fate and all that it doesn’t have to offer. I’m ready for closure.
So there’s this lady I kinda work with, helping with a project of hers. I get the feeling she got a few dysfunctional nuances about her. Most likely some anger management issues stoked by a little low self-esteem.
My heart goes out to her every now and then, when I see her socially wobbling. My own self-esteem has been a struggle for more of my life than I’d like to admit. So sometimes I want to give her a shoulder to lean on until she can find her balance. Watching people wrestle with and within themselves is heartbreaking.
But. When she turns and looks directly at me inflamed, raises her voice, then all bets are off and I stop caring if she’s a suffering human being. She kinda likes to fight. There’s an overly aggressive drive in her of sorts. One of her nuances. And when we argue it’s paramount that she wins. And that everybody knows she’s right. All along. Even if all evidence and witnesses are saying that she’s wrong.
I’m not interested in being right in the here and now. Or fighting. And she seems to need to do both. But fighting to be right is a fight no one will ever win. Everyone goes away a loser.
I cover up and brace for impact most days. What else am I to do when she comes charging in, other than take a defensive stance, preparing to fend off her oncoming assault? The answer is to pray, of course, to stay plugged into the cosmos so I’m walking a spiritual path before getting into the boxing ring. Pray beforehand for guidance rather than praying afterward for help. Prevent rather than correct kinda thing.
But it’s like, fuck I don’t want to have to do spiritual pushups each and every time prior to seeing this lady. I don’t ask the cosmos for guidance before I hang out with Sara or Maggie. When I’m with them everything just is. There’s no drama or stress. We hold hands out of love. We don’t take jabs at each other because the greater good of our relationship is more overall important than any one person. That’s how you both win.
Okay, so this is the point in the show where things get more specific. Up until now I’ve just been setting the stage for you avid readers.
Over the past few months she started taking a keen interest in my daily well being. Hourly well being as it came to be.
Between 9 and 10 AM she would send me a message and ask me how I was doing. And then I would say something like, “I’m doing good, working on your project.” I always tried to be professional and polite but I’m not going to engage more than superficially with someone whose goal is to be right. Fuck that.
And then she got in the habit of sending me another message, around maybe 11:30 AM. Again, she would ask me how I was doing and I would respond that I was doing good. In my head I would say, “I’m doing just as good as when you asked me an hour ago.”
But wait, peeps! There’s more. She started messaging me in the afternoon, too. I shit you not, this happened almost every workday. Three to four, “How you doing? How’s it going? All good?” type of messages.
It didn’t really even feel like she wanted to know how I was doing. Sometimes it felt like she thought she was being cool, doing finger guns, master of the universe shit. Maybe she didn’t have anything better to do. Maybe it felt good for her to ask caring questions, take an interest in another human being because up until then she never really had.
Humans are complex creatures and our relationships with them can take place on many levels. It’s not always this factor that’s coming into play. Or that factor. Sometimes it’s a combination of both. Sometimes it’s a third factor. Pour in a quart of passive-aggressive and you have a milkshake most people don’t wanna talk to.
I don’t know her ingredients, well her propellant exactly. Why she kept bugging me because I’m sure it was obvious by now that it was getting on my nerves. All of them. Even the baby nerves just born were shouting, “Oh hell no. Not this drivel again.”
It got to the point where I wouldn’t even respond to most of her messages. I would answer the first one of the day but then ignore any that came after that. At work I don’t transplant hearts or build rockets but what I do does take brain power. And then every time she would message me it’d interrupt what I was doing, totally break my train of thought.
Think of it like a mechanic under a car with someone routinely coming in the garage asking silly questions. Sooner or later the mechanic is gonna roll out from under the car and say, “I’m fucking working here, you dumbass.”
And I’m a big boy at work. I’ve been doing my job for a long time and if I need help or have questions, I ask. My ego is pretty much non-existent in the workplace. I’ve mostly learned my lessons and what happens when said ego gets too big. I just want to do a good job at work and then go home.
One morning I counted how many times she messaged me how I was doing. Three times that particular day. Before 10 AM. Jesus Christ Almighty. This is when, in this icecapade parade, I quit even acknowledging that she sent any of them.
Where’s my socket wrench? I’m gonna smack somebody upside the head.
And you guys know my go-to for people who get on my nerves. I write them off.
Somewhere in this story I was bitching to Sara about all of this and she said maybe she’s worried, because I was being short with her, and that’s why she kept asking how I was doing. And then I thought, “Good. She should be worried because she’s really pissing me off.”
And yeah, I did write her off a long time ago. It was easy and called for. Totally appropriate as far as I could tell. Monkey throwing poop at you, you best move along. Because they’re gonna keep lobbing their shit.
However, working with someone every day, even remotely, that you’ve written off is an exercise in agony. I don’t like shutting down. I don’t like being cut off from the sunlight and that’s how I feel when I build walls to keep people out. Loving you critters and having you love me is what makes the world go ‘round.
Anyways, there’s all the fruity spiritual stuff and then there’s real life. In any corporate world there’ll be bitches clawing their way to the top. And sometimes scratching you in the face because their childhoods sucked. Because they’ve never dealt with why they have that low self-esteem. Sometimes I get the feeling some people don’t even know that they do. It’s kinda like when the woman on NPR said, “I never knew I had anxiety. I just knew I needed another cigarette.”
I settled into the fact, that this endless stream of comms, and the ring fights to be right are just how it’s going to be with this lady. A spinning airlock door I wasn’t going to get out of until our paths led us far and away from each other. Because people don’t change and my spiritual skills only have so much mileage. My patience for morons is only so high.
And then I’d been thinking about fate way too much this past summer. Because it’s been in the back of my mind and under my skin since forever. Sometimes it feels like I’m doomed. Sometimes it’s easier to just give in and give up to the melancholy than to keep disobeying gravity and fighting fights with people I’ll never win either.
So I prayed and put this big ball of bullshit into the cosmos’ hands.
And then I didn’t feel any better. Nothing changed. The “how you doing” messages kept coming. And we still kept boxing.
I’m not a big fan of how I’ve felt throughout this whole story. Dysfunction was normal for the better part of my life and since I started looking for fruity enlightenment, bad behaviors don’t feel right any more. They feel yucky. I don’t like being at odds with people.
Because I think too much, I was thinking one night that maybe Sara was right. Because she’s way more compassionate than I am. Compassion in her DNA. So maybe that low self-esteem underneath was what was triggering that lady’s barrage of “all good?” messages. It’s obviously what’s behind her need to be right. People who’re okay with themselves don’t need to prove anything to anybody.
And then I was reading something that Pema wrote in her book When Things Fall Apart …
Compassionate action is a practice, one of the most advanced. There’s nothing more advanced than relating with others.
So maybe the message lady was anxious by my lack of acknowledgement, by my lack of participation in she and I’s conversations. If someone was all but ignoring me I’d probably be worried that I’d done something that hurt them. And without self-analysis it’s easy to fall into the trap of never looking at what I myself am doing.
The real story here isn’t about the lady though. Or our fights. Or even our messages.
It’s about me.
I kinda sorta believe that we sit in the same grade until we’re ready to move onto the next one. And that can suck when we feel like we’re repeating the same lesson over and over again. It’s pretty easy for me to shut down and run away. Never legitimately learn from whatever assignment is on my desk. But then I never grow. I’m stuck eating the same leaves, day in and day out.
So I needed to do something about and in my dealings with this lady. Just for me. Regardless of what else happened.
Sara also said that the lady and I were caught in a “dysfunctional, infinite loop.” When it becomes all too evident that my self-defeating patterns are running the show, I can’t live with them anymore. Because I don’t like feeling stuck. Knowing that I am stuck. I want to be a bigger person, be a better man than I was a year ago. Be bigger than the guy who was treading water in useless swimming metaphors.
And then I was thinking a thought that wasn’t my own. One of those thoughts that wasn’t my idea, one that doesn’t come to me by default …
People deserve your full attention.
I’d wrote about that topic not long ago but only in reference to people I care about. It had nothing to do with, nor had I any intention of applying that to people I’d written off.
So then the next morning when the first “how you doing” message popped up, I concentrated 100% on the conversation. I stopped multitasking, shut off the headphone music, and even turned away from my desk so as not to be distracted. I didn’t do anything but directly engage in the conversation, focused solely on what she was saying.
It can be difficult for me to do the opposite of what I’m accustomed to doing, even more so when other people are behaving badly. But I did it anyway. I took a step in the right direction and let the god within take me where I needed to go spiritually.
I acted like I cared about her and her feelings. Because she was human. A whole human being. I tried to be as loving and accepting with her as I am with my friends.
At first she seemed a little wary, a little unsure about getting my full participation but within a few minutes she was completely gung-ho to be gabbing. It felt like both of us came out of that spinning airlock. Life became balanced. The wheels were no longer in motion and the runaway train let us both off.
People want to feel a part of. They want to feel accepted, that they count.
Looking past their shortcomings isn’t always easy but it is possible when I do some real soul searching and look at the world from a cosmic perspective. Get out of the minute details and look at life from afar. Stop using my magnifying glass to scrutinize someone else’s most annoying traits.
When our morning message conversation was over, I felt better and I hope that she left the conversation feeling good about it, too. I think she did as she lightened up on sending as many messages from then on. Maybe my attitude change had a positive impact on her attitude. It doesn’t matter, though, because I felt good about me.
I can talk spiritual truths all day long but when I live the change I want to see in the world I get to stand in the sunlight once again. The loop no longer exists. I can move around in life and not live behind the walls I’m too good at building. Because when I build walls they keep everything out, not just the certain someones I’m not getting along with.
Every now and then I’ll still get more “how you doing” messages than I’d like and I can still get pretty frustrated with her. On my worst days I’ll again flat out ignore her and her bullshit for sure.
But on my best days I’m confident in who I am and what I believe and engaging in the fight provides little interest and little value. Confidence is a bonus point from humility. It lets us walk with our heads held high. It lets us move forward because everything will be okay no matter.
And when I do feel like I’m entering that dysfunctional loop, mostly it’s plain as day and that awareness makes it easier to take a step back.
Do I really wanna get in that ring again? Not really.
The cosmos will heal us, teach us when we’re ready and receptive.
At the end of the day do you know what I really hate? Being full of loathing. Look toward the future and assume it’ll be dreadful. “Hate” because when one’s heart has been touched by love, the doom and gloom from yesterday sit in piss unappealing.
Fate is for people who have given up. After living with a predetermined future for this long and having concrete examples to the contrary, I can say that I no longer see it as valid cosmic force. I have plenty of my own real life evidence that says the opposite. Personal experience is always what changes my mind.
And really, I’ve found the future to be mostly irrelevant. We live in this very second and what we do this very moment is all that matters.
That’s where the change takes place. That’s where miracles happen. That’s where we decide how our lives will be today. The cosmic now.
If we do our best work in the here and now then when we look back, our memories will be wonderful.
Sara got me that book because her heart is that big. ↑