Friday, August 1, 2008

Kill Her With Kindness

I'd like to think overall I'm pretty good at not sweating the small stuff. I try to be that calm duck on top of the water while my feet are kicking madly beneath the surface. My job has helped me develop a thick skin I a) needed and b) appreciate daily. But there are a few people who still manage get my goat, one of whom was staying over last night.

I was dreading going home all day. Anxiety levels were unbelievably high and I hadn't even seen her yet. Thankfully I had to work late, then I met up with a friend for dinner hoping to minimize the possible contact time. On my metro ride home it struck me how ridiculous I'm being. Since when do I back down from a fight? Why am I fighting passive aggressive behavior with passive aggressive behavior? This is going nowhere. I started analyzing the situation, asking myself what the root of the issue really is. Is she a fairly miserable person? Yes. Is she amazingly talented at getting under my skin? Yes. Does this mean I don't have to be nice to her? Yes.....well, no.

I remembered something I read written by a woman who worked at a coffee house. Dee was frustrated people didn't treat her with the same respect and attention she was giving them. She remembered tens or even hundreds of individual orders, preferences, kids names, etc, and yet so few could remember just one name, or even bother to look at her name tag and call her by her name. My brief time as a restaurant employee gave me the same frustrations - I'd greet someone with "Hello! How are ya?" and the response invariably would be "Yes, I'd like a...." After a while, I stopped expecting people to answer my question and generally stopped asking all together. Dee's response was different - she decided instead to 'kill them with kindness.' Over time, she started noticing a difference. There would always be those people who would view her as just an extension of the espresso machine but others stopped and saw she was more than an excellent frother. She had a name, she had a daughter, she had a great sense of humor. She was a kind and generous person who deserved kindness in return.

I decided to give it a whirl last night. I didn't rush home after dinner but as I got home, I psyched myself up for battle before going in. She was there and was not in a good mood. I greeted her, she returned it with a heavy sigh but with a hello. I couldn't tell if she was just tired or annoyed that I was home later than I said I would be. I asked her if she was psyched up for her daughter's move this weekend. She was not. Ok then. Well it will be fun to see her new place! She does not like it. Well then...

I took a five minute break from the action to recompose myself. She was not going to make this easy. I went back out and asked if she'd like me to set up our extra bed in the living room for her. She looked at it and said "it doesn't look comfortable." Well, it's just a twin I replied, but it's more comfy than the carpet! "Oh. I don't think so. But I might put the mattress on the floor." Sure! I said. I have sheets to fit it! And blankets! I can grab them for you in a minute. "No, I brought my OWN sheets. I don't want yours." Ok, I said, but if you'd rather, I also have an air mattress - it might be better than the green thing -- just let me know, I'm happy to get it out for you. "No, I'm sleeping on that tomorrow. (big sigh) At Marie's. Air mattress (mutter mutter mutter)..." And then she gave me the full body turn away to face the TV.

I wanted to run over to her, give her a hug, and scream in her ear 'I'M BEING NICE TO YOU DAMMIT AND I DON'T HAVE TO! BE NICE TO ME - YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE THE GROWN UP HERE' but I didn't. She clearly needs more hugs and compliments and sunshine and puppies, etc, but not from me, and not tonight. I don't want to make one of those sweeping statements of "thank God I'm me and not her" so instead I made more of a "thank God I am me. Period. Dot." Who knows why she is the way she is. Freud probably has some ideas, therapy might not be a bad idea, but in the mean time, even if it kills me, I will be nice. Nicer than nice. A friend just sent me an email forward with a bunch of pink fru fru crap but at the end it said "Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle." I don't know what she's fighting, but from the looks of it, she could use all the help she can get.


Jen said...

If she only had a heart (a brain, some courage..). Wait. Scratch the last one. If she only had a heart & brain. Thank goodness you're you. It should be more fun than it is to be the bigger person. The reward is never in kind when the other person fails to step up to the plate. Disregards the plate. Fails to see the plate.

Jen said...

And, knowing full well what you're up against- you don't deserve just a medal. A continent should be renamed in your honor.

Jen said...

Is she dead under mysterious circumstances & you're keeping quiet to maintain a low profile?