I had an interesting conversation with Deb today and I’m still trying to process it. Bear with me if this is a little weird. Unheard of on this blog, I know!
Something happen last week that I’m undecided how to feel about/deal with. I accidentally sent an instant message to K, that was supposed to go to Karin. This wouldn’t necessarily be a big deal, except the message was about K and out of context, it was somewhat hurtful.
K has a habit of coming and standing in my office doorway and talking. Once in a while, and with a reason, I do not mind this, but it has a tendency to happen frequently and for no purpose AND at the most personally inconvenient times, like when I’ve got a blog post to write, or a manuscript to edit. Occasionally it even happens when I’m working on my paying job. Sometimes she’ll stand and talk to me. Sometimes she’ll stand there and read her twitter and make passing comments about what she sees there. There I sit with my hands on my keyboard and my eyes on my computer screen and she’ll just talk. It distracts me from what I’m doing and serves no other purpose.
As it happens, this particular day K started talking about
sopapillas and pita bread SOPA/PIPA. I had just finished telling her that the more I heard people talking about them, the less I cared to know what they were really about. Somehow this translated to her as, “Please explain to me why I should care about SOPA/PIPA.” and I admit that I was becoming angry.
So there I was, trying to work on something on my computer, with K in my doorway telling me about SOPA/PIPA while I tried very hard not to listen to her, not to engage with her in any way, hoping she’ll take the hint and go away when suddenly Karin pops up on my screen in an instant message. I don’t really even know what the instant message said, I just know that it was a bit confusing and I didn’t understand the message. I couldn’t focus on reading it and understanding it because K was distracting me. I responded to Karin:
“Sorry, I didn’t understand that and I can’t focus on figuring it out because K is in my office talking to me, AGAIN!”
“This is so funny to me,” Karin said, “I can’t figure out if you like her or don’t like her.”
“I like her,” I answered, “for the most part.”
I got side tracked because K said something that ticked me off about SOPA/PIPA and I couldn’t keep from responding to it. I went back to my computer and I typed, “We have a tumultuous history and as a result I feel the need to keep her at a safe distance. I just don’t understand why she feels the need to come in to my office, uninvited and talk, when I’m so obviously trying to work. ‘Work.'”
Karin didn’t respond. A few minutes later, K finally gave up her lecture and returned to her desk at which point she said, “I think you meant to send that message to someone else.” Yep. I accidentally sent that message to K instead of to Karin. I didn’t get embarrassed. I didn’t say anything that wasn’t true and that she didn’t already know. But I feel badly that K got her feelings hurt and that was not my intention. I really do care about that and would have preferred that it not happen. I rationalized it all; she’s reading one part of the conversation out of context and she isn’t bothering to find out more. The behavior that led to that comment was unreasonable and she shouldn’t have been doing it in the first place.
I also took some responsibility for my actions and my part in the equation. If I wanted her to go away, I should have said so. I can’t expect people to read my mind and if I don’t say what I want I can’t expect people to know.
And then I rationalized it some more. K is an emotionally erratic person who doesn’t handle perceived rejection and negative communication very well. If I had asked her to leave she wouldn’t have taken it very well and she would have gotten upset and made everyone miserable because of it.
This led me to realize that I have been taking the wrong approach, not just in my relationship with K, but in a lot of ways, to the idea of only controlling what I can. In life, we can only control ourselves and our own actions and reactions. It seems so elementary now, but in my early days of therapy this was a flat-out revelation to me. The problem is, I think I’ve been going about it wrong. In an effort to control how I react to situations, I’ve been trying to control the situations. It is, after all, easier to not react to something negative, if the something negative doesn’t happen in the first place. If I can prevent someone from getting upset and making everyone around them miserable, then the environment won’t become unpleasant and won’t negatively impact me… right? Right?
This situation has helped remind me that I want to be a person who is able to be direct and honest with people (kindly, of course) regardless of how the person will receive it. The thing is, though, when I’m direct and honest with a person I want it to serve a purpose. I want it to achieve the outcome I was hoping for. I want the person to retain the information and not have to be told again. When that doesn’t happen it’s very disappointing and frustrating to me. It makes me want to give up on the person and stop being direct and honest… only, I suppose the only one suffering then, is me.
I guess I still have a lot to learn…