When you see me you probably think, “Damn, she has got it all together!” For the most part, I do. I am organized, methodical, punctual, reliable and I get shit done. There are those times though when I lie awake at night and wonder, “Did I write down everything I need to do tomorrow?” “Am I missing anything? A phone call? A meeting?”
Even if I don’t have it all together, I will fake it until I get to my car or somewhere else I can be alone.
There are many times in the middle of the night that I will roll over, grab my phone, pull out its stylus and jot a few notes. Once that’s done I turn the television and DVD player back on and fall asleep to a few more episodes of The Middle. In my humble opinion, it is the most consistently funny and amazing sitcom of all time! Anyway, I digress. Most of my panicky feelings do surface in the middle of the night, this is the reason I am always tired.
There are times, and I am sure I’m not alone when I’ve been put on the spot. When I have stumbled for my words. When I have been seething, but all you see is my face, set in a state of calm (or so I imagine, it could be resting bitch face, who knows).
What's Going On Beneath The Surface?
There are times when Yvonne and I don’t always see eye-to-eye on women’s issues. I have never felt the sting of being passed over for a promotion, or felt I didn’t make as much as my male counterparts or felt I had to prove myself more than a man. I don’t get that and I am thankful I never felt that way. One thing I have always bemoaned when women did it was to cry at work. Really?
I have worked in so many places where a performance review reduced a colleague to tears. I’ve seen a female colleague cry in order to get an assignment or get out of an assignment. That made me cringe. You’d never see a man cry, right? I resolved LONG ago to NEVER cry in public.
Sure, I broke that rule when I was in the hospital after my breast cancer surgeries and prior to going under the knife for hand surgery, when our daughter had surgery and when my grandson was born, but those were special circumstances. They were emotional and they were personal. They were not work-related.
Oh, there have been times in my career — back when I had to work in an office — when I wanted to cry out of frustration or anger, but I refused. I would never give any boss — male or female — the satisfaction of seeing me cry. I refused to let a colleague see me cry. Oh, I’d cry in my car, but never, ever in front of someone with whom I worked.
What is the point of this? It’s that you just don’t know what’s going on beneath the surface. You don’t know what someone is struggling with. You don’t know if the person in line in front of you who is counting out pennies and dimes to pay for groceries is worried he or she won’t have enough. That person, for all you know, is mortified to be counting change. You just don’t know their circumstance.
When I am in public and someone is being a jackass (yes, there are those people) I still try to not be a jackass back. I don’t know what they’re going through. Did they lose their job? Lose a loved one? Have a fight with a spouse or significant other?
This is another lesson that breast cancer taught me. After my surgery, seven years ago, I had been housebound — by choice — for close to six weeks. One day I had had enough and had to get out. My husband took me to the local Amish store. I figured that store was small, it was a short walk to the store from the parking lot and I could use that outing to gauge my ability to be back in public, perhaps in a larger setting.
I was scared to be in the car. I pressed my stomach pillow against my wounds and took deep breaths. I tried not to cry. We got to the store and my husband came around to my door to help me out. I was wearing one of my dad’s huge flannel shirts because at that point I still had drains in from my surgery and they were visible beneath normal-sized clothing.
We walked in. I had left my stomach pillow in the car and almost had a panic attack when someone walked close to me with a cart. I remember pressing myself into a shelf so they wouldn’t hit me. Honestly, they weren’t even that close.
Tim and I walked up and down about four of the six aisles. I knew I needed to get out. I was gulping back tears. I refused to cry in public. We left our cart and Tim took me to the car. I broke down. He went back in and paid for our items and we went home. If anyone had seen me they would probably have thought I was just poorly dressed in my man’s flannel shirt. They may have thought I was ill because of the way I was shuffling down the aisles. They may not have paid me any attention at all, but if they had, they would have had no idea of the traumas I’d survived and the breast cancer battle I was still waging.
That memory is still vivid when I see someone in line who is holding up the line. I try to give them grace. I may not say anything to them, but I won’t sigh and stomp my feet in impatience. I just don’t know what’s going on beneath the surface of what I am seeing.
What do you do when you’re being annoyed by someone or something? Do you stop to think about what they may be going through that you just can’t see?
The reason I thought of this recently was when we were in the Thousand Islands in Clayton and I was standing next to the large buoys that typically line the shore. I had no idea they were so large! It made me think of my lack of perspective on many things and made me appreciate even more that there could be so much more going on beneath the surface than we will ever know.