Archive for the ‘jerks’ Tag

Sorry, Not Sorry

I’m proud and a little awed to be able to say that there are cool, exciting, fun things going on in my life right now and that, overall, I’m one happy, lucky butch. Not surprising, then, that I’ve been a bit more smiley, a bit more easy-going lately. And people around me notice. It’s all good.

Until someone tries to turn my happy into guilt.

Here’s what happened: I get to the conference room five minutes before a long, tedious meeting so I can get a good seat by the door. I’m sitting hunched over my iPhone grinning like an idiot at some Tweet or comment or other from one of my online pals. The silence is abruptly broken by a loud, irritated “what the hell is there to smile about?” Looking up, I continued to smile and tried to pass it off as a joke with a light-hearted “oh, I’m just feeling good today.” But my accuser (that’s how it felt) scowled and muttered darkly “those of us who pay attention to the world know there’s nothing to feel good about.”

The implication was clear: my happy was inappropriate and offensive. I was immediately sorry for my flip comment and felt a stab of guilt for being happy in the face of his gloom.

Guilt is my go-to, conditioned response to anything that feels wrong in my little world. My non-clinical opinion is that a lifetime of “raisin’ ‘n learnin'” from a bevy of fierce Southern women (Steele Magnolias ain’t got nothing on my mamma, granny and aunts) has instilled in me a fundamental conviction that if its wrong and in my general vicinity, it is (a) my fault, and (2) my job to fix it.

However messed up that is, it’s my reality and I’ve learned to deal with it. So, after the obligatory, knee-jerk guilt, my reasoning brain turned back on and I began to think.

As I sat through that boring meeting that had almost nothing to do with me or my department, the reasoning part of my brain picked at that encounter, cataloging each element. When the meeting was finally over and I could consciously pay attention to it again, my guilt was replaced by irritation and resolve.

I was irritated at the guy who’d tackled me, yes. Because, seriously, how rude! But I was also irritated at the underlying principle: if anyone is unhappy, you must be, too.

How idiotic! While I believe myself to be a compassionate, empathetic person, I learned in the hard way in law school family law clinic practice that absorbing the sadness of others is the worst way to relate to someone. Making their pain yours paralyzes you both and you, as the advocate, become worse than useless. You become complicit in that person’s pain going unresolved. The trick is finding a way to convey sympathy and understanding without internalizing their horror. In an attorney-client relationship, I’ve honed that skill. But it’s still easier said than done in my personal life.

Yes, over the last week or so the world has witnessed a lot of terror, loss, violence. I do not trivialize any of it, nor do I judge any individual’s reaction to it as too acute or unwarranted. Every person deals with grief in her own way.

Still, I was blessed to be spared any deeply personal impact of these events by not losing any loved ones or being the target of any these acts of terror. If nothing else, that fact alone is worthy of praise and a smile. And feeling blessed in this way does not in any way negate any other person’s experience or feelings.

Thus, I rose from that conference table resolved to continue feeling good about all the good things in my life and the world in general. I will not allow anyone else to dictate my feelings or do my thinking for me. And I will not feel guilty for being happy when I have reason to be, regardless of sorrows that exist in the world at large.

So, Angry Coworker, I’m sorry I’m not sorry. That’s as close to a guilt trip as I’m willing to bear for my non-crime of happiness.

And…I’m still grinning like an idiot every chance I get. 😉


I was tweeting about this earlier and wanted to explore it just a bit. I’ve been in management training this week. Now, I admit that being unable to keep up with my regular work load, on top of having to listen to the touchy–feely consultant-speak all week, predisposes me to crankiness. Add to that the bone tiredness I talked about in yesterday’s post, and I’m a little on the prickly side. I acknowledge this. So perhaps my story today is slightly colored by this pre-existing grumpiness.

Still, I was hella annoyed during class today.

A dozen professionals from different organizations within my company, all trying to lift up managerial skill. We’re all veterans of the company and experienced pros. So you’d think we could all sit through the seminars, participate appropriately and do everything we can to get to the end as quickly as we can.

But no, there’s always one who has to stink up the works. Today’s gem is a self-satisfied, middle-aged middle manager. He has been increasingly talkative all week, but today was an order of magnitude worse. Dude would NOT shut up! And no one else could say or do anything that was correct to him. He was right about everything and everyone else needed to benefit from his expertise. Healthy debate is great, but this guy argued just to hear the sound of his own voice.

I’m not proud that by 3pm I had given up all pretense of civility and just let the snark flow. I wasn’t alone. Still, his annoying existence isn’t an excuse for my rudeness. I know this. I’m disappointed that I fell to his level. Yet, I’m still tweaked about the whole thing.

What I’m struggling to parse out is why. It’s normal to be pissed off when someone is rude. But you get over it after grinding your teeth for a minute and move on. That’s my normal pattern. In this case, though, hours have passed and his condescending, sneering voice is still in my head.

What bugs me the most is that he’s succeeded after the fact in what he was unable to do during class: silence my response. In class, I refused to let him stifle me; even if mine wasn’t the last word, I always made my point despite his obstructionism. But now, his arrogant and ignorant assertions are rattling around inside my head, where I can’t refute or silence them with informed disagreement. Ugh, it’s frustrating! Even worse is that I know that only I can let someone get under my skin–no one can ‘make’ me feel a certain way. So, not only has he poisoned my peace of mind, he’s co-opted my own inner voice to do it. Geez!

Ah well, I’ll get over it, eventually. It just irks me that a jerk can get inside my head and affect my mood, even though he’s not even in my presence. Grrr!

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