Have you ever wondered what I did for a living? 'For a living' - that sounds so proud. As if that was 'the right thing to do' and doing it provided an instant salvation and justification for the 40 hours of meaningless activities that focus around checking your e-mail ( as long as it pays my bills I guess I can sue this excuse). Going back to what I actually do is that I act as a buffer between two (or more) people or them and their problems. Individually or collectively. I am the cartilage in a knee joint or an intervertebral disc in a spine. Any shock must be absorbed at least partially so that the negative effect on the bone is lessened. Damages must be shrunk to the inevitable minimum whenever possible.
I think as a result of what I have been doing for the last 2,5 years, I am unable to be in any form of conflict. My usual instinct is not to allow a conflict to happen and if it does, to resolve it before it makes any permanent damage. What I tend to tell my team is that intentions are irrelevant. All the 'I-didn't-mean-to's as as important as Kim Kardashian's waistline (I know, there are people deeply analysing it. they must be bored to death). What I have learnt over 31,5 years of my life is that it does not matter what people say to you. You will soon forget it. But how they made you feel - that stays forever.
Last Saturday whilst browsing through 6,734 photos on my iPhone I stopped at one particular one. In that little filtered square there are two legs and two arms. The photo feels a but surreal like the endless stairs by M.C. Escher. The arms and legs belong to two different people wrapped around each other in a hotel bed before breakfast. I do not remember what he said to me that morning. Apart from telling me how he loved my denim shorts that I had since we met. I do remember, however, that it was one of the happiest mornings in my life. Maybe even the happiest so far.
There the opposite moments as well. The moments when people make you feel foolish, embarrassed or perhaps simply stupid. Again, it does not matter what they say. They probably have an 'I-didn't-mean-to' up their sleeves ready to roll it out like a clown pulling endless pieces of fabric that only change in colour. When you last broke a mug, did you mean to do it? Possibly not. I will go further - definitely not! The end result is, however, the same, whether the intention is there or not. The mug is broken. Maybe it was your own mug, maybe your colleague's or it belonged to a loved one. Was it a thoughtful gift? A souvenir from Amalfi coast? A meaningless purchase or a secret Santa drama? Does it matter?
There is this guy that has been trying to date me for about a year with approximately 6-month intervals in between. Let's call him mr Canada (long story). Mr Canada had the ability to look at me as if I was magic (that give you the highest score one on my brownie points list). He also actually listened to what I was saying during each date - that was refreshing. He loved Greta Gerwig's films- yes, these men still exist. Sadly, together with all these wonderful qualities he had a shameless ability to make me feel like a fool. Did he mean to? Possibly not (I would not go for 'definitely' here). If you are stuck for excuses and explanations for cancelling meetings or not getting back to someone mr Canada has them all. And the only thing I am angry about is that I heard them all a year ago. For 2 months. And then I allowed myself to hear them again in April and then again in October this year.
What I very often say to my team (yes, they hate hearing that) is that you cannot change other people's behaviour. All you can change is your attitude towards it (cliche!). And it is the sad truth and it sucks and we can stamp our feet all we want here. What I have learnt this month is that I cannot get angry at someone acting the same way over and over again. I just have to come to terms with it. This process can go two ways: I can either accept it and make friends with it or accept it and leave it for someone else to make friends with it. The liberating feeling is that the choice how I respond to this behaviour and the terms are mine. I might as well pray as I preach.