It’s a small thing really, although it depends on which way you’re looking at it I guess. Which truth be told, is a somewhat dodgy pun but you will not yet understand this of course for I haven’t finished my first thought. My first thought being that I think you and I should have a chat about perspective. And when I say “perspective”, I am talking about individual views on a single event such as:
· I just got a raise which is totally awesome because it wasn’t solicited and the money would come in real handy, as opposed to
· my wife just got a raise which is good for her but means she’s now earning more than me again which sucks eggs majorly and I can’t stop thinking about it
I am also talking about views on events in relation to other events such as:
· I just got a food stain on my shirt and it totally ruined my day, as opposed to
· I just got fired which totally ruined my day
Now there are many people who might perceive the total ruination of their day as a direct result of acquiring a food stain on their clothes. I believe however, that most of those same people would consider that occurrence to be small potatoes in comparison to the event of losing their source of regular employment. And perhaps you would be one of those individuals who feel this way also but in that case I feel that I would have to proffer the question – how the hell would I know?
But perhaps I am starting this discussion in the middle rather than at the beginning so I would like to draw your mind back to one day last week. On this particular day, you picked me up in the afternoon and immediately I could tell that something was wrong. There was no smile in greeting and barely a grunt in response to my salutation. I was met with the face of a thundercloud and faced with the aggressive driving of one who would seemingly rather be anywhere than where they were. I tried to probe subtly to see if I could solicit a response which would tell me what was wrong but my efforts garnered nothing but a series of monosyllabic answers and a sarcastic tone of voice. After several attempts, there was obviously no way that I could deftly identify the issue so after the string of dead ends (and heightening levels of frustration) I became more blunt and less courteous. This however made no discernible impact either unless you count the fact that by this point you weren’t really talking to me at all.
I think I managed to get out of you that you had experienced a “crap” day but that was it. After that, you clammed up. I of course was assuming the worst. What was it that was so bad you couldn’t tell me? Maybe you had received a severe dressing down at work and you were concerned for your job. Maybe someone delivered a debilitating character assassination and you were concerned about returning to your job. Maybe it wasn’t to do with your job at all and you had received a phone call with terrible news such as someone you cared about was terminally ill. Something truly awful must have happened because judging by your response, the gravity of the situation was immense. You were obviously physically ok but I was given the impression that your world was crumbling down around your ears and you felt helpless to stop it. I thought something truly traumatic had happened to you but as it turned out no, you were just disappointed.
I’m sorry to sound so glib. When you eventually got round to talking to me about it and telling me the “why” as opposed to merely telling me the basic “what” I began to understand a little more. Initially however, all I could think about was that you were carrying on like a pork chop because when you cut to the chase, a job that you didn’t have but thought you might like to do in the next year or so didn’t pay as much as you’d hoped. That was it. You had a neat little plan in your head that went something like in 12 months my ship is going to sail in but instead, someone downsized your ship to a ferry. And you weren’t happy. Now that I have all the information I also know that in finding out this particular “fact”, you once again were the recipient of differing information from management and peers in your workplace. Since this particular situation was also at the root of the reasons for leaving your previous job, the association brought back some very painful memories. Then, to add insult to injury, you did somewhat receive a distressing phone call complete with a dressing down and character assassination (in a mild form) from a single person – a parent. All up, a number of things contributed to a bad day.
Here’s the thing though. I still think that this was a bad day. I don’t think it was an awful or a horrendous day. I don’t think it was particularly agonising, heartbreaking or distressing (although you may wish to apply all three). I don’t think it was the WORST DAY EVER. I just think it was a bad day. You’re not a child anymore to live minute by minute, unable to rationalise out that even when things are crap, they can get better again. Just possibly, the five minute wait for food to a three-year-old that promotes a tantrum is like the 12 month wait to a better salary for an adult. Not what you wanted but not the end of the world either. Because here’s the other thing, whilst you are not a child, you are still young. For the sixty-year-old looking for that retirement money or that final career goal, there isn’t a lot of time left. Waiting another year or two for that next opportunity might not be an easy option to swallow. For you, I think you can handle it.
I know that you have many wonderful strengths and talents. It just happens to be that patience isn’t really one of them. Its probably not one of mine either which is why I find the rollercoaster ride of your emotions difficult to respond to on occasion. I also find it confusing when you keep on moving the goal posts. I might learn to read you better if you say got angry, defensive and withdrawn when you broke a nail but you yelled, swore and hit inanimate objects when you were really upset but you don’t. You use one or a combination of these seemingly indiscriminately to express your displeasure. And a situation that inspires a level ten reaction on one day could elicit a level five on another. Its confusing. And hard for me to get my head around. And since I don’t really understand, I was hoping that maybe you might like to help me out in future.
Its extremely hard to determine the appropriate level of sympathy, comfort, sensitivity and compassion to express when I’m not sure whether in the grand scheme of things you’re just blowing off steam because you think someone cut you off or you are actually dying inside. Maybe you could tell me what you want from me in advance. Maybe we could make up some severity cue cards so if you’re screaming bloody murder because you just forgot to record my tv shows, you can hold up a “3” so I’ll know you just have to get over kicking yourself in your own time and I don’t have to call in the cavalry. Maybe though you could have a second think about the things that are bothering you when they do, a think all the things we have together and a think about all the things some people will never have and figure that you’re day is really no so bad after all. Because maybe its just a matter of perspective.
Your Loving Wife
PS. This does not mean that I can practice what I preach and never be irritated again by the fact that you leave doors and drawers open around the house.
* Photo taken on our honeymoon