Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Brooding Post, Even a Little Whiny

This week is a three-day work week; Thursday and Friday are the first two days of the Chinese New Year, and they are public holidays over here. With the long weekend coming up, I'm not in the mood to work.

This afternoon, in a moment of jovial openness, I started behaving a little playfully around a colleague – someone a few years younger than me. She suddenly just told me: "Stop it." It was unkind and dismissive. I was caught off guard.

I ended up brooding on this incident the whole day, and I can really brood when I set my mind to it. I wondered what have I done to warrant this strong reaction from this colleague (let's call her Killjoy); I wasn't disturbing her. Maybe she really disliked me, and my sudden unexpected behaviour triggered a deep-seated repugnance from within. Certainly, I would agree that people who don't know me well are used to a more sombre persona – but over the years I have learned to lighten up a little. I find it easier to laugh and smile at work these days. I am genuinely happier at work than I used to be.

But Killjoy's reaction this afternoon led to me one conclusion: sometimes it doesn't matter how much we have changed – if the other party is not prepared to modify their perception of you – the way they respond to you will be the same. If someone is determined to think of you as drunk, it doesn’t matter if you have not had a drink for 30 years – they are still going to treat you like a drunk. You just have to live with that, because otherwise you are going to get yourself caught up trying to defend yourself over and over. What a waste of energy.

What makes me angry with Killjoy right now, is that she has no idea who I am inside. She sees me at work almost everyday, so she assumes, like a lot of people do, that she has a good idea of what I am. She doesn't. I laugh often at work, and she has commented once too many times that: "It's so not you." It IS me. It just doesn't fit your stereotype of me.

I wonder what is truly bothering this young colleague, that she can't accept that someone can be serious and strict when she has to be, and still laugh spontaneously. There is a rigidity to her perception that is bothering me right now, because she is impinging on my right to laughter and spontaneity. It's like she's pushing me back on the chair everytime I get up to dance.

But I can't actually do anything about her issues – she'll have to sort out her issues herself. I only have governance over how I respond to someone who seems determined to be a killjoy.

I apologise if this is not a post of staggering wisdom or insight. Right now I am resentful and angry inside, because there are a few choice words I would like to throw back at Killjoy – but since I still have to work closely with her, it would be a bad idea.

Or maybe I'm just angry at myself, that I never allow many people to really get to know me. And the occasional moments when I allow myself to just be myself, I get told off by people like Killjoy. And that hurts, a little.

Then I wonder why am I still so bothered by these petty thoughts? Why is it the insecurities and fears of our childhood never seem to go away? I set up these protective armour around myself all my life, afraid of the rejection that will follow when someone finds out who I am inside. I pretend to be stronger and harder than I am. I have kept many things in my life secret to my friends - not because these things are important, but because I need that sense of security that comes from being able to control what people know about me.

And for what purpose?

As you can see: I am in a brooding mood tonight.


chrisa511 said...

Well good for you for having some fun! And poo on her for being like that! People have a tendency to be uncomfortable with what they're not familiar with and react in really ridiculous ways....such as Killjoy. I think you hit the nail on the head with your last few words. We all have those sides of ourselves that we never really show anyone. We all have our insecurities and fears that stay with us...the things that keep us from totally being ourselves and it's ashame that when we actually take leaps like this they backfire. I hope it doesn't hold you back though...And happy new year! What animal is it this year?

darkorpheus said...

Thanks, Chris. I woke up this morning wondering why I allowed myself to be so bothered. I really need to grow up sometimes and get over this teenage insecurity.

I am born in the year of the Dragon afterall, and we are creatures of will and strength. So poo on her - I will dance if I want - which I do, to the soundtrack of "Strictly Ballroom."

Oh, and 2008 is the Year of the Rat. Unromantic, yes - but it's the first animal in the Chinese Zodiac, so 2008 is the beginning of a new cycle.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy that you woke up feeling a little better about this situation, because it was upsetting to see your anger and hurt of last night. Because I like and respect the bit of you I know about, my first inclination was to hate and despise that young woman. Whom I don't even know.

No one can understand everything that is going on inside of us. So sometimes, other people are not going to respond the way we want/need them to. Particularly when we are going through times of change, folks may have a hard time keeping up. Even when the change seems glaringly obvious to us, it will take others time to notice, longer to understand, and even longer to respond.

Was she being malicious?

It seems like you thought this person was someone worth sharing a light moment with. Maybe that's why it hurt when she wouldn't share. Is she still worth it? Might she learn you a little better with time? With patience?

Sure, she rained on your parade. But it's your parade. It's up to you to decide whether to cut her some slack or to brand a big "KJ" on her forehead. But be careful ... our thoughts can shape our reality.

Does this story really need a villain?

P.S. I realize that I don't really know what the hell I'm talking about. I just hate seeing you hurt.

darkorpheus said...

woyo Chris I'm slightly amused at the two Chris-es(?) commenting on this post.

That was lame, sorry. ;)

Thank you for the concern - and you're right - our thoughts does shape the world, as it says in the Dhammapada:

"We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts."

You are also right when you said there is no need for a villain in the story. I'm not sure why she reacted the way she did, but it would be better for both of us if I can just let it go.

I'm at work today - it's eve of Chinese New Year! Yay!

KJ is at work today, and everything's back to normal. No drama. But I did notice that KJ looked stressed today. Maybe that's why.

Just let go.

Rebecca H. said...

It is very hard when people have an idea of you they just won't let go and that they use to judge and limit you. I sympathize! And I think you're doing an admirable job thinking through it and being philosophical and forgiving about it.

darkorpheus said...

Dorothy Thank you - although it might just be a sign of my gradual mellowing down. ;p

I think it's the quiet, introvert, private people that are more easily misunderstood -- it's harder to read them, I guess - and a lot of us don't really take the time to delve deeper.

If you're the sort that prefers books to social parties - you might be accused of being "anti-social".

If you're taciturn, preferring to listen before commenting, people might again accused you of being "dull" or "unfriendly".

We often judge too easily. Which is a good reminder for myself not to be too quick to judge the colleague I dubbed "Killjoy". She might have a reason for how she reacted. I'm not sure if I'll ever find out though.

Maybe I think too much. I might be a lot happier if I thought less.