I went out for a Girls’ Night Out last weekend. Ten of us went to dinner, to listen to a band, and then out dancing. We sat at a long table so it was hard to have one conversation. For most of the evening there were two or three smaller discussions going on. I was in the middle of the table, so I could switch back and forth when I wanted.
But then someone brought up the subject of weddings, and the conversation melded into one. Two of the girls are newly engaged and two are already married. So they talked about dates, pictures, videos, and rings. The rest of us asked questions and got to put in a few ideas.
Then one of my fellow single friends leaned over and said, “Everyone’s getting married, I guess we better step up our game.”
We laughed about it for a minute, but then as we talked we both realized that looking for a relationship is not what we want to do.
I did say that once I quit my job, I’d have more time to date and that is true. But I also want to spend my time doing things I love, things that make me grow as a writer and a person. I want to write, read, travel, workout, and spend time with friends. Going places to meet a guy or spending my time online looking at a dating site are not for me. I’d rather meet a guy while I’m living life to the fullest, not as a part of my to-do list.
As my friend said, I’m doing me.
But it feels like there is a lot of pressure from the world to be dating someone. It’s one of the first things people ask when I haven’t seen them in a while, and it ranks high on the list when getting to know new people.
Are you married?
Do you have a boyfriend?
Are you dating anyone?
They go through the list, not satisfied with the first answer. And when they find out you’re single, they start offering advice. They met their husband online. Their boyfriend was a friend of a friend. Maybe they know someone who can set you up.
And when you tell people that you are happy being single, they don’t actually believe you.
My life is full, busy, and pretty fabulous. I get to write and read and workout everyday. I make my own schedule and I focus on what I love doing. Some days I am so happy with my life that I’m actually giddy. I smile all the time and catch my self giggling sometimes. For no other reason than I am happy with life.
Would it be fun to date a great guy? Yes, and I would make time. But I’m not going to spend my time focused on that because I’m too busy enjoying my life.
There are a lot of people out there using dating sites and match up apps, and that is fine if that’s what they want to do. But, from what I’ve seen, it isn’t making them happy and they are always on the hunt. They are focused on what they don’t have and determined to find someone to date.
It’s a lot like how I was when I was trying to move to Miami. I was determined. I was going to end up there, I just had to make it happen. I was forever online, searching for jobs. I sent emails and resumes, made phone calls to HR. I even talked to one principal and got thisclose, but then it fell through. When I let go of trying to force it, things in Raleigh fell into place. Jobs landed at my feet, I made new friends quickly, and the idea of going to an MFA program started to form in my mind. None of that could have happened if I had stayed focused on making Miami work.
I realized then that things happen in their own time, and that is always the right time. Trying to force things doesn’t work. Really, I have two choices: I can spend my time worried and focused on the things I don’t have, or I can relax and trust. Either way, it’ll happen when the time is right.
Have you ever felt pressure to be in a relationship? Do you believe your single friends when they tell you they’re happy? If you are single, are you looking for a relationship or letting one find you?
I had some down time a few weeks ago when I got sick, so I opened up Netflix and searched for some movies. One I’d never heard of kept coming up in my list of recommended titles. It was called, “Chalet Girl” and the picture was a guy and a girl with a snowboard standing in front of a snowy background.
It didn’t sound like something I’d want to watch. I’m not into cold weather sports, and honestly, it looked a little cheesy. A teen romance sort of movie, like Twilight on a mountain.
But I couldn’t find anything I wanted to watch and the fever was making me woozy, so I clicked play.
It turned out to be nothing like I thought. It was about a pro skateboarder who was on her way to a national competition when a car accident killed her mother. Out of grief and fear, she stopped skating. When her father needed financial help to keep them afloat, she took a job working as a “chalet girl” in a fancy vacation home in the Alps. She found an old snowboard in the storage shed and taught herself how to use it. She made some good friends, had some romance, and learned a lot about herself along the way.
It was a great movie. Inspiring and really funny. But I never would have known that from the name.
This got me thinking about names and what they mean. Does what we call ourselves and the people in our lives make a difference?
I write about my step-mom here sometimes. I call her my step-mom because it seems easy to explain and understand, and will prevent people from asking questions. Obviously, she’s married to my dad.
But when I talk about her in person, or think about the relationship she and I have, I call her my mom. Yes, I have a biological mother who I know and is on the fringes of my life. I share a last name and DNA with her. But when I think of the term mom, it is Lynette who comes to mind.
She is the one who taught me how to cook, how to drive, how to be strong and confident in myself. She is the one I call when I’m upset or I have something good to share. She is the one who knows me better than I know myself and who taught me what it is to be a woman.
She is my mom.
Like the movie title, the term step-mom doesn’t do her or our relationship justice. It doesn’t say who and what we really are to each other. So I’m not using it anymore.
She is my mom. So that is what I am going to call her.
Then I started thinking about my own name.
Growing up, I didn’t like the name Emma. Over time I got used to it, and now I actually like it. It is who I am.
But I started to wonder about my last name. I don’t have any ties to Burcart. It comes from a man I may have met once as a baby, but don’t remember. I don’t share it with anyone in my family, and even after all the years of being called “Ms. Burcart” I still don’t feel like it fits. I feel like Emma.
I started thinking of changing my last name. I mean, why not? There is nothing holding me to Burcart and I could come up with something that felt like me. I thought of dropping my last name altogether and going with my middle name. Emma Shannon sounds more “writerly”, anyhow.
Every time I came close to coming up with a last name I liked, something held me back. Some little, nagging voice told me it wasn’t right.
That’s when I realized that what’s in my name is me.
I have had this name my whole life and it is who I am. Even if it doesn’t have any family ties or meaning, even if no one can ever spell it right, even if it is easy to make into silly words like booty and fart, and even if it doesn’t sound cool.
Emma Burcart is my name, so it is defined by me. It’s who I am and changing it won’t change me.
We get to decide who we are and what people call us. We get to define ourselves. But what I see now is that our names and labels don’t make us, we make them. Being who we are makes our name just perfect, because it is ours.
Have you ever found a name or title misleading? What about your own name? Have you always been happy with it? Or have you ever thought about changing your name? I’d love to hear about it, especially if I’m not the only one who has gone round and round about it.
Last week I took my first ever trip to New York City. It was pretty amazing, and for more than just the city itself.
I needed to go for research. Part of the book I’m working on now takes place in NYC and I knew I couldn’t do it justice, even as a backdrop, without seeing it first hand. I mean, I never would have known about the overwhelming smell of urine if I hadn’t experienced it for myself.
But New York alone didn’t seem like a lot of fun, or a particularly good idea. I’m not exactly know for my navigation skills or sense of direction. So, I asked my best friend to go with me. She loves to travel as much as I do and we both had the same week off. It seemed like it was meant to be.
I sold her on the idea of us having a girls trip in the big city. I didn’t even mention research until after she’d agreed.
I was worried she wouldn’t want to go if it was a research trip. If it was about me and what I needed, why would anyone want to go along?
Looking back I can see that I didn’t even give her a chance to support me. I assumed she wouldn’t and kept my needs to myself.
With friendship, or any relationship, that is a bad idea. We can’t get support if we don’t tell people what we need.
The fun started as soon as we landed. We dropped our bags at the hotel and went to explore the city. We started with Central Park, which we got to know pretty well because we spent so much time wandering around in circles. It was beautiful, so we didn’t care.
We had gelato in the park, walked around a bit more, and then had brunch at the Boathouse restaurant. It was like living an episode of Sex and the City.
But then my friend pulled out a scrap of paper from her purse and said, “Let’s make a list of all the things we want to do while we’re here.”
We put all the regular touristy things down: The Statue of Liberty, Highline Park, a drink at The Palace Hotel. We each had one must do: me, a carriage ride in central park; her, MOMA.
Before she put the list back in her purse I said, “And I need to walk around Hell’s Kitchen, do some research.”
I was prepared to do that alone, while she did something fun from the list. It was the real reason for my trip, and something I was actually looking forward to. I just didn’t think anyone else would feel the same.
But my bestie was up for it. “Let’s go there next.” She said. So we did.
We walked all around Hell’s Kitchen, taking pictures and acting like silly tourists. She didn’t stand there with her arms crossed, waiting for me to hurry up. She got into it. And she started asking me questions about the story.
When we found a bar that would fit perfectly into a scene in the book, she started chatting up the waitress. She was outgoing and excited, the perfect research assistant. And I told her so, and hoped the title wouldn’t offend her.
It turns out, she loved it. We even went back the next day to take more pictures in the daylight.
After all the fun, touristy stuff we did, when we got in the taxi to head back to the airport she told me that the research was her favorite part. She said she would be my research assistant any time, and started thinking of places back home that we might want to check out.
Maybe I should have known that she would be so supportive. She is my best friend for a reason. But I am so glad I took that sliver of an opportunity and told her what I wanted, what I needed. Because it showed me how amazing people can be when we give them the chance to support us.
The thing is, we have to give them the opportunity or we’ll never get the support. Even the people closest to us can’t actually read our minds. And when we tell them what we want, we might be surprised to see how much they care.
Are you good at telling the people in your life what you want and need? Do you expect people to support you? Or are you used to doing it all yourself?
I’m not sure where most people fall on the continuum of crap-taking, but I used to be very far down on the end of taking it all.
Really, I was kind of a door mat.
Need to borrow money? Want someone to talk to about your crappy relationship, again? Looking for a scape goat? I was your girl.
Even if it had nothing to do with me or clearly wasn’t my fault, I would take the blame. I was used to being punsihed for things I hadn’t done.
But somewhere along the way I got tired of it. I started asking myself why I let people treat me so badly. And, I had some great friends who pointed it out and asked me about it, too. They told me I didn’t deserve it. Luckily, I listened.
I realized that a lot of my behaviors and decisions were just patterns I had learned as a kid.
Before my dad and step-mom came into my life, there weren’t really any rules that made sense. I could get in trouble for not doing something I wasn’t told to do, or for doing something I was told to do. There was no rhyme or reason for punishments, and they definitely didn’t fit the crime.
I got used to taking what was given, no matter how bad.
But I’m not a kid anymore. And I decided not to allow myself to be punished like one.
So I started setting boundaries for myself. I turn my phone off at night, I don’t offer money to everyone I meet, and I tell people when they hurt my feelings or upset me in some way.
For the most part it has been a nice transition, and the people in my life understand.
But last week, I kind of lost it.
Looking back now, it seems simple enough. I was at the gym and when my coach asked me for my time (how long it took me to finish the workout) I blanked. I had looked at the clock, but when I tried to remember my time it was just a flashing red light in my brain. Empty.
The coach did what he always does when someone doesn’t know their time. He told everyone to do 10 burpees. Not such a big deal, right?
I didn’t want to be punished for something I couldn’t help. It wasn’t like I hadn’t paid attention to my time. I just blanked. I do that with numbers sometimes. I decided that as an adult, I get to decide what I will and won’t do.
And I wasn’t doing those burpees.
But it didn’t stop there. I got so upset I had to fight back tears. And I wasn’t totally successful.
Then I decided I wasn’t going to stay. I got my stuff and stomped toward the door, determined never to go back.
Lucky for me, the coach was at the front of the gym sitting behind the desk. He didn’t let me storm out. He made me stop and talk. And he listened to what I said.
I didn’t go in to details, I just told him that I don’t like to be punished unreasonably.
He said he wasn’t trying to punish me, and didn’t mean to hurt or upset me. He felt bad that I was so upset and didn’t want me to leave.
My heart rate and breathing calmed down, and so did I.
The next day I was feeling embarrassed and worried. Why had I acted like such a crazy person? I talked it through with my step-mom and a couple of close friends who helped me realize that the freak out was all a part of the process.
We can’t expect ourselves to go from no boundaries to perfect boundaries without any difficult adjustments.
It’s like driving in bad weather. Sometimes we have to over-correct in order to get back on the right path.
After years of just taking crap, I am going through a take-no-crap phase so I can find my way to the middle. So I can set healthy boundaries and keep them.
Both extremes are too much. I shouldn’t be punished for everything, but I can’t expect life to be without any consequences. Neither way is healthy.
Hopefully, now that I see what is happening the transition can be a little smoother. I have my hands on the steering wheel and I can see the turn ahead.
When I went back to the gym the next day I was worried about how people would react to me. Would they all stay away from the crazy girl who might flip out over nothing?
My coach told me he was really glad that I had decided not to leave. Then he winked and said he was pretty sure I’d remember my time that day. My friends shrugged and said everybody has some issue to deal with and we all freak out from time to time.
So I learned a nice bonus lesson on this one: when you are in your right place, people accept you as you are, temper tantrums and all.
How are you at setting boundaries? Do you have any hot button issues that you are working through? Have you noticed a pattern of no boundaries to overly strict boundaries? Does over-correcting lead you back to the comfort of middle ground?
When I first moved to Raleigh, I was surprised at how quickly things fell together. It was like an instant community was created just for me.
At the job interview, I found a group of people I knew I could fit in with. At the gym, I made good friends almost right away.
It’s not that I don’t have friends in Portland, because I do. But it took effort. I made a conscious decision to make new friends. I had to be unnaturally outgoing and ask a lot of people to coffee.
I used to complain that it was so much easier to meet guys to date than girls to become friends with.
People said it was the weather. And Portland is kind of an insular place. People know who they know and hang out in the same circles. So when you make a new friend, they don’t automatically fit in with your other peeps.
I assumed things were different in my new home because it is Southern. People are just friendly. Honestly, you can go to the grocery store and feel like the cashier could be your new best friend.
Then I went to L.A. to start the MFA program of my dreams.
L.A. is definitely not the South.
My body noticed that right away. Sure it is warm, but the air is dry. I felt a little like I was lost in the desert every time I walked out of my hotel. The drivers are fast and aggressive, and people don’t smile or say “Hi” when they pass you on the street.
But once I made it to campus and starting talking to my cohort, the connection was instant. I had found my people.
We spent the next ten days not just learning together, but hanging out like we had all known each other for years. We had nicknames, inside jokes, and knew all about each others’ families.
On my last night in L.A. a small group of us went to dinner. We laughed so hard the waitress gave us a funny look. I looked around the table and saw that from afar we seemed like an unusual group. We ranged in ages from early 20′s to late 40′s. From small town Ohio, to New Mexico, to big city Los Angeles. On the surface, not much in common.
Yes, we were all writers, but it was more than that.
We had all found our place at Antioch. The right program and the right school. And that led us to the right group of people.
It wasn’t hard. We didn’t have to work at it. There was no conscious decision to try and make a new friend. It just happened.
I realized that it is about finding our place in the world. The right place, where we fit. Whether that place is the city where we live, the place we work, an online blogging class, or the school we attend, when we find our place we know. Because we find our people.
How has finding your place expanded your community? Can you tell when a place is right for you? Have you ever had a hard time making friends as an adult? How did you find your place?
This week I had a good friend say something mean. I don’t remember it word for word, but it was basically, “At least I’m married, so somebody loves me.”
She tried to make it into a joke, but it was designed to hurt my feelings. To make me feel bad about being single so she could feel better about herself. It wasn’t her words that stung, but the purpose behind them. She wanted me to feel bad.
Luckily for me, I could see through her. And I love myself, and her, enough to know it wasn’t really about me. So, I went on my way and let it go.
But then I watched one of my favorite TV shows and the same message came at me again.
Zoe Hart, the main character, was traveling to a wedding and feeling sorry for her single self. Like most women, she had some troubles in the romance department. She was talking to the woman next to her about her most recent break-up and another guy who she might have feelings for.
The woman was shocked to hear that Zoe was single. She listed off all her own silly faults, things like smelly feet and an addiction to clipping coupons, and said that she was married. Then she asked Zoe the question that made me angry: “So what’s wrong with you?”
As if the fact that she wasn’t married meant there was something wrong with her. Something less, something broken.
It brought back my friend’s words and made me want to scream at the TV.
It makes me so sad to think that we, as women, are expected to define ourselves by a relationship with a man. And, it makes me worried that we continue to pass this along to the young women looking to us as models.
It’s true that most of us, me included, want love in our lives. It would be great to have a man who is my partner, and I look forward to that happening some day. But it does not make me broken, or unworthy, or any less accomplished because I am not married.
If it was just about having a man and getting married, we could all do that.
Sure, I could have married any number of guys who I knew weren’t right for me. But I chose to stay true to myself and wait for the guy who is the right one.
I don’t see marriage as a goal, like losing 20 pounds or getting a promotion. It isn’t something to check off our list and add to our resume.
In my eyes, that would defeat the whole purpose of marriage.
Isn’t it about finding the one person you want to be with, above all others?
That takes some of us a little longer. It doesn’t mean we are any less normal or lovable. It just means we stick to what we believe and are willing to wait for what we really want.
I don’t see how there could be anything wrong with that.
Have you ever felt pressure to be in a relationship? If you are married, do you ever pressure your single friends to hurry up and get married? What lessons about love and relationships do you want to pass on to the next generation of women?
We all have faults, things we are not so good at, and impressions that we give off unintentionally.
I am shy around new people and that can be easily misinterpreted. I come off as stuck-up when really the opposite is true. I’m so worried about whether or not people will like me that I have a hard time letting them in.
Usually, after people get to know me they tell me about their first impression. I’ve been told many times that I have a wall up.
As hard as it is to admit, I know it’s true.
I finally decided it’s time to change that.
Changing who you are can be a lot harder than it sounds. Sure, I could say I’m going to just stop putting up a wall and start letting people in. But that is not realistic. And, honestly, I don’t know how to do that.
The wall took a long time to build. I’ve been reinforcing it and making it stronger my entire life. I can’t just knock it down with one swing of a sledge hammer, no matter how much I may want it.
So, I decided to focus on removing one brick at a time.
It would start with a yes. I promised myself that when someone new invited me to do something, instead of finding an excuse I would just say yes. And go. No backing out at the last minute.
It turns out the universe was listening. And has a pretty healthy sense of humor. Soon after my decision I was invited to go to a fight.
I’d never been interested in seeing anyone fight. If one breaks out at a concert or bar, my natural reaction is to run as far away as possible. I don’t even like to watch reality TV because of all the arguing.
But I was invited, so I said yes. And, it wasn’t just an ordinary fight. We were going to support our friend, Travis, who would be fighting.
When we first arrived, it felt kind of like going to the movies. There were rows of chairs, and in place of a screen was a giant cage right in the middle. I was worried about the usual things when trying something new. Had I dressed appropriately? Were we supposed to yell and cheer? Would I get too nervous to watch?
But when the lights went down and the music came on, all those worries slipped away. Travis came out onto the stage and we all stood up and cheered. It was fun to support him, and fun to see a friend in the spotlight.
Yes, I was a little nervous the first second he was in that ring. I didn’t want to see my friend get hurt, after all. But it didn’t last long. Actually, neither did the fight.
Travis won in 55 seconds.
I feel like I won something, too. I stepped out of my comfort zone, went to see a sport that I assumed I wouldn’t like, hung out with new friends, and had a great time.
It turns out that opening yourself up is not only a good thing, but it can be fun in the process. Supporting a friend in doing something they love can be just as much fun as doing the things we love. And it leaves us with one less brick in the wall.
Do you have an easy time with new people and new situations? Or do you have a bit of a wall like me? What makes it easier for you to put yourself out there? How do you open up?
One of my favorite things about working with a big group of amazing, experienced women is all the advice they give. Yes, most of it is unsolicited, but it always comes with a great story.
Some of it is simple, yet life changing like: “You can’t love anybody else until you love yourself.”
Some of the advice is more practical. Apparently I now live in a community property state where married couples share everything, including debt and retirement accounts, even after divorce. Pre-nups and separate checking accounts, that’s what they told me.
Not that I’m even dating anyone yet…
Recently we started talking about how to make sure you have the right match in a man before you marry him. Two of my favorite married ladies told me they made a list.
I’ve heard of that before. You write down everything you want in a man and put the list under your pillow or burn it and release it to the universe. My step-mom even has a great story about one of her friends who made a list and put it under her mattress. Then she forgot about it until she was moving in with her now husband and she found it. She read it and realized he was everything on the list.
But, as my friend explained, that isn’t the real purpose of the list.
The purpose is to be very honest about who you are and what you really want. And stick to it.
That made sense to me. I always think I know what I want, but so often that falls away when I meet a guy who gives me butterflies.
I say I don’t want to be with a guy who already has kids. But then I meet the cute, smart, funny guy and I forget. Until I realize that he’s not over his ex and neither is she, and they have a child who will link them forever. A painful lesson every time.
We want what we want for a reason. And when we know ourselves, that reason becomes even more clear. But, it can be really hard to be that honest, even if just with ourselves.
I start feeling guilty when I say I want a guy who is smart, funny, good looking, educated, and enjoys working out. As if it’s not OK to want it all.
But, honestly, I think I am all those things so why shouldn’t I want them in a man?
My friend said that is the point. We get honest about what we want and we can see if we are ready for that in our lives. If I say I want a man with good credit, but I have tons of credit card debt, bill collectors calling the house, and I still shop like it’s not a problem, then I need to take a good look at myself.
My list could be a sign that I need to get myself together.
It’s also a chance to think about our personalities, strengths and weaknesses, and how we relate to other people.
Are we good at compromising? Do we like to be in charge? Or let someone else take the lead? Are we calm and rationale? These are good things to be honest about so we can know what kind of man will balance us out.
My truth is, I am a hot mess. I have a mouth and I am quick to snap to anger. If you have seen Waiting to Exhale, you know what I mean. Yes, I might just burn all of his clothes on the front lawn. I’m not saying that is a good thing, but it is the truth. I can try and pretend that I’m someone I’m not, but in the end the truth will come out. It always does. It’s better to be the real me from the start.
I need a man who will push back, rather than let me run over him. I can see that quality right away in the people I become friends with, and the people I don’t. Now I know I need to look out for that in a man, too.
So, yes, I sat down and wrote out my list. No, I’m not going to put it under my mattress or bury it in the back yard. Now that I know the real point of making the list, I’m going to keep it somewhere I can find it.
Because when I meet that guy who makes my skin tingle, I want to remember to be true to myself. And the list will just remind me of who I am.
Have you ever made a list of qualities you wanted in a man? If so, did it work? What do you think are the most important areas for compatibility? Any advice is always appreciated, especially from the happily coupled (emphasis on happily).
I think it’s pretty obvious why we all like being in our comfort zones. It’s comfortable. It’s a nice place to hang out because we know what’s coming our way. But, sometimes that comfort zone can become a rut. And then we need help getting out of it.
I didn’t realize it, but I had been in a clothing rut for far too long.
After college I went on search of professional clothing that fit my body well. I learned all the tricks about fitting clothes to my hips and butt, and having the waist taken in and the length taken up. I know that for my body, especially the bottom half, right off the rack isn’t usually wearable.
But I have always been a little stubborn, bordering on bratty, when it comes to jeans. I’ve even labeled myself “not a jeans person”. That wasn’t the whole truth, though.
The truth is, our bodies change. Especially as our workout and eating habits change. I went through a few phases of not working out, usually followed by a phase of eating mostly quesadillas. During those times, I didn’t want anything to do with jeans.
For the past nine months I’ve only had one pair of jeans that fit me. They are red. And I have to wear them with a belt. That kind of narrows down the choices of what to wear them with. So I stopped wearing jeans.
I was comfortable. But, I wasn’t really happy.
Luckily, I brought up the subject with some of my friends at the gym. They all said a lot of the things I already knew, but obviously needed to hear again: You have to try on a lot of pairs and the size doesn’t matter because it’s about fit. They also said it’s not something we should do alone. ”You need a friend to help you buy jeans.”
And then they decided I need to go jeans shopping. Right then. All sweaty and in workout clothes. I tried to come up with excuses, but they wouldn’t take no for an answer.
They pushed me out of my comfort zone and into the car.
My friends took me to a mall I’d never even heard of, and almost dragged me into the jeans store. They told the sales guy I needed some jeans. I stood there with my arms crossed and a look on my face that made him comment on my lack of enthusiasm. He could tell the shopping trip was not my idea.
But I let them give him some ideas, and I walked back to the dressing room willingly.
He brought me different styles and sizes, one pair at a time. My friends were waiting right outside the dressing room door, so I had to walk out and show them each one. At first I felt the normal resistance. But, then something happened after the third pair.
I looked in the mirror and I liked the jeans. Even better, I liked them on me. When I came out of the dressing room, my friends all nodded. They gave me specific reasons why that pair was good for me. The dark wash was professional enough to wear at work, the pockets made my butt look good, and they fit at the waist. Then they made me do an air squat and sit on the bench, just to make sure they fit.
After that pair, I was willing to try on more. I even tried on the ones with white stitching and sequins on the butt. And I had fun doing it. I was out of my comfort zone and I was happy.
After all those jeans, I bought the first pair that I loved. The dark ones that I can wear to work.
Now I am more comfortable being uncomfortable. And I’m wearing jeans.
It is tough to take that first step and sometimes we need a little push. But it is so worth it once we are there. And the friends who push us will be there to cheer us on along the way and celebrate with us at the end. Those are the kind of friends we all need in out lives.
Do your friends push you to try things you aren’t comfortable with? How do you feel about getting out of your comfort zone? Tell the truth: How does shopping for jeans make you feel?
Thankfully my cell phone still worked, so I called AT&T to figure out what was going on.
They acted like they had no idea. And they definitely didn’t waste any time with apologies. Basically, they said it was an outage and the engineers were working on it. “Try your TV again in a few hours.” That was it.
Well, the outage went on for three days. I called once a day to try and get some information. But it was always the same thing.
The engineers were working on it.
Not a single “I’m sorry this is happening.” No empathy at all.
I realize that it is just Internet and TV, but I felt cut off from the world. I couldn’t connect with my friends and family on facebook. I couldn’t check my bank statements or pay my bills. And I couldn’t relax to an episode of House Hunters after a long day at work and a tough workout.
It may not have been a big deal in the scheme of things, but I deserved an apology. And a tiny bit of empathy would have been enough to make me shrug my shoulders and open a book while I waited.
But AT&T’s indifference made me angry. It just took me awhile to figure out why.
Then I remembered the time back in college when my car was broken into. They took all my cd’s and my gym bag. Sure it was full of stinky clothes, but it also had the comb that my biological father used to comb my hair when I was a little girl. It was one of the few memories I have of him. And it was taken.
So, I did what most college kids do. I called my mother. I cried into the phone about the bag and the comb and how upset I was.
And my mother said, “That’s why I never leave anything important in the car.”
That just made me more upset. Luckily, I knew what to do. I got off the phone with my mother and called my Step-mom.
I told her my sob story about the gym bag and she said, “Oh, poor honey.”
That was all I needed to feel better. I could handle the lesson later, but I needed the empathy and the validation first.
I needed to know that my feelings mattered.
Dealing with AT&T was the same thing as talking to my mother when I was upset. It was as if my feelings, my inconvenience, weren’t important. I was just a complainer they wanted to get off the phone. When all I really needed was a “Poor Honey” to be OK.
We are told as children to treat others they way we want to be treated, but sometimes as adults we forget. We jump right into the purpose or the lesson or get right down to business.
When what we need to do is see the person standing before us, not just the problem.
If we want people to use our services, then we need to treat them as people. We need to validate their feelings and try to find a little empathy. You hear that, AT&T?
If we want people to be our friends, we need to be the friend we want for ourselves. We need to think back to Kindergarten and treat them the way we want to be treated.
And the truth is, all people deserve to be treated that way. Even the strangers we pass on the sidewalk and the waitress who brings us our check. We need to remember to see them as people. And treat them how we’d want to be treated, if we were in their shoes.
Have you ever been treated like a number by a company? How did it make you feel? Have you had any reminders lately to use the golden rule?