Have spent a large chunk of time over the past few days cleaning up piles and papers and organizing desks and drawers and cupboards, etc.
Finding myself also in need of shedding the burden of some observations I’ve been carrying around for awhile. Feel free to forward this on to anyone for whom one or more of them seems to speak to directly. I may do the same.
A new category: You Might Not Know This, but…
- You might not know this, but the reason some people don’t say “hello” in a loud and cheerful voice every time they walk into the office is because a secretary in a previous office may have sent everyone an email once, pointing out how busy she is, and how distracting it was for her to have to stop work and exchange greetings with every person who walks in, and could everyone please limit their casual conversations with others perhaps to a different area of the building; so maybe they’re just trying to be considerate.
- You might not know this, but the day you said “Hell-O” in a very pointed way, I had already said hello, very quietly, so as not to interrupt people at their work.
- You might not know this, but misspelling or omitting names of participants in programs or brochures or during the official “thank-yous” might make them feel their contribution is insignificant, or cause them to wonder why they work so hard to be so professional and conscientious all the time when so much of what they do will be attributed to someone else, or to no one at all.
- You might not know this, but I had decided not to charge you for the recital we performed together, but when you sent me a copy of the publicity with your name in size 36 font and your 5×7 picture and your bio and made no mention of a pianist, no less no mention of me, I realized that you did not see us as collaborators and equal contributors, but rather that you were the soloist and I was the hired help, so charging seemed like the logical thing to do.
- You might not know this, but forbidding an active, full investment from someone with whom you are “collaborating” (in scare quotes, since, if you’re not encouraging an active, full investment, it’s not actually a collaboration at all, is it?) will not only make them feel small, but will prevent you from learning anything from them, and may actually interfere with your own goals, as chances are they have ideas worth at least considering.
- You might not know this, but in rehearsal, when a collaborator says “we’re not together” it might mean that you actually miscounted and came in wrong, and maybe they were being polite, and considerate of your feelings. And, in case this is not obvious, firing them on facebook is kind of a shitty thing to do.
- You might not know this, but the look on my face at that meeting was not impatience or animosity toward you for holding the meeting, but sheer embarrassment on your behalf that other people’s actions had made the meeting necessary.
- You might not know this, but some people may not insert themselves into conversations or invite themselves along to social gatherings because they were taught not to intrude on others’ conversations, or to invite themselves, and does not necessarily imply a lack of desire for personal interaction or connection; and it may even be possible that your lack of welcome and inclusion had as much to do with a lack of connection as anything else you might want to blame.
- You might not know this, but it’s not appropriate to pay someone half a salary, or hire them to work 15 hours a week, and expect them to make a 100% commitment. You wouldn’t do it, I can’t for the life of me why you would expect someone else to.
- You might not know this, but people may not agree with how you choose to do your job, share your ideas (or not), gossip, post on facebook, manage your relationships, or even how to be. But realize that, as they show you respect in allowing you to make those choices for yourself, they probably long for the same respect to be shown in return.
- You might not know this, but allowing the person who was hired to do the job actually do the job might actually lead to more consistent and professional results than if you encourage your spouse, who has no training or expertise in the area, to express opinions and influence on how the job should be done. Likewise if you replace “spouse” with “person who writes the huge checks every year as a donation to save the organization when yet again the deficit budget fails to miraculously convert itself into a surplus.”
- You might not know this, but calling to yell at someone about a blog post you hadn’t even read hurts the writer’s feelings tremendously, maybe even more so if the writer was advocating for someone close to you. These feelings may continue to reverberate, including creating a hesitancy to write anything at all, and a lack of trust in your fundamental relationship, which is regrettable for all concerned.
- You might not know this, but people who feel deeply and are always striving to improve are not necessarily pessimistic, but may in fact be exceedingly optimistic, but find their optimism harder and harder to act on, given the responses this optimism has met in the past.
I think everyone should read Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly” (New Yorker, June 14 & 21, 2010) and pick which sentence best describes them. I used to think it was “You were too injured by things that happened in the distant past for anything to be effortless in the present” but now I think it’s “I was never indifferent to the children of strangers, just frustrated by my own unrelenting optimism.”
Tomorrow: the linen closet.
P.s. An opportunity for catharsis for you, dear readers, in the comments section: You might not know this, but…
Or maybe a sub-sub-category for parents: …the dishes don’t put themselves away, …the cupboards don’t wipe themselves, …lights don’t turn themselves off, …sometimes it’s nice to do something just because you know it needs to be done not because somebody asked you, …it’s more polite to ask if there’s anything you can do to help with dinner than to ask what is for dinner, or what time it will be served, …the laundry is not actually done by the laundry fairy, …