I have a terrible, guilt-laden confession to make: I’m not a nice person. I mean, not like all the time, but I’m certainly not proud of how I handle situations when I’m in a bad mood and things don’t go the way I want them to. When I’m high on life and everything is going my way, I’m oozing with gleeful bubbles and offer up a smile fit for an Orbitz commercial, but in an instant, I can switch. As soon as something goes awry (and I mean - a restaurant is out of my choice menu item or Lululemon doesn’t have my size), it’s as if a dark cloud filled the entire room. Daggers shoot out of my eye sockets, and I’m suddenly a very scary person to deal with. My husband lovingly calls this person “the dragon.”
To be fair, lots of things don’t go smoothly in the Bahamas. For example, you can go to a government office one day and be told X, but when you go the next time, you’ll be told Y for the same thing. Sometimes it works in your favor. Often, it does not. When it goes my way, I’m all smiles. I thank the lovely lady behind the counter for what a fabulous service she provides for this country. When I’ve had too much caffeine or just don’t feel on my game and things don’t quite work out the way I’d like…watch out. Yes, I’m that crazy white girl causing a scene when I’m told I can only renew my driver’s license for one year, even though last time I renewed it for three years. I protest. I will pay more so I don’t have to come stand in line again one year from now. Nope, the rules have changed. Sorry Miss.
I remember vividly a time when I was living in Western New York, trying to stock up for a weekend at a cabin the woods and was told they don’t sell wine in the grocery store. Don’t mess with me and alcohol (back then at least). The poor stocker boy must have been trembling in his snow boots when he pointed me in the direction of the Boone’s. By the time I got to faux-alcohol aisle I was fuming. How was I supposed to pair Zima with ziti?
You don’t have my choice dish on the menu this evening? Stink eye. I show up to pick up my package from my shipping company, and my package isn’t there? I’ll probably curse and stomp out the door. Except those lever-operated doors don’t slam, so I can’t fully express my disgust.
Can anyone relate, or am I alone here? I’m probably speaking to crickets as the only rat bag.
Admit it though, it’s hard to be nice when things don’t go the way you want them to, ESPECIALLY if you’re having a bad day. It’s also easy to train yourself to react badly because you expect something to go wrong. For example, having to call a 1-800 number, any 1-800 number (bank, airlines, cell company, I don’t know) and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, all the while listening to their crappy music and automated systems, then you get someone in Bangladesh (nothing wrong with the good people of Bangladesh, but sometimes the English-as-a-second-language barrier can be a frustration), and by the time you’re halfway through explaining what your issue is you already want to strangle your cell phone. You are presupposing that you’re not going to resolve your issue which will lead to extreme grumpiness and yelling at that nice Bengali man. We train our brains to react in certain ways. I don’t need to get all neuro-sciencey on you, but our brains are set up to switch onto autopilot when we encounter similar situations. We want to react the same way we reacted the last time we were in this situation, and if that situation historically ended in your disfavor, you may even be surprised when your Bengali phone friend says, Ok madame, no problem, all fixed!
But the good news for me is, I’ve gotten better. I’m aware of my problem, and awareness is the first step. Plus, I wouldn’t be writing about it and poking a bit of fun at myself if I didn’t realize what was going on. Do you want to know how I know I’m getting better? I’ll tell you a story. Recently my local coffee shop has been boasting about their new “oat milk” and how oh-so-yum-didly-scrumptious it is. I tried to order it the first time…sorry, we’re out. The next time I order it…agh, we know you asked for that yesterday, we’re out again. So I order it a THIRD time…we literally just poured the last cup, OMG we are SO sorry! The universe obviously didn’t want me to have this “oat milk”. And you know what? Instead of getting grumbly, like I normally do, I laughed. It became a joke. They were so apologetic, and I simply said…I guess it wasn’t meant to be! I became aware that I reacted in a positive way, and it felt a lot better than how I used to react (surprise, surprise). You’re not going to get the oat milk anyways, so what’s the point in ruining everyone’s day? The fourth time I went, I got the oat milk, and you know what? It wasn’t that great, so I’m back to my almond milk. Lesson learned: don’t be the bitch complaining they are out of oat milk when you don’t even know if you like it or not.
And so one of my favorite quotes is “be kind, even on your bad days”. How hard is it to be kind? Well, it was hard for me for a very long time. But I realize now that being nice is just so..nice! Do you realize that even if you think things are going to work out badly, but you react nicely, oftentimes it works out in your favor anyways? Because you were nice? Don’t you just feel better when you are nice? I realized that I do. And I’m going to keep doing it, because it feels so much better, and because the world is in desperate need of more nice people.
Being grumpy and reacting badly is not permanent. You don’t have to settle for…this is just how I react. Change your reaction. It’s possible, I promise.