Random thoughts: Dealing with difficult people, self-help and doughnuts
I’ve had my share of dealing with difficult people recently, and I’m sure most readers will relate.
There is a “no win” piece that frustrates me. It usually elicits a response from a defensive or emotional place in me. Either can easily escalate the situation from “trying" to "difficult.”
To battle this, I have found a simple phrase — “is that so?” — that helps me deflate it, tow it around, check it for validity and decide what to do with it. It also gives time to figure out the motive and feeling behind it.
Offsetting difficult people, we have enthralling people and people with issues, who make life more interesting.
Last weekend I participated in a group that included both senior parents and alumni parents from the high school my sons attended. It is a voluntary weekend that includes lots of seminars and work around being a better you and concentrating on your own challenges, struggles and issues. The school believes that too often we are trying to work on everyone else’s issues (our children, our spouse, our family of origin) that we don’t get down and dirty with “our own stuff.”
It was an amazing experience, and I wish we could incorporate into all our schools this curriculum, which includes participatory family work. This weekend was a facilitated group with 12 people, and the sharing and soul-searching was far-reaching and, at times, intense and extremely honest. There was safety in the room and a promise that “what goes on in this room, stays in this room,” so getting into the mud was possible. There were couples who worked on themselves and their marriages, others worked on their anger and many of us looked at the constant challenge of “take hold, let go.”
I am included in the group that tries to control everything around me. With our children, it is hard sometimes to let go because of the sense that we know better, we are their stewards, and it is our job.
What I relearned this weekend is that as our children are getting older, the task of managing them must change. The goal is to stop being the manager and start being a consultant. Perhaps that is a subtle difference but it helps me in the hardest battle of all, letting go of the outcome.
Lastly, let’s talk about doughnuts.
I read a column in The Free Press by Tom Sadowski in late May upon my return from vacation and it gave me pause to think. Tom wrote about the upcoming National Doughnut Day in June and I thought about my own connection to doughnuts.
Being a Dunkin’ Donuts junkie in the early days of The Free Press was convenient as our offices neighboring the franchise allowed us to make the excuse that we were going out for some fresh air when our plan was really to scoot across the street. Coffee and doughnut followed by a cigarette were common practice. Then something changed.
I turned 40 and I began to heed the warnings of my father-in-law; he had a theory that your body’s spare tire turned from a somewhat rubber substance to concrete at just around your fortieth year. So, as the new year turned, no cigarettes and no doughnuts was part of that year’s New Year’s resolution. And, the coffee changed to tea except for six times a year: Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday and two personal days.
With cigarettes, no exceptions ever, and with doughnuts a promise to get down to college weight, which has gone unmet (though I did drop 43 pounds that year to get close to being able to have that doughnut).
So, here we are, July 23, and my streak continues. It has been 5,582 days without that doughnut or cigarette; this Ripken-like streak has continued through both sunny and stormy weather and has withstood some momentary lapses like the time I found myself in a Dunkin’ Donuts store at 4 a.m. on Cape Cod and saw a beautifully frosted “cinnamon roll” that looked much like the beloved Boston Crème I longed for. Technically not a cheat, but wrong is wrong, and clearly my foot was not weighted in truth; perhaps at that early hour my vision was a little bleary.
Tom shared in that column the history of National Doughnut Day when he wrote that in 1938 they created it to honor the Salvation Army women who had dedicated their lives and support by serving doughnuts to the American soldiers during World War I; Tom added, “You think that if the Salvation Army really wanted to honor the dedicated and supportive women who were closest to the front lines, they could have come up with a name for a national day to reflect that. Instead they opted to name the day for the pastry the women served to the troops. That’s like honoring our professional police men and women with a National Summons Day. It probably had something to do with the tradition of marginalizing the role of women and maximizing the coffee roll. Thank goodness those days are over! While women spent the next 50 years fighting for equality, and have yet to get a National Woman’s Day, the doughnut got a free ride and well deserved recognition for its strategic part in winning World War I.”
So it appears I have done my part in the anti-war movement, in helping Tom promote equality and, with you, I am sharing (for me), “the rest of the story,” at least when it comes to doughnuts.