Paper, Plastic, Perspective

She was ahead of me in the checkout line on her phone and snapping her gum and orders at the cashier, all while looking as if standing there for five minutes was the end of the world. The cashier tried to make small talk, but was dismissed with a brush of this customer’s hand as she swiped her credit card through the reader.

I was annoyed just watching her.

When it was finally my turn to move up, the cashier began with the normal pleasantries as she started to scan up my order. I told her I was good and smiled, but made that little “eyebrows raised while looking at the back of the bitchy lady” face to let her know I felt her pain.

It was lost on her. She continued on with, “I’m great! How can you not be happy? It’s just always nice to talk to nice people.”

Now granted, I know for a fact from past experience that this cashier is a little bit “special,” and I mean no disrespect in that way. But seeing as she also tried to put canned goods on top of my bread, it’s possible she didn’t notice that woman’s rudeness. Maybe she did and she just didn’t care.

It was all a matter of perspective.

The bitchy woman was bitchy regardless, and while the cashier could have taken it personally or let it affect her mood, instead she just kept smiling and doing her job. 

As she continued to clumsily bag up my stuff, we continued our conversation about how it doesn’t take much to be nice, how just taking the time to smile can make all the difference in the world. 

This stuck with me.

There are moments when I focus on the bitchy woman instead of the smiling cashier, when the one negative thing out of my day will serve as the catalyst for a downward spiral.

I’m getting better with that externally, but I admit that I often see things that happen to other people through some sort of filter that inexplicably doesn’t apply to me. Anything positive is deflected when directed my way, but anything negative—real or perceived—is often absorbed and dwelled on in moments of doubt.

When I’m stuck in my head for whatever reason, I become blind to the simple things that could help pull me out, or at the very least, make me smile. 

Not cool, Abby, not cool.

So I suppose it’s a matter of realizing—no, not just realizing, but accepting the fact that (sometimes) I am a good friend, a good writer, etc. and that I do have great friends that care about me, even in those moments when I might not care about myself as much as I should.

Yes, that’s kind of cheesy and I’ll always be more sarcastic and snarky than sappy, but it’s all about those little reminders and perspective. If they can see the good in me with all my quirks and issues, then I want to try and see the good in almost everyone/every situation I face.

Except that bitchy lady. She was seriously rude and gave me the stink eye when she incorrectly assumed I was encroaching on her allotted grocery space. She can go fly a kite.

Anyway, everyone but her and those like her. The point is that kindness can go a long way—not to just other people, but also to yourself. I’m good at the former, and working on the latter.

Each day is a new chance to try.

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34 responses to “Paper, Plastic, Perspective

  1. I have been coming to this realization as well lately myself. In fact, I am finding that people–strangers–are pursuing me to talk to me at random when I am out. This has been happening often this week (something that didn’t exactly occur as much, if at all) and I am thinking it’s because I am putting something completely different out there–joy, maybe? Not sure what it is other than the fact that people smell it and like it. Or was the mexican food? 🙂

  2. I will always be a snarky smartass too. I’m getting better on focusing on the people who stay positive, than the rude people. But I still fail at it often. And when I fail, I FAIL. Like saying something like, “Someone needs to break your phone and punch you in the face. I am not going to, but somebody should.” Then I smile and tell them to have a lovely day. That now only happens every few months. It used to happen almost every time I left the house. Progress, not perfection, right? 🙂

  3. I hear you, Abby.

    I am working SO HARD on picturing those who talk to me and listen to me — with lighters waving in front of me, in appreciation and enjoyment of me rather than what I naturally go to: negative judgments and inner head shaking from them.

    TRYING HARD.

    • Trust me. I do it too, as it’s my default. But it’s kind of ridiculous to let it ruin my mood (if I’m in a good one, anyway.) 😉

  4. thetwistingkaleidoscope

    “Anything positive is deflected when directed my way, but anything negative—real or perceived—is often absorbed and dwelled on in moments of doubt.”

    Loved this. It reminds me of a blog post I just read (wish I could remember the name of the blog!) about not taking everything personally. “It’s just bird poop on the windshield,” she wrote–the idea was that when a bird poops on your windshield, it’s an act independent of you. The bird wasn’t out to get you or your car; it just happened and you happened to be involved. Sounds like the cashier has taken that philosophy to heart. We can choose how to react, even when people act rude or bitchy toward us, especially keeping in mind that often it’s really just bird poop on the windshield, and their actions are motivated by something that doesn’t involve us. I keep talking about this to my daughter . . . she takes everything SO PERSONALLY. I’m trying not to take her lack of response personally! 🙂

    • I think you’re new to my blog, but I had to laugh at your bird poop reference given my crapping post a few back. But in all seriousness, great comment and great perspective. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your experience!

  5. how do you always read my mind? I thought of this other day, i was annoyed. But more at myself. Some people have it tough, yet still smile and try to be pleasant. It’s what we should do, it’s what we need. We have more than most, so share the <3.

  6. I’m like this, too. 10,000 positive things/interactions can come my way, and the ONE BAD ONE will end up crapping on my whole day. It takes a lot of effort (for me) to step back and recognize that there are way better things to concern myself with and that, in the grand scheme of things, I’m still out on top. Nonetheless, you should have ran that women’s foot over with your grocery cart.

    • I think as editors/writers we probably have thicker professional skin than a lot of other people, but it’s still hard to not let the weirdos get to you from time to time. In other words, who is to say I DIDN’T run her foot over with my cart?

  7. It took me loads of time on my therapist’s couch to get a better grip on this myself. Now I really try to look at a negative situation and ask myself if it’s really worth ruining my day. Usually it is not. So, it just goes into my f*ck you bucket and I flush the whole situation down the toilet with all of the other slimy, sloppy sh*t where it belongs. Then I just go about my business and have a happy, joyful day.

  8. yeah…all of this, every day, all the time.

    part of having social anxiety disorder is internalizing everything to the point that you think of different realities than what you’re in.

    Im getting better, with age, at not sweating small stuff and picking my battles with everyone over their lack of self awareness, being unkind or whatever.

    great post

  9. I used to work in customer service, and I found that “killing them with kindness” worked more often than not. Sometimes rude people would have a change of heart and actually apologize for their rudeness!

  10. oh, friend, I so needed this right now. I spent most of the day so upset it gave me a headache, giving too much energy to a toxic person who I unfortunately have to deal with in my life.

    I acted like the bigger person, even though I seriously wanted to scream at her. I tried to let it go, I know it is for MY own good to not let it affect me, to treat her with kindness anyway.

    always give someone a smile, encouragement, some extra patience – for you have no idea what they could be battling that day.

    XXO

    • I believe I know who you’re talking about and I give you credit, as I’ve been there myself. You know who matters and who deserves your love and energy. That’s all that matters. Hang in there. 😉

      • thank you SO much, Abby. I am feeling a bit better today, and in part due to you 😀 you are right, of course, I do know who matters and who is deserving, even if that person makes poor choices in partners 😉

        XXO

  11. I have spent the last year or so working on my perception of situations that I consider ‘negative’. I often see the ‘bad’ in people, instead of the good, and I know that I do this because I am constantly in self-protect mode. If I meet someone and actually allow myself to like them, a red alert siren fires up in my mind, and I grasp at any perceived ‘flaw’ in their character, so that I can justify not having to like them.

    I am really trying hard to not do this, because, honestly? I really don’t like this part of me. I am not like this AT ALL with friends and family, so I know it’s not part of ‘Authentic Liz’, but with acquaintances, work colleagues and strangers, I barely recognise myself.

    Such an inspiring, thoughtful post, Abby. It really gave me lots to think about.

  12. All I can say is you’re speaking to the choir. I’m so like you in this respect. I know we’ve discussed it. That’s why we each end up being cheerleaders for the other. I have to continually remind myself of these things. I need to not be a sponge for the negative and work on noticing the positive. Sometimes it feels like that’s all I can do.

  13. I can totally relate to this one — I find myself being impatient with stupid strings more and more, and remaindering myself the tan “inner voice” is just that. I know people work and live and act at different paces, but sometimes hurry the hell up people!

    THen I calm down and realize cannot change them, I should focus on myself and my reaction…. calm, Zen, whatever… yeah right…. hurry up people!

  14. I’m forever accused of being naive or ignorant because I’m the one who points out the pretty and shiny stuff. I can be in a field loaded with trash and while people complain about it I’ll be like “Oh look a pretty daisy standing out over there!” I think overall I’d still choose to appear like a ding-dong but be a smiling ding-dong than be miserable because I focus on bad stuff.

    I choose dumb but happy. And my smiling has gotten me in trouble more times than anybody would ever guess.

    • I would much rather be blissfully ignorant and happy then in tune with every negative thing the universe (or stupid people) puts out. I also can usually see the rose over the roadkill, but some days it’s a challenge when it’s directed towards me. Thanks for the reminder 😉

  15. It’s harder for me to see the positive parts of my day than the negative. Something bad will happen at 8am and I’ll still be dwelling on it at 5pm. It’s ridiculous to let something small take up so much of my energy. I’m trying to get better about this though.

  16. When in retail, I was often twice as nice to those people than others. Because it usually just pissed them off more because you could tell they were trying to rub you the wrong way for fun.

    But I agree- sometimes we get caught up in life so much, we never just stop and go “oh yeah… look at all these things that make me happy right now.” It’s always something…

  17. Great,great post Abs.xo

  18. hahaha oh, i am always annoyed just observing people’s behavior

  19. I haven’t commented lately because I don’t feel like I have anything particularly insightful to share, but I wanted to let you know that your last four or five posts have really stuck with me Abby. Keep up the excellent writing!

    Love, Susan

    • Susan, any time you say anything it’s insightful and poignant, and I often feel the same way about your blog. Let’s call it even 🙂

  20. Oh Abby, you are not alone in this. One bad thing can completely ruin my day, and I feel this need to call everyone I know to tell of the thing that the bad man said to me at the bank, and then I wait for my husband to get home so I can tell him, and then I will tell him again and again and again, until he finally looks at me and says, “I got it! But now stop because I’m trying to watch hockey!”….and then I call everyone I know to tell them what an ass my husband is. ….so yeah, I hear ya Girlfriend!

  21. These moments are simultaneously the best and the worst. The best for obvious reasons, but the worst because you realize how much time you waste on the bitchy lady.

    I find that my dog’s pleasure in seeing me each evening usually does the same thing that the cashier did for you.

  22. I try to treat everyone I meet with kindness and respect, but then I remember that I’m an asshole and it just feels wrong. I hate to be judgmental but I’m just so damned GOOD at it!

  23. Abby, that lady in the store was a totally Bitchy McCunterson. But, that sweet cashier taught you such a wonderful lesson. And thank you for sharing that with us – because I certainly needed to hear this.

  24. Totally struck a chord there, Abby-who-is-not-without-issues. I am new here, and clearly have homework to do, in terms of getting up to speed on said issues. That said, this post resonates with me. I give negativity and those who peddle it (SO often that is me) all the power. It has become easier to see (and react to) the petty, the mean, the hostile – than to look at the person who is unaffected and appreciate them. And learn from them. There’s an obvious – but not so easy to apply – lesson, here. I must work at this. Anyway – a good point, well-written. 🙂

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