ambersweet: Go ahead! Panic! Do it now and avoid the June rush! (Go ahead! Panic!)
It’s Friday, so I’m at my internship, which is a non-profit organization that, among other things, contracts with the state government to perform certain tasks. The staff accountant sits next to me, so I overhear quite a lot. She’s really the go-to person to solve problems around here, particularly complicated ones, and I think in part it’s because she’s forceful enough to confront people when it needs to happen, and to point out (often energetically) when something IS a problem that needs to be addressed, yes, in fact, that’s totally wrong and get that taken care of right now. Women are socialized to not make waves, and in an office of mostly women, women in social services, people are willing to let things go even when they shouldn’t.

That’s sort of part of what I’m talking about, but it’s mostly context.

This morning there’s some sort of intradepartmental politics going on, and Accountant D. is at the center of it, identifying the problem, getting an explanation, explaining it to the unit manager (my BossBoss). I don’t know if that’s related to this thing that happened next, but I leave the room and come back about five minutes later, am working again, and Volunteer Coordinator B. comes in and asks D. if she’s okay. She says she’s called her doctor, and she’s going to call her right back. A few minutes later, D’s cell phone rings, and I assume it’s her doctor, because she grabs the phone and her keys and leaves the room. As she’s leaving, I hear her – clearly in tears or just out of them – say, “Oh, I’m – okay.”


Also, you’re on the phone with your DOCTOR, who really needs to know if you’re not okay, whether they’re a physical or mental health provider, especially if you called them about the problem you’re having right now.

So I really got to thinking about the culture of “okay,” where you’re expected to answer positively to any inquiry after your state of being, even if you’re not. Maybe especially if you’re not. You’re also supposed to answer on the neutral side of positive; it’s bad form somehow to respond, “FANTASTIC!” to “How are you?” even if you are. This is why I called this the culture of “okay” rather than the culture of “good.” “Good” is still a neutral-positive response; we all have our automatic returns to that query, but it baselines to about the same area. How are you? Oh, I’m good. I’m well. I’m okay. Not so bad. Could be better. Comme-ci, comme-ca. So-so. Operating within acceptable parameters. Whatever.

I realize that “How are you” is a kind of generic small talk, along the lines of, “Sure is hot, isn’t it?” – the kind of thing you the checker asks you at the grocery store. A service employee (probably) doesn’t care how you are; they’re just making small talk while you’re standing in front of them. A customer likes to feel like you care about them even if you don’t. Really, not only does the checker doesn’t care how you are, it’s really none of their business, so a neutral-positive response is okay to give. Actually I like to tell service employees that I’m doing great, because they usually smile. It’s nice to hear someone give a non-standard response to anything, really.

But when you’re talking to a friend, or someone whose job it is TO care for or about you, and you still give that neutral-positive response when the answer is ANYTHING else – in either direction – you’re doing a disservice to both of you.

I could talk about the semi-competitive nature of casual friendship, (especially among the female-socialized; there’s a reason the word “frenemy” has to exist and it isn’t a good one) where a super-positive response might trigger jealousy or anger on the part of the friend – but if you’re worried that someone is going to be upset because you’re doing well, or had a good thing happen to you, even if their life is NOT going well – then they’re not really a friend. Or maybe you need to work on your communication, or (and!) they need to work on their emotional responses. In the polyamory community, they call it “compersion,” the ability to find happiness in someone else’s happiness. I am happy for you. The fact that you are doing well makes me genuinely happier. I wish I were doing as well, but I can at least take pleasure in the fact that someone I have a caring relationship with is happy.

What I’m challenging you to do, and what I want to do as well, is increase the number of people in your life that you answer that question honestly with. Eventually create a circle of friends where emotional honesty is actually not only valued but expected.

More about what this means and what I want to accomplish. )
ambersweet: (Default)
Well, I don't promise anything actually clever. I had a post in mind until I got to talking about ereaders with my co-worker, and then the time just flew.

I went to a grad school fair with [personal profile] finch today, and we toted home a million tons of useful information, approximately 4,000 pens, and a bunch of random stuff (including a spine, a brain, and a syringe). Grad school swag = FTW. Unsurprisingly, the med schools had the best swag. Not that we're looking at med schools, either of us, but I'm not going to turn down fancy pens or a cleaning cloth for my glasses.

Now begins the delightful process of figuring out what the best fit for us is.

We require a school in a reasonable part of the country (i.e., nowhere with a lot of snow; please keep in mind that I've lived most of my life in Arizona, so for me "a lot" is "more than none") that has a decent program for both of us. I'm looking at counseling or social work, leaning toward the former; he's looking at... something probably nonprofit. He hasn't quite worked it out yet. I've managed to escape deciding what it is I want to be when I grow up thus far, and I sort of feel like grad school is the point where I actually have to make that decision.

After we'd walked around the fair, he went back to get a squishy brain (because how do you turn that down) and noticed that gals at two adjoining tables were both knitting. He dragged me over and we had a fantastic time talking about knitting and showing off our projects on Ravelry (one of them had an iPad). I also taught her how to search Ravelry for patterns and techniques, and encouraged her to try cabling. It was fantastic.

And then [personal profile] finch and I ended up in a side room talking about law school with a woman who looked like she stepped out of a Japanese fashion magazine. She had the most amazing brocade suitcoat; I wanted to hit her over the head and steal her clothes except that she was tiny so they would never have fit me. I should have stolen them and sent them to [personal profile] crankyoldman.

All in all, it was a very productive day. Unfortunately, my own university was largely unrepresented at the fair, because they're having an ASU-only grad school fair TOMORROW, when neither of us can make it. Fail.

April 2013

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