Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Pack it up

I think I'm doing the right thing here. I am trying to model my current behavior after every older and wiser grandmother type in both books and movies who acts as a spiritual guide to frenetic, stressed-out (and therefore bossy) younger people. Since I no longer want to be the latter, I figure I might as well try for the former since so many people have told me I'm an "old soul" anyway.

It's been moving day here at Pyewacket Bookstore. I have asked Jane several times what she wants me to do, making it very clear that I'm willing to do any task she sets for me. She has asked me to sit and hold down the fort at the old location while she and the other volunteers flit back and forth between the two shops. She also asked me to pack certain books when I'm by myself, which I did until I ran out of boxes. So, in the midst of moving chaos, I sit at the register and knit. I asked Jane again when she came in the last time if she wanted me to be doing something and she cackled and said, "It's not like I'm standing here fuming and muttering to myself, 'Why isn't she working harder?' You're doing what I asked you to do."

This suits me just fine. I decided awhile ago that for me to attempt to make order out of Jane's chaos was fruitless and frustrating. When I start projects that she and I haven't talked about ahead of time, I have to listen to her explain how I did a great job but this is the way it actually needed to be done so that it fits in with her overall vision. Even if we have talked about it or I do it perfectly, I have to listen to her explain to me what I've just done as if I haven't just done it. So I tend to just maintain the status quo when I'm working here.

Gretchen, however, walked in yesterday afternoon, saw the moving mess, and immediately began reassuring herself aloud that everything would be all right and we're having fun, right? Gretchen is, remember, the preschool teacher who also works here and only reads metaphysical books, has trouble alphabetizing and occasionally forgets how to close out the register. I was sitting and knitting behind the register as she was making giant grimaces and making herself frantic with her over-exaggerated attempts to calm herself down. I smiled sympathetically and made vaguely positive noises but continued knitting. I knew my assignment.

So Gretchen got to work attempting to make order out of Jane's chaos, which I was completely fine with. However, she soon began telling me things I could do to make order out of Jane's chaos and I was not fine with that. Let me clarify here that in no way does Gretchen stand above me in a management hierarchy. She's done this before, though when she's left notes listing things I could do in my spare time around the store. Then, I reacted to that with angst that set me off balance until Ash Wednesday. This time, though, I tried to be the crone from the classic female trinity (maiden-mother-crone) and simply be patient with her transferred frustration. (I figure why not aspire to the crone since I've gotten them all out of order anyway?) I made formless noises in response to her instructions and then promptly ignored them. However, I also helped her accomplish tasks she was actually doing herself when she asked me to, like carrying boxes of books to her car.

So, finally I feel somewhat successful in an inter-personal interaction on this island. Although I could see her getting frustrated in the beginning and she said snarky things in her preschool voice like, "If you have time, you could . . ." and "If you're looking for something to do . . ." I think a perfectly actualized crone would be able to focus on her own affairs and put the buzzing fly out of her focus as ineffectual. I wasn't the completely unflappable crone that I sought because I kept rehearsing how I would respond if she accused me of being lazy in some way. However, none of these responses were overly defensive or nasty. I feel good about that. And anyway, I guess my being conscious of her distress while also attending to my own needs was a step closer to loving her. I certainly feel better than I would have if I had engaged with her distress in some other way. Woohoo!

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