playing nice (again)

If we reach back through the annals of Part-Time Buddhadom, we’ll eventually pull up this post about when, against my typical nature, I decided to be nice to someone at work only to find myself in a severely and unalterable awkward situation.

You’d think I’d have learned.

Today I’ve noticed one of my co-workers several times returning from the vicinity of the restroom, each time with one or both hands on her stomach and a hard-to-read-but-still-noticeably-far-off-expression on her face.

Now see, normally I wouldn’t care. Or, more accurately, I’d (maybe) care but I’d keep my mouth shut. Work is for work and not for friends, so I’ve learned. And that’s fine. When you don’t make friends at work you can be the grumpy asshole who everyone avoids and then fully realize your own personal-aspiration-type-dream w/r/t being mostly left alone at work. I see people hesitate to approach me at work and I’m pretty much okay with that,(1) if not flat-out proud that I’ve cultured a clear we-are-not-friends type line in the workplace.

But my co-worker several months ago underwent one type or another of those elective surgeries generally and probably erroneously labeled ‘stomach stapling.’(2) To her credit, it’s worked rather well. She seems healthier and happier…except for today. So the hands-on-the-stomach and the odd-look-on-her-face and the general-proximity-to-the-restroom factors led me to consider that something was wrong in a totally physical kind of way.

See, I don’t mind asking about physical things because generally people are somewhat embarrassed about physical problems and so don’t go into detail. I can ask the ‘are you okay’ question and be back out of the conversation in less than ten seconds. No problem.

The other factor was that, a long time ago after some shit of a very uncalled-for-type nature happened to me at work, this woman was talking to me about the fallout(3) and she said, ‘I’m just worried that you’re not happy.’ And so of course I wasn’t happy and I was angry about what had happened and I didn’t know how to deal with it(4) and I was mad at myself from not having quit at the very instant it happened but also conflictingly proud of myself for not quitting and then also very conflicted about why it happened and my insistence at not ever even once even asking why it happened so that when it came to it I was really just a mess about the whole thing and so when she said that I unjustifiably yelled at her: ‘Well I’m not happy, so you don’t have to worry about it!’(5)

…And I’ve always felt guilty about that. I verbally lashed out at someone who, with nothing herself to gain, was being kind to me.

So I popped my head into her office this afternoon.

‘Are you okay?’ I asked.
‘No…I’m…just…’ She stopped herself and pointed at what took me a second to realize was the ring finger of her left hand which once I figured out was void of the ring I knew should be there I realized very quickly also that there weren’t even marks from where the ring should be.

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘I’m sorry. I saw you holding your stomach…’
‘Yeah, I’m making myself sick today.’
‘…and I was worried it was from your surgery.’
‘Oh no. I don’t know what’s going on right now.’
‘Okay. Well, I’m sorry.’

And I high-tailed it right the fuck out of there. Not because what else was there to say, but because I knew I wasn’t going to stop talking and she was about to start crying and, well, not making her cry was about the kindest thing I could do right then.

But that officially puts an end to me playing nice at work. Next time I have an impulse to ask after someone or find out how something went or what’s going on with someone, I’m turning me arse around and heading straight to my office and shutting the door.


  1. The exception being the students who work for me, who are and always have been the only people at work who I actually generally like and care about and are often also the only reason sometimes I can tolerate work.
  2. Which my understanding is that most of them these days don’t involve staples at all.
  3. Of the work-situation, not of any actual or implied nuclear apocalypse.
  4. All of which is still true.
  5. Because even worse than the situation itself was everyone else’s concern that I was going to flip out and hurt myself and/or someone else, which was probably a reasonable concern on their part, and but so to address that concern by behaving in any way motherly or caretakerish way towards me is exactly the wrong thing to do, the sense of betrayal I felt having itself very deep roots in my own tenebrate and riven psyche in the way my own personal and actual mother dealt with me.
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4 comments on “playing nice (again)

  1. Nice to get some posts from you. . . you are who you are and honest about it and that in itself is admirable. We are quite different though, I would have gladly listened to her problems and offered whatever I could to help her. But that is me and I am who I am and that is what is so great about the world. I agree that sometimes it is better to keep to ourselves, yet as a woman it is much harder to accomplish than for men (I think) 🙂 It’s nice to read your posts again!

  2. Well I’ll be Bo-jiggered, I didn’t know you blog! I should’ve suspected it though, you have to put all that angst and sensitivity somewhere (and it’s clearly not coming through in your knitting). This was a really lovely post to read. It’s also the first one that I read because it had to do with work so maybe it’s complete crap compared to the others. Either way, I am glad to see that we student workers made your days a little more tolerable. For the record, when I think of all the people that I met and knew in that town, you are easily the best. Period.

      • That’s cool, I’m suffering from alopecia and psoriasis so there’s a lot of red, flaky hairlessness between the two of us. Think about THAT when you’re eating breakfast!

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