You know the folks they blame for early snow that put their Christmas tree up too early?
I’m the problem, it’s me. (Thanks, Taylor Swift)
I can hardly wait for the holidays.
The front porch light is barely turned off on Halloween before I am humming “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”.
I just love the feeling of the season.
The way that first snow covers the ground.
The way people pay for the coffee of those behind them in random drive throughs.
The ringing of the Salvation Army bell. (Even though you try hard not to make eye contact when you don’t have any cash on you.)
The folks shopping with their significant others behind them sighing loudly and saying, “Just buy it already”.
The kids talking loudly about Santa and that excitement being nearly tangible.
I just LOVE Christmas.
Yes, the pumpkin came off my porch just as quickly as my blow-up Buddy the elf went up.
This year, thanks to my sister, I now have a blow-up Buddy the elf for my passenger seat of my car.
I know. Will my coolness ever end?!
Anyway, I do have a point. Promise.
I live in North Dakota, and we had quite the snowfall a weekend ago.
Again, I know this is my fault.
After all, I decorated early.
Each winter, there are a select few North Dakotans that seem to forget what icy road driving is like.
They tend to hit the gas and forget the caution.
On this particular day I was running some errands for work and driving cautiously over the black ice.
A large black truck behind me was apparently wanting to see the back of my Honda Pilot closer.
The stoplight turned red, and I came to a slippery stop.
So did he.
He revved his engine a few times behind me like a peacock spreading its feathers for show.
I wasn’t sure if he wanted a sticker for his accomplishments or just a nod of approval.
Regardless, the light turned green, and I began to accelerate.
He honked and swerved behind me recklessly.
Eventually, he weaved from behind me and began to speed past.
That apparently wasn’t enough for him as he hung out his window and showed me exactly what he thought of me with a hand gesture.
I smiled and waved at him as he sped on by consequently sliding into the next lane and overcorrecting himself.
I glanced over at Buddy in my passenger seat and said, “Don’t worry Buddy, he’s having a bad day”.
The shocked face on that blow up makes me laugh.
Terrified of my driving.
All the above, maybe.
All of this got me thinking about how people’s actions can affect your day.
Heck, they can affect a lot of things.
Especially during the holidays, as magical as it can feel, there are also a lot of other feelings that are valid and relevant as well.
With that must come the knowledge that some of the folks that lash out, are not truly lashing out at you personally.
Maybe they have stress that we just don’t know about and truly, how could we?
We are just the face in the way at the moment.
In most situations where there is a random lash out, it is NOT about you.
In the moment, that is hard to understand because we are humans with emotions.
I was having a great day and black truck man kind of dampened my mood in that minute.
Because I didn’t do anything.
I was just driving.
I was just being cautious.
During those times it’s hard to turn on that empathy switch and realize that more was going on than just me and my car.
Something else was obviously happening in his world.
As professionals in the service industry, we are going into a season where stress can be high.
You are going to have people take out their frustrations on you and you are going to take on the difficult job of not taking it personally.
Remember, we only see the tip of the iceberg.
There is so much more underneath the surface level.
It’s easy to fight anger with anger.
That’s a natural reaction.
It’s harder to fight anger with understanding.
It’s even more difficult to incorporate empathy.
But it’s possible.
Not only that, it’s important for your own mental health.
There are people out there fighting battles that we know nothing about.
The type of battles that we may never know ourselves.
The holidays tend to bring out some of those feelings.
The people that can afford the holidays vs. the people that dread them.
The people who have family to gather vs. those that don’t.
These lists could go on and on.
I guess what I am saying is, when someone is mean spirited towards you and there is not a valid reason, the reason is NOT you.
When someone shows you an unkind gesture or gives you a round of unkind words without reason, it is not about you.
When your kindness or gentle honesty is met with anger, it’s not about you.
Often hard to remember, but vital for your own peace.
So, when you do find yourself on the other side of this sort of behavior, do what buddy and I do, keep on smiling.