I'm doing something I've never done before...reposting a post. This one, however, never ran here; it was a guest post over at Velveteen Mind. I thought it fitting to run it now, in honor of Megan's return to the blogosphere.
Last week I was at our storage unit, paying our bill (late again). The guy who runs the show there is pretty bitter and jaded; he's told me that himself. The only thing he loves and can count on, he says, is his dog. The elderly dachshund sits on what little bit of lap isn't appropriated by His Person's belly, and His Person scowls at me as I explain why we are yet again late with our payment (our deal is we pay a few months in advance and forget when we need to start paying again; their deal is they don't send out invoices and instead just threaten to sell your shit if you are a week late in paying).
So, I'm getting pissed at his attitude. But the thing is, part of my brain is telling me that I could schmooze him, lighten the mood, make him smile. I know I can turn on the charm and ingratiate myself and make him smile. I could, but I have no desire to. I don't give a flying anything about what he thinks about me, I couldn't care less if he smiles.
But ZOINKS! I realize from where this schmoozing thought comes. When I was in high school I worked at a pharmacy; we had a regular customer who looked very much like this wiener-dog-holding dude in front of me. This customer was always grouchy and Archie Bunker-ish...the young, optimistic me loved the challenge of making him smile despite his gruffness. It made my day if I could coax a grin out of that old man's face. And after the months went on and he knew I was good for some banter, his smile would make it's way up to his eyes in the form of gratitude.
From there it became my personal challenge...to try to elicit smiles from even the most unhappy customers.
ZOOM. Back to today. The weary old man in front of my face today isn't giving up a smile easily. And I'm stunned, wondering when exactly it was that I switched from that girl who found joy and fulfillment in a ragged old man's smile to the one who was annoyed by his bitterness.
Maybe it was the same time that my optimism gave way to being worn-down, when happy stopped being my baseline, when I stopped laughing at jokes if I already knew the punchline.
I'm tired of being the type of person who says, "That's funny!" instead of laughing.
Don't get me wrong, if you met me you'd think I was super DUPER happy. Just not the overwhelming kind of happy I used to be. This happy requires me to swim past the crap and remember how lucky I am. The old happy just KNEW I was lucky.
So I made myself schmooze the guy. And I got a smile from him, and he asked me if I had a dog, and when I told him about our puppy his face broke out into a smile like I'd never imagined it could. He asked me all about our pup, told me about those he'd had in the past...he needed to talk and was thrilled to have someone care to listen. I pushed away the part of me that worried about the rest of my errands and smiled, nodded, commented.
It's a start, getting back that old me.