Counting Chickens

21 03 2010

This week I came face to face with some serious disappointment when something that I was 100% guaranteed, positively sure was going to happen…didn’t. What it is doesn’t really matter, we’ve all been there — convinced we were going to get that part, that job, that contract, that call, that date, that opportunity. I had allowed my thoughts to get ahead of me and was cocky about the outcome, right down to what I would wear and how I would announce my spectacular success — the success that didn’t come after all. At first I was confused. You see I had been planning this scenario for over three years, knew how it was all supposed to play out and somewhere along the way the script had gotten rewritten and I had gone from star to “special cameo appearance by” player. What had happened?

What happened is that I had been cruelly reminded that while I may play the leading role in the story of my own life, when that life intersected with other lives where other people take center stage, I had ended up in the wings, a bit player with a two line bio in the back of the playbill. Yeah I know, enough stupid theater metaphors, you get the message. The Cliff Notes version of this would say: “Katie thought she had it all figured out. Katie was wrong. That will teach Katie to count her chickens before they hatch.

What I’m left to grapple with is not so much the reason for my recent disappointment but my reaction to it and what it’s taught me. After my initial confusion I instantly channeled my mother and went straight to “Oh don’t be silly it’s not a big deal at all I’m FINE!” But the truth was I wasn’t fine. And the more I tried to be fine the crankier I got. I snapped at Kelly, got mad at the cats, was caustic around my friends, and turned into a female Lewis Black ranting at the stupidity of it all. I felt my dejection oozing from my pores and manifesting itself into bitter barbs and lame jokes in an attempt to show how above it all I was after all. “Oh THAT? Oh please honey, I’ve barely given it a second thought. These things don’t bother me.” And I realized as I often do how hard it is for me to let people express any kind of empathy. To be honest I know that people are well meaning I really do, but I always feel uncomfortable in these situations, especially when faced with the ‘how are you feeling?’ question. “I’m feeling like I would really, really love you to not ask me how I’m feeling,” is what I want to answer. But of course I counter with my stock answer “oh I’m fine..” and quickly change the subject. For all my dramatic and sarcastic tendencies, and for all my desire to want comfort my friends in their times of need, I am at heart a Yankee who gets uncomfortable when my emotions are the ones put under the magnifying glass. When that happens, I shut down quicker than a mom and pop hardware store when a Wal Mart moves to town (credit for this analogy goes Kelly). And truly, the actual details of this specific disappointment are truly not worthy of the “hey….you ok? need to talk?” approach. Or worse the “hey how’s she holding up?” Inquiry of Kelly. Really. I mean, I know people care but I start thinking “enough already, this is becoming more about your need to ‘be there’ than it is my actual feelings.” (Although I must give props to one wonderful friend who left me a card and a jaunty pair of earrings telling me everyone needs some sparkle to cheer them. Fittingly she’s as uncomfortable with the whole caring and sharing thing as I am). And I’m not speaking of just this situation in particular, anytime I’m feeling down or grappling with a loss trivial or monumental I’m faced with this. I’ve tried to remind myself how blessed I am to have friends who care about me so much, to damp down my discomfort and listen, and to learn the value of a well placed, simple and heartfelt “thank you.”

I do believe this has all come about for a reason still unknown to me with lessons to teach me about being open to possibilities other than those I had planned for myself and to refresh my point of view and shed my cynicism even if only a little bit. My new-agey friends would tell me it’s “the universe” speaking to me. Honestly I think the universe really could give a damn about my petty little set back but I guess I understand what they’re trying to tell me. Being a person of faith, Catholic faith in particular, I’ve gone to my go-to-gal and prayed to Mary for guidance and insight. (My own mother used to tell me to go right to the mom with my prayers – you get further that way). The answers, as is so often the case, are not always clear. (Leave it to a mom to not coddle you, maybe that’s why I pray to Mary so much). Maybe this is a lesson in humility. Maybe this is a lesson in grace. Maybe this is a lesson in how to thoughtfully take in the good advice I received from friends of mine who have faced similar disappointments.

So what next? Will I pick myself up and dust myself off and start all over again? Let’s not get carried away here, after all I’m not some plucky orphan in a Dickens novel. I’ll move on. I’ll get over it. I”ll find a new hill to climb eventually, I”ll thank my friends for caring, I’ll apologize for being a sarcastic pain in the neck, and I’ll be careful to avoid anything that smacks of counting chickens.