Monday, November 17, 2014

Why does this keep happening to us?

One of the most common questions I've fielded since my author career took off is when I plan to quit my day job.

After I stop laughing, I usually point out that my duties as the part-time PR and communications manager for my city's tourism bureau include taking journalists out for beer tours and snowshoeing, or sampling hamburgers all over town so I can write about the best ones. To get me to quit, they will need to drag me from the building by my hair.

Last spring, the marketing team at a nearby luxury resort invited me to bring my family for a weekend visit. They wanted to make sure I was knowledgeable enough about the resort's amenities to describe them to visiting journalists. As you might imagine, this was a great hardship.

To say this place was beyond my regular budget is akin to suggesting it might be outside my authorial comfort zone to write books about quantum chromodynamics and the interactions of subnuclear particles.

On our second night there, my gentleman friend and I were checking the kids in at the activity center when a well-dressed couple walked through the door. Gliding across the beautiful tiled lobby in a cloud of expensive perfume, the woman remarked to the concierge that they were headed to the poolside bar for a cocktail.

"I'm sorry, ma'am," the concierge informed her grimly. "That bar closed thirty minutes ago, but both restaurants are open with fully-stocked bars and expansive mountain views."

The woman gaped at him. Then she turned to her husband with a plaintive wail. "Why does this keep happening to us?!"

There was a moment of silence while everyone in the lobby digested her words. Even the woman herself seemed to realize what a pungent cloud of  privileged melodrama she'd just released into the air.

She gave an uneasy laugh. "I mean, we came by last night and it wasn't open, and then–" she stopped, sensing she'd lost her audience. "We'll go try the lodge." They hurried away, her high heels clicking across the lobby. 

My gentleman friend turned to his offspring. "See that, kids? That's what entitlement looks like."

The teachable moment extended beyond the children. In the six months since then, it's become a catch phrase in our household. Whenever one of us is poised to descend into a pit of pointless, hand-wringing, self-despair, someone will break out the histrionic wail.

"Why does this keep happening to us?!"

It's a reminder to keep things in perspective. To remember that whether you've burned dinner or stubbed your toe or mistakenly deleted the sex scene you spent all afternoon writing, at least you have dinner or toes or sex scenes.

Not everyone is so lucky.

It reminds me of this video campaign that circulated a year ago featuring impoverished, third-world citizens reading a variety of first-world woes. If you want a little perspective about the difficulties in your own life, take one minute to check it out.

Is there anything that routinely helps you to take a step back and gain a new perspective on the things you might perceive as major problems? Please share! 


Peter said...

On a purely 'writing career' perspective, I try to remember how I felt being unagented/unpublished so that I never take being agented/published for granted.

On a real life perspective, I find that I can never successfully wallow in self-pity since, as you said, I have toes and (YA) sex scenes and dinner.

miaohdeux said...

This past weekend, I visited New York and crashed with a good friend in Brooklyn. We've, uh, gotten romantic in the past with the understanding that not much can come of it in the long-term as I live in Chicago.

He's seeing someone now so no hanky-panky for me.

I was a little peeved, then I realized I had a free place to stay in a cool area of Brooklyn, and that I was about to spend almost four days in New York, seeing shows, going to cool places and most awesomely, having breakfast with my new agent.

Perspective. :)

(Also, dude is still a really good friend and we had an awesome time hanging out. We just kept our clothes on.)

Neurotic Workaholic said...

The sense of entitlement that so many people have really bothers me. I worked in retail for years, and many of the customers felt "entitled" to treat retail salespeople like me as if we were their servants. They threw tantrums over the dumbest things, like store credit cards, products that were out of stock, or salespeople who weren't folding clothes quickly enough.

Anonymous said...

Darn. I sooooo wanted to channel my two year old self.

Great post! said...

I fall into fits of despair routinely. Sometimes it helps to think of the people who have real problems, and then I think, 'I have real problems, too!' When I'm in a better mood, I think of some of the countries I saw when I was a flight attendant, and how people lived in those countries. Yes, it does bring perspective, and yes, I do count my blessings, but the very next time I drop something, or make a mess, or the internet goes out...

Deborah Blake said...

I spent many years dealing with horrible chronic illness and pain, and one of the ways I got through it was to think, "Other people have it worse." Which, no matter your situation, is almost always true.

What's that old quote...
"I felt sad because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet."

Tammy J. Palmer said...

I work in grocery. This time of year is especially hard. My back hurts, my wrist hurts, my feet hurt...and I deal with customers who are 'entitled' or just plain dicks. I repeat the words, 'great health insurance'over and over again. And then I get the customer who uses a riding chair because she has MS. Or the woman whose hands are so deformed with arthritis that she has trouble getting her money out, or the sweet woman who tells me her husband is terminally ill, and I remember how lucky I am to have a wonderful family and a happy life and be capable of doing a job that requires standing and lifting, not to mention providing that all important health insurance, and I'm ashamed of my mental whining. It's all about perspective. Thanks Tawna for a thought provoking post. You are the coolest!

Kat said...

I learned my lesson many years ago and thankfully it has stuck.

I was in the hospital waiting for cancer surgery and feeling very sorry for myself when I learned that a friend of mine had had an accident and would never walk again. At that moment I felt extremely thankful that while I may be about to suffer a lousy couple of weeks, I would walk out of the hospital on my own two feet.

The other amazing reminder was an interview, again, many years ago, with Michael J Fox shortly after he'd been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. When asked how he felt about facing a future with a disease that could be terribly debilitating, his response was that we all had a sack of rocks to tote around and this was his.

I often shrug at a bad moment and say, just my sack of rocks. But I never forget how lucky I am.

Caryn Caldwell said...

I love this. It's a great reminder to keep things in perspective, and I love that you were able to use it as a teachable moment. I hope she learned something from it, too.

Sometimes I find myself annoyed after I go to the grocery story and have to move everything around so I can fit in one more bag of frozen peas or whatever. And then I remind myself that I am LUCKY to have so much food that it won't all fit into my ample storage space. Because so many people in this world would love to have this problem.

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