Advice

Sarah Rosemary at Sunny Side Up and I are hosting our own Reverb11, a series of prompts to look back on 2011 and manifest the new year.  Please check our Reverb11 pages for details, and join in!

Prompt for December 26: Advice: What was the best piece of advice you received in 2011? Does that advice still ring true for you?

Everyone said: Don’t be so hard on yourself, Mere.  Friends, family, everyone.

That’s not so easy to take in.  Especially when you are someone like me — especially when you believe that if you’re not hard on yourself, you’ll stop achieving; you’ll stop going; you’ll stop doing.  Being very hard on myself has allowed me to achieve and gain Quite A Lot.  It has also cost me a marriage, impacted my health, seriously damaged some relationships, etc. etc. etc.

The “hard on oneself” thing is my life’s sharpest double-edged sword.

So every Christmas, I sheath my sharp sword, and I travel alone, and I head off for some far-flung locale.  I leave New York City for sunshine.  This year, I was off for Australia.  Unsurprisingly, in the context of a Very Bad Year, Qantas managed to hideously botch my reservation.  Because I’ve come to anticipate things going wrong, I was prepared for it.  I’d noticed it a few days in advance of the flight and called to rectify it, but was told my only recourse was to fix it at the airport.  Taking my holiday in my hands, I headed to JFK on Saturday, prepared for the worst.

We can’t help you, said the ticket agent, The only thing you can do is go around the corner and speak to the British Airways agent.

Of course, this made absolutely no sense.  It was Christmas Eve; the reservation had been booked through Qantas; the flight was in two hours.  But okay.  Around the corner I went.

There were only two BA agents manning the counter — one was a trainee.

Look, I explained, Here’s the deal.  Qantas has ruined my holiday; I’m booked on three separate flights now — one of them is set to take off before the first flight even arrives; they un-did my upgrade.  Please help.

Without even asking why I was asking them to help in the first place, they began to piece through the mess.

That’s a beautiful necklace.  Are those your initials?  The agent asked, as she sat on hold with the airline.

No, I said, It says “NO.”  It’s supposed to remind me to set boundaries with people.

She smiled, then said, as if the thought struck her suddenly.  I guess you’ve been hurt before.

It was the first time anyone had ever said that to me upon noticing the necklace, and indeed, that was part of why I’d asked for it in the first place.  I’d been thinking (and writing) about the charms a lot this year because of the weird wounds and bruisings I’d suffered (some at the hands of others; some self-inflicted).

Odd that you’d say that, I said, I’ve written about that quite a bit this year.  In my professional life, I’m a lawyer, but in my private life, I fancy myself a writer.

We talked for a while longer, as she and the trainee sorted out the reservation and the conflict.  They managed to resolve the issue, and book me on an even better flight than the one I’d originally had myself set up on.

I bet you’re quite hard on yourself.  I bet you don’t treat yourself very often, she said.  Her tone was observational, not accusatory.

No.

I don’t either, she said.

I suppose I should be a bit nicer to myself.

I don’t think it’s just about that.  I think it’s probably more about the timing of things.  

I thought on that for a moment.  I supposed it was too.  Maybe my timing was just…off.  And that was something I’d been considering for a long time.

By that point, the tickets were ready, and she printed them for me.  I was off to fast track, and the lounge.  And I was relieved.  We parted ways.

Hold up!  she said, and disappeared around the corner.  She returned with a pair of sparkly sunglasses — New Year’s Eve goggles — bearing the numbers 2012.

Don’t give up, she advised, Just don’t give up.

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