Sunday, February 1, 2009

Socially Awkward (with mashed potato bonus)

I've worked with at least two people who would probably fall on the autistic spectrum if they were tested. Working with such people in cubicle land can actually be quite stressful.

Because it's not easy working with anyone who doesn't read social cues - who doesn't pick up on what is appropriate and what is not appropriate. (News flash: talking about your exercise regimen at full volume for an hour, probably not appropriate). I too struggle with this line, but I think I do pretty well most of the time.

I have compassion for them, but that doesn't make it any easier to be around them.

Wry talked about arguments in her post here. I think because of my experience with people with mental illnesses, I find it's a lot easier to just let a conversation go.

I'll give an example. I feel like I've mentioned this before, but couldn't find the post. One person (we'll call him person A) went up to my boss one day. (My boss worked in the cubicle next to mine). He (person A) started out the conversation with "Well, she finally did it". My boss asked what he was talking about. It turned out that his niece had taken her life a few days before. She (the niece) had struggled with depression and addiction.

His flippant attitude really angered me. I thought - how incredibly sad. If I know anything about addiction and mental illness - it's that no one chooses to be there. Most addicts and people who suffer from mental illness deserve our compassion more than anything. Not that we have to enable their behavior - but at least have sympathy.

After I heard this uncle, I had an incredible amount of compassion for his niece - for living in such a family. Sure, she probably made mistakes. She may have even made a lot of mistakes. Stealing from family, ignoring responsibilities, lying, etc.

My point in this story is simply that - this co-worker of mine had no idea that I would find his attitude offensive. That I have known many people over the years who were suicidal and who have suffered from addiction. I've watched families break apart and friendships end over what happens. Some people never get over the loss.

I didn't want to share this with this person - I doubt he would change his opinion even if he knew. (For the record, I got into another discussion with this co-worker about ingredients in mashed potatoes. Just so you know, sour cream and chives are not valid ingredients, just butter, milk, salt and pepper).

So when I think of my energy for these types of conversations, this is exactly what I'm thinking about. I could argue with this person for hours about mashed potato ingredients and not get anywhere. And in the process - I would miss out on life passing me by. A beautiul sunset - throwing snowballs at my kids, making pumpkin bread. If nothing else, time I could have spent clearing my own head, meditating.

If this person wants to believe that addiction is a weakness and good mashed potatoes don't have sour cream in them - that's their right. I'm not going to waste my time in that discussion.


Freckle Face Girl said...

I also feel sorry for that poor niece. Just the fact that someone, especially a family member, could say something so callus as that is horribly sad.

For some reason, the work place is full of lunatics. I think it takes a few of us several years or discussions to realize it just isn't worth arguing with them. Some days though, it seems like an interesting sport. When I am in the mood, it is hard not to poke at a narrow minded person and get them going on the stupidest tangents. Yes, I'm bad and I have someone in mind right now.

Anonymous said...

Why do some people not realise that life is precious?
I don't think I could have restrained myself from getting angry at the ignoramus, and then been annoyed at myself for diverting my energies to someone or something more appropriate.