So here’s where we start getting to the “fighting back” part. But let me tell you a story first.
My first job as a writer was working for a small software start-up full of energy and life. It was an intellectually interesting and collaborative environment, meaning we talked an awful lot about life and work and everything else.
Rita was a vice-president and I found her fascinating because she seemed to have her life so completely together. She was elegant and stylish. She was organized and efficient. She was into things that interested me, like cooking, travel, and good books. And on top of her impressive management skills, she was incredibly knowledgeable about things like restaurants and romantic little inns and new authors. I could learn from this woman. I really enjoyed listening to her. For a while.
Then I started noticing things. Rita drank a certain kind of tea that was only available at one shop in town. And it was yummy, but it was the only kind of tea she liked. And she carried it with her everywhere.
Nothing wrong with that. I can see someone getting very enthusiastic about their favorite tea, carrying it around with them, sharing it with friends. It wasn’t that Rita liked her tea, it was that every other kind of tea was a disappointment.
Rita ruled by disappointment. We could never go to this fabulous Mexican restaurant for lunch because Rita didn’t like it. We could only order pizza from a certain place because she wouldn’t eat it if someone ordered anything else, declining very politely but with an air of disappointment that not everyone shared her excellent taste. We’d all agree on a movie until, you know.
Having to have the best of everything, she was constantly setting herself up to be unhappy. If only 1% of the things available in the world brought her happiness (and limited happiness at that) that meant she was unhappy 99% of the time.
This, I told myself, is a woman desperately in need of some sweat pants, a corn dog and a trashy romance novel.
I’d resigned myself to never having Mexican food for lunch again when an interesting thing happened. Without complaining or saying anything bad about Rita, one of the other vice presidents started to fight back. She just quit asking for Rita’s approval. “We’re going to Jose’s for lunch for my birthday tomorrow. You’re welcome to join us.” “I’ve had pizza delivered for my department. There’s plenty for everyone. Stop by if you like.” Is this brilliant or what? Without excluding Rita, she arranged it so that all of our activities didn’t revolve around Rita’s likes and dislikes.
There are lots of Unlovely Ritas in the world who will try to use their unhappiness to rule your life. You don’t have to let them.
Feel better now? Me, too.