Assuming the Best

It’s busy season for me, I have (at last count) 14 designs which have been accepted in the past few weeks, most of which are due during the month of April (I’ve finished several already, and some of them are small pieces)

So that’s good – and that’s mortgage for a few months.  Mortgage is good!

I’m also trying to set up teaching gigs where/when I can, working in designs for another book, and doing the ‘taking care of family’ thing. Life is busy, which is better than the alternative!

I’ve also been doing some serious soul searching. I guess I do soul searching on a pretty regular basis, I tend to think a lot – assess my actions and words, try to understand how they impact others, and consider ways to change my words and deeds so that I leave as much peace in my wake as possible.

Obviously, I don’t always achieve this.

Misunderstandings happen. In my case they tend to revolve around miscommunication more than anything else; I’ve not explained something well, I’ve heard something incorrectly, or something I said was translated/related to someone erroneously.  One of my big goals in life is to catch those as soon as they happen, try to address them and offer my sincere apology / explanation for what might have gone wrong.

Taking responsibility and working to resolve an issue is, I am convinced, the hardest yet most worthwhile thing I need to do as a freelancer / small business owner.

There are times when I know there’s been a misunderstanding, but it’s been practically impossible to figure out what has actually happened.

For instance, a few years ago an event organizer – for no reason I could discover – recommended that I not be hired at the event again.  This kind of stuff happens in the knitting world, especially when someone is as outspoken as I can be, and I’ve long come to terms with the fact that not every teacher is every event’s perfect fit.  And, generally, when I don’t get asked back to teach somewhere it’s mutual and I understand why.

But I had no IDEA what had gone wrong in this case. I wrote to the organizer for clarification but didn’t hear back. I kept hitting brick walls. It was painful, and because it was such a mystery, and it seemed to strike at the very core of my identity as a hand knit teacher. I found that it actually impacted my willingness to reach out to new venues, I felt as though I had a bad smell.

A few years went by, I was still in the dark, but I was invited to give a talk at a sister event by the same organization. The talk went well, I didn’t wear my glasses so – blind as a bat – I evidently smiled and charmed and whooped it up from stage with the person who had been angry with me. And all was forgiven. And I still don’t know what I did in the first place.

Heaven knows that I have an – ahem – strong personality and I was more than willing to accept that I’d said or done something which had caused a riff (even if I was entirely oblivious to what I might have done.) But it remains a mystery, and all’s well that ends well.

I write this because I’ve learned that the world of knitting teachers / events / retreat / symposiums is a world of interesting stories. Sometimes these stories can cause folks to become upset with someone else, and it’s very possible that the tiny little nut at the center of the disagreement is something inconsequential, even neutral. I guess a lot of the world is like this – perhaps a bit like junior high school – where we pass stories and gossip around, because that’s the nature of being human beings in a society!

Every day I try to grow, to become a better person, or at least not to be a worse person than I was when I went to sleep the night before. It sounds so easy, but it’s very hard – we all know this, I think we all try to do the same thing.

Recently I visited a local business and was treated incredibly rudely. The manager of the business was so vitriolic that one of the other customers (a woman I’d never met) followed me to my car to express her sympathy with the manager’s outburst, and to say that she was as mystified as I was as to what had actually just happened.

It was silly, but this really bad experience stuck with me. I was already in a bad place from some other stuff that had happened, and I allowed this to push me into a spiral – taking me to a “I’m just a rotten human being!” self pity place that was NO help at all.

I talked about it to friends, I went over the experience in my mind, and finally I just let it go – I figured that the manager was having a very bad day I happened to wander into it.

I tried to do what my mother always asked me to do: Assume the best.

Mom would ask me to ‘assume the best’ whenever someone was mean to me.

“Assume that they’re really a nice person at heart, but today something terrible happened to them and they can’t help but be angry and you happen to be there.”

“Assume that last night they were up all night with a sick kid and they have NO energy left and allowed it to get the better of them.”

Because, as my mom said, “If you assume the best, the worst you’ll look is a fool.  If you assume the worst, you could look like a bitch. And I’d rather look like a fool than a bitch.”

And, as Al Franken says, “When you assume you make an ass out of Uma Thurman”

And then today a kind of miracle happened.

The store manager sent me chocolate. She wrote a note to apologize for her behavior, and she sent me a box of candy.  I’m blown away.

I love it when things like this happen; the chocolate, getting asked back to teach at an event that I love, someone reaching out to clarify something instead of allowing it to fester.

I’m trying hard to keep these GOOD things close to my soul and dwell on them instead of pulling out the bad/wrong/mean things that happen (which always seem to find a way to worm themselves into my heart when I’m at a low point…)

And I will eat some chocolate. And ponder to whom I should send a box…

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9 thoughts on “Assuming the Best

  1. rc

    I love your mom’s advice. I’m going to remember that and also pass it along to my children. I certainly would rather look a fool than look like a bitch. Amen sister! 🙂

    Love that the store manager realized her behavior was abhorrent and required an apology. Bonus that it came with chocolate. 🙂

  2. Elizabeth

    Annie, this was a great post. First of all, congrats on your prolific knitting and acceptance! I bow down to your creativity and productivity. I agree with your post and always trying to assume the best of people, instead of the worst. It’s much easier to think the worst and much harder to think everyone is trying, just like we are.

    What a nice surprise! The kind that reinforces your love for humankind, and just hoping that what you put out there is what you will get back.

  3. Druanna

    Annie,

    This really hit home this week, as I made a foot stomping revelation to one of my friends (as in Wed of this week)… that I am exhausted trying to figure out why someone did this or that or that people sometimes don’t really listen but feel they can repeat or indulge someone else’s half listened to thoughts to others with no contentious thought around it… and easily says it must have been misunderstood…

    I have always been really easy going the one in the crowd that gets along with everyone and I will be the one to say oh they might be having a bad day or I cannot judge because I have had my moments. This last couple of years have been very trying with this and I have found myself questioning whether I should just walk away from things… so my revelation has been to do and be who I am and not assume or not presume or judge because it takes more effort and time to do that than just thinking the best of things and pass a smile on or make a good gesture. I make it a point to be very gentle in my urging of others to do the same when they go off on a rant or take on the same type of “why” questioning I do at times and say… remember we don’t know what is happening in their world today… maybe tomorrow will be a better day. Give them smile and hope that maybe me taking on the brunt of it from them saves another that might be having challenges as well.

    I enjoyed your post and really feel that it came at the perfect time… thank you!

    Have a fantastic day!!!

  4. Druanna

    Annie,

    This really hit home this week, as I made a foot stomping revelation to one of my friends (as in Wed of this week)… that I am exhausted trying to figure out why someone did this or that or that people sometimes don’t really listen but feel they can repeat or indulge someone else’s half listened to thoughts to others with no contentious thought around it… and easily says it must have been misunderstood…

    I have always been really easy going the one in the crowd that gets along with everyone and I will be the one to say oh they might be having a bad day or I cannot judge because I have had my moments. This last couple of years have been very trying with this and I have found myself questioning whether I should just walk away from things… so my revelation has been to do and be who I am and not assume or not presume or judge because it takes more effort and time to do that than just thinking the best of things and pass a smile on or make a good gesture. I make it a point to be very gentle in my urging of others to do the same when they go off on a rant or take on the same type of “why” questioning I do at times and say… remember we don’t know what is happening in their world today… maybe tomorrow will be a better day. Give them smile and hope that maybe me taking on the brunt of it from them saves another that might be having challenges as well.

    I enjoyed your post and really feel that it came at the perfect time… thank you!

    Have a fantastic day!!!

  5. Ali

    Annie,
    This is a perfect story for your blog and would be a good sermon for any preacher to deliver. I’ve followed you since before you moved to St. Paul and know you are exactly as you portray yourself in your blog. You deserve only the best because you assume that people are the best. Now eat the chocolate with a clear conscience.

  6. Laura

    Thank you for sharing this experience and for your soothing words. I have spent an agonizing year trying to recover from an agonizing misunderstanding, wondering if I’ll ever recover emotionally. I try a little too hard to please everyone and take all things so seriously. It’s a comfort in some way to know I’m not alone, and that you’ve found your way past the hurt. Thanks for always being so real.

  7. Claudia

    Annie,
    Thank you for this post. It has helped put things into perspective and I very much appreciate your mom’s quotes. This week I was “deleted” by someone on Facebook–a friend from college (we’re talking almost 40 years ago). The problem with FB is that we see just a part of someone–their likes/dislikes, viewpoints–but not the whole person. Anyway, I commented on something that was posted that was untrue and supplied the correction and well–I got an earful in the ‘message’. I was surprised and hurt-and decided it was best not to respond. So your blog post was very helpful. Hang in there–spring will be here soon. (having lived in MN and now in N. Iowa I know the mindset winter in the upper Midwest).

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