Losing My Cool

Eloiza's picture

I like to think of myself as a cool person: likable, fun, intelligent. But sometimes my behavior just doesn't reflect that. One place where I get to feel extra cool is teaching some amazing, fun and open-hearted women at my dance fitness class at the local YMCA. On days when I am feeling blue or cranky, I can count on feeling much better after leading a class. Even if I have to fake a smile in the warm-up, by the third song I am in a zone-- feeling inspired, motivated and just happy to be shaking my thang.

I am not sure exactly what happened (well now I am, but I have to tell the story first), during class the other day I went from cool to not-so-cool (aka angry *&#@^) in less than 2 minutes. Here's the story:

I was transitioning from using a CD to my iPod and forgot to turn the correct knob on the stereo system. The music BLASTED through the gym and I moved quickly to turn it down. (Mind you, I am constantly adjusting the sound because, while we want the music loud enough to give us that party feel, we also want to be considerate of members who might not appreciate the loud, thumping rhythms of salsa, samba, merengue and reggaeton.) So, here I am thinking I am being a good girl by being "extra" considerate. I felt badly about the sound blasting but quickly let it go because it was clearly a mistake and we were moving on...

In walks a woman who works the front desk wagging her finger at me saying, "You HAVE to turn that down!" I nodded in compliance but that quickly changed. My mind started to fire off with emotional reactions...

The Me Who Questions: Wait just a minute, HAVE to? Didn't I already do that? And could you be more polite? I AM teaching a class here...

Defensive Me: Who the heck does she think she is? I am a grown woman and she thinks she can come in here and tell me what to do? I work hard to make this class enjoyable for everyone. Doesn't she realize how conscientious I try to be?

Angry Me: She can't just push me around! She can't just come in here and tell me what to do! She picked the wrong day to f#@^ with me! I'm going to file a complaint. I've seen her be impolite and nasty to Y patrons before. She's not going to get away with treating me that way!

Wounded Me: I am so exhausted and hurt. Why would someone be so mean? What did I ever do to her? No one realizes what a hard time I am having. I am trying my best to make this enjoyable for everyone, what about me?

Guess who won? Yup, Angry Me. I marched out of class. (A friend has been co-teaching to prep for one of her own-- this gave me the opportunity to go embarrass myself at the front desk...)

I walked up to the woman and told her next time not to walk into my class and tell me what to do. That she had no right to do that. It was rude, disruptive and just wrong. Guess what happened next: She apologized profusely saying she didn't mean to come across as curt or unkind. I started to cry telling her I am sorry, that I am having a bad day and that I am happy to turn it down next time... Just kidding!

She told me: Oh! You're being too sensitive! Just go back to your class and teach it, you'll feel better honey. I went in there because I couldn't hear the patron on the phone. Oh please, you don't know what you're talking about!

Ok, so now I'm angry and crazy. She, of course, is not going to validate my feelings and I, of course, am going to try to bully her into submission. When she told me to scat, I said, No! You are rude and nasty and you can't go around talking to people like that! I did end up finally walking away and I did end up feeling better after a couple of songs (the power of endorphins is incredible).

So what is the learning from this? I am wounded, defensive and angry. No, not all the time, but this is me. Ugly Me, Bozo Me, Struggling Me. It would have been easy to keep the focus on the woman who interrupted my class. Was she rude? Yes. Is she known to be hard to work with? Yes. And, am I responsible for my own actions/reactions? You got it!

It took some reflecting to get connected to the place of my own suffering and to remember that this is what it was really about. It also took some time to hold her with compassion-- her suffering is clearly more on the surface in her daily interactions with others. I could recognize the anger, aggression and defensiveness in her, not because I am cooler than her, but because I AM HER.

[PS Today, three days later, I am mostly grateful. Grateful to the woman for helping (forcing) me be in touch with my wounded-ness and suffering. Grateful that I didn't make a bigger ass of myself than I did (ask some of my college friends for tales). Grateful that I am getting better at stepping out of the drama of the story to what is really important: greater kindness towards myself and to other people. So, I won't be waging a campaign to get her to be nicer. I'm committing to be nicer to me...]