Years ago, when I was first promoted to management, a coworker started imploding: he’d call in sick five minutes before his shift started; when he showed up his till would be off by wild amounts; he was distracted and sullen, and then he started lying. I don’t know if he assumed our friendship would protect him, but I did try to protect him at first. I had conversation after conversation with him trying to get ahead of the train.
And then another coworker, a woman significantly older than I am, said, “You’re getting in the way of his learning.”
I was shelving books and I stopped and looked at her. “How do you mean?”
“He’s doing this. This is what he’s doing. And if you don’t get out of his way, how will he learn anything?”
Oh. Man. I was trying to save him. To fix him. What the fuck. She was so right.
“Help me,” I said.
“I have a book, The Four Agreements. I’ll give it to you if you promise to read it.”
I did read it, and it’s one of those books that I think about all the time. Like all good advice, it’s basic:
1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
3. Don’t make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.
Other people’s stuff is not about me. Most of the time I just think, jeez, she must be having a rough day. Or I redirect to something rad like toddlers running, or the way Hazel wags her little stump of a tail right before breakfast.
My life is easier when I don’t attempt to decipher the behavior of others. If I have questions I’ll ask. If I’m curious I’ll engage. But I’m not here to save anyone, which is lucky, because I can’t.