Years ago when, for the first times ever, I rode public transportation in a big city, I was once in a crowded subway when I saw a woman’s bag about to slip to the floor. I reached out to catch it for her but she jerked it away with a “strong” verbal warning for me to keep my hands off. I was shocked and embarrassed but willing to learn the lesson: what seems like an innocent or maybe even admirable action on my part can be completely misunderstood and reacted to in unbelievable ways. I was relatively young at the time but too old to have not learned that lesson earlier. Talk about naiveté. You mean people understand and react as THEY can or wish, not as I want them to? Huh!

Now, this many years later, I continue to be given examples of this phenomenon and have to relearn the same truth over and over. Why do people do things that hurt my feelings when all I am doing is positive? A few years ago, I was up for a promotion to a permanent, benefited position in an institution where I had worked diligently and responsibly for over a dozen years. I was the only one, or so I and my co-workers thought, who was really eligible for the job. However, a few days after I had assumed the process would be completed, we received an email announcement from our supervisor that a new hire had received the position. There was no personal explanation to me, no rationale that I could see and no recourse.

I can’t count the times I have experienced this to one degree or another. Most people have. It turns out that I (we) have no control over what others think and do. Imagine that. Sometimes we are all in sync and other times, it seems, on two different planets. This is the case, in spite all our efforts to express, explain or exhibit our worthy and laudable behavior. So, it seems to me we have two choices, either waste a ton of emotional energy in reaction or remember what one of my favorite tee-shirt mottos says: It isn’t about you. Well, maybe sometimes it is a little bit but the same principle still applies. People who, under most circumstances, would not, if they thought of you at all, do the least mean thing to you, will sometimes effect you in hurtful ways.

What may be most frustrating is that nothing can be done about it.  One could have email addresses or phone numbers and even possibilities of face-to-face confrontations but all the argument and explanation in the world won’t really change anything. It is, as the trite phrase goes, what it is. That being the case, forget it and go on to something more fun, an NFL game on TV or a nap!

P.S. Women like the one on the train have it right. So, guys, leave them completely alone unless you get an authentic invitation from them.