The first home
we bought was in a city called Antioch, Calif. As young couples are wont to do with their newly-acquired nests, we spent a lot of time fixing it up. And when I say “we,” I do mean both my husband and I.
My better half put up with all sorts of crazy notions I had, such as re-upholstering a pull-out Queen bed from scratch (I’d never upholstered so much as a footstool before), gamely joined in when I decided the family room should be painted what I can only now describe as “screaming sunset” (I didn’t know that would become the coleur d’jour on HGTV!), and stayed out of my way when I commandeered the garage – and handsaw – to frame a 7″x5″ batik wall hanging I’d brought all the way from India after we got married.
Once I was done with the inside of the house (or as much as I was willing to be done) I turned my attention to the outside. You see, it was atrocious.
There were these disgusting trees in the backyard that I couldn’t stand, there were weeds all over the place, and the previous homeowners apparently had a fondness for red lava rock. Ugh.
Even the cat that adopted us hated it (another story, another time).
My grandmother had a green thumb, and I grew up loving plants, but I’d never actually learned to garden. So after several months of calloused fingers and failed irrigation attempts, we decided to bring the professionals in.
You da man?
After much research – and I did do as much research as I could – we hired a guy who seemed to fit the bill. He talked about these great plans, plants I salivated after, and could work within budget. So I signed a contract and waited with bated breath for the work to begin. And rearranged my work schedule so that I could be home to make sure everything started off on the right note.
Day 1: No one showed.
Day 2: No one showed.
Day 3: I received a garbled message from “X” that he’d be coming over in a few days.
Day 5: A call from “X” promising he’d be over the next day.
Day 6: “X” finally arrived. Without expressing any contrition for having let us down the previous days, he launched into his tail of woe. You see, he was a single dad, his ex was a beeyaatch, blah blah blah blah blah.
After he finally stopped
making excusestalking, I looked at him and said, “X, it’s called living. Deal with it.”
“X” looked shocked, stumbled through the next few minutes and left. And then, surprise surprise, he never showed up again. I figured he’d decided not to take the job after all, but since I’d signed a contract with him, I e-faxed him a letter informing him that unless he replied to me within a specified period of time, I was canceling the contract (thank goodness I hadn’t paid him an advance).
Deal with it
When I told my husband what I’d said to “X,” he almost died laughing. And now “deal with it” has become a Burke-ism, that he pulls out with relish every time he thinks I need to hear it (and vice versa).
You’re probably thinking that I was really hard-hearted. I wasn’t. I tried to contact “X” each day he didn’t show, I kept waiting and hoping he’d start work, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt as much as possible. But when he finally showed up and, instead of apologizing for his tardiness, played the sympathy card, I had no sympathy left.
To me, this was a guy who couldn’t even manage his own life. How on earth was he going to manage my garden?
When I go through rough periods, I try to remind myself of my own words to “X.” Crap happens. I need to deal with it. And I need to deal with it while life goes on, while client work goes on, while everything goes on. If there’s an extreme circumstance, yes, I may tell my clients that I need a day or two to get back on track, and they are usually understanding… and I try to do the same to people who are working with me, my students, and so on.
But I never – never – behave as if I deserve latitude simply because life dealt me a bad hand. And I always – always – make sure that even if I’m out, the work will continue.
Because it’s called living. And I need to deal with it.
I’m no different than anyone out there. I have my good days, and bad, and there are times I’ll moan and groan like you wouldn’t believe (ask Gini Dietrich, Joe Hackman and Jill Foster, for starters). But that does not interfere with my professionalism, and the experience with “X” taught me just how important that is.
It’s called living. And we need to deal with it.
@Lisa Gerber I’m your daily improvement. Bwahahaha!
@Shonali this is a very very tough call. I’m going to go with: It’s called living. because I can use it daily to improve my life.
I can just ignore barfshiners. or unfriend them.
@Lisa Gerber Well, I think it’ll give you some giggles: https://shonaliburke.com/2011/05/12/are-you-a-social-media-barfshiner/
@Shonali @Jillfoster oh I believe you!! I wish I had seen it!!
@Shonali somehow I missed the original reference to barfshiner. Can you point me in the direction so I can educate myself? then I can answer your question.
@Lisa Gerber Aren’t husbands great? And do you like “It’s called living” better than “barfshiner”?
@Jillfoster Believe me, there was nothing earnest about it. I was very stern. I pulled the schoolmarm look out, which probably irritated him even more, not to mention the fact that it was coming from a woman, and a non-American woman at that.
@Tinu Holy Smokes ….this lemonade vs pee bit is a special type of imagery. I appreciate your wisdom and this image in particular! ;)
@Lisa Gerber I Ieft many voice mails during that surgery time. And you replied to all telepathically which was most impressive. ~from the undercaffeinated in DC.
This is great! After reading your “Deal with it” line – the cackling just couldn’t stop. I can just hear the earnest-yet-sassy conviction in you saying this.
I love this!!! I am so so sick of excuses and telling me how busy you are. I tend to absorb people’s emotions so listening to their lives tends to stress me out.
But back to your point, I had surgery last fall and I let my clients know I’d be out the one day. I knew I wouldn’t get much done that week, but I’d be available the other days at least. So I was maybe 1/2 hour out if anesthesia and I notice a voice mail from a reporter and I asked my husband to listen and to just return the call for me. Which he gladly did. If you’re in business you make it happen. No one cares about your crap. they care about theirs and rightly so!
It’s called living, deal with it. This is my new favorite term.
@JGoldsborough @Shonali damn and another typeo that’s “shitidiots” ;)
@JGoldsborough @Shonali barfshiner and shidiots, it’s like a new language… woot.
@Shonali let’s just embrace the authenticity of our mistakes! ;)
@Shonali My new favorite word of all time — barfshiner!
@bdorman264 Exactly! Don’t over-promise and then under-deliver (or not deliver at all).
@bdorman264 @HowieSPM Like the East Coast swing/West Coast swing?
@Tinu Pee, lemonade, water filters and swimming pools? Now there’s the stuff blog posts are made of!
So interesting to hear about “African time” – it’s much the same in India. Somehow, things work out. There is, though, a lot more frustration that is necessary because of not just the “it’ll happen” mentality, but because things just move more slowly over there. If you can get used to it, then you’ll be fine, though you’ll still rant and rave. But now, having lived here in the US for so long, I think it would take me a long time to get used to it, if we were ever to move back.
You don’t want to be like me when you grow up… you want to be like YOU when you grow up!
I agree, Justin – if you’re always sunshiny (aka a #barfshiner), you’re not human – IMHO. And you’re so right about putting things in perspective. We could all stand to do that a lot more.
I’m really sorry about skipping out on all those gardening appointments. I promise I can be there in the next two weeks. — Justin :).
If you never wake up and feel like “man, I need a vacation” or “I could totally just stay in bed today” then you’re not human. But as you point out, others feel that way too. And a lot of time, moving on with your day is what actually provides some sanity. I learned this from watching soap operas, because when something goes bad, the characters “bury themselves in their work.”
Kidding, of course. But in all seriousness, good advice for us to remember. Also, if you’re having a bad day, think about Joplin or Haiti or the refugees you helped with Blue Key or those folks still rebuilding from Katrina in New Orleans. That’s a bad day. Perspective, people.
@Shonali It’s funny you should zero in on those issues. The whole pee/lemonade thing is a long, funny story that I’ll tell you in person, that has to do with water filters and swimming pools, strangely enough. :)But man do I feel you on the East vs West thing! Down to the time thing – African time is 2 hours past whatever time the invite says, and that’s when you’re in the States. At home, there’s a phrase, “God willing”. Meaning, “We’ll get there when we get there, it’ll happen when it happens.”
And magically? Things seem to just align and work out. It is SO frustrating though, once you get used to the idea that 9 am means 9:05 at the latest, and suddenly get plunged back into a society that isn’t as concerned with the clock!Yes, aside from the lateness, there’s a kind of integrity that is heavily ladled into our upbringing. It includes speaking our mind and not promising actions we don’t intend to take.
That is still hard for me. While I’m writing this, I’m thinking about blog posts I was supposed to do, articles I’ve written but haven’t submitted, videos I haven’t uploaded…. I never look at what I have done, but all the things I’m not doing. It’s completely insane.
And thanks. I do work hard. But I’m inefficient. I have to learn to work smarter, for sure. But how else will I be like you when I grow up? ;-)
@Shonali @HowieSPM Yeah, but I heard CL on the East Coast was not the best dating site to use………..I think they had some stalkers on it or something……………..maybe it’s an east/west thing…………:)
@HowieSPM I’m thinkin’ going postal in both of those cases; hello, I’m standing right here…………………:). Just give me the minimal level and I’ll probably be ok with it………
I hear ya, life goes on whether we want it to or not. I’m not one big on excuses even though you think it’s your ‘get out of jail’ card.
As soon as I hear someone start making excuses, I tend to glaze over. Take responsibility and tell me what you are going to do to make it right. Look forward, not backwards…………….
That’s my story and I’m sticking with it………….:)
@hackmanj Good grief, there’s even a typo in my comment! FEET, not INCHES…!
@HowieSPM LOL! Well, I have a soft spot for California, seeing as how it was the first place I lived in when I came to the US, but you’re right, there is that “East Coast/West Coast” difference for sure.
Funny thing is that after we got rid of “X,” I posted an ad on Craig’s List and found a really great guy, who did a fab job, was always on time, etc. Never had that much luck with CL on the East Coast, though.
@Tinu “Letting someone pee in a glass and present it to you as lemonade.” Tinu, I ROFLMAO’d big time on reading that!
You know, when you talk about being raised by Africans, I wonder if my being raised in India has something to do with it too… not that Indians and Africans are identical, we know they’re not, but there is a definite cultural difference east and west of the Atlantic. It’s kinda funny, though; Indians will often joke about people (in India) being late etc. by calling it “IST” – i.e. changing the Indian timezone – Indian Standard Time – to Indian “Stretchable” Time.
But lateness aside, I saw that people in India definitely speak their mind more openly. One of the big adjustments for me after I moved to the US was realizing that that’s often taken as rudeness here, even when you’re not being rude. I think I’m better now, but I’m still learning.
Yes, you do need to cut yourself a break. You’re one of the hardest-working people I know!
This was absolutely the perfect day for me to be reading this. I have my share of troubles – to a few close personal friends I would plead far more than my fair share. And maybe it’s a result of being raised by Africans, but I see that as no excuse to be a slacker. By a slacker, I mean someone who believes and acts as if their problems are someone elses, or excuses to give less than your best. Now, sometimes our best isn’t good enough. But when that happens, you cowboy up! You don’t simply not show up and then offer frail excuses AS reasons. I have much more respect for people who say, I screwed up and I’ll try to make it right than for people who just kind of shrug and expect their failure to be your problem.
On the other hand, this is why it’s hard for me to have employees. Eventually my own work ethic drives people away, LOL. And on more than one occassion, I’ve actually worked myself sick.
So I need to learn to cut myself and especially other people more of a break sometimes. But like you, I believe there’s cutting someone a break and there’s letting someone pee in a glass and present it to you as lemonade. It’s up to us to say “no thank you, that’s clearly pee.” Good for you for not throwing back the glass just to be nice and have someone like you. There’s a lot of people, men and women, who don’t have that kind of backbone, and need to get it.
You wrote this me huh?
That btw is Standard Operating procedure in California. Drove me crazy coming from NY. People always late, flaky etc in business and in their social lives. And they just assume everyone should be cool with it.
Then I went to Panama. Where two people behind a counter can take your order for food then chit chat 15 mins oblivious to you being hungry and me thinking I desperately wanted a flaky late person from California helping me.
And it’s funny because someone can say to you ‘well that is the way it is. You expected more from X?’ when in reality you did deal with it. In the right way 8)
@hackmanj … or more something, LOL!
@Shonali I had a typo too – an extra “our lives”. More coffee? :)
@hackmanj I’m glad I gave you a laugh! Y’know, I have no idea if my “tough love” worked… but from his reaction at the time, I’m pretty sure he went off thinking I was a foreign beeyaatch. Well, I’d rather be thought that than be a patsy.
Btw, I just noticed a typo… aargh! So to be clear, I commandeered the garage to frame a 7’x5′ batik wall hanging… inches, not feet. Man, for that I’d need a microscope instead!
Have a good weekend, Joe, and thanks so much for dropping by!
Lol! Shonali this is a hoot and a great story and reminder that we cannot pass on the curves in our lives to our lives to others. Everyone faces adversity, that is life. The key is to turn adversity into opportunity and hopefully your “tough love” snapped this guy out of his self pity party. FRIENDS are great people to vent to, not clients. Professional commitments are just that… huge disconnect.
Enjoy your day!