Monday, March 15, 2010

Reframing One Story

Like I mentioned before, I want to try this reframing technique using a story that just occurred a couple weekends ago. There are so many versions of this story I could tell, but I'll narrow it down to the following:

The Facts Version
The Victim Version
The Other Side
The Funny Version

Just the Facts, Ma'am
It was cold and raining. I had taken the kids to a birthday party and then picked up my husband, who was grocery shopping, and we returned home, parked the car and loaded up the stroller with all the bags. Both kids had fallen asleep on the way home, so I put Luka in my carrier, and Yusuke carried Ailin from the car to the apartment building. The stroller was very imbalanced because of all the bags and it was constantly in danger of falling over. Yusuke had run ahead, leaving me with the stroller, and by the time I reached the gate which leads from the parking lot to the building, he was already going inside the lobby. I put my key in the door, but when I attempted to open it, the stroller fell backwards and both the diaper bag and my purse fell to the wet ground. There were 2 ladies standing nearby (a mother and grown daughter), and they began walking towards me. Then they stepped over my bags and the stroller, opened the door (my key was still in the lock) and went inside. I began yelling obscenities at them, and they ran towards the elevator, jumped on and disappeared.

I am having a really hard time reframing this because the FACTS version is so apt in explaining what happened - I really doubt that adding more to the story would change the way a listener or reader would feel. I mean, it is so obvious that these women are cold-hearted & inhumane. (And, I think I have problems! Just think about people in Dafur, and it really puts a story like this into perspective.)

Anyway, I am going to try the Funny Version instead.

Ha Ha, the Joke's on Me
So, here I am a foreign woman with 2 kids, living a normal life in a normal condominium, where I sometimes come across totally clueless individuals - one in particular - we'll call her Ms Clueless. The other day, it was pouring rain and I was struggling with a stroller loaded up with groceries, Luka sleeping in my carrier & an umbrella. The door from our parking lot to our garden requires special skills to hold open while pushing a stroller through, and every time I opened the door, it would slam shut before I could push the stroller through, and in the process, the stroller fell backwards...not once, but twice. Meanwhile, Ms Clueless was standing nearby with her daughter, Clueless Jr., and they were chatting away. When they saw me struggling, I thought for sure they would rush over to help like any good, decent human beings would do. And, they did rush over, but then they stepped right over my bags and my stroller, opened the door and ran inside, leaving me in the mud. (I would say "leaving me in the dust," but as I said, it was pouring rain.) Shocked, as any person would be, I yelled "Thank you!" in the most sarcastic tone I could muster, but sarcasm goes over Japanese peoples' heads, so then I yelled "That is so rude!" in Japanese. It only made them run faster. They jumped onto the elevator and disappeared. I have seen Ms Clueless a few times since, and though I promised myself that I would give her a piece of my mind if such an opportunity presented itself, I have not said anything because a clueless, heartless, inhumane person would not understand what she did wrong anyway.

Okay, it was sort of funny until the end when my true feelings took over. The word diatribe floats to my mind whenever I want tell someone off or when I am on the receiving end myself. In this case, it is hard for me to avoid wanting to soak her in a diatribe of my own spit every time I see her, but she is the coldest, most stuck-up, heartless woman I have ever met, and I think she would actually turn her head away and ignore my very existence. It wouldn't be worth the rise in my blood pressure.

(Speaking of blood pressure though, on the day that this happened, my temples were about the explode, and my heart was beating out of my chest, and my hands were shaking uncontrollably. I yelled at my husband shortly afterwards. I broke an umbrella too. These are things I am working on - anger management.)

Now, for the Other Side version. When thinking through a situation which involves other people, try looking at it from their side. Of course, you can't possibly know what a heartless, inhumane woman might be thinking, but let's give it a try.

The Other Side
I was a young mother once. I had 2 girls, but that was a long time ago. 35 years ago to be exact, and I never once, not even once, needed help. Back then, we had no elevators or strollers. I carried both girls on my back, rode a bicycle, and balanced all my grocery bags around my neck, both arms, and my head without any trouble at all. I have no idea why this foreign woman is getting all worked up just because I stepped over her bags and her stroller to get inside my building. It was raining. I didn't have my umbrella and neither did my sweet, sweet 35-year-old daughter (who is unmarried and still lives with us, by the way). We didn't want to get wet. Look, I have seen this foreign mom before and she is a tough lady. I was sure that she didn't need my help, and I wouldn't want to interfere with her private business anyway.

Okay, that actually worked. I honestly feel much better after examining the situation from Ms. Clueless' side. She didn't want to get wet. The poor thing.


illahee said...

ROTFL!! fess up, the last one was the funny version. right? (and where is the victim version, i'm sure that would be entertaining, too.)

in all seriousness, W. T. F??? seriously, to step over someone (or their things) that you witnessed fall down and not even offer help is beyond comprehension!! i'm still reeling in WTF here. this has never happened to me in japan, though i hear story after story about it (usually involving bike accidents). what is WRONG with people?! and, she's your neighbor. surely she would have realized that you would be seeing each other around. sorry, i have to say it, what. a. bitch.

ahem. seems to have dragged out some blogging in comments from me! LOL

sorry you had to experience that. *sigh*

Sherry said...

Well clearly they were on a quest- to get a heart and a brain and courage and to get home. Just like The Wizard of Oz. Hum, so does that make you and your stuff that was so selfishly blocking them the wicked witch?

Anonymous said...

I believe most people don't really want to be obscenity-wielding freaks, in public or in private. I know that's what I feel like when I have the same reaction to extremely stressful circumstances. It upsets me because that's not the person I want to be.

The thing to keep in mind is that when someone reacts that way, they have been walking the tightrope for some time, dealing with the extremely difficult and unfair circumstances that life (or more particularly, that some person, like a husband, coworker, or whomever) has put them in...and probably surviving heroically.

The huge reaction is the way to let out some pressure so that the whole thing doesn't burst. Anger management may solve some of that, even a lot of it, but it will never solve the entire thing. Because part of it is someone else's fault. And if that person is someone we don't need to care about, we can manage our anger and let it go. But when that person is someone we have to care about and keep giving ourselves to every day, it becomes really difficult to step away, control those feelings, and still remain open to that person.

Hang in there, kiddo. I know you are doing a heroic job.

Someone who knows what it's like,

L. said...

There's also the weird Japanese thinking, that perhaps she was too EMBARRASSED to offer help, because it would be AWKWARD, you know? Better just play dumb, pretend you step over people all day long, every day (hey, maybe she does!) and just go on your merry way.

I once saw a woman trip on her heels on the sidewalk and go down, really hard. I immediately asked her if she was okay....and she ignored ME! She was fine, just visibly embarrassed, and she got up and quickly slunk away.

pascale said...

Argh, it must have been so frustrating :(
I used to get really irritated when I couldn't get my stroller through and nobody would help.

I totally understand what you went through!

Mande said...

Love everyone's comments. Thanks for the support & words of wisdom.

I prefer to call her the "wicked witch of the west", "devil woman" or "devil monster" in my own mind. The nickname "Ms Clueless" was given in a state of temporary empathy. I do not, in fact, have any empathy for this, person.

I didn't write a "victim version" because I thought that the factual version was bad enough. I doubt I could have made the situation seem any worse than it already was.

I shouldn't have taken it out on my poor husband after the fact considering he didn't even directly witness the situation. If he had stayed near the gate for 2 seconds longer, he could have opened it for me and this never would have happened. I blame him for that, but unfortunately, he didn't realize nor could he predict what was about to happen. He also seems to think I am tough enough to handle any situation that comes my way and probably didn't see the need to stand there and open the door for me.

L., I see your point about Japanese people being too embarrassed to offer help, and that sometimes does happen especially at train stations or on the sidewalk. It is strange, but I also think Japanese people have this "kankei nai" attitude at times. Like, this person is not related to me, therefore I don't need to care for them. Someone else will come along and help them."

I think that that this, woman...has some issues relating to any and all human beings. She and her husband both have caused some problems in our building already and apparently they often step on anyone who gets in their way, both literally and figuratively.

Well, you know what they say. Karma is a bitch, and I would love to see them both get exactly what they deserve someday.

Anonymous said...

you poor thing...things do come back around to those that hurt you. you are an awesome mom...who goes through alot in her daily life...and i admire that.