Friday, January 14, 2011

Figured it out

My distress of yesterday, I mean.

One thing I've been working on, making a monumental effort on, is NOT WORRYING ABOUT THINGS I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER. Reminding myself that I control my own behavior, reminding myself that sometimes bad stuff happens even though you do what you can to prevent it (e.g., the life-long non-smoker getting lung cancer), reminding myself that stuff never is as bad as it's presented to be in the news.

And so when people around me start talking about how things we have no control over are making everything BAD, it's hard for me not to get sucked back into worrying and complaining and running around like a headless chicken that thinks the sky is falling.

The other thing is, there are several people I used to socialize with who have, of late, just become so cranky and sour. I don't know if midlife caught up with them, or if their lives aren't turning out the way they wanted, or what. But it's hard to carry on a conversation with someone when everything you mention gets used as evidence why everything's going bad and wrong. Like, when you comment that the weather is warm, they use that as the entree for a 10 minute rant about global warming and how we're only making it worse with air conditioning and cars and everything else. Or you make some comment about money and they start talking about how (depending on their view of politics) we're all gonna be taxed to death or how old people and children are going to be thrown out on the street to starve.

And you know, as someone who finally figured out how to do the small-talk thing*, it's exhausting to deal with someone who has apparently changed the rules of small talk to "it will provide me with a gambit of how to talk about how everything is all wrong."

(* One of the reasons why I sometimes wonder if I'm a bit further along the Asperger's/Autism spectrum than some people is that for years, I was bad at small talk. I'd walk up to someone and abruptly begin talking about whatever topic we needed to discuss. Eventually I realized that it's really not done that way, that most people start out by asking how someone is, talking about the weather, talking about some neutral news item (like a sports team) and then gradually transition into the "actual" discussion. So it frustrates me a bit, having finally mastered "neutral" small talk, to deal with people for whom nothing is "neutral.")

So, what I can do: work on my own teaching. Work on my own research. Work with students who want to do research. And start expanding my small-talk repertoire to include ways to cut someone off when they're going into a diatribe that will only waste both our time and make me sad.

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