On the mornings I go into the office, I get in super-early.  Usually, I’m walking into the building a little before 6:00.  I work out lightly in the modest fitness center for about twenty minutes before heading to the twelfth floor where some start at 7:00, but most begin at 8:00, and I’m generally the first one in, as I was this morning.

Step 8: made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

The office is always unlit in the morning, and I leave the lights off: we’ve got six foot tall windows around the entire exterior, and even on overcast days I see no need for the hellish atrocity that are fluorescent tubes.  When I had my own office, the overhead lights above me were always twisted free from their connections.  I controlled my atmosphere.

There are others who get in before 7:00, and they leave the lights off as well.  It’s kind of an unspoken thing.  Until this one specific employee walks in at 6:50 and flips the switch, every single time, like Gandalf banging his glow-stick in a cave.  She also goes immediately to the kitchen and starts brewing decaf with the kitchen’s only machine, but that’s a story for another day.  And I get it; she’s customer service or some such thing, and will be fielding calls in less than ten minutes, but she’s become the face of my early morning wake-up troll, bow-leggedly walking down the aisle to remind me I work for the Man.

When I was drinking, and I would have been at this hour, I would have playfully pretended the sudden illumination blinded me, growled and made other mildly upset animal noises.  That was my version of rolling with it: jokingly complain in a silly, unthreatening way.  Until the day when my morning constitution would get the better of me, and I’d ask with a shout across the empty expanse of cubes, “what the fuck is it with you and the lights?  Being ten fuckin’ feet from a gigantic window just ain’t getting it done for you?”  Then I’d half-ass apologize, or genuinely apologize if Human Resources got involved.

In the vein of walking a mile in another man’s moccasins:  instead of only trying to see it from her point of view and to empathize and understand where’s she’s coming from, there’s an interesting tool I’ve been trying out lately, and it’s called “Complain from the Other Side”.  Now I’m her, walking into a dark office ten minutes before my phone’s going to start ringing all day long, and it’s again with these fuckin’ orcs.  Wake-up, assholes, this isn’t a rest home, and I’m sorry I can’t ease into my morning like all you pampered babies, but some of us have to start working right fuckin’ now, so spare me the moaning and groaning, alright?

See how I’d completely be on the other side of that argument, and be totally right in my justification, if the roles were reversed?

What I’ve learned:  I can be an inflexible, arrogant prick when I think I’m right.  What complaining from the other side has shown me is that I’m capable of thinking I’m right all the time.  And not about facts and figures but about minutia; the nuanced social interactions and accepted behaviors that I want to judge everyone else on.  When I can clearly see that I’d be just as angry, just as vehement in my argument, if I was on the other side of the street, quite a bit of my ego deflates.

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