Sunday, September 29, 2013

Saving All Your Nice For Other People

When I was teaching in my last few years of public school, it took every ounce of control to be nice at work. Not to the kids, who were fine and dandy in the main, but to clueless administrators and helicopter parents, very few of whom actually saw me as a person with thoughts, feelings, emotions and talents but rather as a lowly, replaceable cog in the machine of education. #Assholes #IDon'tMissYou

The result of this amount of stress was physical illness and a general bitchiness at home. One of the main reasons I quit public school (other than the fact that it was/is headed straight down the toilet and has been since the inception of NCLB. But I digress.) was that I was sick and tired of wasting all of my nice on other people and their children.

My name is Suzannah Kolbeck, and I am an Introvert.

(Hi, Suzannah. Keep coming back.)

I can only take so much small talk and general hi-LARITY before I need some quiet, unstructured time to putter around the garden, the kitchen, the bookstore, etc. The sheer amount of effort I had to expend to maintain civility amid the chaos and disorder of public school and its environs meant that I came home and took it all out on my people, the people who unconditionally took it (and sometimes gave it back, let's be honest. We're not saints.).

This is unacceptable. As a follow-up to my Advice to Couples From a Widow Blog, I offer this final piece of advice: don't waste all your nice on other people. There are some people who have an infinite store of nice: my friend Tamara, the Dalai Lama. That's about all I know.

All of us other mortals tend to be very nice in public but less so at home (to varying degrees), so I say this to everyone other than the Dalai Lama and my friend Tamara:  BE NICE. Show love and gratitude to the people who are where you hang your hat. They are the ones who have seen you at your worst and celebrate you at your best; they are the ones who love you best. They got your back.

Kindness anywhere is never wasted, and I am all for civility and courtesy in public. I am not suggesting you eliminate these things from your daily interactions.

I am suggesting, however, that we all turn off the screens, listen better, do more fun stuff together and generally enjoy each other's company. Don't waste time with your family in argument and petty disagreement, or nit-picking about trash removal, who is going to clean up the dog puke (AGAIN) and why is it that no one appreciates what you do around here (ad infinitum, et cetera. Fill in the blank with your personalized ranting)?!

If you are currently living with a sullen teenager, this advice is harder to implement. I know I am going to try anyway. I can only change myself, and I have realized that I just need to RELAX. Anyone who knows me knows that this is stupidly hard for me to do. Near impossible.

Ah, well. It matters, so I will try. I am planning on implementing deep breathing, rose smelling, art making, cookie baking and thoughtful listening. Also silence bearing, as The Child is way less interested in talking to me now, so I have to suck it up and let it be instead of asking constantly if anything is wrong, further annoying her. Or breathing. Which also annoys her. But I digress.

Be nicest to the ones you love the most. It's that simple.


  1. Wow. Hi... that post was amazing. It's kind of like you were reading my brain. Taking this to heart today as I see that whole bitterness @ home thing creeping up as I get more and more involved with work and Guiding.

    1. It's good to have a reminder. I read it again this morning and realized that, well...I needed to read it again. :)

  2. It's true about the trash removal, etc. Sometimes I get irritated with my husband about dirty dishes in the sink but then I ask myself - do I care about this more than I care about having a good relationship with him? And it is a good relationship. The dishes are there because he makes me breakfast in bed. Every. Day.