Sunday, March 22, 2020
A little more than a week into lockdown, and I feel myself shifting into irritation. Friends from the neighborhood whose dogs normally play with Atticus are afraid to let their dog play with him for fear of contracting “the virus”. I try to explain that dogs cannot pass the virus, but then I remember not to argue with people who are responding to the pandemic through fear. Healthy boundaries and all that jazz.
So I just carry on walking, heave a deep inner sigh, and roll my eyes at the universe. These interactions (or lack thereof) still get to me even while I am trying to practice healthy boundaries. I am surprised by each person who responds with what I think is an irrational overreaction. I find myself feeling frustrated and annoyed. Even though a few minutes later into the walk complete strangers ask if their dogs can greet mine, I still can’t shake the irritation. It lingers, festering even though I try to think of more positive thoughts so that I can shift my energy to one of gratitude and ease.
My balance is off, and it takes a lot of intention to bring it back to equanimity.
It’s almost like once the annoyance sets in, I just start remembering all of the things in life that irritate or have irritated me over the past several months. Then I start thinking about how long it will be until this madness updates and the uncertainty of our future, and I find myself sinking deeper into malaise.
I remember the snooty French clothing company, Antoine et Lili, which offered the most horrendous customer service I have yet experienced in my time in Europe or the United States. I bought a dress from this company as a kind of celebration for selling my house in Alaska nearly a year ago (so I should be over this by now, right?). I wore the dress once, and it started falling apart. In hindsight, this makes complete sense given the horrendous experience I had with my house in Alaska. Of course anything I bought to celebrate the end of that fiasco would also turn into a fiasco. Isn’t that Murphy’s Law?
At any rate, I contacted the company when I noticed the thread was tearing on the dress and it was peeling everywhere. I expected them to respond by being horrified that their product had fallen apart so quickly and to offer to replace it or issue a refund. Instead, they responded by saying that this was “normal wear and tear”.
I found this response completely dissatisfying and unacceptable, and because I am fiery by nature I did not let it go and chalk it up to Murphy’s Law. Nope. I hit the ping pong ball at them, thereby perpetuating the ickiness of it all.
How did I do this?
I contacted my bank to deal with them. My bank did communicate with them, and the company sent me a message several months later that I could send the dress back and they would issue a refund and refund the return shipping.
I was overjoyed! Honor and ethics had prevailed. Praise the customer service gods.
But sadly, this was not to be. I returned the dress, included the receipt, and sent a photo of the receipt by email. Then I did not hear from the company. I did not receive a refund for the dress or return shipping. Weeks past. I finally followed up via email and telephone and after promises that they would look into the issue and return my call (they didn’t). In hindsight, I realized that when I called to ask if they would be honoring their promise they hadn’t even asked for my name so how could they call me back? Did they know it was me? Had their other colleagues warned them? I imagined they had posted my photo and information on their customer service wall, like the “most wanted” photos of people at the police station only this was for customers to ignore. Finally, I was told that the company was not going to issue a refund for the dress or the return shipping because they did not think there’s anything wrong with the dress.
A “normal” person would just let this go. Correction, a “normal” person probably would not have belabored the issue in the first place. But I am not a normal person, and I expect people to take the high road and to take responsibility for their behaviors, which for a company means taking responsibility for the quality of their products. Maybe this stems from a need to have some control in a chaotic world?
Next step, I looked online to see if there was a Better Business Bureau for the European Union. I filed a complaint through the European Union consumer rights organization, and the company claimed they had issued a refund for the dress and that they had changed their mind and would not refund shipping. End of story. What else could I do? They had even blocked me from contacting them on their Facebook page or writing a review to warn other customers and save them from a similar experience.
For whatever reason, while stewing and irritation this morning, this whole experience came back to me and incited irritation all over again. The injustice of it all!
This is ridiculous, I know. In the grand scheme of things none of this matters. Plus, as my husband has told me time and again, companies and people don’t “win“ when they behave unethically or dishonorably or disrespectfully. I can win, however, by creating healthy boundaries and letting the metaphorical ping pong balls drop instead of hitting them back and continuing to perpetuate the negative energy.
In the end, I do not control how other people, companies, etc. walk through the world. I only choose how I walk through the world. And so, once again, I am attempting to let the symbolic ping pong balls drop and find ways to overcome irritation and frustration in exchange for patience and grounding and self-care.
None of this is easy for me, but I do think it’s very worthwhile to practice. It is my hope that someday I will recognize that none of this matters. All that matters, truly, is that I make the best of every situation, practice patience with myself and others, and focus on those activities and beings who bring me joy. Everyone and everything else I can let go of. They don’t matter, at least not for me. They can carry on doing their own unique dance, and I will carry-on doing mine…from a safe distance, far away from them.
My heart and soul and sanity depend upon it.
I gave another afternoon concert. Yesterday’s theme was a love song fest. Today, I chose more blues-y, sardonic songs to try to help me transcend the crankiness. It worked. My entire outlook shifted as soon as I started singing and people began joining the concert.
I visited my favorite willow tree, which is thriving and growing beautiful new green leaves and was glowing in the late afternoon, early evening, crepuscular light.
Enjoyed the company of my husband and our critters. Our wild backyard cat is growing ever bolder and making longer and more frequent forays to the ground floor (aka, the husky domain). Perspective from critters is very helpful. We can also learn helpful tips from our cats about effective social distancing.
How are you cultivating sanity and self-care during this lockdown moment of reprieve?