Back in my corporate days I used to have a boss I considered ‘my Nemesis’.
You know? That one person that doesn’t like you. That one person that when sees you enter the room stops smiling, and the whole energy in the room change.
I was constantly asking myself ‘why he doesn’t like me?’, and my brain was sending me back several hypothesis… ‘I was too rigid doing my job’, ‘I was not interested enough to go out drinking with the team after the shift was done’, ‘pure and simple homophobia’.
And of course my obvious reaction was hating him back. I’ve never been that guy that answer with a smile to a frown eyebrow. Why would I? I’m right and you’re wrong!
No need to say that this is not a good strategy, especially when you decide to dislike a member the high leadership of your company and you don’t have the required poker face to hide it.
I applied for a different position in order to have a career, and I felt some relief when I moved to another Country, but of course, according to Murphy’s law, afte ra couple of years he became my boss again. Apparently it’s true that this is a small world.
I started having nightmares about this situation. Every night a different scenario, but every night the outcome was the same. Me yelling at him, and he looking at me silent, with disgust and that twinkle in his eyes that was implying something like ‘oh… how much you’re going to pay for that…’
I think this was the last proverbial drop, and I left the Company a month after, in full burnout.
A few years have passed. I’ve got better of course, I started practicing Mindfulness and becoming able to manage my emotions, but every now and then, I was having one of those cringey moments whenever a memory of ‘my Nemesis’ was resurfacing.
What would happen if I would meet him today? How would I react facing him?
Up to that point I was able to manage my feelings, but maybe it was easy because I’ve created a safe environment for me and my health?
Well, a few days later I had the possibility to test this theory.
I was visiting the local Farmer’s Market with the husband, masks on and social distancing, but I was happy to enjoy this lovely Saturday.
I felt suddenly a strange feeling, my geeky self would describe it as a ‘shift in the Force’… you know when you feel that something is about to happen…
Within a couple of minutes I saw him, walking with his family.
Just the sight of him made my guts twist and twirl, I felt a mixed feeling of anger and fear expanding inexorably from my guts to my whole body.
‘It’s HIM’, I hissed to my husband, ready to flee despite feeling my body freeze.
My husband simply took my hand and smiled at me, telling me ‘Who cares, It’s all in the past now’
This amazing four-letters word.
It was all I needed to stop for a second my emotions, ready to overcome my reason, and start to ground myself. I started focusing all of my senses on the surrounding environment.
The warm sun on our faces and the cold breeze of the ‘Luxembourgish spring’, the perfume of the many flowers and veggies displayed all around the market.
All the different colours and patterns of the panorama, so vivid in that sunny day…
Slowly I could feel in the back of my head the negative feelings getting weaker and I found myself smiling again, in the present.
That’s when I noticed that he was crossing the street right in front of us, he was carrying his kid and covering him with his jacket… oh, maybe he’s a bit cold… his spouse was behind them, looking at the boy and trying to make him smile. He was living his life as much as I was living mine.
I suddenly realised I wasn’t concerned anymore. I was actually smiling at him. I wasn’t smiling back, he probably didn’t even see me, but that was not important.
I’ve been practicing Mindfulness for a while now, but deep down I always feared the possibility, In the event of facing my demons, that the old me would have popped back stronger than ever.
And in fact he tried to come back, but this time my mind was ready to face the situation (well, with a bit of help from the husband :) )
Perhaps, I will meet him again, and that time I will smile and say hi. Not because the situation between us have changed or because I expect to to smile me back, but because I’ve changed.
I know that not everyone likes me, as much as I don't like everyone. And that's fine. I don't need to know the reason, because knowing the reason doesn't change other people's feelings, perceptions, thoughts.
If anything, the only things that can build bridges are my actions, and positive actions comes from a grounded mind, not from hate, nor fury, nor fear.
But for now, boss, I truly wish you success and happiness, and wherever you are I hope you’ll wake up with a smile tomorrow.