As I inch toward the 50-yard line of my Rejection Challenge, I'm starting to ask what I'm actually learning. This was supposed to shed some light on my interface with the world. So here are a few random conclusions:
I'm getting more acceptances than rejections. I have to think this has something to do with the fact that I'm small, blond, and female. Not threatening. Possibly wacky, but not dangerous. So people are just more willing to accommodate a bizarre request than they might be if I were, say, male, huge, and dark-skinned. And a few years younger. Plus, I have a deceptively open face: eyes wide open, happy to look right into your eyes, easy with a smile, apparently guileless. I hate to admit that I've used all of the above gifts of natures to pull off some questionable stunts in the past, so this isn't a totally fresh discovery.
As my requests get more outlandish (see below and more still being transcribed), I've learned that if you just sound reasonable and matter-of-fact, most people will take any request seriously. It's like a magical way to lower the bar of reason, till we're all doing the limbo to take it even lower.
Never see your interlocutor as an opponent. Like an animal, they'll sense aggression and bristle before you've even opened your mouth. This is probably written in that book Getting to Yes, but what you're really doing is soliciting a collaborator, even a creative co-conspirator (if you're asking someone to step outside their job description).
DAY THIRTY-NINE (APRIL 25): PART ONE:
IN GENERAL FUNK, REJECT MYSELF, HOOK, LINE, AND SINKER.
Involuntary plummet of self-esteem, based on a week of disappointing encounters. Feeling like a misfit, square peg in round hole, born in the wrong place at the wrong time. Surprised how a wee bit of criticism or disagreement with others can throw me into a tailspin.
PART TWO: ASK A STRANGER IF HE/SHE BELIEVES IN GOD
Opportunity knocks, thank God(!), because this one could be awkward. But there I am, riding home on the Q train, unable to focus on what I'm reading because two ladies next to me are having an animated discussion. Or, more exactly, one lady is pontificating and the other is listening.
The speaker is proclaiming how her discovery of Jesus Christ cured her of a mysterious illness and transformed her life. The other lady tries to slip a word in edgewise here and there, but she speaks softly and has her back to me, so I can't really make out what she's saying.
Blessedly, speaker #1 exits at the next station. The remaining lady and I release a communal sigh of relief. I seize the chance to initiate a conversation which just might land me in the realm of faith.
"Wow, that was intense!" I announce.
"Do you know each other?" I need to be careful with what I say in case I might offend anyone.
"No, she gave me a pamphlet about Jesus Christ, and I'm a Buddhist, so I was trying to tell her about my beliefs."
"Ah, I have a question for you. I teach yoga, so I'm more steeped in Hinduism. But does your school of Buddhism believe in God?"
"Absolutely not!" she announces, as though this affirmation will naturally make me feel more comfortable. (Alas, I do believe in some kind of God or Spirit or whatever, so she's actually inserted a metaphysical wedge between us.)
Anyway, trying to keep things amiable, I ask where she practices. Aha! Looks like I've invited her to share her propaganda with me. She whips out a flyer about an upcoming event at her center and urges me to come. When she gets off at the next stop, I eye the next guy down the row from me and rummage through my knapsack to see if I have any of my yoga brochures I might be able to pass to him and so continue the spiritual domino effect. Alas, he looks half-asleep, and I'm also somewhat unsure whether handing him a flyer with me in scanty yoga clothing might be misinterpreted. So I close my eyes and spend the rest of the ride pondering why we humans will just never get along.
DAY FORTY (APRIL 26): 6 PRIVATE LESSONS. TOO BUSY FOR REJECTIONS.
I guess this is why most people don't have to worry about rejection. They just get up and do whatever they do and let the chips fall where they may.
DAY FORTY-ONE (APRIL 27): PART ONE:
ACTIVATE MY EXPANDED SUPPORT NETWORK
More than a month ago, a wise friend suggested I widen my support network. Maybe I was calling her too often to download my daily tally of worries and what-ifs, Oh no's! and Oh my Gods! Maybe she's just smart enough to know that no one person can help us with every problem that comes along. So I dutifully collect a stack of phone numbers from women in my extended circle who actually seem willing to have their days interrupted by a random winer.
Being the self-sufficient creature that I am, I let weeks go by before picking up the phone. And lo! I get right through to Subject #1! Problem is, she's in England, and, as she points out, this could be one expensive call. So we hang up, with my promise to call her when she's stateside next week (which, of course, I fail to do). (Rejections: 0, Postponements: 1).
PART TWO: ASK A DOCTOR TO FAST TRACK ME THROUGH MY APPOINTMENT FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON
Every year at this time, as I prepare to leave NYC for the summer, it occurs to me that I have not made my annual visits to my various doctors for checkups. So on top of packing and generally rearranging my seasonal life, I have to carve out sizable chunks of time to zigzag around town. And even more time to cool my heels in various waiting rooms.
On one such visit, I find myself more than usually squirrely. I'm not technically in a hurry, but it's late in the day, and I'm both tired and peckish. So I start putting the pressure on the receptionist, then the doctor's assistant, and finally the doctor himself to fast track me through. I explain that I have to be downtown soon (careful not to give a reason. Technically I do, or else I'm going to let loose my frustration on any and all, and I'm really just being considerate in my effort to spare us all that drama). It works. I'm in, I'm out, and I'm on the subway home in record time. Of course, I'm not ogre enough to not feel a slight prick of conscience, but I can't say it wasn't worth the effort. Only drawback: it was my ophthalmologist, so the drops they put in make the sunlight blinding, and I can't see so well once down in the subway. (Rejections: 0; Pricks of conscience: 1)
DAY FORTY-TWO (APRIL 28)
REJECT MYSELF AGAIN FOR HOPELESS BACKSLIDE ON COMMITMENTS
Still feeling like I just can't keep up. And I'm not even a mom, or a wife, or technically anyone's employee. Much less managing other hapless employees. Yet getting me through the day sometimes feels like herding a roomful of five-year-olds into line. Cell phone, lunch money, socks that match (hell, shoes! Once left them all at home as I headed out for a long day of teaching in the Hamptons. Will never forget those gravel driveways under my tender bare feet).
Feeding and sleeping and basic hygiene seem to consume inordinate hours of each day. How does anyone have time for facebook or video games?? Much less gainful employment, durable friendships, financial management, deadlines . . .
My only true and lasting solace: I've discovered how to tune into TED talks, Curiositystream.com, WBUR (prefer Boston NPR to WNYC), and other enlightening soundtracks that educate me as I putter around. So while not hugely productive I'm getting really well informed on an astoundingly wide range of topics (Rejection: 1, Acceptance: consolation prize: spending my time in great virtual company)
DAY FORTY-THREE (APRIL 29):
RESOLVE TENSION WITH YOGA TEACHER TRAINEE
Appears I've inadvertently offended one of my flock. Which truly breaks my heart, as I consider my yoga teacher trainees the closest thing I'll ever have to children. And I'd hate to be a bad mom. So, I listen with interest and concern, and do my best to express to her that I never meant to demean her. We end with a hug, so I'll take that as at least the first step toward acceptance. (Acceptance: in progress; Rejection: 0).
DAY FORTY-FOUR (APRIL 30):
LAST DAY OF YOGA TEACHER TRAINING--OFFER TEACHER TRAINEES FREE MENTORING UNTIL THEY COMPLETE THE COURSE
While our yoga teacher training course formally ends today, not everyone has completed the requirements, and not everyone has passed the final exam with flying colors. Plus, I feel like along the way I could have been more "there" for the students, specifically in keeping au courant with reading and returning their writing assignments. Some have actually said so, and the customer is always right. So, to help them and to assuage my own guilt, I offer to make myself available for one-on-one tutoring for the next month. Three of them have already taken me up on it. (Acceptances: 3, Rejections: 7, if you count the ones who didn't seem to need extra help.)
DAY FORTY-FIVE (MAY 1):
PART ONE: TABLE TURNING: REJECT FELLOW PASSENGER WHO WANTS TO SIT IN "MY" SPACE ON LIRR
Maybe I'm just tired of asking for things. Maybe I just have a short fuse today. But there I am, peacefully sprawled out on an LIRR four-seater (one of the luxuries of traveling at an off hour like weekdays at 11:43), getting down to some serious work. Across the aisle is another diligent soul tapping away at his keyboard.
Then this a-hole boards in Bellport and immediately starts a loud cell-phone harangue with a taxi service that clearly let him down. On and on he goes, blasting the guy with vengeance that seems just a tad out of line with the gravity of the crime.
Finally he sputters out, and I mistakenly assume peace will reign once again. Alas, no sooner has he slammed down his phone, then he pops up and demands that I move my stuff so he can share my seating area. Before I know it, I snap back, "Not if you're going to talk on your phone!"
"Well, sounds like we're going to have to call the police!" he proclaims.
Unfazed, or just tired, I just look away. Sure enough, his bark is worse than his bite. He does make a point of squishing himself into the seat across from me, swinging his legs over my bags onto the seat beside me, but he doesn't make another call all the way to Jamaica Station. Note to self: blustery people can be subdued with just the right amount of cool-headed rejection. (Acceptances: score one for the home team.)
PART TWO: CONFESS TO MY ONE-STOP ALTERNATIVE DOCTOR THAT I TOOK MYSELF OFF HIS "PROGRAM" ALMOST A YEAR AGO, BUT DIDN'T HAVE THE COURAGE TO TELL HIM.
This is awkward, as this guy has done backflips to restore me to health. Moreover, he clearly possesses the widest and deepest grasp of both alternative and allopathic (conventional Western) medicine of any individual on the planet. Still, I had my reasons, and I like to do things my way. And for once I think my reasoning was sound, both in giving my body a chance to bounce back to health on its own, and my pocketbook to recover from the steep costs of his patented herbs and supplements.
Surprisingly, my defection doesn't seem to faze him. Even more surprising, he seems willing to carry on within the limits I've now put on my treatment. (Rejections: 0; Acceptances: 1)
Read the next installment HERE.