A Pat On The Back

It was one of those days at work. Things weren’t exact­ly going wrong per se, but it was stress­ful enough as it was. People were all over me, want­i­ng this or that, under­min­ing my deci­sions, inter­rupt­ing my con­ver­sa­tions, run­ning around like their heads were cut off.

I kept remind­ing myself to breathe deeply (from the feet, as the Taoist sages are often described as doing) and calm­ly, kept think­ing about the word tat­tooed on my wrist, and it worked for a while.

By 3:15, I had to get out of the build­ing. It was sup­posed to be a three-song walk, but it end­ed up being nine. I did­n’t even bring my coat; I was burn­ing so much inside, that I did­n’t need it. The win­ter slushed creeped up my jeans by six inch­es, but thank­ful­ly no one noticed.

Tyler was leav­ing as I was step­ping back into the office. He invit­ed me to an art show at Bablyon tomor­row1. I told him that I’d think about it, know­ing in my head that I would­n’t go.

I had to stay late to work on the serv­er. Fifteen min­utes lat­er, Tyler walked into my office (he must have walked part way, then turned around) and asked if I was alright. Admittedly, I’ve nev­er been able to hide my moods very well, but I thought I was doing a decent job of it2. He told me he could feel that my ener­gy was low, so he asked if I want­ed a hug. I polite­ly declined, not because I did­n’t appre­ci­ate the ges­ture, but because I did­n’t think it would have helped. He gave me a firm pat on the back any­way and stepped out of my office.

And it helped more than I ever would have expect­ed.

  1. Which is strange, because the last thing I went to see at Babylon was a Dwarves con­cert []
  2. Something of an old habit of mine. Not being able to hide my moods is often a bless­ing in dis­guise for me, because it com­mu­ni­cates to peo­ple that some­thing is wrong. Otherwise, they’d nev­er know, and it would nev­er be fixed. []


  1. Sometimes it’s the small­est ges­tures that mean the most.

  2. Perhaps it could be said that, para­dox­i­cal­ly, it’s the small ges­tures that are actu­al­ly big ges­tures. I think this is because the impor­tance of the small ges­tures are in the (small) details and the thought, not nec­es­sar­i­ly the (big) actions.

  3. I’ve inad­ver­tent­ly tak­en leave of your site for a few months, but now I’m back.

    I think this entry may well pro­vide you a les­son: some­times it’s a pos­i­tive thing not to hide your emo­tions so strong­ly. It seems there are peo­ple around you who care about your well-being, and you should call upon their sup­port when need­ed (whilst, of course, being care­ful not to over­step the line into a kind of nar­cis­sism, demand­ing peo­ple’s love and atten­tion).

  4. Yeah…I know how unhealthy it is to hide my emo­tions. It’s an old habit formed from my par­ents; I had to keep my dis­tance from them, because they would hurt me if I ever let them in. It’s rather sil­ly, because, as you say, there are peo­ple who care about me and would want to know.

    I’m try­ing all the time to fix this.

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