You Not Me

The idea of acceptance is so easy for any of us to declare and feel proud of. But there is more to it than simply acting as if “some of my best friends are black, gay, trans, Muslim people”. We need to look inside ourselves and see what is underlying the public persona. It is not that easy, but if you do not understand both the good and the bad within you, you cannot reasonably accept others.

I am driving so excitedly to see her. Having your best friend living so far away is hard, even today when communication is so easy, and technology makes distances shorter. I called the restaurant to tell them I was almost there. “No worries,” the hostess replied. “Your friend is at the table, and a waiter is handing her a glass of wine as we speak, just like you requested.” I thanked her. I hate that I am running late to meet her. This dinner had been scheduled for over a month; both of us blocked the entire evening immediately after she got her plane ticket, and I have been counting the hours since her plane landed this morning. Our plans for tonight are simple: we will be having dinner at one of our favorite spots, catching up over Italian food and drinks, until the sun rises again. Everything had been organized for weeks, and I can’t wait to get there.

Lola moved to Los Angeles the same month I got my new job, and so we both have so much to tell the other. Not that we haven’t in these past four months, but again, although technology helps, it is not the same. I get to the restaurant as fast as possible, and as soon as she sees me, she waves with a happy and relaxed smile on her face. I can see that she looks a bit thinner, and her hair is longer. We hugged while laughing out loud, smiling ear to ear. “Why did it take you so long?” she said. “Is Brian going to ruin this dinner as well?.” “Absolutely not,” I answer. “I’m not going to let him.”

Lola has been listening to my growing complaints about my new boss Brian for the past couple of months. I love my job and everything it entails; I even love my not-so-perfect salary because of the prospects this professional experience can mean for my future. I love it all, except him. Ever since I started, he has been a constant pain, controlling every little thing I do. “Tell me,” she said with a wicked smile. “What did he do today?.” “It’s the same annoying stuff,” I answered. “I think that deep down he wants to do my job and not his.” Lola burst out in laughter. “Marry him, and he will ignore you completely,” she said sarcastically. “Not even if he was the last man on the face of this planet,” I snapped back. Lola adores mixing love and business. 

Every time I try to understand Brian, I fail miserably. It drives me crazy that he micromanages everything I do and that he must take over every little detail and every single decision. I truly thought that someone referred to as a “manager” would be able to manage people, talent, but above all, ambiguity.

Isn’t it risk supposed to be part of the job description and part of the thrill? I get the fact that I am new and young. I understand that this role is unexplored territory for him. But at some point, you need to be able to let go of the control and trust, right?

I cannot tolerate people that are so controlling. It makes them rigid. Over-control is hard to manage but, moreover, hard to live with. The controlling person feels no difficulty in this situation; the unease is mostly for those around him. “Why is that?” Lola asked, reading my mind as she always does. I looked back at her. “Why is what?” I asked back. “Why is it that you cannot tolerate him being a control freak? Why does it bother you so much?.” I sighed in frustration. “I hate controlling people,” I replied. “They are hard to deal with and impossible to convince. Being so controlling becomes a horrible obstacle.

Control is good only in the right dose. Too little control, and things go crazy. Too much control and things become static. The secret is navigating, not being dragged by the current, and not being stuck on an island. It is a balance…” “I agree,” she said. “I agree with everything you said. It is just strange that you cannot stand his control when you are such a control freak yourself.” I looked at her in disbelief. “Excuse me?!?!” I replied, half surprised, half hurt, “I am no control freak. And more importantly, I am nothing like Brian.” “I am not saying you are like him,” she said smiling. “What I am saying is that it is surprising that the trait that bothers you more about him is a trait you both share.” At this statement, I am point-blank hurt.

Here I am with my best friend, opening myself up to what has been a constant problem for me the past few months, and Lola is sitting across the table, oversimplifying my problem, and turning it against me in her new Californian-sunshine-kissed way. “Oh, please, don’t give me that look!” she said with a laugh. “Are you going to imply one more time that you are not controlling?.” I am so shocked I can’t answer back, and she realizes how puzzled I am. Her eyes softened, and she grabbed my hand. “I love you more than anything in this world.

And when I say I love you, I mean it truly. I love you, just as you are.” “Don’t get all Bridget Jones on me,” I snapped back, letting go of her hand. She laughed, and she grabbed both of my hands. “As I said, I love you. I love you with all the good and the bad. I love you because of all your positives and despite all your negatives because you are a combination of them. I know what you are. And one of those things is that you are controlling.” 

I want to let go of her hand and slap her. “I am not controlling. I am organized,” I snarled, and she replied with an annoying and exaggerated sigh. “Listen,” she said, “who was on the phone telling me what to do when I purchased my ticket? Who chose this restaurant and made the reservation? Who called to let me know you were running late and made the waiter bring me this glass of wine? You like to have everything under control, and it’s fine.

It is the way you are. I can live with your control. The question is, can YOU live with it? I honestly believe what drives you crazy about him is not how controlling he is but the fact that he is taking your control away from you”. I feel like a train just hit me, and then a truck run me over. I am just looking at her, not being able to speak. “Have you considered the possibility of accepting the fact that you are as controlling as Brian and that is why you find it so hard to deal with him?” she asked. I look down at her hands, holding both of mine.

I look back at her, and I can see so much love, understanding, and acceptance in her eyes. And it hit me. Maybe the way of accepting Brian’s defects is accepting my own first. Probably and most surely, it is the only way. I take a deep breath, and I see that she is smiling back. “When did you realize all of this nonsense?” I asked, frowning at her. “The very first time you told me about him,” she said, sipping from her glass. “I just had to say it to your face and make sure you would not hang up the phone on me. You are a control freak, but you certainly are terrible at controlling what you know about yourself.”