Sunday, February 14, 2016

2/15/16—Working on the Little Things

If there's one thing everyone in the professional world wants you to be, it's proactive. You need to anticipate issues and solve them before they happen. It's a valuable quality to have. Except when it's not. 

I became fully conscious of the dark side of proactivity a couple of months ago. My old health insurance company sent me one of their Explanation of Benefits statements and the form was filled out wrong...different than they usually do it. They had the wrong numbers in the wrong columns. And while I knew I would be invoiced properly by the caregiver, I envisioned my insurance company getting to year end and having discrepancies and nobody noticing they had the wrong numbers in the wrong columns. So I decided to call. 

My call started with a long process of "press or say one for x", except the pressing part didn't work, so I had to say all my answers, which didn't go smoothly. So finally I reach a human, tell my story and they place me on hold. Only they don't actually place me on hold, they put me back into the queue by mistake, where I have to go through the whole process of speaking to an electronic voice again. Then finally, after about 15 frustrating minutes on the phone, I get to talk to someone. Only now I'm perturbed. 

So I get a human being and am perturbed and she starts lecturing me about my attitude. So I do my best to hide my growing anger and try to walk her through the math. I have to do this in a few different ways because she's not understanding what I'm talking if she'd never seen one of these Explanation of Benefits statements before. Finally the lightbulb goes off in her head and she tells me this is something she'll have to look into and that she'll get back to me. Which she never did, btw. 

But by that time, I'm beyond pissed. All my buttons had been pushed by this uppity customer service person and her crappy automated phone system. There I was trying to be a proactive and responsible insured person—like they ask you to do. They don't want costly mistakes any more than you do. But they made it SO hard! 

I was so worked up over this that I called my sister to vent. She then told me she was having a similar type issue where she was being proactive and dealing with people on the phone and it was driving her batty. So there we are talking about how frustrated and pissed we were and I started laughing. I said, "you know we're doing this to ourselves, right?" 

Neither of these calls were calls that HAD to be made. If the insurance company made the mistake with me, they made it with others and would figure it out. Besides, they were only going to be my insurance company for another week or so anyway. And my sister's issue resolved itself naturally a few days later.

On the surface, the issue has to do with being too proactive and working ourselves up over what turns out to be nothing. But, for me at least, the real issue is about trust and control. To a certain degree, neither of us trusted the company we were calling was doing their job correctly. Neither of us trusted that things would just work out the way they were supposed to without our intervention. Meanwhile, all over the world, people are getting the same results we are, but without having to make all the phone calls and create all the stress...because they just trusted it would happen.

First, when we're stressing about something that is on the verge of happening or hasn't even really happened yet, we're not really in the moment. And second, we somehow worry we're different, both in the service we receive and in our ability to move boulders that are way bigger than we are. In both cases, my sister and I were dealing with huge institutions that do what they want to do when they want to do it...institutions that probably have reasons for doing what they do when they do it. And while it's completely transparent to us, they nonetheless have systems in place and won't move just because we want them to. And there's also an element of looking for trouble where none exists. I can't speak for my sister, but I know I do that more often than I'd like to admit.

Now, in my defense, I would say that I receive satisfaction from being proactive probably most of the time. And by that I mean I make the call, everything goes smoothly and I am reassured that everything is going properly. But I would venture to say my proactivity isn't needed most of the time. So I've been thinking about this essentially wasted energy, what drives it and what I need to do to move past it for the past couple of months. This is my year of letting go, after all, and since this happened right before 2016 even began, it was one of my first lessons. 

It's good to be disciplined and it's good to have standards and it's natural to have expectations. But it's a little much to assign myself to be someone else's babysitter—or worse, someone who rolls in before a mistake is even made or a deadline is ever missed just to make sure it won't happen. It's micromanagement. And I have to say I'm guilty as charged. It costs a lot in both toxic hormones and my own self respect. I get worked up, then frequently feel like an asshole afterward. And I don't like either of those things. 

The world will spin without me. And mistakes are going to happen. I can address them at that time. But for now I'm going to try my best to breathe and let things happen as they happen in the interim. I also want to remind myself what is truly important, and these episodes rarely every are. I latch on to these things for a reason. There are reasons even below the trust issues that need to be explored. Where did these trust issues come from and how do they make me feel about myself? 

The reasons are deeply individual and spin around the very core of the kind of damages we work our entire lives in an effort to heal. We all have unhealed stuff and this is some of mine. There are so many much bigger things I let go of and put my trust in that I don't need little stuff like this staining my growth chart. This year is for working on the little things...the layers down towards the core. And the first step is always to breathe and trust.