Wednesday, July 1, 2015

If You Want Them To Notice You...

When I was 18 I broke my foot for the umpteenth time and I was forced to leave my job because of it (I was non weight bearing for 3 months). Despite the fact that I had spent the last several years in and out of my parent’s house, at that point I was currently living at home.

Living at home that is, until the night that I went home only to find out that my parents had changed the locks and left me a note taped to the front door stating that I no longer lived there.

With nowhere to go I spent the next several weeks sleeping on a futon in my ex's (at the time boyfriend's) roach infested apartment. 

So there I was; tossed out by my family, able to walk, no job, no money, and living in a roach infested apartment on a futon. To say that I was beyond miserable would be the understatement of the century. I had no money, no means of escape, and in a story for another time, I’m 99% sure my ex had drugged me in a failed attempt to have sex with me.

I wanted to die.




My foot was still broken and even though the cast wasn’t ready to come off, my doctor started me in physical therapy in an effort to avoid wide spread muscle mass loss to the rest of my leg. I remember thinking that in the grand scheme of things, the very last thing that I cared about was my leg. I felt so incredibly trapped in a life that I couldn't escape from and looking down at the cast entrapping me was just physical proof of the pain I felt inside. In fact one night in a desperate attempt to feel like I had some way — anyway — to free myself from everything that was holding me back, I actually tried to cut the cast off with a pair of scissors. 

It did not work.

So everyday I got up, showered, and showed up for physical therapy. As I stood in front of the mirror lined wall, doing a monotonous exercise with a giant rubber band that was working out my quad muscle, I looked around at the people working out behind me – the grouchy, angry, people that wanted also nothing more than to not be there. 

They were snapping at the therapists, snipping at each other, complaining to anyone and everyone who came within earshot, and throwing their angry opinions around so loudly that it was impossible to ignore them. 

Seriously, those patients were some of the most miserable people I had ever met. I looked at them, the angry scowl on their faces, the furrowed brow that screamed “go away,” and in each and every one of them, I saw myself.

I was pissed; pissed at my family, pissed at the world, and just generally walking around in a vile, black, mood.

I was by far the youngest one at the therapy center and as I watched the people around me — all decades older than myself — I got a scary glimpse of what I was going to look like in 10 to 20 years. Even more terrifying, were the hardened hearts and faces of the senior citizens in their final years of life, people that would be leaving this world wearing the biggest scowl I had ever seen.

At that point I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to live, but I sure as hell knew that if I was going to live, I didn’t want to live just to end up like them.

That night as I laid on my ex’s futon with cotton balls stuffed in my ears and a lightweight cotton sheet pulled over my face in an effort to deter the roaches from finding their way into my brain, I couldn’t sleep (and not just because of the roaches). I thought about the angry people that I had seen and I wondered how they had come to be that way.

As I drifted in and out of restless unconsciousness, I replayed conversations through my head that I had overheard from the other patients, chatter that when strung together resembled the overwhelming message that they felt unimportant, and as if no one cared about them or what they were going through.



The next day when I walked into therapy I made the conscious choice to let someone know that I saw something that I liked in them.

I know that sounds crazy, but if they really felt the way that I thought they did, then I knew that maybe all the angry faces were just because the last thing they felt like doing was smiling at people, when no one was smiling at them.

So that day while going through the stupid rubber band exercise, I did my best to compliment every patient that I found myself within earshot of. I wasn't going to let them get a complaint out because I was going to suffocate it out with a compliment.

And the result? It was nothing short of astounding. It's funny how when people are noticed, they actually want to give you something pleasant to notice about them. When they don't have to scream for attention, they can actually chat quite nicely.

Within a week people were smiling, chatting, and the mood was just generally more appealing. I know this might sound unbelievable, but it’s the truth, and I wasn’t the only one who noticed. On the last day of therapy my therapist offered me a job. Despite the fact that I had no previous medical experience, his exact words were “I know you had to leave your last job  because of your leg, and while it was their loss, we’ve loved having you here. Now that your leg is better I’d like to keep you around and pay you for it. I’m not worried about what you don’t know because the staff can teach you that stuff, but what I do know is that you are good for the patients. Half the patients here are only in pain because they need attention, and you make them feel better. The easiest hour of my workday is when you get everyone smiling.”

I’d never gotten a better compliment in my life.

I took the job and worked there for several years, and even though I was brought in to make others happy, I think I was the one that changed the most. I made it my goal to compliment each patient at least twice a visit and people noticed. “Eden, you just have a way with people. You make them feel special” the therapists would say to me. Patients would jokingly tell their therapists that the only reason they came in was to see me, and even though I was trying my best to really “see” other people, I felt like the more I tried to see other people, the more I became seen.

Over time it became a practice that I adopted into my entire life; that I would go out of my way to see the people around me.

I was once offered a job in the middle of a mammogram, because, as the woman told me, “you just have an energy about you that makes people want to chat with you a little longer.” (Awkward, and even she followed that up with “yea, that sounded creepy”).

But you know what? That really had nothing to do with me, none of it did. It's not my energy, or my personality, or anything about me at all that people like, it's the fact that they like feeling liked.

It's about them.

People want to be around people that make them feel good. Everyone on this planet is struggling with something and we all do our best to shove it down and pretend we are OK, but over time we find ourselves dwelling on our own issues and in turn ignoring the people around us.

It's the ripple effect where we are all so busy looking at ourselves and our own lives that we fail to see other people. We don't see them, they don't see us, and at the end of the day we are all standing alone.

Alone doesn't feel very good.

When I first moved into my house 9 years ago, the neighbor attached to me was less than pleasant, so I made it my personal mission to kill him with kindness. We share a front porch and when it snowed, I would go out and shovel both sides of it.

Then he would come out and salt just his half.

I would bring in his newspaper, he would run over mine. I would wave “hi” to him every morning, and he would pretend not to hear me.

The more he ignored me, the more I looked at him.

Then one day, he smiled at me.

It’s been 8 years now and these days he brings my garbage can back up to my driveway every Friday after the garbage truck comes. He brings my packages into his house until I get home from work, and invites us over for Easter.

I finally asked him one day why he was so hesitant to get to know me, and he told me that it was because no one had ever bothered to get to know him.


These days I still go out of my way to really see people and the more I do, the more they see me. Yesterday when I walked into the bank one of the tellers actually yelled out (and trust me, that’s loud in a bank) “Eden, you’re awesome!”

I stopped for a minute, because you know, weird, and then another one chimed in with “yep, awesome!”

I still just stood there, because you know, super weird.

And then one by one a few other bank staffers chimed in with their own version of "Eden being awesome," and once I was thoroughly freaked out, they all burst into laughter before one of them explained “every time you leave you turn around and tell us all to have an awesome day. Then you take the time to point to everyone individually and tell them how great they are (I really am a nerd), so after you left last time we decided that we were going to beat you to the punch the next time you came in.”

You guys, awwwww, I didn’t even know what to say.

And again, my point in this post is NOT that I’m some wonderful person that is so nice to everyone (because trust me, I have my unpleasant moments), my point here is that people want to be noticed, and they notice the people who notice them.

I don’t think many people realize how unnoticed so many of us go on a daily basis.

We are busy, rushing, and so focused on our own lives and our own to-do lists, that we let so many opportunities of human interaction fall by the wayside, and the message that we unintentionally send to those around us is “I don’t have time for you, I don’t have time to care about you, you are not worth my attention.”

Its sounds so harsh, and yet that’s because it is harsh.

When you stop looking at other people, they stop looking at you. Then one day when you finally stop and look around, you realize that no one sees you anymore because you are no longer worth seeing.

People smile at you, because you’re smiling at them, so if you want to be smiled at, smile first.


Smile at someone today, you might be the only one who sees them.

If you want to be seen, give people something worth seeing.


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25 comments:

  1. I love this philosophy and I need to be more intentional in adopting it in my own life. Thanks for a lovely reminder, Eden!

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  2. This is absolutely true, Eden. I try to follow the same philosophy, and I'm constantly amazed by how people respond. I moved into a new neighborhood recently, and I walk my dog twice a day. I used to see the same people all the time, but we always passed each other, eyes down, never saying a word. I started saying hello or good morning every time I would pass them. Now I have to be careful, because I chat with 5-6 different people on every walk, and am almost late to work! All it takes is a teeny bit of effort on my part, and I feel better, and so do others.

    I think part of it is also that I go through life not wanting to be a "bother" to others. I don't want to pester them if they are busy, or don't want to talk, etc. What I've come to realize is that most people operate in that same headspace, and all it takes is one of us to open that door, so that the other person can step through.

    Love this post! *hugs*

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    1. What a neat story! Look at you, ya old pro!

      *hugs*

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  3. More self-aggrandizing bullshit, can't say I'm surprised. Do you ever get tired of making up these stories or is infinite energy part of being a pathological liar?

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    1. Must be a yahoo newbie. Troll, relax. Enough people have found out who she really is to prove her as truthful. try not to get yourself so worked up

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    2. Apparently someone hasn't taken the time to smile at this anonymous person lately.

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    3. Hahahaha!!

      Well hey there Joel, didn't know you were still here!

      Yay!

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  4. I LOVE your writing style. I'm new here and have just gorged myself on your blog for the last few days. You have an amazing way with words and each post leaves me laughing hysterically or crying. you have a new dedicated reader! !

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    1. Oh my gosh, you are too kind. Thank you!

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  5. Anon, I did the same thing!
    I need to try to be more open. I'm a shy person just from years of rejection, my boyfriend has helped me open up more but I just like being in my own bubble.

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    1. What a lucky person to have such a great boyfriend :) The world deserves to see you and all your awesomeness. I'm glad he's helping you branch out a bit :)

      *hugs*

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  6. Love how you describe truly seeing people. It's true, people want to be noticed. A heart wants to be known.

    PS This isn't the nutcase neighbor, is it?

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    1. Lol, no I should have clarified! This is my other attached neighbor :)

      And yes, everyone just wants to be seen :)

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  7. I can kind of relate to this with my job at the YMCA. We have a lot of staff there who take the job as an opportunity to socialize with each other and pay just enough attention to the kids to make sure they're not killing each other. And then they complain that none of the kids like them, the kids are horribly behaved, etc. And the kids re miserable.

    But I've found that if I actually stop trying to be Miss Popular with the staff (I'm not very good with adults, but I am actually REALLY good with kids) and instead talk to the kids, the whole atmosphere of the room changes. I'll tell them how awesome their light up shoes are, and then 15 other kids with light up shoes will come running over to show me their awesome shoes. Then we'll put on a light show for each other or something.

    I asked one kid a couple of weeks ago if he had any plans for the weekend, and he told me about a trip to the beach he was going to take soon. A few other kids chimed in about past or future vacations, and eventually we had 10 kids sitting at a table, and one by one, they each told everyone else about their favorite vacation. These kids were only 3-6, so it wasn't any deep conversation or anything. But they were all sitting at the table, and for the most part I was able to get them to take turns telling everyone else about their vacations. My co-workers asked me later how I managed to keep everyone so calm. "I talked to them, rather than at them. And I didn't constantly yell at them for fidgeting in their seats. They're KIDS. It's not that difficult."

    So yeah. Talking to people and trying to have a real conversation with them really does wonders sometimes.

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    1. Aw, I love how you chat with them. You are right about the Y workers, it's like a mom's club in there! Too bad you don't work at my Y, my kids would love you :)

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  8. I really enjoyed this story and need to do more of this in my own life. And before I continue I want to make clear that I'm not one of the Eden-hating trolls. I enjoy your writing.

    2 points about the article above: Can you go more into detail about why your parents kicked you out? That's kind of a big hole in the story and certainly there was something going on between you all (beyond them being crazy in general)

    Also, most women don't get mammograms until they're 50. Why were you getting one so young?

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    1. I would guess the mammogram was because she has a cyst at one point. Check out this post http://itisnotmyshametobear.blogspot.com/2014/01/and-still-only-me-part-2.html

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    2. whoa I don't know why it posted like that. Oh well, just cut and paste the link.

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    3. Wow Anon #2 was all over that! Yes, in typical TMI fashion, my boob hurt! The doc sent me for a mammogram to check for cancer. It was a cyst, monitored by ultrasound for a while, and it eventually disappeared. :)

      My parents. I think that time was because I wouldn't break up with my ex (wow, the one and only time they may have been right). I came back home a couple months later, but one night my dad shoved me into some landscaping equipment in the garage. My face got cut up, I called the police, and I moved out for good a few days later. I moved in with my grandma and then got married.

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  9. You are amazing! This is going to be a go to read every other month for me, and for my daughter as soon as she can grasp the concept a bit better.
    Thank you for sharing!!!

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  10. I really enjoyed this post. It was something that we can all implement very easily. Thank you Eden.

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  11. mind if i reblog this on my own blog? it's awesome!

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    1. You are welcome to share links, but please don't copy and paste. Mr. Attorney Man will lose his mind lol!

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