You deserve better

You think you deserve that pain, but you don’t.


Our manager at the bar can be… difficult. I’m pretty sure he’s codependent, because pretty much everything he does reminds me of the codependent guy I last dated (before The Boy I’m dating now.) But maybe he’s just toxic. Or maybe he’s just a bad manager and there’s not much more by way of explanation. In any case, he’s… difficult.

On Wednesdays, we ̶w̶e̶a̶r̶ ̶p̶i̶n̶k̶ have a live musician — same dude every week. His music is amazing and easily one of my favorite parts of working on Wednesdays. Most times, as he packs up, I like to tell him this. And most days he smiles and nods and fist bumps and says, “thank you, Kris — right on.” He always remembers and uses my name.

But last night he said, “thanks — your manager doesn’t seem to appreciate it much.”

“Actually,” he went on, “he doesn’t seem to appreciate anyone around here. I see how he treats you guys — you deserve better.”

And, of course, we all know this. We all see it. We all come into work every day and work alongside him, and first silently and then verbally compared notes and came to realize we all agreed: he’s one of the biggest challenges of working there.

But sometimes you need to hear it by someone outside yourselves.

You think you deserve that pain, but you don’t.

One of my favorite move lines is from Miranda July’s indie “Me And You And Everyone We Know.”

The two main characters, Richard and Christina, meet in the shoe store where Richard works. He asks if she wants to try some shoes on, and if her current shoes are comfortable.

She says: “They kinda rub my ankles, but all shoes do that.”

And he looks her in the eye and says, “you think you deserve that pain but you don’t.”



And then we deny it — pretend we don’t think any such thing. As though we don’t allow our manager to be toxic — he just is — and as though we aren’t willing participants in what’s happening:

Christine says, “I don’t think I deserve it.”

Richard: “Well, not consciously maybe.”

Because it’s never conscious. It’s a slow creep on our psyche, a gradual evolution from the aspiration for happiness and the effort to get it into accepting that this is part of getting some of it.

And then maybe we blame ourselves:

Christine Jesperson: “My ankles are just low.”

Richard Swersey: “People think that foot pain is a fact of life, but life is actually better than that.”

People think a lot of pain is a fact of life. And, to some extent, pain and suffering are always going to be a fact of life.

But not all of it. Not the deliberate stuff.

You don’t have to accept painful behavior

Kay Leigh Hagan’s autobiographical essay “A Good Man Is Hard to Bash,” includes the story of her dating an emotionally-abusive man. She asks a friend for advice; specifically about how much abuse she should endure in a relationship.

The friend looks her directly in her eyes and tells her:

Kay, in a loving relationship, abuse in unacceptable. You should not have to tolerate any abuse to be loved.

Pain is one thing, and part of life. We will inadvertently hurt each others feelings or experience sadness or disappointment. That is ours to manage.

But that doesn’t mean we have to go on living with it. It’s within our power to fix these things.

Life is actually better than that

And in the words of Michael, Christine’s employer and companion,

“Your whole life could be better. Just starting right now.”

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