I was perusing the menu. I was listening, but I was also in a deep inner debate over what kind of soup to order with my salad.
Old Irish: Do you think it's passive aggressive to...
He trailed off. It took me a moment to realize he'd done so. I looked up and tuned in.
Mr. SponsorPants: Do I think it's passive aggressive to... ?
Old Irish: Nothing. Never mind. What are you ordering?
Mr. SponsorPants: Big salad, big soup. Probably the tomato, it's really good here.
Old Irish: You know what else is good here? The home fries. And the carrot cake.
Mr. SponsorPants: Satan, get Thee behind me.
The waiter came and we placed our order. Waters were refilled, bread basket waved away and finally the stage business of sitting down to order was complete.
Mr. SponsorPants: So what was that? What was passive aggressive?
Old Irish: Nothing exactly. I just...
I waited. We go back more than 25 years. I knew he'd get there if he wanted to.
Old Irish: Do you think it's passive aggressive to respond to a passive aggressive text with a link to the Wikipedia Article on passive aggression?
Mr. SponsorPants: Wait... what? Huh?
Old Irish: Do you think...
I held up my hand
Mr. SponsorPants: bup bup wait wait hang on. Let me find my way here. You got a text that you think was passive aggressive.
Old Irish: Yes. Very passive aggressive. Here, let me read it to you...
My hand went up again.
Mr. SponsorPants: No. Nope. You aren't going to read me the text.
Old Irish: I'm not? Why not?
Mr. SponsorPants: Because we are not fifteen year old girls in junior high school. Just... just give me the gist of it.
Mr. SponsorPants: Okay. That is indeed passive aggressive. And you want to answer with... a link to a definition of passive aggression?
Old Irish: Yes. I just want to text back the link to the article in Wikipedia about passive aggression. Not say anything or anything just... just text them the link. Do you think that's passive aggressive?
I gave him a long, level look.
Mr. SponsorPants: To just text a link in response. Nothing more.
Old Irish: Yeah.
I spoke very slowly, rubbing my chin and staring off into space
Mr. SponsorPants: Wellll, actually...
I trailed off and kept staring into space
Old Irish: Actually... what?
Mr. SponsorPants: Hang on, I'm doing the math.
Old Irish: The math?
Mr. SponsorPants: Yeah. That's... that's... yes, I think I've got it. It's not passive aggressive...
Old Irish (hopeful): It's not?
Mr. SponsorPants: No, because... I think... yes, that's right. I think it's actually passive aggressive squared.
My straight face started to crumble and I began to laugh.
Mr. SponsorPants: Congratulations, you have somehow envisioned the very first passive aggressive feedback loop.
Old Irish: Oh my god. Shut up. I hate you.
Mr. SponsorPants: It's like... it's like the Hadron Super Collider of dysfunction!
Old Irish: Shut up. Seriously.
Mr. SponsorPants: It's like...
Old Irish: Oh my god! Why are we even still friends?
Mr. SponsorPants: Because we know where all the bodies are buried. Now seriously, I understand but... no. That's not your best response.
Old Irish: I know. I guess. I just...
Mr. SponsorPants: It's just that your buttons are being pushed and you want to fight back. You want to fight fire with napalm.
Old Irish: Seriously. Yeah.
Mr. SponsorPants: "Not for us the dubious luxuries..."
Old Irish: Shut up. I know.
Mr. SponsorPants: Other people's behavior... come on... bring it home with me...
Old Irish (very dramatic sigh): ... does not dictate our behavior.
Mr. SponsorPants: Afraid so. I commend you. Just texting the link would be a brilliant response. But...
Old Irish: I know. I know... I know!
Sometimes in sobriety -- and in life, I suppose -- we just need someone we love and trust to tell us -- to say out loud for us -- what we already know is the truth.
Mr. SponsorPants: attaboy!
Old Irish: If I order some carrot cake, will you split it with me?
Mr. SponsorPants: No, but order it anyway.
Old Irish: Because I deserve a treat.
Mr. SponsorPants: What? Hell no. You don't need a reward for doing the right thing at this point in your sobriety.
Old Irish: Then what did you...
Mr. SponsorPants: Order the cake because if you get fatter I will look thinner when I stand next to you!
Old Irish: Seriously. I hate you. Really, you are insufferable sometimes.
Mr. SponsorPants: I know. So many of our little exchanges end this way. Isn't it great?
Old school week continues! (Apparently I'm on a kick.)
There's not a sober alcoholic I know who hasn't had some version of this happen to them in their recovery:
There you are, sitting in a meeting, and someone says something -- maybe not the speaker, maybe just in a regular old share, or while they're taking a chip or something -- and it opens you right up. It goes right into your heart -- or your head, or your gut -- with a little >Ping!< and shines a light where a light needed to be shone. Maybe it triggers an insight, or maybe it just lifts your spirit, but regardless of how, it helped you.
And although it did, it felt like a private little thing maybe, or you were too shy to speak to whomever it was that said it, so they don't even know they did that -- that what they had to say was helpful to you.
That's fine. That's totally fine that you didn't speak to them about it. They probably weren't looking for any feedback anyway.
But the thing is, maybe now it's your turn to say something; to smash through your carefully manufactured distance or your studied, defensive aloofness, or your lovingly nurtured low self esteem, or your acute (if somewhat common) fear of speaking up and speaking out.*
If you don't hear what you need to hear in a meeting, for God's sake, raise your hand and say it.
You'll certainly help yourself, and you might even help someone else -- though you may never know it. If you don't hear what you need to hear in a meeting, maybe it's your turn to say it.
*But also, let's not pretend some of us didn't have to develop a stay-under-the-radar thing as a survival mechanism somewhere along the way. I'm not mocking it, I'm just calling it out.