by Tin Bartolome

Posted at Apr 04 2014 03:34 AM | Updated as of Apr 04 2014 11:34 AM

Going back to where we once lived feels like entering a different dimension. Everything seems familiar, yet different, as if I am looking into my past--like wearing my old high school uniform.

"Throwback neighbor"

Since we moved, our old unit has functioned as storage space--of things we still love and the memories attached to them. We often go back every now and then, attempting to put things in order or at least keep the spiders and mice away. But clutter is difficult to defeat. I brought back a few things and had intended to look at what else I could use.

On my way up, I met an old neighbor. She took one look at what I had in my hand and she immediately asked for it. I said I was bringing stuff back that would help me get rid of the clutter. Without a moment of hesitation, she suggested that I leave it with her on my way out.

How brazen, I thought. But she does that to many people. In fact, almost 30 years ago, she hardly knew me and we were not introduced at all yet she blocked my way and asked for 200 pesos. I was speechless, mainly because I felt it was a hold up. I soon learned that you can refuse and the worst you can expect is that she’d badger you until you give in. A few years ago, she was borrowing a much bigger amount, but because I stood my ground and refused, she settled for 12 pesos and 50 centavos. What it was for, I never found out. Others would be embarrassed to ask again, but she would take it as another chance to ask later.

Art of persuasion

I do not know if she is ever embarrassed at all. If she has been, then she sure knows how to conceal it! I wonder how people get to become like that. I am also curious about her thoughts when she is alone--does she play embarrassing scenes in her mind the way I do? Does she think of how she will approach people? I believe she has different ways with different kinds of people. Now, that’s a trait that people in the communications business should appreciate. Oddly enough, it seems so natural for her to approach people in ways that would make them respond positively to her requests. It may not always be perfect, but she seems to know where and how to ask.

Now that I think about it, she’s perfect for multi-level marketing where clients’ every reaction seems to have been thought of and provided with an array of responses that would suit the situation. This is difficult to explain. I tried this but I always go back to being honest about what I really thought of the product or pricing, claims that have no sufficient basis and even probable disadvantages. I realized at some point that it felt like I joined a cult already as products like inspirational books and audio recordings intended to make us better salespersons were made available (at a price!) to us. I realized that I not only had to recruit more people, I also had to sell the products and, to be good at recruitment and selling, I had to buy their motivational products and attend their conferences at “special rates”. I am so glad I’m out of that loop. I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s simply just not for me.

A counter strategy

In the same way, I have come to realize that there really are people, places and things that I am uncomfortable with and are better left where they are: away from me. But there are those that have become part of my life that I must allow, at least in the peripheries--those I do not look for or seek out and whose presence I acknowledge only because I need to be polite. Perhaps the best way to know which category people, places and things belong to would be to ask: How would I feel without this person in my life? How would I feel if I am never able to come back to this place--or if I do not find this item when I return to purchase it.

If losing any of these would kill me, then acceptance is the answer. Otherwise, I can “bracket them off”, or simply put them in that category of things that I cannot change: mud during rainy days, long lines at train stations during peak hours, the Christmas rush--or that neighbor who never knows when she’s being obnoxious.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.