Author Archives: Harbridge Christina

Mean or misunderstood?

I feel like I’ve been in a doctoral program on dealing with meanness.

For some reason, I have been presented with people being mean more than usual.   To be clear, I do not refer to them as “mean people” because I do not believe meanness is an always proposition.  I do notice the mean action happening more often than in the past.

It is like road rage in person or in writing.

Examples?  (I’ll give you a few, washed a little to keep the people obscure and unknown.  I’m protective of people.  Our actions, taken out of context, lead to unfair assessments about people.  The folks I mention here I do not believe are bad.. I do believe they are acting a way that doesn’t serve them.)

We send out learning e-mails to people after they spend time with us.   They are quick, not fancy and meant to serve as reminders and next steps to the learning.  We started this at the request of our clients.

For one year after the sessions, we send out a quick e-mail to remind them of what they wrote down, what they learned and give additional reading.  These emails are customized to the class we taught.

I do not like writing them. I am not the best writer and I often wonder if people read them. We get some positive feedback so I have continued.

Recently, I received this e-mail (this is an actual email)


*The receipt of formulaic e-mail is unwelcome*

*Foolish use of asterisks is also unwelcome*

*Do you actually get paid for this?*

I remember the guy from the class.  He rated us fairly high.  I wonder if he thinks maybe this is spam?  I decide not to respond right away to give me time to see it different than how it felt in the moment.  (The first line of our e-mail says *The purpose of this e-mail is to continue the learning…*   This is why he mentions asterisks. )   I wonder, why didn’t he just write to us and say “unsubscribe.”  Why so snarky?

So I play with my son, build a Lego house with a window so the Lego guy can go out on his diving board. (Sebastian is obsessed with diving boards since hearing how when I was a kid every pool had them.  Now with bubble wrapping, all the pools have removed them.  I digress.)

I get another e-mail from the guy.  In the learning e-mail I had talked about how the best executives communicate directly with individual contributors and know how to get the ‘on the ground’ information they need to run the company.   His next e-mail says this:

*By your criteria our executives fail.*


So, I think, okay.  He is unhappy about something. I ask one of my team if she will look up his evaluation and make sure he did in fact sign up for the continued learning so I know how to respond.  She writes to me, “He is taking it out on you, it isn’t about you.”   She is so right.  I do get my feelings hurt a little more than normal of late.  Unsure why that is.

I had some fun writing what I would say if I wasn’t a nice person.  Things I’d say if I believed vitriol was the way the world can be improved for my son.  If I just add a little more meanness to the world, it will be so much better. (Sarcasm, if you didn’t catch it.)

I realize I am still in some sort of reaction.  I don’t like responding to people when I’m triggered or in reaction.  I don’t find it helpful nor does it feel better to me to match mean and snarky with the same.  I type out to myself, “I completely understand you don’t like *’s, how about these symbols “)@$*@)%)$%.”   Makes me chuckle.   I imagine all the funny ways I could respond.  I don’t hit send.

I go back to playing with Sebastian.

I find meanness uninteresting.    People who try their hardest to be the smartest person in the room and verbally belittle others, in my view, are not using their powers for good.    They get less of what they really want in the long term.  Well, they do get one thing they want, for  nice idiots like me to just leave them alone.

At a training this year, I had a guy come up to me and say in a loud confrontational voice, “I DO NOT LIKE YOU.  I want you to know that.”

I physically went into a protective stance.  Seriously, I had this instinct to punch his throat and walk away.

Then, I realized he wasn’t going to hit me.   Then I felt tremendous sadness.  I just felt bad for him almost immediately.  I work at my son’s preschool and all I could see was this man standing in front of me as a two-year old who is angry that his Tuesday buddy is playing with another kid because it is Wednesday.

“Do you often do this?” I ask.

“WHAT… TELL PEOPLE I DO NOT LIKE THEM or NOT LIKE PEOPLE.”   He said this spitting anger and vehemence.

“Um, neither.  Do you often waste your time talking to people you do not like?”

He looked at me and walked away.  Later, he came up and said, “I like you now.”

I’m sad to tell you what I said.  Mostly because I meant it.  I said, “I don’t give a sh*t.”  I feel guilt for that response.  I wish I would have taken a moment to talk to him.   Take the time to understand where he was coming from.  I got a little of it on me – that mean stuff.  Doesn’t feel good now as I reflect on it.

And the sad part is he said he liked me more for being mean back.

Let me say that again.  He came up to me and said the reason he liked me is because when he attacked me I wasn’t a pushover.

Really?  WHY?

SO, this time with the e-mail guy, I thought I’d wait and not match wits…   Not respond to my asterisk e-mail guy.  Just wait a day so I could respond in a way that is me and not him.  ME not MEan.

I get another e-mail.

*no response*

Why am I surprised?

I get this little trickle up the back of my neck.  I need to respond to him now.  I actually felt scared for a moment.  I have had a crazy person in my life once and this is sort of how it started.  I suddenly feel unsafe.  (I wonder if some men realize how scary they can be to people?  or how close the come to some 5’2″ self-defense trained chick punching them in the throat.)

So I write him.  Not what I wanted to say.  I write him with no human feeling.  Because I am now a little afraid of him.


This is follow-up learning from the session you attended with us on xxxxxx. You had provided your e-mail and checked the box requesting to be included in follow-up learning e-mails.

The e-mail was created specifically from a question we received in your session.

We have removed you from the follow-up learning e-mail list and our database.

I have not heard from him again.  As I watch the sun come up today.  I wonder a few things.

  • Did he remember us when he wrote that e-mail?  Was that just e-mail rage like road rage… where he thought he was taking out his frustration on an unknown person who happened to spam his inbox?  Is that what happened?  Is he now thinking, uh-oh…


  • Was he, in his own way, trying to tell me that he didn’t want our e-mails anymore.  Is there a way to read that e-mail that isn’t persecuting?  Did I over react in my head?


  • Do the e-mails suck?  Should we stop doing them?  Can we improve them?   Is there a pony here somewhere?

Here is why I am writing.

It is ALL learning.

Everything that happens, if we hold off being offended, is learning.  It just maybe all 3 above.  We are improving our e-mail outreach, I learned what a trigger is for me in these types of situations and I will never tell anyone the name of this guy.  Some things just need to stay where they are.

When we respond in anger, we get less of what we want.  Unless of course we want to make people afraid of us, protective when around us and less inclined to help or listen to us.  My e-mail to him was a reaction too.  I think I could have just asked him the question about if he remembers me and wants us to simply unsubscribe.   I do believe he is a nice person.  I could have reached out.

The world is very small.   I’ll see him again.  It may be awkward.

It will not be for me.  I realize that every person on the planet has had a bad day.  A day when they acted like a jerk.  As I tie a ribbon on this experience, I will just imagine I got caught up in his bad day.

And I ask again.

Why so angry?   I had a guy behind me on Divisadero Street last month.  I was driving  under the speed limit slowing down to take a parking spot in front of the comic book store.  Sebastian and I had not had fun at Kaiser, we got some tough news, and we were going to buy some comic books as a present to ourselves.

The guy in the car, he just lost it.   Pulled along side me screaming obscenities, gesturing and seriously having a heart attack.   He rolled down his window, stopped his car and just started screaming names and grading my driving abilities.   My son is in the car and the guy can see this.   It is obvious I am parking.   I do have the ‘blinker’ on.  So, I grabbed my phone and I took a picture of him.  He looks at me sort of shocked and drives away.

I took a picture of his license plate too.

Oh, I am missing the days of DMV access where I could have sent him a photo of himself with a little note, “you are not anonymous” to his home.

Oh.  Whoops.  Would that be mean?

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Of service


From Houston living in Milwaukee.

Met him on a plane. He helped me with my bag. He helped everyone within a 10 seat radius with their bag.

We started talking. About being a gentlemen. I told him about teaching my son to be a gentleman. About the many times of late when Sebastian will say very loudly, “WHY IS THAT MAN NOT GIVING YOU A SEAT MOMMA. IS HE NOT A GENTLEMAN?”

Of course. The guy Sebastian is referring to will give me a really harsh and mean look. Whoops.

Alan says something very simple. Something I remembered and forgot.

“If we are not in service, we are not living.”

My dad. I had this physical memory of being with my dad. About how he always looked for a way to help other people.. even when he was in a wheelchair and could barely move.

Be of service. Alan and I spent the entire flight helping each other. Since I sat next to him I have been more focused on being of service.

A woman getting off the plane with a baby sleeping in her car seat. She stops at the jet way and stands waiting. I ask her if she needs some help. She bites her lip.

“Well, my daughter fell asleep and I couldn’t carry her, her car seat and my bag. My bag is still on the plane.”

I offer to go get it for her. She actually starts to tear up and says, “Thank you so much.”

It took me, what, 2 minutes to be a salmon.. fight the people coming off the plane and get that bag.

Walking to the baggage claim I noticed 4 people who needed help. They were always there – I was just so focused on my handheld or maybe my destination.

I arrived at my hotel, helped a woman read her menu and built a little snowman with no gloves.

Life, really is, good.

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In case you do not feel well

Hi.   Earlier in the year I had a neurological, um, thing. It was scary.

Since that time, I have had a headache every single day. I changed my diet to all clean uber healthy fare. Exercise. All that.

Still. Headache. Every single day. Since June.  It wasn’t fun.  I tried everything.

My acupuncturist suggested I take this ALCAT allergy test.

I did it.

I turns out I am allergic to a lot of healthy food I’d been eating. I am also allergic to potassium nitrate… something that is in my toothpaste.

Seven days ago I stopped using the toothpaste. Two days later,  I woke up without a headache. The first time in 6 months.

Unbelievable. I have not had a headache since.

It is like the first time I put on corrective glasses – I can see the leaves in the trees.

Suddenly.   Life is clear.  The clarity I have without the fog of my noggin splitting is just … well… I’m happy, let’s just say.

I’m still grammatically incorrect – and happy.

I no longer eat cashews, avocados, watermelon, flax seed, cardamon or brewers yeast.   All that hippie stuff was making me ill.   I feel better than I have felt in a long time.

I offer just in case you want to try it.

Not cheap. Worth it so far.

PS:  I can still drink wine and gluten.  yay.

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Christmas 1973

Christmas this year
Should cost at least
A thousand dollars.

It should be
In the Ideal Bar & Grill
On 163rd and St. Nicholas
Waiting for the first
Tattered little boy
To come in selling
Tomorrow’s morning papers
Roughing up his hair,
Giving all his papers away
And giving him
A hundred dollar bill.

It should be
Walking through the
Finding the drunk
Shivering in the dark doorway
And giving him,
Instead of a religious tract
Or lecture,
A hundred dollar bill.

It should be walking,
Down Beale Street,
Stopping the first
Poor black child,
Giving him a smile
And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be
In Albuquerque.
Not a donation to a fund,
But taking the time to find
The sad-eyed Chicano child,
Taking him to a toy store
And letting him run riot.
Picking up the tab, the
toys and him and
To take them to
Wherever or to whatever
His home may be,

And leaving him the change
Of a hundred dollar bill.

It should be in San Diego
Out on the wharf,
With the old fisherman
Who mends nets
Because the tuna
Don’t run for him anymore.
A “Vaya con Dios”
And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be
In a Santa Monica Bar,
Smiling at the tired barmaid
Who came to the coast
To be a star
And only found reality,
Giving her conversation,
And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be in
A Nob Hill restaurant.
Giving the maitre d’
A smile. And the busboy,
Who no one has noticed
All year,
A hundred dollar bill.

It should be
With a little old lady
In San Francisco’s Mission
Selling flowers, Late at night
In the Tenderloin
Taking all her
Wilted posies,
Giving her a kiss
And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be
In Seattle’s skid row
Down near the Totem Pole
In Pioneer Square,

Giving the startled
Indian panhandler
A measure of returned pride
And a handshake
And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be the last saved
For the thief
Who needs it worse
Than anyone,
Not just the money
But the need to
Be superior to someone.
Let him steal from me
A hundred dollar bill.

But most of all…
To have any value at all,
Let Christmas Day find me
With empty pockets
Hanging inside out,

By Robert H. Harbridge, 1973

I miss you dad. As I read your poem this year I realized, I may have lost my “still in love with man” a little this year. I have been surrounded of late by so much ‘mean’ behavior that I got some of it on me I suppose.

Recommitted. To that last thought. Etc.

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The turtle waves

I’m surrounded by Nora Roberts books in Maui. Not my thing really.

My son is exhausted. Sleeping the sleep of a 5 year old who just had a giant (bigger than him) sea turtle come up and wave at him. We got it on film. My had shaking as I thought for a moment, um, Is this okay?
You see, I’m from Georgia originally and I was schooled at a young age about snapping turtles.
Old myths die hard.

I watch him sleep. Sand stuck to the side of his head. In ever crevice really. Slowly defenestrating from his body to the bad jungle print comforter below. We won’t appreciate that later tonight.
I scour the bookshelf for something other than Nora. I brought tons of books with me. Sadly, the are all cerebral. Brain books. Learning books. I’m seeking trash.


something like Heinlein or Belknap Long.

Instead, I find a well worn book.  No cover.  Just a few words per page.

So often, that which we are

is sacrificed

to that

which we wish


to be.

(I think written by Jovanovich)

Nice.  A book in Maui that doesn’t have a women with a ripped bodice on the cover… and yet the sentiment, the writing, holds exactly that same image.

Love it here.

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If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each (person’s) life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm any hostility.”
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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It all started with Marilyn




I love the world. I first heard of this artist in 2008 because a friend blogged about him.

Today, I saw a makeshift sculpture that reminded me of the artist I had sort of forgot about.

(I wish I had a picture of the floating piece that was outside the Embarcadero)

I sat outside my son’s school trying to remember the name of the artist so I could follow-up on what I’d seen. Invite him to a program for youth up in Point Bonita.

Coincidentally, I received this video from one of my coworkers.

Weird, now typical serendipity is becoming.

There is so much randomness in our world that plays such a huge part of our ‘outcomes’

So much of our lives is a result of randomness, isn’t it? There is a good book on the subject “The Drunkards Walk.”

Ping me after reading the book. It really does blow some air in the old garbage bags.

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Okay, so FAIL happened


Such a simple one syllable word. Easy to say, easy to rhyme… hard to swallow down when there is a lump in the throat.

If we try to do things that do not have an instruction manual, we fail. It is that simple. Look up ‘fail’ in google and find 1000’s of motivational quotes about it. Fail happens.

All of those quotes are cool and all… it is just in the depths of the night, when fail visits the door it doesn’t knock, it has an Autocannon.

So, what to do.

1) Dive deep into it. When failure happens, do not try to feel better about it. Instead, spend a day wallowing… taking 100% responsibility for every part of the failure. It will hurt. It is agonizing.  Especially if you knew better and failed anyway.  Those are the hardest kind.

2) Avoid telling friends and family. They will not let you go deep enough in despair. Really. Spend some time feeling all of the yuck.  That is where the learning is.

3) Think worst case. Allow the little brain to use this failure as the absolute worst thing that could happen and imagine all the ways it will end your life. Think of them all. Write them down.

4) Take another day of this if you can stomach it.

5) Put on the scientific lab coat. What is the pattern or the learning? What could you have controlled or done differently. (Do not allow yourself to blame anyone for anything. Pointless really.) What is the learning from all of this

6) Pay attention to what night dreams are during this time. Write them down. What is the pattern?

7) What now. Be resourceful. What CAN you do now. How can this failure be the best thing that every happened. Saved years of therapy… created a new model for what you do for a living…made you a better parent. Make a list of these things.

8) Get into your calendar. Write both lists in a date 3 months from now. (the list of the worst things that could happen and a list of what you learned from it) Do not look at the list again. In 3 months, review it.  It will give you incredible insight into this moment.

9) Get back on the damn horse as quick as possible. Do something to get your confidence back. It doesn’t have to be the same horse… it can just be something you are great at. Take a kickboxing class. Get physically active. Do push ups. Sounds silly. Physical stuff helps the mental stuff.

10)  Apologize to others.  Make amends, make it right.  Forgive yourself.   Learn and move on.  Do not allow yourself to blame others.  This is all yours.  Fail is just a part of your tale.  Learn.  Find bliss and excitement in the learning.  It will eventually make you a happier you.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

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