Dear Receptionist,

I swear I don’t hate you. I don’t find you annoying. I don’t think you are (insert whatever horrible thing you think about yourself here).

The truth is, that I absolutely know you are doing the best you can in this moment. I absolutely know that you have one of the most difficult jobs in this place. And I absolutely know I could never do what you do so well.

It occurred to me to write this letter when you came and told me that Mr. Puppylover wanted to cancel his dental appointment. The dental appointment that was to happen tomorrow. The dental appointment that we had already done lab work for. The dental appointment that took me two appointments, three phone calls and I don’t know how many minutes explaining how we do a dental, why we should do a dental, why a dental is safe for his middle-aged small-breed dog with terrible teeth that he wants to live forever, and how this was a good procedure to do.

So you can imagine my frustration in that moment when you delivered the news. I’m pretty sure I started with presenting a certain one finger salute which was accompanied by my head exploding which was followed by a quick apology that I wasn’t mad at you and that if you would kindly leave me a written message I will call Mr. Puppylover and discuss this with him later. Professional? No. Proud moment? Absolutely not. Real? 100% yes.

What this moment helped me realize was that I have a conditioned response to the sight of you. The sight of you looking at me with intent to talk to me makes me have an automatic defensive response. Inevitably, when I’m tired or stressed I’m sure that the face you get when I look up at you is not a Mary Poppins face, but more like a Cruella Deville face.

It wasn’t a good feeling to realize that I have this trigger in me. It took me about ten seconds to then realize that you must think I hate you. Or that you annoy me. Or that I think you are (insert whatever horrible thing here). From there it was a short ten seconds later that I realized that I was potentially making your job harder than it already was. Which made me feel even worse.

So from now on I’m going to strive to channel Mary Poppins by relying on a few of my tools and putting these tools into action when I see you coming. Please be patient with me as I try my new face on, I’m sure it will be a bumpy road from Cruella to Mary but I promise to keep trying and to do my best.

The Purposeful Vet

P.S. I’m including my tools so that I have a handy reminder for when I forget:

Tool #1: Utilize the space between the moments and choose to respond instead of react.

All this time I’ve been reacting to you in a knee-jerk fashion without taking the time to consider how my reaction is impacting you. By really capitalizing upon the space between the moments I can begin to acknowledge my automatic reaction, use my other tools to help me get to a better feeling place, and then respond purposefully and kindly.

Tool #2: Live in wonder.

By giving up the expectation that whatever you are going to tell me is about to make my head explode I can begin to difuse my automatic reaction. Wouldn’t it be nice if you were coming to tell me that there is a delivery man waiting for me in the lobby holding a large bouquet of red roses, chocolates and a new Harry Potter bracelet? When I live in wonder it includes gifts (trust me, it helps).

Tool #3: Look for the gift.

I like to live in a world where the universe has my back. There is always a gift in any situation. Sometimes it is obvious, other times not so much. While doing a dental on Mr. Puppylover’s dog is clearly the best thing for him, canceling the dental actually freed up a spot for my other patient that needed to get in ASAP. The gift is there somewhere so there’s no use in getting my undies in a bunch no matter what’s happening.

Dr. Ericka Mendez is a small animal veterinarian on the east coast of Florida. She loves reading, teaching and writing about veterinary wellness and channels all her loves into her site The Purposeful Vet.  She shares her life with her husband and daughter and can often be found at the beach, at a Disney park or on the couch watching Harry Potter movies.