Communicating

I’m going to start with a story that will appear to have no connection with any of the ongoing topics of this blog…   You’ll just have to take my word for it, that there is a link.

There’s a story I have heard about my father-in-law many times over the years. I may or may not have actually heard him say this, but the story is clear to me, nonetheless. It is so characteristic of his wry humor. When his children would ask, while sitting at the dinner table, and presumably more than once, for some food item to be passed to them (such good manners) he would say: “Eat something near you.” I just love that line. I hope you find it humorous also.

Here’s the point. As a child, friends are generally drawn from the pool of ‘people near you’. My neighborhood, school (and girl scout troop) were the sources of my childhood friends, which was and is still fairly typical. And how would I communicate with these friends? By seeing them, in school or on the street or by one of us showing up at the other’s back door. Communication and connection were in person.

In junior high and high school, calling on the telephone became more common; calling girlfriends to talk about what had happened in school that day. This chat was a supplement to talking (and passing notes) in class, the hallway or at lunch. There were limitations to telephone time, however, since most families had just one landline, to be shared by the entire household. During my ‘college years’, which included a few years in the middle of my schooling and a few years after graduation, my friends were still primarily the people that I saw every day. We talked in person. There were a couple of friends who were not local that I might talk with on the phone and I did write and receive occasional letters.

Now we have to fast-forward a couple of decades, because not much changed for quite some time. I saw friends at my home or theirs, we might talk on the phone to make plans for a visit or to meet for a movie or a meal, but primarily it was face-to-face communication. And then, in the 1990’s, the cell phone took hold in our lives. Looking back, it seems both gradual and sudden, the shift to a busy cell phone social life. Granted, there were more friends who did not live close by, so the ease of communicating by cell was a simple solution.

And then there was email and the communication and ‘friendship’ universe exploded. The USPS took a hit, because letter writing was/is time consuming and laborious. Let me go on record here as being a stalwart fan of writing letters, or at least notes or even postcards. However, the unbelievable speed involved in communicating via email, including the fun of sending photos and copying and attaching things, was ultimately, too seductive to resist. The use of a cell phone or landline became something I rarely thought to do. The shift to texting followed quickly… so easy and speedy and fun. Still remember the day I sent my first text… I felt so ‘with it’, although in fact I was way behind the times, a late adopter of the method.

And that brings us to Facebook and its brethren communication networks – from Linked In for a professional veneer to Snapchat for instant and fleeting visuals. There are many more apps, but I will not expose my ignorance by trying to talk about them. And I’ll leave any commentary on blogging as communication for another time.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll write more about email and Facebook as communication methods.   I find that I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about how they function – or don’t – in my life today.

I’m curious: how are they working out for you?

Non-judgment

Thank you to all veterans.

I am sorry that you have had to take (or are taking) the risks you have (are) in service to our country, because too often they have been pointless risks.

In addition to a fervent wish for peace in the world, I wish for physical and emotional healing for all veterans and their families.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

I’m having a bit of a ‘bad day’. That happens. Of course there are many ways to deal with these occasional visits to negative terrain. There are the obvious, oft-touted healing methods, like taking a walk, meditating or reading something uplifting. Three of my favorites are drinking water, writing and sleeping. (Pardon me while I pause for slug of water.) And then there is the sensible idea of reaching out and talking to a friend. In these darker moments, I vary between an aching desire to be heard and an equal desire to retreat and isolate. But let me tell you what came up for me just now when I thought about calling a friend.

I realized that what I needed was to be heard, without judgment and to be understood, without struggling to explain. That’s a lot to ask. I have many good and dear friends who I know would respond to my reaching out. They would be kind and listen to me without judgment. Or, to be more specific, I would be able to babble and share my current, craziness (reality) without fearing that they would judge me. Which amounts to the same thing, in a functional sense: I get to evict some of the negative mojo that is swirling around in my head and gut. Some relief is sure to follow that expulsion and I am extremely grateful for the chance to spew freely, in the belief that I will not be judged.

However, wanting to be understood is a tall order. In the negative interior landscape where I currently (and temporarily) reside, it is ‘pert nigh’ impossible to summon the energy or vocabulary to communicate subtleties. However, unless my listener has previously walked the same path or has supernormal insight, I cannot expect deep understanding without making the effort to share details. I have found this to be true with friends as well as listening professionals (talk therapists). And so, what I can realistically ask for is empathetic listening, without judgment.

Which led me to think of songs about friendship. The first to arise was Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend, with these lyrics: “When you’re down in troubles, and you need some love and care, and nothing, nothing is going right… You just call out my name… You’ve got a friend… Ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend”

Next up was the song That’s What Friends are For. Written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, but best known as recorded by Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick and Elton John. “…For good times and bad times, I’ll be on your side forever more, that’s what friends are for…” And then there is Bill Withers’ classic Lean on Me: “Lean on me when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on…”  I realize that these are all oldies, and that there are newer paeans to friendship.  Have you a favorite?

In closing, because I am tired; being in funkyland is exhausting… Or am I in this funk because I am tired?  Chicken?  Egg?

In closing, I’d like to bring a column from last Sunday’s Boston Globe Magazine to your attention.  Wonderful title: How to Shut Up a Fat Shamer.  Written by regular advice columnist, Robin Abrahams, who goes by the title of ‘Miss Conduct’.  She never pulls her punches and for this reason I am always entertained and often, as in this case, cheered by her certainty about decent human behavior.  Please check it out.

“Don’t insult people’s appearance. It’s rude and tacky.”

“… it is no more acceptable to mock people for the shape of their skin than for the color of it. Mocking other people’s bodies is a nasty, childish, uncivilized habit that is beneath dignified people.”

 

 

Receiving

Receiving, or letting people help you. Not easy in our independence-minded, survivalist, lone cowboy culture. I like to think of myself as above or outside of all that bs, but in fact, it has its tentacles in my psyche as much as anyone else. It’s a rewrite of the standard aphorism, but for me (and many of us, I think) it’s far easier to give than to receive. And I’m questioning why. Do I not want to admit weakness? Do I not want to become dependent? Or, horrors, am I afraid to be beholden to others?

Giving makes me feel good. I know, I’ve posted recently about the downside and dangers of care-taking. But when someone is in need, it is ‘instinctive’ (and what do I mean by that?) to want to help. Often that means cooking something: for someone who has been ill, had surgery, has a new baby or a death in the family. That’s old timey, neighborly, ‘we take care of each other’ giving. Akin to shoveling snow for someone who is elderly or giving someone a ride to the airport, right? And of course there is gift giving, something that can become a costly (in time and money) obsession at this time of year.

But that’s not what I’m trying to examine here. It’s hard for me to look at this ‘rejection of receiving’ issue. Makes me uncomfortable. What is it about wanting to believe that I am self-reliant and supremely competent? I’m searching for words and understanding, but I can tell that there is a defensiveness to this automatic stance. I’ve come to believe that it is ‘smart’ to hire professionals to do certain jobs for me. Where I might have once felt some embarrassment, I now see these as sensible choices. It’s the more personal help that is harder to accept and nearly impossible to request.

I think ‘should’ and ‘guilt’ are probably operative words here. I should be able to ‘handle this’ on my own. I feel guilty when I cannot. Or when my need is somehow visible, so obvious that a friend will offer to bring me a meal or take care of me in some way. Ah, there it is: a glimmer of, a dawn of understanding. It is about shame after all. The drive to hide any family imperfections was paramount in my childhood.   Also known as the imperative to maintain proper appearances, even if that required creating an illusion. In reading some of my old writing last month, I came across a fabulous line. When I read it, I laughed out loud. Understated, but it captures the ethos: “You never share reality.”

That was written in a notebook, what I would consider private writing. Now I am putting it out there. Doesn’t matter who reads it; the impact for me comes from having ‘said’ it. It may be that a lot of the writing I have done and continue to do, certainly what I share here, is almost a direct response to that interdiction.  The thing about ‘receiving’ is that to do so, you have to choose to let people see the real you.  The drumbeat, the chant of all I have found helpful and healing over the years is this:

Share your reality.

Just “me having a bit of thought about this…”.