Friday, August 24, 2012

Glass Houses... Lessons Learned...

So I just typed this long-ish rambling-ish post about Dog Sitting, that was really more about boundaries, but might have come off as some sort of sermon to parents to avoid creating Holy Terrors.

After writing it, I decided it was time to take a shower and get going for the day, so this technically becomes another shower post.  [Borg properly pauses typing, moves over to the right, and applies Label, since Borg is often so forgetful about these tools]

As I lathered up and thought about what I wrote, I realized that last potential way in which my last post could be viewed.  Is that what I intended? No, not really, but perhaps so since in some ways that's where I went with it.  It wasn't what I intended when I wrote the words "Dog Sitting" in the Post title.

[A brief aside into the process of blogging for ME.  Every time I start a post, I start with the title.  I don't do this in other areas of writing, but I do here.  Every once in awhile, while typing, I recognize my post is going some different direction, and that another title might be appropriate and change it, but it is rare.  I use the title as my sign post, and before I finish the entry, I stop and re-read it to make sure that as I draw my conclusion that I tie it back up to that originating idea.  I mean the title to be catchy, but I also use it (or try to use it) as a tool to keep my blog entries somewhat focused - I do have ADD, you'll recall, and I'm sure there is more than one post not specifically related to ADD where that has been made perfectly clear!)  When I hit "New Post" I have a kernel of thoughts about where I'm going and what I want to express, but a LOT develops as I'm writing, and sometimes I go in directions I didn't originally plan for.  I trust my fingers to go where they need to most times... even if they stray from the "plan"]

I want to be very clear that I am not trying to throw stones.  Because I know that I live in a glass house.  It is with a conscious effort, frankly, that I most often use "please" and "thank you".  I've gotten much better now, and I probably throw it out unconsciously a bit, but I often am thinking about how important it is to make sure whoever I'm speaking to knows how much I appreciate what they are doing for me and recognizes that I am asking them to do something they really have no obligation, necessarily, to do.  That if they do what I ask of them, ideally it is out of the kindness of their heart. 

The reality is, of course, we have become programmed, sometimes, to simply respond to demands without thinking whether this is something we want to do for the other person or should do for the other person. Often we do things for others not necessarily as a gift, but as a thoughtless response or with a lack of understanding / back-bone that we don't *need* to do something just because someone told us to.  (Now it is helpful for keeping jobs, steady pay-checks and food on the table, but STILL it is a choice as to whether we are going to do something for someone else, even if the choice is easy by other rewards (job, steady pay-check food) provided...)

I have learned this lesson - am still learning this lesson - the hard way.  When I get in a pressured situation working with others, my ADD becomes so hyperfocused on what needs to be done, that I have been told I am REALLY good at barking orders.  Apparently, others kinda feel resentful towards me for that.  Some have even called me "bossy" and many, then, don't really want to work with me, again.  Fortunately I left most of those losers behind in California years ago. ;)

I am still horrible at thank you notes, but I do try to go out of my way to make sure the person knows that I'm grateful.  And I try to recognize that part of what is wanted behind a "thank you" note is not only an acknowledgment that you got it from you, but a confirmation that what they sent actually arrived.   It is a kindness we give to the giver to let them know it was received. 

I cringe whenever I read Dear Abby and hear about thank you notes not received, or gifts not received where protocol would expect them.  A recent letter (and I can't find it to link here) was from a couple who had a sibling who had not given them a wedding gift, but now, a few years later, gave a lavish gift to another sibling.  I cringed reading it thinking said sibling may very well have given them a gift, but it could have been lost or otherwise waylaid on its way to them.  I don't know the circumstances, and they're probably as the letter writer wrote them, but it made me think of that possibility and how religious thank you notes sent and expected (and then not received for a non-gift) could have lead the sibling to politely enquire as to whether they got his or her gift.  (My ADD brain goes wild sometimes!  I think you may have realized that!)

But I have spent many years, now, listening to the Dalai Lama, and studying the "art of compassion" which he says underlies the "art of happiness" and it has made it easier to understand and hear the effect of what happens when we demand without thought to others.  It has caused me to listen to others as they interact.  To see the fallen faces when someone they love just demands something of them, and I see it underlying SOME of people's complaints and observations of emotional abuse, including my own observations. 

And I'm still not good at it.  But I try hard to be aware of it. 

And I know you can't teach a 30 month old that the reason she should speak politely and calmly is out of kindness towards the other person.  And I know many adults may not even realize that the reason we are kind and polite is NOT because it is more likely to get us what we want (although that is many folks' motivations) but we do it out of kindness to the other person.  To say to the other person, I respect you.  I care about you.  I appreciate you.  To acknowledge they don't HAVE to do what they are doing for you, and yet, nonetheless they have.  To recognize that as a gift. 

I was about to write to recognize they have no "duty" but I know that's a loaded word, and many of us would argue that there are many situations in which there is a *duty*.  However, I think we can also describe many situations where even though there is a clear duty, it doesn't mean a person will do what they should.  (Otherwise, for example, we wouldn't need the department of child and family services, or at least such a large one)  Reinforcing, ultimately, that anything someone does for us is something they didn't have to do. (Obviously Hollywood scenarios where guns are drawn to head negate this, but even then, frankly, we have a choice, because we could allow ourselves to be shot!)

I am distressed by how much in this already demanding world, we respond by "demanding" more from others.  And I do think these are hard lessons to learn and hard lessons to teach, and they are easier to teach at a younger age than at an older one.  Part of my learning process was watching the expressions on someone else's face - someone I cared about - when I "barked" once rather than "asked". 

As human beings we seek to be accepted and loved.  We should express ourselves to each other in a way that acknowledges those basic simple universal desires.  We should treat each other in a way we would like to be treated, and appreciate each other for all that we do for each other.  We have seen quite clearly every day what happens when we forget this, or when others forget this.  We've seen the destruction the damage, whether it be minor annoyance or great anger, to the hung head, the dropped face.  My friend spoils her son because she loves him.  She will gladly make him dinner every night whether he asks for it or not.  But I see her face fall, her head drop, when he responds with demands and not requests.  It isn't because she doesn't want to do those things for him, but because she is hurt - whether she'll admit it or not - that he doesn't seem to appreciate her and love her for doing them.  His words are not kind.  They aren't mean, but they aren't kind.  This accumulates. 

Let's accumulate love and kindness that can then more easily forgive and understand an occasional harsh, rush or hurried word or demand.  No, what you've said may not be unkind, but wouldn't it be nicer if it were kind? 

So as I continue to think on these things and I continue in my glass house to try and learn these lessons, I invite you to reflect on how you treat those you care about and how you show them through all your actions and all your words how much you love them.   And if you're not, what might happen if you changed that? What if you didn't just assume that they knew you loved them? What would it hurt you to treat your loved ones as though you actually loved them? 

It wouldn't hurt at all...


  1. Is it proper to put a period outside a quotation mark??

    1. Honestly, it depends. It's a style issue, too, and so good grammarians can disagree on the answer. Personally, if what I am quoting is just a word or a short phrase, I tend to put the punctuation outside the quotation, unless it belongs with the quotation. Some folks, however, are adamant that all punctuation must go within the quotes.

      Without looking back above to see what you might be referring to, even good grammarians also make typos. ;)