Be an Owl

Do others’ feelings keep us from getting things done?  If we measure our success by the number of tasks we complete, but hurt others in the process, that’s not success – that’s pathology.  We may need professional help, but we CAN be as passionate about our relationships with one another as we are about “getting things done.”  Goals and relationships are not an either/or proposition; if we are to be truly successful, we have to do both.

I’ve often taken the “turtle” approach to dealing with confrontation:  avoid, withdraw, retreat.  When someone tells me to fight for my goals at the expense of others, my gut reaction is to punch them in the face.  This person doesn’t understand who I am – they want me to be someone other than myself.  For better or worse, I am a shy person – and for some reason, the people I am closest to don’t understand why I just don’t come out of my shell and be like them.  You never really know how alone you are until you realize how disconnected the world is from you, and you from it.

You can’t be anything other than who you are, no matter how much you may try.  I can only be who I am – to me, both thinking and feeling matter.  It’s not a matter of either/or – if you don’t have both, you’re doomed.  I’m not a turtle anymore – I will not avoid conflict.  But I’m not a lion, either – lions care only about getting things done and (when necessary) will hurt others.

I’m an owl.  Owls collaborate.  They place a high value on both their goals and their relationships.  They take a problem solving approach to conflicts and work to find a solution that achieves both their own goals and the goals of the other person in the conflict.  Owls recognize that when handled effectively, conflicts can improve relationships by reducing the tension between people.  They try to begin a discussion that identifies the issues that are creating the conflict.

Owls look for solutions that will satisfy both themselves and the other person, thereby preserving the integrity of the relationship.  They will work diligently and are not satisfied until a solution is found that achieves their own goals and those of the other person.  This also includes working at the conflict until all of the tension and negative feelings have been fully resolved.

Yes, we have to do this over and over and over again.  I still believe that collaboration is the best way of dealing with conflict and confrontation.  But lately all I see in this world are craploads of lions and turtles, and no owls.

Be who you are.  Care about your relationships with others as much as you are about what you want to accomplish.  Collaborate with others, and you’ll be amazed at what you will achieve.

Amish Show Tunes – Conclusion

CALEB:  Jacob, wait.  Our brothers have hit upon something delightful for the harvest social.  And the song mentions “the land” – which is always beautiful to the Amish …

JACOB:  Well, you’re the church elder, so okay; I’ll trust your judgment.

CALEB:  Wonderful!  Brothers Abner and Levi will sing this lovely song about the land at the social.

LEVI:  Um, Brother Caleb, we were hoping to please God and the community with two or three show tunes.

(the words “show tunes” make CALEB a little uneasy)

CALEB:  Oh?  Pray, tell us of another of these “show tunes.”

(long pause, then JACOB begins to sing softly)

“The sun’ll come out, tomorrow / So ya gotta hang on ’til tomorrow …”

(ABNER smiles at JACOB, and both sing):  “Come what may! / Tomorrow! Tomorrow! … ”

(LEVI joins in, all three sing):  “I love ya tomorrow! / You’re always a day a way!”

(CALEB raises his hand to stop them)

CALEB:  Wait – this song is Christian because … ??

LEVI:  … because it’s a song about hope …

ABNER:  … and about joy …

JACOB:  … and about love …

(LEVI, ABNER and JACOB sigh together)

CALEB:  All right, two songs then.  I just hope the community likes these “show tunes” as much as you all do. … Hmm …

JACOB:  Brother Caleb?  Does something still trouble thee?

ABNER:  Caleb, thou art good and kind.  Tell us, what is it?

CALEB:  Well, there is one song from my youth … I’m wondering if we might sing it at our social as well …

LEVI:  Brother Caleb, of course we can!  Sing out, brother; show us your soul’s joy …

(CALEB pauses, clears his throat, and sings)

“It’s just a jump to the left …”

(JACOB recognizes the tune, sings)

JACOB:  “And then a step to the ri-i-ight …”

(ABNER, hands on hips, sings)

ABNER:  “With your hands on your hips …”

(LEVI, knees in tight, sings)

LEVI:  “You bring your knees in ti-i-iight …”

(all four, “Rocky Horror” style)

CALEB, JACOB, ABNER and LEVI:  “But it’s the pelvic thru-ust / that really drives you insa-a-a-ane / Let’s do the Time Warp again!”

(As all four sing the refrain again, lights fade to black)

Amish Show Tunes – Part One

CAST:  CALEB (in his 50’s), JACOB (40’s), ABNER (30’s), and LEVI (20’s).

(Lights up.  A country general store.  JACOB sits at a pickle barrel down-stage right, CALEB stands at the store counter downstage left, while LEVI and ABNER are playing checkers up centerstage)

CALEB:  Brother, does thee have all thou needs for thy harvest?

LEVI:  Two new sickles, horse collar, sorghum, molasses, and hardtack – I reckon that’s enough for now.

ABNER:  Jacob, thou art truly a barn-raising wonder!

JACOB:  Shucks, Abner, ‘tweren’t nothing special for a good God-fearing Christian.

CALEB (pauses a moment, then says):  Brothers, may I ask thee a difficult question?

LEVI:  Speak freely, Brother Caleb, we are all friends here.

CALEB:  Well, I’m troubled – I’m afraid one of us has strayed from our baptismal vows …

ABNER:  Who among us has done this?  Speak, so that we may shun him and begin the healing process …

CALEB:  … Abner, it’s you.  (the other three gasp)

JACOB:  Commence the shunning!

(CALEB, LEVI and JACOB turn away from ABNER)

ABNER:  See here, Caleb!  How have I strayed from the path?

CALEB:  I heard you listening to a radio.

ABNER:  Untrue!  Just what do you think you heard?

CALEB:  A strong male tenor.  A beautiful singing voice.  Clearly evil – it must have been a radio program.

LEVI:  Tenor?  Singing?  Yea verily Brother Caleb, you don’t understand …

JACOB:  Young Levi, what do you know of this?

LEVI:  Brother Abner came up with the most wonderful idea for the fall social.  Abner, tell them!

ABNER:  We wanted to surprise you, but … you know the English have these plays … they call them “musicals” …

JACOB:  If it’s English, it can only be trouble.

LEVI:  No, no, not at all!  Listen …

(LEVI clears his throat and sings):

“We know we belong to the land / And the land we belong to is grand!”

(ABNER joins in)

LEVI and ABNER:  “And when we saaay / Yeeow! Ayipioeeaaay! /
We’re only sayin’ / You’re doin’ fine, Oklahoma! / Oklahoma OK!”

JACOB:  Blasphemy!  Shun them!

(JACOB turns away, but CALEB doesn’t)

To be continued …

What Breaks YOUR Brain?

I’m kicking myself for at least not trying to chat with the woman who was sitting maybe twelve feet away from me but left the room maybe thirty minutes ago.  I’m not sure if she’s gone for the day or not – still have a little less than four hours remaining for today’s free “write in” – but I’d be lying if I said she wasn’t on my mind right now.  Tall slim brunette, around 40?  I can never tell, especially when some people take such damn great care of themselves.

I like pretty (beautiful? gorgeous?) women – sue me.  I spent a huge part of my life trying to ignore that – otherwise, women will obviously think I’m just another one of those superficial men who care only about what a woman looks like, not who she is.  Frankly it took me a long time to allow myself to even look at women, for fear that she or someone else might catch me “gawking” at her and call me out about it.  And even before that, I shared the feeling with Jimmy Carter (and the Bible, I guess) that whenever you look lustfully at a woman, you commit sin in your heart.  I wanted to respect women, even though I had no idea what that really meant.

I’ve resolved the matter at least a little bit by believing that you respect others when you get to know who they are and, regardless of whether what you come to learn pleases or displeases you, you accept them as they are.  And I think that works in nearly every area of life, except for one:  sex.

Sex is the brain busting puzzle of my entire existence.  Being raised Catholic didn’t help matters, of course – in what other religion can you have so little information about sex and still wind up with so many kids being born?  Although, come to think of it, perhaps that’s EXACTLY what to expect with so little information.

Six of the seven boys in our family went to seminary.  The one that didn’t go is married (now over forty years, with three kids, four grandkids).  The next six boys:  married, then divorced (and now deceased), priest, married (two kids, nearly forty years), never married (me), married (two kids, twenty years), and married (two kids, thirty years).  My three sisters:  never married, married (one kid, now divorced) and married (no kids).  What did they figure out that I (and maybe my older sister) didn’t?

A Bit of Human Kindness

My experience with online dating over the years has been just awful.  This e-mail (posted as received) from one potential connection is an exception among those experiences:

[from her to me]  hey, i just have to say your photos are really impressive…i have found on this site that most guys (probably women too), post older photos of themselves where they look younger and more attractive. for some reason i came across your profile and your pics are amazing 🙂 you seem to just get better looking and in better shape as you age, and i am impressed that you included all the older photos as well., you seem like a real genuine guy..wow, seriously not sure what you’ve been doing, but keep it up….i hope in 5 years i can look that much better than i do today. i don’t really see us as a match, but just wanted to reach out to you and tell you i thought it was really cool and i hope one day you meet a great lady

[from me to her]  Hi _______, thank you for your kind and generous remarks.

I had something of an epiphany a few years back … overweight, out of shape, no love life – not a pretty picture.  I decided to do something about it, dropped some weight, joined a few clubs (books, art, writing) …  I posted the older photos because I wanted to show folks that I’m still a “work in progress.”  I’m still working on losing weight, stretching resistance bands to build a little muscle and tone up.

You’re a terrific looking, awesome woman yourself – I have no doubt that you’re living a healthy lifestyle and you’ll look at least as good as you do right now (heck, better – I honestly believe there’s some truth to the claim that we don’t get older, we get better) with every passing year.

My only regret is that you don’t see us as a match.  Such kind and generous support is a rare thing in this world – you’ve really given my ego a boost!  If you ever have a change of heart, I’d love to spend some time with you – nothing better than having a mutual admiration society!

Thank you again for reaching out – you’ve renewed my hope in human nature.  If I meet someone half as kind and thoughtful as you, I’ll consider myself a very lucky fella.  I hope you meet that terrific guy who gives you the care, affection and love you so clearly deserve.  My best to you, always …

I’ve traded online dating for more face to face group activities, enjoying the activities for their own sake.  If I meet someone during these events, terrific – and if I don’t, that’s fine too.