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.

When Is It Time To Quit?

I want to be loved, I wish someone would love me, I hope someone someday will love me.  But I guess those things are pretty intangible; without a real person in a real time and in a real place, hopes and desires are for indeterminate objects, for imaginary things.  When I’m interested in someone, I want them to love me, which in my case means I want them to treat me like I matter, that I’m important to them, that they care about me.

The therapist says I expect them to do this – even in the face of overwhelming evidence that, at least in this one case, the person I care about is incapable of doing this for me.  I don’t know that I expect them to do this, I thought to myself – I want them to do this, I hope they will see how much I want this and that they will give me this – but to say I expect them to do this doesn’t feel quite right.

For hope springs eternal, right?  In novitiate, in one of my spiritual guidance interviews with the novice masters, one of them told me that I seemed to be someone without hope.  And at that time, I said yes, you’re quite right – I wasn’t very hopeful about anything at that time.  I experienced the majority of my life as though I was invisible, that people either didn’t see or didn’t care about whether I was happy, or sad, or anything else.  I hung on to the master’s comment as if it were a life preserver – its immediate effect was that someone DID see me (even if they didn’t care about me) and that just maybe, as contradictory as it sounds, the way out my hopelessness was to be hopeful.

Doing that on my own was incredibly difficult – antidepressants like Prozac and later selective serotonin reuptake inhibiting prescriptions helped deal with the neurophysiological part of the hurdle.  Slowly but surely, a hopeless person was becoming hopeful in spite of their hopelessness, not unlike an overweight person loses weight in spite of being obese.  There are real physical and psychological barriers that stand in the way of getting better, feeling better.

So, right or wrong, I believe in the power of hope.  In the course of my life, I have hoped that, sooner or later, someone I loved would love me, I would become a teacher, I would become a priest, my mother would love me.  But when do you decide to say, “no, I’ve tried, and it’s just not working”?  When do you realize that you’ve only been fooling yourself, that it’s time to throw in the towel, that it’s time to quit?