Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What was that you dared to ask me?

I smile.

I nod and smile.

I nod, smile, and change the subject.

But I have learned that I don't have to answer a question just because someone has asked one.

When I was younger, I felt a compulsion to respond to any query put to me. No matter how rude, how intrusive, how "it's none of your business" that question was. Heaven forbid someone should be angry with me, that was one of my fears, I think. I also cared too much about how people viewed me, so I was compliant above all else. Which meant I told people things that they had no business asking about, much less knowing about me and my life.

Now I know that some people are just so deficient that they suck life right out of others, primarily because they have none of their own. Life, I mean. Drama queens, busy bodies, call them what you will. They think everything that happens within their realm, and often outside it, too, belongs to them.

So, I've learned some great responses. (A friend told me once that I can tell people where to go so sweetly that they don't know what just happened to them. I say, hooray for me!)

I say things like, "I'm not prepared to answer that right now." (Or ever, probably.)

"I'll have to think about that."


"Let's talk about something else."

As you can imagine, when I say things like that in response to a question, the other person gets uncomfortable. Sometimes huffy. And when I was younger, I couldn't handle that.  No more.

If you don't like what you can see and hear when you're in my presence, by the way I live my life, and what I am willing to share with you, I can also smile sweetly as I tell you where the door is.

It's an important lesson for younger people to learn, I think.

Now, what was that you asked me?

People create their own questions because they are afraid to look straight. All you have to do is look straight and see the road, and when you see it, don't sit looking at it- walk.
Ayn Rand

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tell me the truth.....

It’s so confusing. Is honesty always the best policy? Really? Before you get all huffy and self-righteous, think about your answer.

You would think that we’d figure these essential questions out as we age. Surprisingly, it’s been my experience walking this planet that you would be wrong about that. The older I get, the more gray I see in places other than my hair.

A husband hikes his beer, belches, and proceeds to blast his wife to his buddy, for example. They think they’re alone as they lean back in their recliners in front of the football game, but the buddy's wife overhears it. She is outraged that this man would show such disrespect to his wife, so off to the phone she tiptoes. She can’t wait to tell her friend, the clueless victim of this verbal attack. “She should know,” many would insist.  Hmmm…….do you think she’s going to be better off with this knowledge? Maybe…..not.

Or an unsolicited (and unwanted) kiss from a coworker sends the married recipient into a tailspin of indecision. I put the coworker in his place, she thinks, and he won't do it again but should I tell my husband, she agonizes as she drives home from the office party? Isn’t our relationship based on honesty and trust?  Back the truck up a minute, I say, before engaging in that particular conversation. This woman’s husband is feeling particularly vulnerable these days, out of work for six months and struggling with his self-image as “provider of the family.”  What would be gained between this couple by sharing this information about an event that the wife did not initiate, did not willingly participate in, and subsequently put a stop to?

I realize I may be walking a tightrope here, but I don’t believe honesty is called for –or even desired by those involved—in all situations. I didn’t always think this, though; it has come as a result of watching people throw rocks of truth at each other in the name of doing what is "right.” I’ve had some of those rocks rip me apart, too, blood oozing from cuts inflicted by those who simply had to tell me the truth.

The wife whose mate speaks disrespectfully of her will gain exactly what by hearing it whispered into her ear by someone outside that relationship? And the kiss from a coworker who will be around for awhile and who now knows not to try it again? What is the reason for confessing the incident? And what would be “confessed” anyway—the errant coworker is a jerk with an overinflated view of himself as a Lothario?

I have come to understand that those who simply have to tell everything are seekers of drama. They relish being the keeper of the keys of secrets. It somehow makes them feel important, valued, no matter the destruction their words leave behind.

As for me, I say there is much to be said for a bit of discretion. Or I could just be confused…..again.

 Honesty is a good thing, but it is not profitable to its possessor unless it is kept under control.
Don Marquis

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dancing fool: Exposed

Sometimes in life we get it right. 

Last night was one of those times for me. I did my "something I've never done before" for this month, an event that was unthinkable, unimaginable even six months ago. 

On April 28th, 2011, I took my first dance lesson. (See to refresh your memories about that day.) It was supposed to be ONE dance lesson to fulfill my April experience. 

Last night, nearly a full six months later, I performed a choreographed waltz in front of friends, family, and a few strangers. My instructor/partner and I had been practicing for at least 2 months for this performance, dancing that waltz over and over again.....and then we practiced it some more. Some practices were wonderful, many were tedious, and some were downright torture. I take two lessons a week, and even with the tedium and torture, I absolutely love it. I walk more gracefully and I have more awareness of my body. I am leaner and stronger.

As we prepared for last night, I imagined myself dancing to the music I chose for my waltz, Josh Grobin's "Un Dia Llegara," with all my friends and family gathered to watch. I pictured them all celebrating my new-found self-confidence with me and, yes, being impressed with my dance. After all, a mere half year ago I routinely refused to dance and had resigned myself to the fact that I COULDN'T dance. Even with a few missteps or a foot not pointed correctly, they would love it and love me dancing. I envisaged us all going out to dinner afterwards, long-time friends of mine who had never met one another, and we could all share a meal and fellowship on a special night.

Many asked me before the performance if I was nervous. There was a mere 15 minutes on the way to the studio when nerves showed up in the car with me, but then I went back to my vision and the nerves were ejected from the car. I also was determined that I was not going to disappoint my instructor, James Bell. He had worked too hard (and had MUCH to overcome in me!) for me to make mistakes that would reflect on him as a teacher. It just wasn't going to happen. Plus, as my college roommate said, if I could stand in front of a room of middle schoolers for 15 years, I could do anything.....and she's right. I have so much life experience, good and bad and horrible, that I was determined to enjoy this new page in my life, the one that  has changed me forever.

And my vision came to life last night. It was magical.

Deb. Hansen and James Bell

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wait! Don't jump there......

Conclusions can be dangerous things. Especially if one jumps onto one too quickly, sailing off into the horizon of justification and an affinity for being "right." 

Another lesson learned over the decades, that's for sure. Like most lessons, though--at least the important ones--they are gifts that keep on giving.

I had occasion to become reacquainted with this one a few days ago, when I nearly tripped into the abyss of, well, several vats of muck. Muck that would have stuck to me for a while if I had fallen all the way in. But I caught myself in time, causing myself only a few hours of discomfort. The alternative would not have been pretty and it would have affected my life dramatically, and not for the better, I'm thinking.

People are strange and wonderful beings, much more complicated than the black/white, either/or, all/none, thinkers care to admit. Yet we do tend to follow patterns of behavior that we find comfortable over the years. If a person acts in one way in situation A over and over again, then it's safe to say that she will follow that general pattern every time (or most times) that situation A reoccurs.

I had occasion to be somewhere, and the person who was supposed to be there with me was......not. "WELL! How dare they?" I huffed to myself.  "We just talked about this! Now I'm sitting here by myself, can't get in, it's cold, and I don't know what's going on!!"  (There's that thing about me, the trait that someone close to me shared with me one day: I HAVE to know EVERYTHING. It raised its ugly head again, and I can't blame others for this compulsion of mine. It's bad enough that I have to live with it.)

I sat there. I fumed. And then my years of learning this lesson about jumping to nasty conclusions took over. This was totally out of character for this person. Had never happened before.

The fact that I then worried for hours until the mystery was solved speaks to a different trait of mine. But that's a topic for another day.

All was well, and I was right to pull back from that dangerous ledge of acting and speaking rashly. It wouldn't have been pretty, the person didn't deserve it, and my actions would have created bad feelings that had no basis in fact.

Now about that other fun thing that I do......

A conclusion is just simply the place where
someone decided to stop thinking.

Friday, November 4, 2011

There's water all over the floor......

I've always wanted to learn to play chess. I'm not sure why, but I think it's because there is an appeal to a game that requires thinking about more than your next move. 

"Hmmm. If I move this castle thing here now, that horse over there can spring on me two moves from least if my opponent scoots his Queen into that space on his next move." (You can tell, I'm sure, that I don't know anything about who can move where and when, or not.......but I've made my point. I hope.)

And all of this has become more understandable to me as I've gotten older. Not that any of that understanding came easily. I'm thinking about all those impulsive actions I took when I was younger. Like having no thought at all about what might happen tomorrow if I stole that street sign and put it in my garage for a laugh. Or when I took off for Colorado with four college friends, driving from Florida in a Pinto with a cat in the back seat. The one who had never traveled anywhere before and screamed halfway across the country. (The cat, not me.)

When we're younger, we just don't think about what hides behind the move right in front of us. Or we don't want to look that far because then our fun would be spoiled today. But once made, those decisions cannot be unmade, much like trying to put water back into a bottle. Not going to happen. The water simply makes the floor slick enough for some nasty falls. People get hurt, things get broken, and the damage is done. Very often forever.

So, much like chess, maturity in life brings with it the ability to peek around that next action we're considering, just for a tiny minute, to see if we can forecast the consequences of one decision or another, one path or the other. We have the ability to hold ourselves in check, at least long enough to weigh our moves, and save ourselves a lot of heartache in the end.

And maybe some jail time when the cops come looking for their sign. 

So, let's play chess!

The beauty of a move lies not in its appearance but in the thought behind it.  
Aaron Nimzowitsch