Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Connections, Reminders, And Fuel ...

I do not like confrontation. I have spent a lot of my life appeasing people, going along to get along, and, to be blunt, putting up with a lot of crap, partly out of a desire to maintain civility, partly out of a sense of "should."

As the years wear on and my perspectives mature, I understand some instances are best addressed by setting my ego aside. The impulse to defend myself is human nature, I suppose, but some folks do not want to hear my side of the story. They want to be angry, never mind that their anger is based on an incomplete picture. They only have some of the pieces but to them, it's the whole puzzle. My contribution is unwelcome. I've learned to shrug and move on.

The 40s are good that way. I look forward to my 50s.

Still, I can use some reminders that I've taken stances before, stood up for myself, asked for what I wanted and/or needed, put myself first, which feels uncomfortable to write, I'm just realizing. I don't mean "put myself first" in a selfish way. But that's another can of worms. I'll put the lid on that one and leave it for another day. I'll poke some air holes in the top.

This mental scrapbook, though, I forget that it's there, that I've pasted these moments into my memory, so I'm grateful for the reminders when they show up and I love it even more when they connect.

Behold:

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a taping of "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!" Before the show, I had swung by Bill's office with cookies for him (oatmeal raisin), his wife, Donna (peanut butter), and his assistant, Rebecca (Russian teacakes). Logistically, it made the most sense. I didn't want to tote them with me nor would I have expected Bill to deliver Rebecca's cookies the next day.

My earlier plan, though, had been to take cookies to the taping to give to Bill afterward, as there's a post-show meet-and-greet. As the dutiful sort who internalized the grade-school lesson of bringing enough for everyone, though, I also planned to bring cookies for Peter and the panelists.

Baking for new-to-me folks in this day and age can be tricky. Some folks don't like or can't eat nuts. Some folks don't like or can't eat chocolate. Some folks are off wheat.

My go-to offering has become sablés. They're made with wheat, yes, but they do not contain nuts nor chocolate. They're simple cookies but lovely: buttery, sugary, crumbly, sandy.

But I like to bake someone's favorite and where Peter was concerned, I had an opportunity to find out.

My friend Charlie was going to be sitting down with him for a conversation at Dominican University and was fielding questions to ask as part of the interview, so I asked Charlie to ask Peter: "What's your favorite cookie?" and the follow-up "Nuts or no nuts?"

And my questions made the cut. I thought "What's your favorite cookie?" was straightforward enough as to not be open to interpretation. Peter interpreted the question as to be asking about name brand more than variety.

He did mention half-and-half cookies – a k a black-and-white cookies, I assume – as well as the creme wafers he gets on some airplanes. So I guess black-and-white cookies can be considered a favorite. I don't make black-and-white cookies but it all became moot because I didn't end up taking cookies to the show.

Basking in the afterglow of the taping, however, I listened to Charlie's conversation with Peter again. I had forgotten that Peter talks about Kurt Vonnegut. If I ever meet Peter, I could tell him my Vonnegut story. As moments of chutzpah go, I doubt I'll ever top asking one of the preeminent authors of the 20th Century for an interview for a paper I was writing in college.

Later in the evening, an email arrived from Patti Digh, not a personal email but one of her Notes From My Orange Desk: A Dose of Soul Help missives that I hadn't seen in some time.

The subject line: "Forgiveness + Boundaries 101."

This sentence spoke to me: "Free yourself by forgiving; respect yourself by creating clear boundaries. Not everyone deserves to be in your life."

Indeed.

Here's the fuller passage:

"But at one time, I would have felt forgiveness was prelude to 'patching things up' or reinvesting in a relationship. Now I know that's not necessarily true. Boundaries are a form of self-love, self-care, clarity about what it means to be in relationship. Now, I can forgive and let go instead of forgiving and reengaging.

What freedom there is in this. Free yourself by forgiving; respect yourself by creating clear boundaries. Not everyone deserves to be in your life."

Years ago, not too long after I had moved into this house, I received a card from a former friend. He looked forward to rekindling our relationship, he wrote.

I didn't.

And I told him so. Politely but clearly, stating that it was best if we just left that friendship in the past.

When I told a mutual acquaintance what I'd conveyed, he looked a bit stunned.

But yep, my response to the erstwhile friend was in bounds. And I've never regretted my decision.

Likewise, after some rather bullshit treatment by an ex who purported to still care about me, I asked him to remove me from his address book. That was the right decision, too.

There are people in my life whom I don't see often but I'm always delighted when we have the chance to reconnect.

And there are people who have a place in my life for a time but not forever.

It's important to know the difference.

And there are some things that can only manifest themselves in my life if I ask for them.

I'm getting better about that, too.

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