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Posts Tagged ‘respect’

Well, I’ve been living in my new home for about a month now. Not long enough to be completely settled, but long enough that the flood of moving-related tasks has slowed down to a more manageable pace, and a definite end is in sight.

Overall, things feel calm. Amazingly calm. Beautifully calm. Calm calm calm. Probably the worst thing that’s happened to me this week is that I had to spend half an hour on the phone with Comcast sorting out yet another problem caused by incompetence. Which is a little irritating, but as problems go, it’s not so bad, and the customer service rep was really apologetic and nice and appreciative of me being nice, so it was really especially not so bad.

I keep talking about how nice everyone is here, and I hear the slightly unbelieving note in my voice as I say the words. It also feels like damning with faint praise, but what I really mean is people are treating me with respect. They are listening to my preferences and boundaries. They apologize when that’s appropriate. They aren’t pressuring me to do things I don’t really want to do or be someone I don’t really want to be. I don’t feel like they’re going to do things they don’t want to do either. In short, we appear to be taking care of ourselves.

I feel a Flinch sometimes. For example, my friend wanted to come visit at a time that wasn’t good for me. So I delivered the news, and then I flinched and waited for the hammer to come down. In the past, and with this particular friend even, there most definitely would have been a backlash. But this time, there was a bit of disappointment, and then we actually ended up finding a different time that did work for me. I could hardly believe it. I simultaneously felt gratitude and a more prosaic, “Well, you know, this is not actually noteworthy because this is how things should generally work.”

This should be how things are.

This is how things are.

I look forward to the time when the Flinch no longer happens.

Do I think this shift is unique to Seattle? Do I think the people in Seattle are just plain better? No, not at all. I think what we might be seeing here is the beauty of a fresh start.

While I know many people here, for the most part we don’t know each other well, and certainly not as local friends. This gives us a chance to get to know each other as we are right now. Not two years ago, not five years ago, not ten years ago. Now, in this moment. And Amy Now, I am thrilled to discover, really is a different person. Amy Now pushes back when she feels pressured. Amy Now communicates her preferences. Amy Now says no when she needs to. Amy Now gives the side eye to people who say egregiously sexist or unkind things, or who are very obviously lying. The kind of people who aren’t okay with this sort of thing are probably not the kind of people that are going to want to be friends with me as I am today.

Over time, we accumulate habits with one another. Things we do with one another, what we talk about, ways we communicate, ways we DON’T communicate, behavior we tolerate, things that are simply “the way things are.” This is simply human nature. Some of these habits are wonderful and positive and contribute to that sense of knowing and being known. And in any relationship there is going to be some compromise and give and take.

But some of these habits can be less helpful. Sometimes we cannot be the person we’ve become and have the relationship continue to function as it has been. At this point, there are three main choices: to continue the status quo in spite of problems; to go through an adjustment period until the relationship supports you as you are now; or to distance yourself from something that is no longer working. All three of these choices come with their own difficulties, and sometimes they blur one into another. As with anything related to change, there tends to be a lot of inherent pressure to maintain the status quo. And if you actively decide NOT to, things can get…interesting.

Moving, then, becomes an opportunity to work outside the accumulated habits and build new habits without having to work against that pressure. There is no status quo to maintain. There’s no weight of the past. There is, relatively speaking, little to risk and much to gain. There’s simply me and you deciding whether we’re going to be friends and how that friendship is going to work in a way that supports both of us right now. And even existing friendships are naturally in flux in a way that encourages the building of new habits.

So how does a fresh start feel? It feels calm. It is hard in some ways, but it also feels right.

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As long-time readers of my blog might recall, at the end of April every year I write about my mother as a way to remember the anniversary of her death.

I was kind of on the fence about writing about her this year. I didn’t really know what I wanted to say. It’s been a long time.

It’s interesting because after someone dies, it doesn’t mean your relationship with them comes to a full stop. You still carry on with it, only it exists in your own head instead of in the outside world, for the most part. Anyway, my relationship with my mom has been a bit turbulent this last year. I think that’s a good thing, but it does leave me feeling a bit more ambivalent than I might otherwise feel.

But then I got an email this afternoon announcing the sudden death of a colleague of mine. She was fine, in good health. I saw her two weeks ago. She was hit by a bike while taking a walk one morning early this week, and she received a head injury, and that was it. She never woke up.

I don’t want to offer you platitudes. I don’t want to offer myself those platitudes either.

Sudden death, or really any kind of death, makes you consider what is actually important.

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Living every day as though it’s your last sounds great but is really bad advice. We can’t actually do that. If you think about an agrarian society, for example, if everyone lived as if today was the last day, no one would bother to work the fields. Why would they? And then everyone would starve to death unless they lived in the type of climate where you can gather enough on a day-to-day basis to survive.

In other words, living every day as if it’s the last limits focus too severely.

But you can think about what matters to you and try to spend at least some time and focus on that every day. Sometimes it might only be a little bit. Sometimes it might be more.

The trick is, we don’t want to subsume ourselves to the fear of loss. We don’t want to become the captive to the idea that there might not be a tomorrow, that today is everything, that failures can’t be followed by successes, that there will never be another chance, that if you don’t give everything today, you may lose what you care about tomorrow. The fear of death can keep you so tightly in a cage.

So where does that leave us?

I was talking to my friend on the phone today, and I asked him what I should write about for this blog post. He gamely came up with a bunch of ideas, all of which I rejected, and we went on to talk about other things. And of course, it’s one of those other things I would like to write about.

We were talking about Matthew McConaughey’s Oscar acceptance speech last year. I hadn’t seen it, but after hearing my friend talk about how it had been a little bit out there, I checked it out after I got off the phone. I don’t want to talk about the part of the speech that was out there, though. I want to talk about something he said before that part.

He said he wanted to thank his mother because she had taught him and his brothers to respect themselves. And he’s realized that respecting himself made it a lot easier to respect others.

Yes.

So today that’s what I have for you. Love, yes, Connection, yes. But also one way to achieve those things in a healthy way: respect. Self respect first, and then from a true respect that lives deep within us will come respect for those around us. And with respect comes empathy and kindness and empowerment. That’s what I think is important.

I wish my mother had taught me that, the way Matthew McConaughey’s mother taught him. But she didn’t, and that’s okay. Luckily we can search for other teachers, and sometimes we can teach ourselves things instead. And here we are.

We can’t determine how long we get to live. And we can’t control how long the people around us get to live either. But for me, trying to cultivate inner respect is a way out of the trap that is fear, and then I can focus on how I really want to be living for the time I do have.

Happy April, Mom. Thanks for this time.

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