The Q of Living Imperfectly: The Quagmire of Social Interaction #atozchallenge

Politeness and etiquette form a sort of supplement to the law, which enables society to protect itself against offences which the law cannot touch. For instance, the law cannot punish a man for habitually staring at people in an insolent and annoying manner, but etiquette can banish such an offender from the circles of good society, and fix upon him the brand of vulgarity Martine’s Handbook to Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness, Arthur Martine, Dick & Fitzgerald Publishers, 1866.

Q Challenge LetterSocial interactions have always been a quagmire for me. Lot of rules, very little logic and a whole lot of unnecessary offense. In fact I’m offended by the amount of unnecessary offense there is in this world.

Seriously, this is not what friendship should be about. True friendship is about accepting each other as is and forging ahead on some common ground. Instead we live in a society that makes reality TV shows about the quagmire of social interaction such as the various Housewives Of series. A show where “friends” spent most of their time gossiping about other “friends”, trying to change people and being offended. And there’s a lot of competition, which really has nothing to do with friendship except in the form of friendly rivalry to bring out the best in each other.

Groups and cliques also tend to have their own form of etiquette and rules which one can only work out from within. Only you can decide if you are willing to navigate these and try to adhere to them.

My parents grew up in a group of about twenty couples who hung our socially together. As a kid, it was wonderful to have a big group of “aunties” and “uncles” who were interested in your achievements and who could engage in a little play wrestle. They were great. By the time I was about 8 or 9 I became aware just how much energy my parents were expending in keeping everyone happy in this social circle and all the social balls in the air. It was a whole lot of energy that didn’t always produce peace and harmony.

To me friendship should be easy like a well-worn favourite piece of clothing or comfortable like the best chocolate dessert. That doesn’t mean it true friends is perfect. Good friends should debate and sometimes have a little conflict. That’s what growth is all about and realistically people do change.

I am a long way from achieving perfection in my social interactions. Instead at times, I feel like I’m sinking into quick sand and into the quagmire. And the more I thrash and try, the quicker I sink.

A true friendship does not require a book of etiquette or social laws. And perhaps just when the rule book gets tossed is the time when we realise that our social interaction has moved on from loose acquaintance to real friendship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come on, baby, spend Christmas with me!

After it’s debut on the WordPress blogging scene last Christmas, Company For Christmas (C4C) is back again. C4C is a blog site run by volunteer bloggers from all over this great globe spreading Christmas cheer and connection to those who may need it. Or to those who just want to hang out on Christmas Day on an island of sanity in an ocean of craziness. Last year it became a marshalling point for those who just wanted to chat or get to know other bloggers.
So come along, check it out and help out if you want to. Just let Rarasaur know if you would like to be added to the volunteer list. Last year’s experience was a real positive one with the initiative gathering momentum as Christmas was celebrated around the world.
C4C where Christmas lasts at least 36 hours!

rarasaur

You’ve probably noticed the pretty new badge on the side of my page.  And oh– hey look, there’s Marilyn with it, too!  In fact, just to give it some attention– since we’re starting a little late this year on getting the word out– I’ve taken down most of my side-blog sparkle.

It’s C4C– Company for Christmas!

Company for Christmas is a volunteer-fueled mission, created by fabulous blogger RuleofStupid.  It is a virtual place for people who, quite simply, don’t have any company on Christmas, and would benefit from a little non-religiously-affiliated, non-counseling-oriented, conversation.

I’ll be volunteering, so if you want to spend some of your Christmas day chatting with me and the hubs– come on over.  Schedules will be posted, too, so you’ll know when to find us.

You can help, too.

  • Spread the word, so that no member of our wonderful blogging family spends Christmas alone.
  • Volunteer!  If…

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Today I Give Myself Permission to be Patient #atozchallenge

Letter PIt’s hard to believe that we have already arrived at P on the permission list. It’s another one of the big ones. and it took a conversation with a friend this morning to remind me of it. Up until that time, I was ready to give myself permission to be playful. It actually doesn’t take much to make me playful because I love a good laugh and a bit of innocent mischief. And there’s nothing like bonding over playful banter. True friends engage in banter, it’s the elixir of relationships. At least in my world.

But for the purposes of today’s post I’m going to focus on patience, because for most of us it’s harder to achieve than playfulness.

Before reaching this stage of life, I always thought that the older one became, the more impatient one got. In fact, I probably saw it as a benefit of older age, as a bi-product of the freedom of not having to impress. It’s amazing how one’s perspective changes as the reality of being of middle age sets in.

As a younger person, I never had any patience for patience – didn’t see the value or the need for it. I’m not talking about the patience needed for waiting for a bus or for a movie to open or a book to be released.  Never having been one to stand there impatiently looking at my watch, I used that time to people watch or distract myself with other things. However, having made a decision, I used to go for it and go for it hard.

Now, not so much. Not because the hunger is any different, but now I see the value in picking my moment and scoping out the landscape.

chasing butterflies

This holds especially true for any area that involves relationships and friendships. Too often, we get blinded from the relentless pursuit of our own agenda and our own needs and fail to see that the other person is not quite on the same page. By pushing ahead with too much haste, we often burn our chance at the brass ring. And often we don’t get another shot, although we think we might.

It has been said that patience is the companion of wisdom. And I see that now. For it is hard to engage in patience or see the value of being patient without that hard fought wisdom. Over the past few years I’ve had many people come into my life to teach me the lesson of patience and frankly, my children have been trying to teach me the lesson over the past eighteen years. Quite honestly, there is no better teacher of patience than your own child or spouse. The lessons are never easy, but they are essential if we are to have the skills necessary to find happiness in the second act. For patience with ourselves is just as critical as patience with others and will become even more critical as time marches on.

We owe it to ourselves to give us the time and space we need to master new skills, obtain new outlooks and make the changes necessary to orient ourselves to a new direction. You cannot turn the Titanic around on a dime. And to turn the Titanic you will need patience and lots of it.

And people who are meant to come to you or back to you, will. As someone I know is fond of saying, what is meant for you will not pass you by – truly.

yoda patience

Is patience something you struggle with? What’s the best lesson in patience you have ever received?

 Today I give myself permission to be patient

Today I Give Myself Permission to Listen #atozchallenge

Letter LWe spend our lives believing we have to talk to impress people. We spend more of our lives thinking about what to say next even if what comes out of our mouths is an emotional reaction to what we just heard.

By doing so we are missing out on the best that life has to offer. For at middle age, I have learned to appreciate the cues that the world sends me. Cues come to us in a whole lot of ways and we use a variety of senses to pick up on them. Listening and seeing are obviously two of the most important. The third tool that is generally needed is intuition. However, if we are always talking, trying to get our own point of view across we are less likely to pick up on these cues and more likely to miss opportunities.

The same can be said if we are constantly looking inward and fail to consider our relationships and the needs of others.

To listen well and often, takes wisdom as Oliver Wendell Holmes alluded to in this wonderful quote:

wisdom to listen

To pickup on cues,  it is not enough to be knowledgable it is also necessary to be wise. And more often than not, it is necessary to still the rehearsal of our own impending performance in our head.

Listening to others is the first requirement of understanding. There is no better compliment you can pay someone in this day and age than to give them the benefit of your full attention. It’s part of the reason that therapy and counselling thrives, sometimes all that is needed is to feel that one has been heard. Therapists, counsellors and best friends know that validation can only come from within and by active listening and strategic questioning they will lead you to find your own answers and that validation. I think the same philosophy applies in a marriage. The feeling that you are listened to by your spouse is fundamental to relationship longevity.

peanuts cartoon about listening

I will admit to being an expressive. Never shy about coming forward in a business meeting or in public speaking, it has served me relatively well to date. But I can now see bigger value in just sitting back and listening more often than speaking. This insight has led me to see that more often than not, it’s the same people always doing the talking and therefore the opportunity for new ideas and progressive input is unnecessarily limited. A great leader knows how to listen and to empower even the wall flowers in the team to share their ideas. It is no different in social circles. Sadly, it doesn’t happen too often, probably because we tend to equate talking with power or more importantly silence with weakness. Neither is actually the case.

I have also found that listening has another dimension, that of listening to yourself. We all need to strategize about the decisions that need to be made in our own lives. And we need the physical and head space to do this. We need to stop listening to the noise of business (laundry, cooking, cleaning, car maintenance etc) once in a while and focus on the strategic issues that will affect the bigger direction of our lives. Busy will get you through the next day or week, but strategic will determine the road ahead and create the platform for your busyness. We cannot work out life goals, priorities and identities unless we give ourselves permission to listen to our heads, our hearts and work out the questions we need to ask ourselves. At least I can’t. I need to stop my external talking and find the space to process all the inputs and self-dialogue.

So space to listen and process is not a luxury it is a necessity and I have given myself permission to create it.

Listening is not a weakness. We will not be measured by the number of words we speak, but the impact of them. Blogging is a case in point.

listening-doggy-ears

 

Today I give myself permission to listen.

 

 

 

Today I Give Myself Permission To Heed The Red Flags #atozchallenge

Letter HFriendship. There’s nothing like it.

Even in marriage, friendship is the foundation upon which love is based. No friendship and marriage can be a real lonely state.

Hand in hand with friendship comes loyalty. Hand in hand with friendship comes give and take.

Can there come a time when enough is enough? And how come we usually never know we have reached “enough ” until long after that point has passed?

And why are we wracked with guilt even when walking away was the only real option left to us?

Who can argue with Kenny Rogers’ great line from The Gambler?

You gotta know when to fold’em, know when to hold’em, know when to walk away, know when to run

But how do we really know when the time comes?

Loyalty is a huge one on my list. I was always taught to stand by my friends.  In midlife my friendships mean even more because I have a healthier appreciation of the odds against really connecting with someone. But loyalty can’t be blind.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It is said that in midlife people commonly go through their phone books and scratch off names. The realization usually comes that it is better to focus on quality rather than quantity. I haven’t deliberately done that exercise, but I have become a bit more discerning about with whom I spend my time. That’s not to say I’m not wracked with guilt about those I choose to distance.

So, I have to remind myself to heed the red flags.

The following saying has become my recent favorite:

true colours

I want to believe the best of people, I think most people do. But it has come at a personal cost. Perhaps I have befriended too easily in the past. The challenge, I think, is to remain open and receptive enough to avoid the cynicism that comes with being too protectionist. There’s totally safe and then there’s social.

Liars, drama queens, attention seekers, manipulators and passive aggressors need not apply.

Today I give myself permission to heed the red flags.

Is this a tough one for you, too?

To a Queen Bee Friendship Is A Serious Business

Image from Flikr
Leo Reynolds’ photostream

In his book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, Steve Harvey tries to explain the concept of the male psych. According to Steve Harvey men are really very simple. Apparently, the terms in which men see the word can be boiled down to:

              • who they are – his title
              • what they do – what he does to get that title
              • how much they make – how much he earns

I have to confess that the neatness of this summation appeals to my logical nature. These basics of the male DNA are displayed daily in my working life. Business presents the perfect forum for males to pursue their who, what and how much dreams. Many hours have been spent in business meetings while the males sort out which one has the biggest ummm…… credentials. It also seems to be ingrained in men that credential contests are part of a greeting ritual and that these contests are never, ever personal. Whilst wounds can certainly occur, men don’t seem to fuss over them too much, one quick lick and they’re back in the arena and having a beer with the vanquished.

So having experienced several recent instances of women behaving badly, I’ve tried to come up with my own hypothesis on how some socially active women see the world. I am desperately hoping that I can develop a hypothesis or at least a starting point as to why some women so often choose to be less than kind and less than honest in their group friendships.

The starting point of my hypothesis is that for some women the social arena is akin to the business arena for men. In the social arena these women can relentlessly pursue their dreams. And like the business arena, politics and maneuvering are permissible, how else do you explain the concept of the “frenemy”? A concept, by the way, which I have never understood. To me friendship is a black and white issue, you either like someone enough to be friends with them or you do not – there is no half way, no pretense.

Passive aggression seems to be the weapon of choice by which a woman achieves Queen Bee status within a social group and the means by which she maintains that position. Add a considerable amount of drama into the mix and they are seemingly untouchable, lapping up the attention they crave. After all, we all know that any hive or nest can only ever have one Queen Bee at any given time. If you are still breathing after being so emotionally and mentally exhausted after victimization from a Queen Bee, you have the privilege of helping to keep the Queen Bee fed with an endless supply of attention. The bigger they get, the more they need, the more drama that is created…. endless loop.

If a queen bee were crossed with a Friesian bull, would not the land flow with milk and honey? Oliver St John

The Queen Bee’s view of the world therefore seems to boil down to:

    • who she is – her title in the social group
    • how many other women she can influence – more means a wider audience
    • what she needs to do to achieve and keep her social status in the group – constant feelings of insecurity and feeling threatened

However, unlike the business world, female friendship is very, very personal and wounds run deep and can take years to heal, if they heal at all. And the worst of it? As the behaviour is mostly passive aggressive, often you don’t understand it for what it is until some time after it occurs. Unlike for men, there is rarely an open contest.

Possibly there is a place for the Queen Bee in our world. The concept keeps several television stars employed and audiences entertained, just think the Housewives of….franchise or Jersey Shore and spin offs. For mine, TV is the only place for the Queen Bee. I’d rather channel my friendship energies in more positive ways.

M is for Mask: Desperately Seeking Authenticity (#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr -
duncan's photstream

If you have ever been to Venice, you would have seen the amazing Venetian masks on display. The masks originated in Medieval times in Italy due to the religious oppression that then existed. Behind their masks people in Venice used to feel free to indulge in certain activities frowned upon by the religious authorities. They were made of paper- mâché and decorated in gold, feathers, gems, ribbons and fur. Today they are used in street carnivals. They look ornate and distinctive, but pick them up and they feel fragile. You will find them everywhere in Venice.

Many people wear masks, even when it is not carnival time. These masks are not decorated or colourful like the Venetian masks, in fact they are almost invisible. However, the principle behind them is the same, namely they make the wearer feel free to indulge in certain activities or engage in certain ways.

When I was in my early thirties, a highly ambitious thing and knee-deep in my career, I would put on my career woman’s mask. Back then I felt uncomfortable talking about motherhood, parenting, really any out of office life at all for fear of being judged not committed or dedicated in what was a male dominated environment. I would wait until either a male colleague or client would raise the subject of family or children first and then I would be comfortable in contributing. Talk about golf, rugby union and beer was highly accepted, sadly I was not into any of those.

I am happy to say that times appear to have moved on, both in the industry and in society in general. The other facet to this of course is that I have reached middle age, am comfortable with my skills and ability to deal with professional issues and have less need to hide my authentic personal self from my professional self. My intuition and bull sh*t detector also seem to have been honed over the years to the point where I am happy to rely on them in real life. I am going to leave the digital world out of this discussion as that world is a whole other ball of wax.

Apart from my professional mask, I’ve never really felt the need to have any others. However, I have known people who are not this way, some have more masks than Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have children. Just when you think you’ve managed to peel one off, another one is revealed. It must take an astronomical amount of energy to maintain these masks and then do they show different masks to different people, or have a different order in which they are removed for each person?

The vibe of an interaction between two authentic selves is totally different to one where one of the protagonists is wearing a mask. There is usually a real energy to such an interaction, which may not always be positive if you are disagreeing and I’m ok with that. I’d rather have an authentic interaction than one muted by a mask. It’s why I seek out people who are themselves authentic.

I am done with masks, masks represent fear. The next one I don will be at carnival time hopefully either in Rio, Venice or New Orleans and be covered in jewels, feathers and a whole lot of colour.

What’s your experience with mask wearers?

[Photo credit: picture of taking off the mask by frostmaster on deviantart.com]

C is for Cliques: When Mean Girls Grow Up

photo from flikr - chrisinplymouth photo stream

Women are wonderful, truly! I am grateful for each and every one of my female friendships. All of my female friends add different things to the pot pourri of my life.

I have an admission to make. It wasn’t until recently that I developed a real understanding of what it means to not only have but to be a good female friend. It’s funny how middle age has focused my lenses about certain matters. Looking back at my first act, I can see that I approached my female friendships with a certain wariness. I have a sense that I am now playing catch up. Better the getting of wisdom late than never.

Recently, I found I’m not alone in what was my wariness. I happened upon a book, The Twisted Sisterhood by Kelly Valen which explores the negative side of female relationships. It is a fascinating read and it demonstrates that women from all walks of life and levels of education have suffered at the hands of a fellow sister or several sisters. The behaviour cited tends to be insidious, passive aggressive and enduring. It seems to be particularly magnified when tribes or cliques of women are involved. This bears out my own personal experience of finding it easier to relate to women one on one than in a pack.

What I don’t get is why this adolescent sort of behaviour has to translate into adulthood. I have no issue with women bonding with each other over common interests or experiences. There is much solace and comfort to be gained from sharing. But does this have to come at the expense of the feelings of those that are not part of the sharing? Why does clique thinking have to be so black and white?

I’m in, she’s out.

I can’t be friends with her when I am with my clique.

I’m in the know, she’s not and she’s different.

And so it goes. Bonding through mutual jealously and dislike for others is anything but positive. Bitching and creating barriers and territories is short-sighted. Emphasising difference is self -defeating.

I have seen women who are wonderful change when they are in the company of a clique or when they encounter a conflict between their own personal interests and that of their clique. From friend to frenemy in a blink of an eye.  Most of us have insecurities in some way shape or form – but clique thinking only serves to feed these.

We all need to be a little kinder to our fellow sisters and a little bit more aware of our effect on others. We also all need to be kinder to ourselves and give ourselves permission to be who we are. Doing so, will only serve to make the world a better place and open ourselves to a wider array of friendships and more meaningful and empowering experiances.

After all, isn’t that what life is really about?

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge