M.E. is the oldest of our three Labs. For the last twelve years, she has had the same M.O. when it comes to toys and treats. While the other two Labs chew up a rawhide faster than you can say, "Slow down, you might choke on that", M.E. carries hers around in her mouth. When the other two finish and she is still marching around with it, it is a bit of torture for L.N. and Rudy, who are probably begging her in Labradorese to "please, please drop it if you don't want it". And yet....M.E. doesn't just carry the rawhide or this sweet tiger (and the 100 other of Tiger's closest friends who live in the toy basket)----she brings it to us. Not a night goes by that M.E. doesn't bring her toy over to Dave or myself while we are watching t.v. and hand it over. She sets it on Dave's lap in some sort of strange Labrador peace offering. It's as if she is saying, "It is more important for me to give this up to you than it is to hold onto it for my own edification."
Ah, if only it was so easy for us, as humans. Okay, I'll speak for myself when I say, "Giving it up is HARD!" I have a firm believe that God (or whomever you choose to call your Higher Power) wants us to turn troubling things over to Him, to admit that we don't have all the answers. But why is that so hard when M.E. does it without any prompting at all?
Maybe it has something to do with keeping it simple. M.E. seems to not have 8,000 deep thoughts running through her head, a committee of craziness that tells her to hold onto that toy or she may never get another one. But that is exactly what we can do if we aren't careful. Holding onto resentments, troubling situations, crazy ideas, or worry can keep us from seeing the solution. I know this from experience----handing it over to God or talking about the problem with a trusted friend or spiritual leader can keep the craziness from fermenting. And yet.....there I am, back to hanging on time and time again.
Just for today, maybe we could take a lesson from the 12-year old Yellow Labrador Retriever who sets the toy or chew in the lap of her master with eyes that trust without exception. Turn it over and have faith.
A couple of days ago, Dave sent me an email asking, "What is your favorite color?" While I suspect this question might ultimately be the impetus for a selection of a birthday gift this month, my first and only thought was, "It depends". Here is a sample of the email trail that ensued.
Dave: What is your favorite color? Don't ask why---just answer the question.
Shelly: "But it depends on for what?
Color of walls---neutrals.
Color of golf attire---pinks or purples
Color of food---not green, apparently
Color of Labrador Retrievers---yellow
Color of eyes---yours."
Dave: (after a massive eye roll, I'm certain): You must be an author because I asked a simple question and got a book! Simple question, what is your favorite color.
Shelly: Not simple--- it just really depends....
Favorite color for flowers---all flowers, trees and bushes sans bees and snakes
Favorite color for javelina---none
Favorite color for cheese enchiladas---yellow and chili-colored
Favorite color for car----new car smell
Favorite color for husband---you.
Dave: Never mind. I'll figure it out.
I realize that I'll be lucky if I get anything for my birthday, now, but I couldn't help but think the idea of "context matters" applies to so many conversations, and it reminds me once again that it isn't just what we say but how we say it that makes all the difference in the world.
In my book club, we were discussion Jo Jo Moyes "Last Letter From Your Lover" and the topic of letter writing was brought up in such a nostalgic way, an unknowing visitor to our book club would have thought an old friend had recently passed away. I guess, in a way, that is precisely what has happened. The old friend of letter writing is harder to find than my earring backs. Replacing letter writing is quick and dirty email or text message.
A friend of mine had been telling me I was insane for having not yet applied for TSA Pre-Check. Once I finally applied and got it (as an aside, I WAS insane for not doing this earlier), I texted her "TSA Pre-check". She texted back "I already have it." Right. I thought. I need to put the idea back in context.
Even a simple and innocent "LOL" can be misconstrued if we aren't sure what the person is LOL'ing about. We need the context for the reason someone is humored, sometimes, especially if you have a literal person texting with a figurative person (see my last blog).
My mother was an avid letter writer and my Godparents used to say, "Helen's writing is so descriptive, romantic and beautiful. I would recognize her letters anywhere." The same cannot likely be said about people's emails or texts (i.e. "I would know that TTYL anywhere")
Context can make the difference between someone worrying without cause and feeling completely at ease. Take for example the following email statement: "We need to talk later." Time and time again, I hear people say they have spun themselves into a frenzy when they receive an email like this.
1. Does he want to break up with me?
2. Did my boss get a complaint about me?
3. Have I disappointed you in some way?
Just adding a tag line to that statement could make a big difference.
"We need to talk later about whether we want to continue subscribing to Direct TV."
No panic, no frenzy needed.
Just for today, perhaps consider rereading your texts or emails to see if they have said anything evasive that needs clarification. Your clarification might save a tremendous amount of miscommunication in the long run.
As I got out of the shower this morning, I searched high and low for a bottle of lotion. I had to laugh when I realized I was avoiding the only lotion I had left. I was avoiding it because of the name and the time of day. No, no, no....I can't put on Sleep lotion when I need to be energized and ready for the day, can I? The Sleep lotion will make me sleepy, right?
Before engaging in communication with another person we don't know well, maybe it would be a good idea to know if they are more figurative or more literal. You know how they have a quiz for everything now? Just step into the Facebook vortex and you will be bombarded with quizzes like "Which Brady Bunch character are you most like?" or "Which animal from Lion King would you be like if you lived in animation?"
Here is my quiz for: Are you more figurative or more literal?
1. Analogies make me ______________
a. happy as they provide clarity for tough concepts
b. CRAZY---just say what you want to say
2. Respond to this statement.
"Teaching is like swimming because when we are really struggling, it often feels like drowning."
a. I agree, and when teaching is at a high level, it's like lifeguarding. You can help others who are struggling.
b. Ummmmm....swimming is in the water. You don't teach in the water.
3. Respond to this statement.
"Knee surgery has gotten much easier. The recovery is not anything like dealing with Ebola, for instance."
a. I know! I have heard I won't be laid up for nearly as long as I had originally thought.
b. Ummm....of course knee surgery isn't like having Ebola. After all, Ebola is a communicable disease.
Let's just agree that if you answered "b" for each of these, you might just be a little more literal than the people who answered "a". In the past few weeks, I have literally heard every one of those "b" responses. I wanted to laugh and say, "Analogies are just that---a comparison between two things, typically on the basis of their structure and for the purpose of explanation or clarification.They aren't meant to BE the thing---they are comparisons!!" Then I realize I am giving way too much power to the beast (figuratively speaking).
I think the important thing to note is we need to be aware of our audience. If we are speaking to someone who is quite literal, analogies and figurative language just don't work. Eyes might glaze over as the literal person tries to think of all the reasons that analogy does not match the comparison, point by point.
But....for those folks who are figurative, analogies and other figurative language can "hit the spot" and you will often hear comments like "I've never heard it said quite like that before." For instance, I heard someone say yesterday, "You simply can't save face and your rear end at the same time." For some reason, it just hit me how profound that is. But I don't really believe I need to think about that statement in literal terms.....ewwww!
Just for today, perhaps we can take stock in who our audience is before we decide to do all figurative or all literal examples. It might just help us in our communication with others.
I would like to start by saying I have never been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, diagnosis by husband notwithstanding. But here are just a few tidbits of what may be teensy-weensy indicators that I might have a touch of OCD. First of all, I so relate to the person who once said, "I think I have OCD, but I like to call it CDO, so the letters are in alphabetical order.....just the way they are supposed to be". Right?
Here are a few others:
1. My desk must be cleared of all papers when I leave it, even if it means throwing something away I will likely have to find online or elsewhere at a later date and time.
2. My inbox cannot have unattended mail in it for longer than a few hours.
3. When I am training, I line up my folder, clicker and timer (but I just want to brag that they don't have to be aligned with straight edges, although when they are, it's a huge bonus).
4. I sniff the pages of books I read (and don't even get me started on how I feel about people who can read books on an e-reader!).
5. I am, as we speak, numbering my examples of OCD-ness.
While the instances above may sound a bit bizarre, I feel I am actually making some progress to letting some things go. Today, I was talking to my neighbor who mentioned she thought she was getting better at letting things go. We talked about how it might be about getting older and just realizing things don't need to be as big of a deal as they used to be. If the bed doesn't get made to military-corner perfectionism (did anyone else just shudder at the thought?), I am really okay. If I don't actually put something on my list of things to do and I do it anyway, I can sometimes refrain from writing it on my list after the fact (I admit this one is hard). My neighbor shared that she was getting a massage the other day and the masseuse said, "My, your right arm is thicker than your left arm." My neighbor said, "Well, that is because I walk my dog with my right hand and he pulls quite a bit." The masseuse said, "Hmmm...you definitely need to do something to cure that problem, huh?" To which my neighbor said she would normally have agreed. This time, however, she paused, and said, "You know, I have six children who have turned out great, seven grandkids who I adore, and a husband of 32 years who I like most days, too. I'm thinking if my biggest problem is my dog pulling on the leash a little bit, then so be it!"
I would have to agree. I think we need to be sure to put the little things in perspective and make sure they stay "right-sized", and maybe even let go of some of those things we have previously been giving a bit too much attention.
Just for today, perhaps it is time to examine some things that we can let go. In the meantime, I am headed into the kitchen to mark "Write blog" off my to-do list (or maybe put it on there if it wasn't there in the first place).