For whatever reason the Chicago Tribune left newspapers on my sidewalk for three days in a row. I like that because reading the paper from start to finish broadens my horizons. I come across articles and the like that I wouldn’t have sought out on my own.
Like this particular Dear Abby-ish piece about a couple that was having a fundraiser with the funds coming from a cash bar. Another couple had shown up with their own wine and proceeded to drink out in the yard or something.
So then the columnist’s advice was to just bluntly ask them about it.
“Daisy and Tom, we found a pile of wine bottles on the lawn near your car, and I think they came from you and your guests. What’s up with that?”
The thing I like most about this was the such few words the columnist offered to the person who wrote in. It wasn’t War and Peace, it was two sentences.
“Here’s what you did that upset me. Why did you do that?”
When I have something to say to someone about something they’ve done I can get nervous. And when I get nervous I can talk too much. And talking too much dilutes and pollutes what I’m trying to say. Those extra words make the conversation harder than it needs to be.
Emotionally tip-toeing around the subject can put me on the defensive with an aggressive person. It can give them the upper hand since the spotlight is on me and my nervousness instead of on them for what they did in the first place.
Confrontation isn’t easy for passive people like me. I regularly deal with a guy who’s consistently combative, who’s in it to win. Well, he’s in it to be right. At all costs. Whenever he gets a chance to be “right” he stomps the gas, squeals and smokes his tires, and barrels ahead full throttle. He swerves all over the road with pure emotional adrenaline fueling his words and actions.
I’m not a fan of funny cars so I do my best to diffuse those situations with objective facts. Because I don’t care about being right anymore. I care about having great relationships with people. If I’m wrong, so be it. Me saying that I’m wrong let’s me have those phenomenal relationships. Me saying that I’m right when I’m obviously not only makes us both lose.
But back to my point. Me calling people out has never been my strong suit. I don’t like it. It makes me uncomfortable. I want other people to feel safe and I want to feel safe as well.
And then the cosmos goes and puts me in situations that make me uncomfortable, to teach me things I need to learn. And often it seems as if those same lessons come up again and again until I do get comfortable with them.
The good news is that when I need to confront someone, I don’t need to minimize or maximize what they’ve actually done. I just need to be clear, concise, and direct. Just like the columnist suggested. It made me feel good reading her article, too, to be reminded again that this struggle is real for a lot of people and not just me.
In related news: when I’m done writing what I try to do is go back and take out all the bullshit, all the fluff that gets in the way of what I’m trying to say. Because I over complicate. I want to talk about this and then I want to talk about that and then there’s this other thing that I want to say. Really though, it’s about condensing what I’m trying to say so people understand.
Confrontation is in the same realm. What is it that I need to say? Once I figure that out then all that’s left for me to do is say it.
I tell this Microsoft story now and then because it gave me a little spiritual insight. It changed everything.
One afternoon I overheard a conversation between a sales guy and his boss. The salesman had had a hard conversation with a customer and it frazzled him. He was still upset when replaying the conversation to his boss. The boss said to him plain and simple, “you need to take the emotion out of it.”
Now that’s in the true spirit of detachment. I don’t have to get all emotional about things. I make situations worse when I do. I only need to take a minute to regain my composure. Then simply state the obvious. It doesn’t hurt for me to first say a little prayer either. Tapping into the universe will give me all the strength and courage I need in hard situations.
Moving from someone who’s anxious to someone who’s confident has a lot to do with me just getting fundamentally okay. My past can hold me back in the present so letting go of my garbage from yesterday frees me up to be fully present and able today. It frees me up to confront roaring lions and noisy drag racers.
But still… I’m only human.
So yesterday I got a little cranky with one of my neighbors. There’s a retention pond behind our houses and she’s gotten in the habit of dumping her lawn refuse under one of the retention pond’s trees. And then when I look out my back window or am in my backyard, I see a big pile of her yard garbage.
I don’t get how people can be so selfish and it pisses me off to no end when that spills over onto me. What is it with these people? It’s always me, me, me. It’s like the other neighbor and her little barking dog. Why does she let him be outside barking all the time?
Anyway, yesterday the first neighbor and her wheelbarrow of yard bullshit were headed over to the retention pond. It was the first time I’d literally caught her in the act. When she saw me, she and her wheelbarrow did a 180 back toward her yard. I pointed to the spot she’s been dumping and said borderline belligerently, “you can’t dump that there.”
Oops. I came across more aggressive than I would’ve liked. Definitely had some punch in my words. Too many times seeing her trash pile, though, and then I was blurting belligerence before I knew it.
And that’s where I went wrong in yesterday’s confrontation. I shouldn’t let emotion build up until it comes spewing out. Most importantly, I should never be an asshole when confronting someone. I need to “take the emotion out of it” first.
It’s true that sometimes people need to get a little feeling in their scolding. Seems like it motivates them a smidge more when they know what they’ve done has really gotten on someone’s nerves or hurt their feelings. But still, everybody is human and even though some are selfish, most people are walking around as clueless as me.
What I should’ve done (long ago) is simply knocked on her door and said, “Your yard debris belongs in refuse bags and not under that tree. Please don’t dump it there anymore.”
Yeah, that looks good on paper but I don’t know if I’m that spiritually advanced.
Going to someone’s house is a nice idea and all but most likely something I’ll never do. I’m not that guy. I’ll never be able to bench press 200 pounds either because that’s not the kind of personality that I have.
But even if I never get to be the guy who walks up and confronts a neighbor assertively after the fact, just knowing that’s the loving and true way to handle those situations, makes me a bigger person. Just “knowing” even if we’re not capable of always “doing” puts us on the right spiritual path.
And I’ve had above average success confronting people when I just make my point in a loving manner. I’m grateful that the people in my life aren’t jerks, don’t mean to be an asshole anymore than I do.
Believe it or not the majority of people are receptive to hearing that they’ve made a mistake. And then they feel bad just as I do, just as we’re all supposed to when we screw up. Dropping the ball is all part of being human. It’s how we learn and grow and become better people, become more than who we’ve always been.
While I was sitting with my nicotine withdrawal earlier, I was saying my morning prayers, asking god to take my nicotine addiction away, take all the pain and discomfort. And then I started to get crabby because these withdrawals have been going on for well over a month. Fucking Greg.
And then I kind of scolded myself, “God’s got nothing to do with this.”
My nicotine withdrawal is the consequence of decades of smoking. My smoking. No amount of praying is going to take that physical pain away. Sure, the cosmos can give us everything we need to make it through our struggles but we still have to deal with any bullshit that we’ve created.
And then I think, “haven’t I suffered with this enough?”
And then I think again, “no, karma is fair and balanced.”
Karma doesn’t torture us. We do.
Sometimes I think that I struggle more than I should, though. I can and do make life harder than it needs to be. I’m just not good at it. I know how to make crazy. Because it’s my go to.
And then I was thinking of what Scott Peck wrote in the late 70s:
Life is difficult.
Nothing else stood out in The Road Less Traveled more to me than that. Not that I’m on the same cosmic level as him but I think it would’ve been more appropriate to say that “life is balanced.” He may have wrote that, too, but I don’t remember.
Sure, life is hard and full of struggles but it’s absolutely magnificent, too.
Just living can be frustrating, disappointing, aggravating but it’s also fulfilling, magical, and surreally spectacular.
So what to do when I’m annoyed with myself and the mess I’ve made? When there’s nothing left for me to do on my end? I stop thinking about me and my horrors and look around to see what else is going on. What’s good happening in the cosmos?
Because even when the sky is gray and the air rainy, the world is beautifully overflowing with sweet Jesus goodness. It’s got flowers and everything.
This scene is my truck. I’m barreling north on Randall Road and need to turn left at the next intersection. There’s a handful of cars that are also barreling south toward the intersection. Because everybody’s got to get to work.
The light is green for both sides. Timing will be close but the southbound traffic has the downhill advantage. I add a little acceleration to the equation. A little horsepower to even the odds.
The light turns yellow so I slow down and then stop at the red light.
I’m always grateful when the cosmos saves me from myself. 😊
That’s not a judgment call or me being hard on myself. It just is. I’m just another guy wandering around aimlessly doing my best…and sometimes doing my least.
Struggling to maintain that non-mistake-making state only makes my life harder. Letting that struggle go gave me so much more free time to enjoy life and the company of my fellow humans.
Well, I guess I never really expected myself to be perfect but I was pretty good at torturing myself when I did screw up. I wouldn’t let that shit go for whatever reason. Constantly feeling bad about myself is all bullshit, though. I make mistakes and then I feel bad about them for the appropriate amount of time and then I move on.
Letting ourselves be human brings our stress levels down. Our bodies will thank us. Our souls will thank us, too, and so will our peeps. People will love being with us when we’re not ruminating over something dumb that happened a week ago.
Okay, so that’s all fine and good. I’ve made peace with all that. Made peace with making mistakes.
But the thing is, if I’m intolerant of another person when they come up short, either every day or once in a blue moon, then I’m just an asshole.
Guys, if you haven’t had one of Blue Goose’s Key Lime Bombs then you’re missing out. Eating one of those is way better than the time Christie Brinkley kissed me on the cheek. Okay, that’s a lie. That never happened. But my 16 year old self wishes it would have.
Anyways, the moral of the story is that this dessert bomb will literally change your perception of the entire cosmos. Yeah, they will. It’s got a little whip cream swirl with lime zest, it’s got the key lime, it’s got the moist little cake for the foundation, and it’s got toasted coconut. Or maybe they’re nuts. It doesn’t matter. The whole damn thing is delicious. A culinary masterpiece if you will.
The entire affair is exquisite really. You’ll even feel like you’re having an affair and cheating on that chocolate lava cake that once warmed your heart. The Key Lime Bombs are big enough to share with your special someone, too. If you’re into that. If not, just eat one by yourself. I have.
One time I was driving down Riverside while holding a Key Lime Bomb in one hand and steering with the other, the whole while gorging myself. I had whip cream and key lime everywhere. I could barely see. I couldn’t help myself, guys. They’re that good. I couldn’t wait until I got home. Plus, I’d had a hard day at work and wasn’t sharing that time around.
Be quick, though. I rarely see these elusive little critters in Blue Goose’s display case. If they’re sold out, search your soul for some persistence and/or patience.
And be sure to vote Blue Goose as your favorite bakery while you’re there. This is not a game.
I started doing my podcast last August and this month I’ve had the most episode listens ever. Pretty exciting! The total includes people who have listened to an episode more than once because many of them.
There was a dip in Dec and Jan, too, because holidays and I didn’t post anything new.
I think I have around 160 subscribers but those are harder to count than you’d think. People switching podcast players, people moving in and out of cell networks, apps fetching the episodes for all their users.
Regardless though, my podcast is growing. Another fun stat for this month, people listening to the podcast now outweigh the people visiting my actual website. I never saw that happening. 😊
Maggie had a little scare yesterday. She had gotten off the school bus and was walking the minute walk back to our house down the alley. Some dude was also walking down the alley behind her and that didn’t sit well with her.
I generally get home 15 to 20 minutes after she does and it’s not that big of a deal for her to walk home and spend that time by herself.
Anyways, after I got back to the house we talk about what happened for a little bit, about the dude, and reviewed all the things you can do in a situation when strangers are following you. Be loud, be visible, make noise, make sure the whole world knows what’s up. It’s the same thing that animals do when they’re nervous and it works pretty well for them.
It also sounded like the guy may have just been walking 30 feet or so behind her, just going in the same direction. I’m not trying to minimize the situation but I know for myself when I panic, things aren’t truly what they seem. I got freaked out and freaked myself out several times as a kid when I was in situations very similar to hers. I can still freak myself out now as a grownup.
So anyways, here’s the real story.
Last night when I was saying good night to her I thought of something else to say around the whole stranger-danger topic. I started talking about it and then immediately thought that it probably wasn’t a good idea at bedtime.
I quickly changed the subject and we talked about something else for a few minutes. I was kind of hoping she’d forget about the whole. But people who’re more on the nervous side, they don’t forget.
This morning before school I said to her, “Last night I brought the dude up again and then realized that I shouldn’t have considering what time it was. I hope that it wasn’t on your mind as you were going to sleep. What is it?”
She said that it was for a little bit. I then told her I was sorry and that was the wrong thing for me to do, wrong thing for me to say. She nodded a little bit, absorbing what I’d just said. And then we got on with our day.
It’s important for me to be humble, for me to be human, failings and all, as a parent in front of Maggie. It’s okay for our kids to know that we as parents make mistakes. And more importantly, it’s good for them to hear us own it, too. Our kids will model their behavior after ours. Who they become as adults is directly influenced by who we are to them as parents.
And lastly, it’s crucial for me to ask direct questions if I’m worried that I’ve made a mistake. Like I asked Maggie if what I said had kept her up the night before. I could’ve just said that I hoped our bedtime talk wasn’t on her mind too much while she was going to sleep and left it at that. But that’s not good enough. I needed to ask her point blank if it was.
If I wouldn’t have asked her it would’ve left her alone with her feelings. That those uncomfortable feelings were hers to deal with. I wouldn’t have taken full responsibility for my part in causing them. And feelings like those need to be talked about, they need to be acknowledged by the person who was indeed at fault.
If I’m not 100% sure if I’ve done something wrong, I need to find out. Because that’s part of owning what I’ve done. I need to take the initiative and shouldn’t wait for somebody to tell me that I’ve hurt their feelings. Most of the time I’m pretty sure they won’t.
Let me first say that I’m an animal lover as much as the next Dr. Doolittle. It’s rare that I meet a dog or cat and they don’t end up liking me sooner or later. I think mostly that’s because I don’t care if they like me or not.
However, the neighbor’s dog and myself, we don’t get along. He barks at me from his yard every time I’m outside in my yard. Or when I’m walking to or from my garage. Bark, bark, bark.
Obviously he’s got the short man complex.
I’ve tried making friends with him. I’ve tried explaining to him that I’ve lived here longer than he has and that gives me seniority. And on my very worst days I’ll blow my megaphone at him when he so much as lets out a whimper.
So anyways, a little while ago I was out tending my yard and little Napoleon was in his house so all was right with the world. The neighborhood people were also out walking their dogs up and down the alley as they do. And every time they did I heard him barking from inside his house.
I was thinking to myself how annoyed I get just even hearing him bark every now and then. Can imagine the horror of actually living with him relentlessly barking all the eff’ing time? I thought so.
I could only giggle quietly to myself.
In other news, does anybody know what kind of plant these are?
Some of the taproots are almost as big as carrots. It looks kinda like a dainty fern and it’s soft as a feather. It’s also decided to take over the world. Well, take over my backyard anyway.
Update: they’re Queen Anne’s Lace. Apparently a couple of summers ago I did, in fact, let them take over the world.