09 August 2006


9 August 2006

I reflect on my life quite often.  I think about the pivotal moments that lead me to make one choice over another and I try to follow the threads back in time to see where my path originated.  I think I inherited this tendency from my grandmother, she used to tell my mother how much better a life my mother would have had if grandmother’s first husband had not died.  Mom’s answer to this was to point out that she wouldn’t have been born, so she wouldn’t have had much of life at all.

I recently tried to write out a list of people who, by accident or design helped me make the choices that lead me to where I am now.   I was surprised when I looked it over, that it didn’t include some of the obvious people (immediate family, best friends, etc...) but rather was a list of people who, for the most part, are off having their own lives.  People who I knew in high school or college and have since lost touch with.

Part of the reason I am able to categorize the impact they had on my life, is because they are no longer in it.  When I try to think of things I have learned from current friends and family, I have a hard time coming up with anything specific.  But when I think back to people who were important to me ten or twenty years ago, it is much easier to point out moments when they showed me something about myself or something about the outside world that reshaped my perceptions and, in some cases, caused me to make choices that very clearly led to where I am today.

During that time, the word ‘enabler’ came to mean someone who was encouraging negative behaviour in someone else.  One, enabled a drunkard, or a drug user, or some such trouble.  I’d like to reclaim the word ‘enabler’ and salute the long list of people who enabled me to be the person that I am, living the life that I have.  I learned lessons from them (sometimes painful lessons) that I took into the world with me and that have allowed me to live a wonderful life so far.

Each of us enables other people by modelling behaviour, asking questions, or providing a listening ear but we rarely get to see the impact of our contributions to someone else’s life.  Our relationship to them changes over time or they drift away.  Life is a work in progress and none of us get to see the final product.

All this does make me wonder if any of the people in my life at present will look back in ten or twenty years and see that I had an impact on their life.  If so, I can only hope that it will have been a good one.

04 August 2006


4 August 2006

When I was sixteen, I was invited out to see teachers.  At that time there was at least one teacher who would socialize with students who had graduated and the person who asked me out was one of the people who regularly got together with him.  Imagine my surprise when we arrived at the movie theater and my escort bought us tickets for the movie “Teachers.”  

I don’t remember much of the movie because I spent the entire time panicking about what I would tell my parents when I got home, as I was not allowed to see rated “R” movies.  To this day I don’t remember what I told them.  Knowing me, I either didn’t really say anything, or I confessed all and threw myself on their mercy.  I think I did the latter, as I have a vague recollection of them telling me not to worry about it.  Like many teenagers I lacked a sense of proportion, and while I grew out of some of my more dramatic tendencies, I have found through the years that I am still clueless in certain, very specialized ways.

Something like this happens to me every few years.  I mis-understand something so completely that the person I am talking to and I don’t even realize we are talking about completely different things until they are confronted with the evidence of my bafflement.

I should know from my years of dispute resolution training, to ask clarifying questions in such situations.  The problem is, that I don’t realize there is anything to be confused about until I already at the movie theater having no clue how we wound up there (to use my earlier story as an metaphor).

Misunderstandings happen all the time, even between friends who have known each other for years.  I filter words though my experiences and, sometimes faulty, senses and come up with an explanation that makes sense.  I add to the words the my understanding of another person’s body language and other non-verbal cues.  Even with all of that information, I can end up completely off the mark.

I have learned over the years, is to not take it too all to seriously.  It helps that my friends are willing to laugh off such mistakes with me– but even when a misunderstanding happens with someone I don’t know well, a sense of humor helps turn an unsurmountable  mountain of confusion into a mere speed bump.

I’m not saying there aren’t serious issues that should be fought out in the trenches.  I, for one hold the line on issues of choice, gender equality, and human rights.  Some battles are worth fighting.  However, before I suit up for battle, I try to make certain that there is a battle to be fought.  

As a result of my life experience, there are some issues that make me take to the lists promptly.  

As a result of my various, and sometimes embarrassing misunderstandings over simple things, I try to ensure that I am acting on correct information before I get my lance out and charge.