Tuesday, July 6, 2010

something to ponder

Bern and our friend, John, and I were having a conversation yesterday.

John was telling about how his sister and her Jewish husband and two Jewish kids and two Israeli friends went to visit some cousins of John and his sister, Pam, in Tennessee (of all places).

Even though there were 2 Tennessee cousins who Pam and Shuli and daughters really liked, the "liked" cousins invited some of the Fundamentalist Christian cousins to come and be with the Jews and the Israelis.

John and Bern started laughing about the whole set up. They both said they knew already what a disaster it would be and how crazy it would turn out. (I was actually thinking it might be an weird and wondrous transformational moment--and very interesting to be around.)

Well, from John's telling of Pam's story, it couldn't have been more of a oil spill/Three Mile Island/Hurricane Katrina afternoon. It was funny how John told it but the whole thing seemed a tad tragic and sad.

Then Bern said, "Pam should have taken Jim along!"

She laughed at the brilliance of her suggestion.

John joined in laughing. "That would have been perfect. If only Pam and Shuli had had Jim...."

"Jim knows how to be in the midst of those kind of situations," Bern said.

John was delighted. "I'll tell Pam never to go to Tennessee without Jim again."

I supposed they were talking about me--Me, Jim--though it was a conversation that was two way and though I was right there it never got directed at me. But it was interesting....

That Robert Burns thing about 'seeing yourself as others see you" I guess.

At the Making a Difference Workshop I led in Washington a week or so ago, one of the participants asked if we could eat lunch together. He told me that he admired the calm and peace that seemed to surround me and wanted to know how I achieved it. I don't particularly think of myself as calm and peaceful, though I am relaxed and laid back much of the time. I didn't know what to tell him. Then he asked, "I sense you have not always been this way...."

I realized I hadn't. I've, in my past, been anxious, aggressive, wound up and anything but calm and peaceful. I used to walk in a room looking for a fight. So he was right. What did I attribute my 'calm, peaceful, relaxed' persona to?

I told a member of St. John's that I was 'relaxed' when he asked me how I was doing in retirement. "Relaxed?" he said. "You've always been relaxed...."

Now that I think of it, as many people comment on my calmness, etc. these days as used to worry to me that I was too hyped up, too manic, too assertive. So what did happen?

I've grown older, obviously. But I really think the demeanor has been a 'choice' and a 'stand'. I simply realized my up-tempo, confrontational way didn't work and chose to simply be calm. Peaceful even. Works for me. I actually like being the non-anxious one in the room much better than I liked being the center of potential conflict. Who knew?

Ponder that: maybe we can decide our persona instead of letting our persona decide us.....Imagine.....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.