How Right Do You Need to Be?

**A Repost from 2013. Seems like timely advice in an election year…

After a recent disagreement/misunderstanding with the hubs, I began to ponder the nature of conflict in all relationships. Of course, as with most disputes, I can’t recall the exact details or origin of this particular “discussion” the hubs and I were having. But it may have went something like this:

Me: “Did you check the website? All the information is on the website.”

Hubs: “I clicked the link. But there was no information.”

Me: “That’s impossible. I clicked the link yesterday. It was all there.”

Hubs: “I’m telling you, I clicked the link and there was no information.”

Me: “You must be doing it wrong.”

Hubs: “Of course you think I’m doing it wrong because you think I’m stupid.”

Me~clicking the link, seeing said information, carrying the laptop over to where he’s eating a bowl of cereal to show him it’s there and giving him a look that says, “If you’re not stupid, then why is everything right here where I said it would be?”

So here is the problem with the above interaction and possibly all conflicts in relationships, politics, religion, etc. Two or more people have two or more completely different experiences and believe that all other people have had or will have the exact same experiences. Those differing people insist that their experiences, reactions to those experiences and outcomes from those experiences should be the same for everybody else. If there is any pushback, we will go to almost any lengths to prove our version of reality is right. (Or worse, we’ll shrug off the dissenter as stupid or unimportant.)

So here’s the thing. I never intended to make the hubs feel as if I believed he is stupid. I only wanted to prove I was right. I didn’t want to consider that he could possibly have had a different experience than me. Because of course, in this case, computers are completely reliable devices upon which we should be able to bash our rightness over the heads of any dissenters, right?

What completely reliable “evidence” might you be using to bash your rightness over someone else’s head? This is a small example. But zoom out to big picture disagreements, and how many of them are mostly about who wins or who gets to be right?

So I encourage you to consider this New Year’s resolution. Before launching into any conflict, large or small, ask yourself, “How right do I need to be?” Is my rightness worth damaging the feelings of another person? Is my piled on rightness over time worth damaging entire relationships? Is our collective rightness worth boxing out the opinions of other people or other religious groups, political groups, social groups or family members? Maybe so. Or maybe not. And maybe, just maybe, we are not as right as we think we are.

Happy New Year!

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Pulling Myself Up by the Roots

DSCN1908Christmas vacation is over and I’m ready to get back to work. The time off was great. Restful. Fun. Togetherness. And even when the decorating, shopping, cooking and gift-wrapping at times felt overwhelming, I think I still prefer vacationing at Christmastime the most. Of course the religious and spiritual significance of the season make December special. But I also appreciate that most everyone else is also on vacation between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. It’s like a universal Sabbath.

Unlike being on vacation at other times of the year, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on things going on in the world. I don’t dread a return to an overflowing email inbox, mile-long to-do lists and looming deadlines. Everybody seems to move more slowly at the end of December. This collective downshift into a lower gear helps me to truly relax and immerse into family life, entertaining and just plain lazing. And it was glorious.

But now it’s back to reality because one can only laze just so much before roots form on your ass and begin to penetrate the couch cushions, making it increasingly difficult to ever get up and get moving again at a pace required by the promise of a brand New Year. Oh, how I require a certain amount of goals, routines and demands on my time or I will most surely become a permanent part of the furniture.

Speaking of goals and the New Year, I can only stand (sit mostly) in awe of goal setting over-achievers like my blogger friend, Nina Badzin, who has set a goal to read 50 books in 2015. She’s done it before and to my mind, reading 50 books is an incredibly impressive feat, so much so, that it’s probably too much of a stretch goal for me.

I could say my first full year as editor of Edina Magazine consumed much of my brainpower, making reading books seem like a lost luxury. But something else has also prevented me from reading many books in 2014. Watching TV with my kids. They are finally at an age when I actually enjoy the television programming they choose. And in a teen’s life of seemingly endless sports practices, homework and video gaming, TV can still serve to bring an otherwise disparate family together. I wouldn’t trade these fleeting moments together for isolated book reading.

Also, my attention span has collapsed a bit from consuming continuous scraps of news stories or essays found on Twitter and Flipboard. I need to work my way back up to a regular diet of books. So my 2015 reading goal is 12 books. One per month. I know it’s no more than what’s required of an introductory book club member. But I read only seven books in 2014 making 12 seem reasonable and attainable. Plus, now it’s public. So I’m accountable.

DSCN1914Books I read in 2014:

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

The Lobotomist by Jack El-Hai (Also a PBS American Experience documentary)

Please Don’t Come Back From the Moon by Dean Bakopoulos

Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Reading makes for better writing. Hopefully that will be evidenced on this blog. I now have a full year of blogging under my belt. And in 2015 I’m planning more frequent posts and opportunities to begin conversations with you dear reader. Thank you, by the way, for being a part of my writerly journey. A writer without readers is… well, still a writer, albeit maybe a slightly more lonely one.

I’m also prepared to commit to daily devotions with my family. Our household religious rituals include weekly church attendance and prayers before meals. But regular scripture reading is often left to the individual. I hope to make bible study more familial by reading and discussing scripture together most nights during the evening meal. Our teens may at first groan at this resolution. But I plan to hold fast to this commitment–confident it will be a blessing to us all.

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Credit Sarah Dibbern

Lastly, over the past month or so, I’ve made it a point to call my mother every day. I plan to continue these daily calls throughout the New Year. She is a plane ride away. This makes it impossible to check in on her or take her to lunch as often as I’d like. Not having enough demands on her time means she’s acquired some of those dreaded couch cushion roots. And when your parent’s couch roots become so strong that they’ve managed to wrap tentacle-like around all things nostalgic, comfortable and familiar, a once vibrant life can struggle to flourish. What can I do? It is difficult to know how to be a good daughter. But for now, I resolve to offer words. Words of care, companionship, conversation, inspiration, instigation, joy and hope. It is my desire that a daily phone call containing a few Words by Angela might be considered uplifting in some way–just like what I hope to offer you dear reader each time you visit me here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a joyful, restful and blessed Christmas season. Please feel free to share a few of your goals for the New Year in the comments section. Happy New Year!

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“Life can be pulled by goals just as surely as it can be pushed by drives.” -
Viktor Frankl

 

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