Lessons I Have Learned

Academically I am a relatively fast learner, in most subjects. I excelled in anything math-related, struggled with science and English, but picked up languages as easily as ridding sidewalks of garbage.

I loved most PE exercises unless it involved swimsuits or leotards (primarily due to weight issues and fat-shaming). When computers came on the scene, wow, did I ever master that quickly!

Unfortunately due to poor awareness in social situations, it takes me a lot longer than most to process what’s happening and develop an appropriate response. This is the area where I have had to work very hard over the seventy years of my life. It’s something that I continue to struggle with today.

So what have I learned?

When entering a given social situation it’s best to find a spot off to the side of the room, close enough to what’s happening to hear words and register facial responses, but not in the midst of the crowd. Once I have analyzed the situation and calculated an appropriate strategy, I move in, with a pat comment prepared. This works almost all the time.

I seldom initiate an invitation to lunch as I afraid of rejection. This means that I rely on the kindness of others to include me, a strategy that often fails. Because of this I seek out loners. Say there’s a woman sitting by herself, I will approach and ask if I can join her. Since she’s also a loner, conversation can be awkward, but at least there are two of us!

When someone asks a question about an interest of mine, I assume that person is simply being polite. I have learned to give a short response then turn the conversation toward the asker. Since most people love talking about themselves, this strategy has paid off.

For example, if I’m walking with friends and one asks what I’d like to eat, I might say, “Oh, a lot of different things. What would you like?” Notice how easy that is? Of course now I have to hope that she chooses something I really do like to eat!

Because I belong to several groups, this strategy is incredibly effective. The few times when I have clearly stated a preference, if it’s not supported, I will acquiesce.

My husband’s family is quite large and they love to gather together. These are challenging for me. He grew up with a ton of cousins that all have a shared memory, even if they haven’t spent a lot of time together as adults. Within minutes of the greeting, they are deep in convivial conversations that I know nothing about. My strategy is to get something cold to drink and find a corner in which I can find solace in my own thoughts.

Hiding in plain sight is something I excel at due to years of invisibility, so I find it exceptionally easy to implement. Unfortunately it also means that I am isolated for the duration of the gathering.

The most challenging situation for me is when my writing is being critiqued. I want to hear the advice of colleagues, but I also want my turn to end as soon as possible in order to move the spotlight away. The thirty minutes or so that my submission is being discussed are the longest minutes of my life! I have learned to minimalize eye contact, take copious notes, and never ask clarifying questions. The problem with this strategy is that now that I am older, it is hard for me to write and listen. I am much better with eye contact than depending upon what I hear, so my pen can’t keep up with spoken ideas.

What I need to learn is to ask for written comments. Notes. Critique. But I don’t because that requires the strength to initiate the request, which I don’t have.

Not everyone who is socially awkward has the same issues that I have, but many do. I hope that by sharing strategies that work for me, others will find something that they can implement.

Or perhaps someone reading this will look about and find that loner and realize that she is sitting on that bench or at that table or leaning against that pillar not because she wants to be alone, but because she doesn’t know how to reach out. Then when realization hits, the outgoing individual will remember what I have shared and approach, smile ready, and invite the loner into the circle. And invite her over and over and over again.

Life’s lessons are sometimes challenging because often life dishes up issues that are never resolved. You just learn to deal with them. To make do.

That’s what I have learned.

 

Seek Change

I’m tired, so tired of:

persistent whiners,

constant complainers,

nay Sayers, and

ne’er-do-wells

who get their jollies

by belittling others

as playground bullies.

 

I’m tired, so tired of:

lazy nonperformers,

excuse finders,

procrastinators and

incompetents

who destroy the efforts

of hard-working people

through gross manipulation.

 

I’m tired, so tired of:

jealous intellects,

devilish reviewers,

self-protective chumps,

and feeling-bashers

who denigrate works

to bolster their own

feelings of competence.

 

Instead of finding fault,

look for joy.

Instead of whining,

seek peace.

Instead of creating havoc,

settle the inner voice.

 

Instead of destroying dreams,

offer solace through

kind words,

constructive criticism

designed to improve

rather than ruin.

 

For everyone thrives

when voices of hope

fill the earth.

And then I’ll no longer

be tired.

  A Grain of Sand

Nothing more than a grain of sand

one among a cast of millions

arose and accepted the burdensome

yoke of humanity, the drudgery of life,

the pains, torments, tears, and fears

until love entered his heart.

 

Nothing but a tiny grain of sand

now filled with a woman’s love

beaming broader than the sun,

wider than the Milky Way

standing tall, strong, proud, and fearless

with her vision in his mind.

 

Nothing but a proud grain of sand

knelt by her side, making his

wishes known, the dreams of his soul,

the secrets of his heart,

the projects, plans, ideas, and thoughts

searing his vision.

 

Nothing but an exultant grain of sand

stood with his love at the altar

pledging faithful love, devotion,

a lifetime of togetherness,

trials, tribulation, joys, tears

traveling the path of marriage.

 

Nothing but two grains of sand

forged through the world

casting aside the millions to

focus on the other, the others that

they create, the little ones, children,

loins of our loins and loves of our love,

for now and forever. Amen.

Our Life Stories

 

all of life is a series of

nonstories

the might-have-beens

the almost becames

the things we dreamt of

doing

but never did

the wishes unfulfilled

presents never delivered

or received

places never visited

near-misses

chance occurrences

that developed into nothing

the left-behinds

and

soon-to-be forgottens

all stories untold

mysteries locked

romances closeted

things never experienced

foods never tasted

but secretly yearned for

nonstories frozen in place

and time

with no characters to lament

plots stagnant

themes dragging behind

do we obsess

over the lost stories

and live life in a

vacuum?

NO

we constantly create

our personal life stories

our dreams springing to

a life lived luxuriously

laughing joyously

over the endless

possibilities

Feeling Proud

I have never been an arrogant person.

For much of my life I’ve been shy,

Backward

Afraid to exude confidence.

Pride does not come to me willfully.

It sneaks up like a mouse in the night.

It catches me unaware, surmising me

When it calls my name.

Even though I’ve accomplished much in my life,

I seldom take an opportunity to brag.

Instead, when I do speak, I do so quietly

With an unassuming air

Because even I am surprised when

Something goes well.

There have been times when I wanted to shout out,

To proclaim loudly those things that

Fill me with pride,

But I haven’t.

Until recently.

I realize now, at my age,

That I have much to be proud of.

Every day of life fills me with such joy,

Such a feeling of accomplishment

That I want to brag about simply being here

On this earth.

Today I am bragging, just a little,

Because I am alive.

Heavenly Meal

Feed me a soul-satisfying meal

Krispy corn flakes will not seal the deal

 

No rib eye steak with golden fries

No onion blossom to greet my eyes

 

Chicken enchiladas?  Surely not.

Or even hamburgers nice and hot.

 

What I really need comes from afar.

Can’t be retrieved by plane, boat, or car.

 

Please give to me a thoughtful caress

Given simply, without duress

 

Prepare for me a heavenly dish

Designed to nourish every wish

 

Mix in prayers for a peaceful life

Whip forcefully to erase all strife

 

Today I need to stuff in my face

Food that is filled with amazing grace

Touched

Things have been rough this year.

My wife died, giving birth to a stillborn child.

I lost my job to a younger man.

The earth shook and things went wild.

 

Alcohol became my best friend,

keeping me warm on cold winter nights.

Teeth fell out and tongue turned brown,

And vagrants challenged me to fights.

 

One rainy night, down on my luck,

No nickel to my tarnished name,

I stumbled into an empty house,

where I could hide in shame.

 

I searched through cabinets covered in dust

and looked under every loose board,

hoping to find a morsel to eat,

a blanket, a shirt, anything to add to my hoard.

 

Upstairs in what was a little boy’s room

a magical thing I did find.

Buried beneath a pile of rags,

a book, to challenge my mind.

 

A stubble of candle sat on a shelf,

and so I quickly lit it with glee.

By the flickering light I eagerly read.

A realization soon came to me.

 

The story spoke of a man long ago

who owned very little but love.

He roamed his world, bringing peace,

goodwill, a message from God above.

 

I am like He, I began to think,

with nothing to lose or fear.

Resolved to act, I fell asleep,

Like a child, both loved and dear.

 

When the new sun brightened the world

I stumbled, confusedly, into the hall.

For there, surrounded in unearthly glow,

hovered the Man, to whom I did fall.

 

“My Lord, forgive this humble man,

who long ago fell out of Your grace.

Today I beg you, I am renewed,

and ready to take my place.”

 

A breeze arose, tore off my rags,

and dried the tears from my eyes.

Gentle fingers brushed my cheek,

And lifted away my cries.

 

That was the day when I took control

and rejoined the human race.

From that day forward, I was His man,

and walked with smiling face.

 

I now believe that my wife and child

truly did not die in vain,

for their sacrifice brought me back to God,

and to feel His love again.