Friday, January 30, 2009

Second Blooming

"I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming that comes when you finish the life of the emotions and of personal relations; and suddenly find—at the age of fifty, say—that a whole new life has opened before you, filled with things you can think about, study, or read about."
Agatha Christie (1890-1976)

Thanks (again) to Elizabeth for snipping and pasting this quote in another blog so that I, in turn, could snip and paste it again! I actually do turn 50 this year and although I hardly feel at the end of  "the life of the emotions and of personal relations" (never), a whole new life is definitely opening up here.

I received a call that I have been waiting for this morning, someone who might be offering me a counseling practicum, starting in March, which is exactly what I need right now.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Not So Innocent Bystander

I have been following a conversation in Steve Salerno's blog and was reminded of something in one of my books, The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind is Designed to Kill, by David M. Buss.

The topic is infidelity and what came to my mind is a discussion in the book about "mate poaching," which is pretty much what it sounds like: trying to pinch someone else's partner, as one writer puts it. But what I discovered when I turned to that chapter surprised me; it was something I didn't notice when I first read it.

I came to realize Buss is not exactly an innocent bystander in the scenario described in the opening of the chapter, "Mate Poachers." Now, let me start with a disclaimer: What Buss is talking about is important and my observation here does not diminish this in the least. It merely points out how his actions influenced and set up a scene that helped him make his point.

Buss tells the story of a party he attended, a light-hearted social gathering of friends and family who had come together "for a long weekend of eating, drinking, talking, hugging, and having an all-around good time." Well, one of the guests at one point said to Buss that he's "got to do something" about another guest who he had witnessed hugging his wife. Buss asked him to clarify what he meant, and the man replied: "I feel like taking a screwdriver and ramming it into his neck."

Apparently, Buss decided to spread word throughout the gathering of this man's supposedly homicidal intent! I wondered, why didn't he question the guy further, find out exactly why he felt threatened by what appeared to be a congenial and innocent hug. Maybe there was some history here that Buss didn't know about. Whether the man had a right or reason to be angry is sort of beside the point, as I see it. His wife may or may not have "strayed" in the past, or had a tendency to behave "inappropriately" with other men. (I put these words in quotes because they are subject to individual interpretation.) My point here is that if Buss had delved into this a little more with the man instead of leaping to the conclusion that he might actually commit a violent act toward a man he (apparently) suspected of potential mate poaching, he most certainly would have avoided creating an atmosphere in the party of "homicidal hyperalert." 

Nobody at the party had to know what words the man used to describe his anger. Buss was the one who chose to repeat them; he is the one guilty of spreading the rumor, or of gossiping about an alleged intent that he really knew nothing about. The angry man's first words to Buss had been about his need to "do something" about a situation in which he felt threatened. The fact that he felt like committing a violent act probably was nothing more than just that, a feeling that arose in the context of an angry moment. Buss describes the man as "peaceful" and as one who had "never before shown any signs of violence."

So, why did he choose to say something slanderous about the man, even if he was repeating the exact words the man used? I'd say it's because it served his narcissistic purpose of gathering juicy material for his book. If he had merely talked the man into a state of calm and found out more information about why he felt so threatened, Buss could instead have helped rather than hurt the man, as he did by repeating words that caused "everyone" at the party to look with suspicion upon him, a man who might have only been afraid, nothing more or less. Buss claims that everyone "made sure that their bedroom doors were locked tight that night." 

Oh, sure. They were really afraid of a man going off on a raging homicidal spree? More realistically, they had been influenced by another man (Buss) intent on creating a scene that furthered his own agenda.

One thing I found interesting in this whole description is how Buss described the man who had hugged the woman as a "friend," and yet the other man, the one who had confided in Buss about his anger, was not described as a friend. Was that the difference between the two men, as far as Buss was concerned, that one man is a friend and other a mere acquaintance?

In any case, here is the opening sentence of that chapter: "One of the most terrifying displays of homicidal psychology I've personally witnessed happened at a friend's home." Yet Buss was hardly just an innocent bystander watching the horror of it all unfold.

But back to the topic of infidelity, another item came to my attention: an article shared by another blogstress, Elizabeth, in Steve's blog as part of that conversation I mentioned earlier. "What Do Women Want? - Discovering What Ignites Female Desire," published on January 22nd in the New York Times Magazine, is very much related to this whole issue and yet opens up quite a few more topics, so I will leave it alone for now and see if this generates any comments.

Mainly, I was thinking about the idea brought out in the article that women's sexual desire is narcissistic.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Sting of Exclusion

Inspired by a phrase picked up while watching and listening to the inaugural events on television, I thought of how the sting of exclusion affects each one of us from time to time. The phrase was: "we've tasted the bitter pill of segregation." After turning off the inaugural events, listening now only to the sound of my dog snoring and the tapping of keys combined with my own voice and the voice of another dog barking outside, I realize one of the biggest challenges our new president faces is that of approaching boundaries with wisdom, restraint, discernment, and - most importantly - with decisive action.

I am reminded of something my mother once told me, something that stuck with her after one of the surgeons operating on my heart-diseased father told it to her. They had been discussing Dad's dire situation and what the next course of action might be. In matters of life and death, a surgeon must sometimes make a series of decisions; and one decision always comes after another one based on various factors. All of these decisions cannot be made at once; and the surgeon cannot predict what some of the decisions will be until he or she learns the outcome of the decisions that come before them. This all might sound vague and yet the point that particular surgeon made to my mother on that day had to do with the idea of one decision being only good until another decision had to be made.

Have you ever watched the show, "House"? If so, you can understand how the final outcome of the show often hinges on something not previously considered, like a tick (arachnid) or a termite, being discovered as the cause of a mysterious illness. House will come in to save the day with these discoveries, often after alienating himself from patients' families and other medical professionals. He's a crusty one but by the end of the show, he comes out smelling like a rose. At the beginning, however, many other possibilities are considered. Does the patient have cancer? Hepatitis? It is a process of elimination. A patient could literally be on the operating table about to have a procedure done, one that had been decided and agreed upon by everyone (a liver transplant, for example); then when that new information is available and it contradicts the old information (the guy doesn't actually need a new liver), a quick decision must be made to not operate and instead treat the
real problem (the infection, for example). 

That is the kind of thing my father's doctor was referring to when he told my mother one decision is only good until another decision has to be made. Unfortunately, in my father's case, he ended up dying because of an infection that took over his body after (successful) neurosurgery. This was over thirty years ago and medical technology and knowledge has come a long way since then. But the point about decisions being made on an as needed basis remains valid.

Going back to the idea of exclusion, I also think of the difference between love and infatuation. I have been reading more of William Glasser (see my previous posting, 
Positive Addiction) and came across some text where he claims that infatuation is "the lifeblood of affairs." I can certainly see how this might seem to be true. On the other hand, what really is the difference in love and infatuation? Both make us feel good. Both give us energy. And both can be present in a relationship. Glasser himself says infatuation can turn into love, but only rarely. But I wonder about this, personally. (Isn't "love at first sight" actually a type of infatuation?)

I have veered from what I came here to talk about, which is the sting of exclusion. I felt it during the inaugural proceedings. America is a nation where secular values are supposedly honored along with religious values. During the prayers, in particular, I wondered about how people who do not share our new president's religious beliefs might have reacted to the decidedly Christian slant to the whole shebang. Now, I'm not knocking it because, on one hand, it exemplifies the freedom we do enjoy in this country. But it also might serve to alienate people who don't share those beliefs. How does the Jewish person feel, for example, hearing the Saddleback minister pray in the name of Jesus? Or, how does the atheist feel about any kind of praying being done publicly during the inauguration of our new president, a person who "belongs" to each one of us equally? The fact is, some people really don't care, and that is part of the tragedy of the sting of exclusion. We all have a right to be respected, regardless of our religious beliefs or lack of them.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Coughing Up a Hairball

Yes, it's that time again ...

I like that cartoon and had it posted here on this page but after thinking about it and looking at the website where I
snatched it (yep), I began to fear copyright violations and didn't want the cartoon people coming after me. (No, not actual cartoon people because they are not real.)

I've been trying to blog these last few days but keep getting distracted by something. If it's not other blogs and conversations, then it's just that something else comes along to pull me away from writing here. Maybe it's also that I haven't been able to really come up with something anybody but me would be interested in reading, and I
do want to make your visit here worthwhile.

So much of what I think about is of limited interest to others. In one hour, I'll be listening to my daughter's Internet radio show*, which she is doing with a friend this semester. (Last semester, she had her own show.) She left the house excited this morning, excited in a way different from the excitement she had last semester on the days when she was doing her own show. There really is something about the energy of collaboration with another person.

This is one thing, I think, that keeps me from blogging more often. It's just me here, writing to myself and hoping someone will come along and read it. Of course, it turns into a conversation when someone comments, but not until then. Once the conversation gets started, though, a mutual admiration society often ensues. People who "relate" to what you said chime in with some related nugget, which then changes the flavor and flow into something different.

Or, sometimes a contrary wind blows in if you say something that either comes across as somehow offensive or wrong or maybe just needing another perspective, for balance. For example, I am fairly sure that happiness is a state of mind more than just about anything else. It comes and goes, like all other states of mind. But I don't own the definition of happiness, so ... chances are, if you see it differently, you might say, "Hey, not so fast there, missy...."

I also find that comfort is nearly impossible. You know, being comfortable. I mean, you can go to great lengths to achieve comfort in your life by wearing clothes that feel good, or by using this or that appliance or device to enhance your experience. But as far as lasting comfort, I have been unable to find it. There is always some discomfort lurking in the background, sometimes out in full force in the foreground. It might be physical, or mental, or emotional, or some combination of all of these; but there never seems to be a time when I feel really comfortable.

I sometimes think this is just part of the plan here. You know, the whole "being human" shtick. If we get too comfortable, resting on our laurels and all that, we stagnate. So, we keep moving to avoid that stagnation and to (we hope) feel a little bit more comfortable in our discomfort.

Here I go speaking for you again! When I say "we" I am assuming you have thoughts that are similar to mine. Maybe you feel very comfortable and it wouldn't occur to you to even talk about it. Who knows.

Well, anyway, I hadn't blogged in awhile and wanted to just come say hello. (Hi.) I hope your year is getting off to a good start! Thanks for stopping by.

*The name of the show is actually
Eigenvectōr, but (as of this writing) the website is not yet updated with the new information.