Connective communication - the concept is out there folks.
In the absence of communication, only perception remains. I have had occasion, of late, to contemplate this awareness, as a naïve spectator watching the consequences of a friend’s familial conflict and subsequent fragmentation. As I clung to hopefulness for him, my naivety was replaced with a lesson: When conflict threatens a relationship, the reciprocal flow of communication is as vital to a healthy relationship as the reciprocal flow of blood is to a healthy heart.
Communication is loosely portrayed as the ‘act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information to share your ideas, thoughts, and feelings to someone else.’ As I reasoned with this definition, I considered another approach in understanding communication. If dictionary.com will indulge me, I’d like to tidy up the loose ends of this definition by suggesting a word change, along with an appendage that may provide inspiration in discouraging communication from faltering to perception.
communication [kuh-myoo-ni-key-shuh n] - the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express and exchange information to share your ideas, thoughts, feelings to someone else, and with the expectation that that someone else will respect and validate your ideas, thoughts, feelings.
Expressing ‘or’ exchanging alludes that perhaps both are not essential. However, my thinking is that both are necessary for communication to, at the very least, even exist. That is, within any conflict, the two persons involved should have the opportunity to be both the communicator and the communicatee (can’t resist the opportunity to make up a word). Assuming the existence of communication, my philosophy also implies connection. Connection, conceptually, is reciprocal, providing a pathway in both directions. Communication connects the communicator and communicatee in a cycle of exchanges and expressions. And when there is connection, there is a much better chance for the prerequisite of empathy when working through the conflict. I thought perhaps I coined a new phrase, connective communication. I checked; that is, I googled. The concept is already out there folks. But maybe my blog will expedite a movement to expand the concept throughout the masses. World peace would be a bonus.
I added the appendage because it’s okay to have expectations during a conflict. It’s natural. When I engage in communication, I both extend and anticipate respect and validation. Agreement is not always necessary. Respect can exist without agreement. Validation can exist without agreement. However, a healthy relationship cannot exist without respect and validation.
For connective communication to be productive, the exchange must be direct, between the two people in where the conflict exists. When others feel compelled to get involved, especially without invitation, the communication becomes that childhood game we played at pajama parties – telephone. A silly game that provided a few laughs when the telephone line was either compromised by static (i.e., too many giggles to hear the message) or cut out all together (i.e., someone intentionally distorted the message for more laughs). Playing telephone is not so much fun in the thorny realm of adult conflict.
Connective communication is the process. The integrity of this process, what actually transpires during communication, illustrates a person’s intent for a resolution. The willingness to do the hard work. The humility to take responsibility. Or not, which sends a silent message that, ironically, is loud and clear. Connective communication challenges our virtues – honesty, sincerity, maturity, compassion, reasoning, acceptance, grace, commitment, and forgiveness. Yes, a rather wide-ranging list to integrate in the midst of an emotional conflict. I have lots of thoughts regarding these virtues and their impact. A subsequent blog, perhaps. For now, I will leave you with this question: are you virtuous? I try to ask myself this daily, because tapping into my own virtuousness can be challenging depending on the circumstance. Always being virtuous is not easy. Consider this when answering the question: Human nature dictates that we will make mistakes; that our emotions can, as they say, get the best of us. And that, too, is natural during conflict. However, it’s what you do next that determines your virtue.
© Copyright Paula Davis
Being grateful for you at that moment...
Some friendships come to us, some leave. Some friendships travel deep, while some tentatively glide along the surface. And then there are the ones that journey through our lifetime. Thinking of all my friendships, it can be disheartening to not be able to resolve the ones lost. Could there be a blueprint for that quintessential intimate and lifelong friendship. Isn’t it the deeper, forever friendships the ones that we want. That we need. I wonder how practical is this expectation of every friendship. Perhaps it’s better that we discover and appreciate the purposefulness of a friendship in “that present time” in our life and to believe that that connection has enduring worth. Still, I’d like to resolve the ones that have settled only in memory, to understand the why’s of a lost friendship. To not feel the sadness about the ones I didn’t want to lose and, likewise, to not feel regret or guilt in having insensitively or hurtfully let one go.
In my quest, I looked to Aristotle’s philosophy on friendship. A philosophy that provides insight, along with a bit of comfort in the normalcy that all friendships, whether past or present, casual or rooted, do have purpose. With any philosophy, roll up your sleeves, play with it, shape it. Then, consider its personal relevancy. Aristotle’s philosophy on the human connection we call friendship is an affection of wishing “… for the good of our friend for the friend’s sake” and that then if “… this good will is on a reciprocal basis, it is friendship.” To resolve this within our many relationships, Aristotle conceived three underlying classes of friendship: one of usefulness, one of pleasure, and one of virtue. All three friendships can be reciprocated and mutually beneficial between two people, but at a significant time in a person’s life.
A friendship of virtue – affection for someone simply on the genuine foundation of who they are – provides that deeper and forever connection, as opposed to casual or momentary friendships based on usefulness or pleasure. I’d like to point out that the latter two are not necessarily selfish or undesirable; however, these incidental friendships can be less fulfilling and, in some cases, dissolved. Friendships of usefulness and pleasure can be less fulfilling or dissolve when one person is no longer experiencing what is useful or pleasant; that is, the foundation that the friendship is based upon no longer exists. These friendships also tend to involve expectations of one person that the other is not meeting. The emotional aspect of these relationships is that someone often gets hurt. And it’s this hurt, whether you are on the receiving end or the imparting end, that needs to be resolved to be able to appreciate the friendship’s worth.
I’d like to offer a post script to Aristotle’s philosophy. That a lost friendship remains present in who I am today; that there are qualities, even lessons, in every friendship that comforts me in understanding my ever-changing self. To be conscious of the friend I want to be for others. So then, I will no longer label these friendships as "lost" or consider them in the past tense; rather, as “presently remindful” friendships that, in some way, have offered the gift of unique virtue. Then, in understanding each friendship, maybe lessen the feelings of confusion, hurt, regret, guilt. To resolve and, who knows, maybe aspire to deepen a casually gliding friendship or relight a presently remindful friendship. Either way, I do delight in this feeling of possibilities.
© Copyright Paula Davis
It's not the word, it's the perception...
I am raising two children. Something that tiptoes into my daily consciousness… if I haven’t raised two feminists, I have not done my job. More importantly, if my husband had not contributed to raising feminists, then I married the wrong guy. In using the word ‘feminist’ I am simply referring to the expectation of gender fairness and respect.
There are only two genders roaming the globe. I am bewildered at the visceral controversy in achieving equality. For those stuck on the word equality, let's call it equity. And for those stuck on the word feminism, let’s call it gender symbiosis. We may not be physiologically akin, which of course cannot be changed. We should absolutely acknowledge our differences. Appreciate that men and women complement one another. Nevertheless, how our two genders treat one another is cultural, and this moral compass can, and should, point in the same direction.
My children are the same gender. So, with plausible admission, I can only profess experience with raising the one gender. I can’t intellectualize or even make an educated guess as to the intricacies of raising the other gender. Nor can I confidently deny the possibility of yielding to gender-specific ideologies and, in fact, raise them differently. I am, though, certain of one aspect – raising children to respect the other gender is the same lesson for both boys and girls.
If you have not already guessed the gender of my children, here’s a hint. I gave them both the same stocking stuffer for Christmas. A bumper sticker that reads: “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” Please know that this is not a 'man-haters' manifesto. Rather, a statement of confidence and self-reliance.
Yes, I have birthed two accompaniments to the female population. We are raising two girls to embrace the equity of their gender. Feminist with respect to how they perceive themselves. Feminist because of the way they should expect to be treated. And when not, to have the confidence to make a change. They don't necessarily have to be an activist to be a feminist. However, with any type of unfairness in the world, thank goodness there are activists.
We want them to possess the mind-set and skill-set to support themselves and have a fulfilling life whether or not they find a significant other. To flourish in a world that can be biased toward them simply for being female. I also hope that if they do find someone, that that someone is also a feminist and their relationship is a loving and respectful partnership. That they are both the beneficiary and the benefactor of romantic gestures – if he opens the door for her, I hope she opens the door for him. That continuing a career or staying home to raise children is a mutual decision for the benefit of their family. I hope that he, as a father, doesn’t view parenting in terms of gender‑specific responsibilities; that, for example, he doesn’t view bath time as a chore, but as a joy of being a parent.
I have heard quite a bit about the double-standard when raising the two genders. In all the conversations with moms raising both genders, many – not all – have said, “boys are easier than girls.” It’s such a vague and generally unbecoming comment so I always ask, “how so?” Most often the response is, “they are emotionally draining” or “they require more attention.” I find these answers curious coming from a female that has already experienced what her daughter is experiencing. I wonder, is this when the gender rulebook is handed out, where the opposing cultural message is conveyed to boys and girls? My thoughts on this:
But don’t you want her to come to you. Always, and bringing all of her to you, without censoring herself. Not just with the easy stuff, but particularly with the harder stuff. Isn’t that how you will know her more intimately. Young kids struggle to articulate feelings, much less understand them. Isn't it those wordless passionate and spontaneously fiery emotions that let you know. Hadn’t you experienced her world when you were young. How can the perception of her emotional needs be disapproving. Inherently, she is insecure, but trying so hard to be perfect when she doesn’t have to be. The alternative is that she may not come to you. The risk is that she keeps it all inside. The consequence is that she doesn’t grow freely and confidently.
Incidentally, I could replace all the shes and hers with he and him because you'd want this relationship with your son too. I applaud those who are raising gender symbiotic children – girls or boys. You know who you are!
© Copyright Paula Davis
“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” - Dale Carnegi
My favorite book genre is historical fiction. My only occasion for learning something about history. Or, in some cases, relearning something long forgotten through the years. Given that historical fiction topics are based on an actual character or event, I habitually find myself researching to learn more about the author’s inspiration. Well, maybe some suspicious fact checking too. [Sidebar: Did you know that the Dixie Cup was invented way back in 1907. I would have guessed the '60s; just seems like a “mod” type of invention.]
A recent historical fiction book I read was set in the 1600's. An interesting aspect of the book was the unusual character names. In particular, Makepeace. Thinking that the author was merely indulging a creative whim, I still couldn’t help googling. Sure enough, during this period, some parents bestowed onto their offspring a name based on religious belief or circumstance. For example, Elizabeth Hopkins gave birth while sailing to America on the Mayflower. She named her son, Oceanus. Suzanna White also gave birth on the Mayflower, naming her son Peregrine. Other noteworthy passenger names on the Mayflower included: Remember, Love, Wrestling, Desire, Resolved, and Humility. These virtue-type names were primarily used by Puritans, hoping their children would be influenced by a particular characteristic. For most of us, we consider virtue synonymous with goodness. And although unconventional, most Puritan virtue names were optimistically meaningful and quite delightful. Wisdom, Charity, Blessing, Destiny, and Honor. However, in having deep convictions regarding sin, Puritans also focused on names that would safeguard against destructive virtues. Deliverance, Obedience, Forsaken, Abstinence, and Temperance. Humility, for instance, served as a perpetual reminder to be submissive to God. Even more straightforward were phrase-type names: Hate‑evil, Kill‑sin, No‑merit, Joy-in-sin, and Die‑well. Yikes. Maybe Puritans believed that in understanding the nature of any virtue, one must be vigilant to a potentially hidden vice. That is, an unguarded virtue could naturally amend itself as a vice – being organized could become obsessive; daring could escalate into risk‑taking; modesty could slip to insecurity; confidence to arrogance; cautious to anxious; or persuasive to domineering.
My curiosity turned up close to 100 virtue and phrase names. My faves: Endeavor, Pleasance, Solace, Make‑peace, Free‑gift, Fear‑not, and Hope‑still. The more creative parents also took advantage of their surname. In 1679, Samuel and Sarah Bliss named their son Experience. These eclectic naming customs faded away in America because of the diversity of immigrants from other countries, giving rise to cultural names. I find myself wishing that this naming practice was still fashionable. I think most kids with unconventionally positive names grow into that name and become proud of it, enriching their sense of identity. Although teasing could be relentless for some names, maybe virtue names will make a comeback for at least a middle name. I may have to lobby for virtue names when the grandkids come along. Or, perhaps it’s time to get a pet. Maybe a dog named Just-as-you-are (Jaya, for short). Or, Consider-all-possibilities (Cap, for short). How fun!
When you have a moment, check out this witty naming website. The site lists every possible name, its origin, meaning, and popularity time frame: nameberry.com. For you exceptionally curious folks, check out the nominative determinism theory – a belief, originating in ancient times, that a person’s name could determine not only their character, but their profession. Like some of the virtue names still around today, some of you may know these present day meteorologists: Amy Freeze, Larry Sprinkle, and Storm Field. And, how about Usain Bolt, the record-breaking sprinter. Makes you wonder.
© Copyright Paula Davis
My unremembered early years...
I cannot recall what I consider my most epic achievements. And by epic, I mean ambitious and life changing. These achievements happened at a time when my memories were not physiologically wired for future recollection – my indomitable years from birth to, say, four-ish. Although unintentional, not remembering makes it easy to take these achievements for granted; in the absence of remembering, first, the uninhibited feelings during the challenge, and then, that ensuing whoa, did you see what I just did feeling. These are my firsts – my first smile, rolling over for the first time, standing without holding on to the coffee table, my first steps, my first words, writing my name. And these achievements were not flawless. My walk was unstable, I said Mumu instead of Mommy, and I wrote the “P” in my name backwards. But the perfection of my new talents was of no consequence; and I trekked on, inadvertently learning fundamental lessons.
As I aged, challenges seemed more intimidating, and I became inhibited, questioning myself. It never really occurred to me how much I would have benefited from remembering early achievements. Not until I had children could I entirely appreciate the benefit of remembering my firsts during those later years of doubt, setbacks, confusion, insecurities – the “un‑indomitable” years. (We all remember middle school. Eek. Then high school. More eek.) I marveled at my kid’s resolve during their early years. But then, as doubt and insecurities started to creep into their consciousness, I found myself saying, somewhat jokingly, “Pick yourself up, remember, like learning how to walk. You did it then and you can do it now.” For every one of their challenges, I wished that they could remember their firsts. As a hobby philosopher, here are my theories on the practical relevance of our early achievements to the way we choose to live, and the purposeful lessons we all hope to remember and carry throughout life.
smiling – my first smile, such a pure gesture, one without words or pretense or expectation. I smiled simply because someone was smiling at me. Today, I use this compelling and infectious resource to smile at strangers.
Lesson: Kindness is contagious, let us spread joy.
rolling over – lying on a blanket in the middle of the living room floor, the confined scene around me was limiting. There must have been a natural desire to vary my perceptions, to roll over and see another view, what others might see. Today, I remind myself to look around and appreciate what others see.
Lesson: Expand our views, while accepting another’s.
standing – standing up without holding on to the coffee table. But not without a lot of falling. With each added second not holding on to something, I discovered perseverance I ignored my sore bottom and was not afraid of falling. My spirit never wounded. When you fall, pick yourself up – turns out, this is not a cliché; we just think it is because we don’t remember. Today, I ask for help and I offer help.
Lesson: It’s okay to lean on someone, and falling is not failing.
writing – like most kids, when I first learned to write my name, a letter or two was inverted. Since I continued to write inverted letters for quite some time, I can assume that I thought it looked just fine. And, after all, it was my name so I got to write it anyway I wanted. My choice.
Lesson: Nobody is pɘrfɘɔt, so let us not judge others.
I wonder, is it intentional that we don’t remember? Maybe we are humbled, and benefit from learning lessons yet again. A reminder, perhaps, to understand the worth of reflection. A personal invitation to create my own opportunities and say, Yes, I will do this, regardless of the level of expertise achieved. And with every achievement is a lesson to learn, about myself and about the world around me.
© Copyright Paula Davis
Good, for goodness' sake...
Awkward to say, ah, I seldom watch the news. This reluctance to live outside my bubble does make me feel a bit naive at dinner parties. But I worry. I worry about all of us. Being tapped into social media, chumming with pals, and listening to talk radio, I do catch wind of disheartening goings-on around the world. Clearly, ominous stories are told more aggressively, often remaining in a state of rising conflict, and seeming to have no happy ending. I find myself laboring to focus on the goodness that I know neighbors this ugliness. After a particularly harrowing story, I tow the sadness around like the titan Atlas, carrying the mythological weight of the heavens on his shoulders. To me, it seems so glaringly obvious why people should want to choose to be good.
I often think about the inspiring philosophers who preceded us – Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Pooh Bear – and how much time they devoted to understanding goodness and its relationship to happiness. Aside from the simplistic philosophies of a stuffed bear, philosophical theories can be complicated and ambiguous. But the commonality among these fellows is the self awareness of a person’s virtuous soul. That is, the virtues by which a person naturally lives their life. If a soul is at odds, inner turmoil may bring about bad behavior. For humanity to evolve, the primary source of goodness must originate within each of us because, fundamentally, we are designed with the personal independence to choose to be good. Philosophical Spoiler Alert: Goodness is the activity; happiness is the end result. So if we make good choices to live a good life, then we never really have to try to be happy. Goodness, for the sake of goodness itself and for no other motive, results in happiness.
As Plato suggests, I will live a just life for its own sake, rather than unjustly for mere profit. I will be mindful of the continued harmony in my soul among the virtues of wisdom, courage, and temperance to make good choices. With Aristotle in mind, I will pursue goodness for the sake of itself, rather than for some other reward. I will be aware of the variance between my rational soul and my irrational soul, and obey reason to always strive for intellectual and moral virtue to make good choices. Like Augustine, I will acknowledge that we are all born with free will. Although, in having the free will to choose to be good, I realize that others have the free will to choose to be bad. I will never misuse my gift of free will, and compromise my virtuous soul. Then, I will listen to Pooh Bear to be reminded: “There are so many things that can make you happy. Don’t focus too much on things that make you sad.” This genuine and unsophisticated philosophy helps me to never stop believing that there are more good people in the world than bad people. I will do my part and keep my soul aligned. Still, I will seek peace in the solitude of my bubble and cuddle my childhood stuffed bear. Oh, and I will probably continue to avoid watching the news.
© Copyright Paula Davis