Recently, I asked someone I knew if I could talk to him for a few minutes. I will call him Eric.
We walked for a short while. I explained the issue. Then we stopped. I was facing Eric directly as he turned to give what I will call his “verbal position paper” on the topic. He was wearing sunglasses, his face angled upward, his jaw, firm, his body arched backwards at a comfortable level. And then he spoke.
It was clear to me, at that moment, that Eric had total control of the space he was in. I was convinced that his body actually began to stretch upwards, his voice sounding like hot taffy, consonants tapping softly on top of long rubber-band vowels.
I felt I was in a re-run of a 1930s Cary-Grant black-and-white film. Blue-blood, Boston-Brahmin, old-money territory. Continue reading
Family Screamers, Icy Silence, Sarcasm versus Saintly Calm
I grew up in a family of screamers, duckers, fighters, and scramblers. If that didn’t work, my family withdrew into icy silence.
If that didn’t work, we could always go to plan B: smart-ass sarcasm.
At the same time I was watching the pro-active survival skills of my siblings, I was being taught in Catholic elementary school that saints suffered quietly
They accepted their lots in life with passive surrender. And many quietly walked the gauntlet of martyrdom with angelic resignation, assured of a first-class room in the heavenly kingdom.
In my little elementary school mind, Christ was the icon of emotional stability. He may have thrown the gambling rabble out of the synagogue in a fit of rage, but his life seemed more about waiting his turn in the queue of acceptance and surrender. He was the gentle fisherman, the quiet shepherd. Not the raging truck driver or the sweaty faced hockey player, fists thrashing the air.
In my childhood, adolescence, and throughout my adulthood, I constantly pursued the “key” to sanctity. At one time, I thought all I had to do was go to mass, receive holy communion, confess my sins, and read spiritual books. The world, over time, I thought, would adapt to all the higher spiritual goals I had set out for myself. Or, on my journey to sainthood, I would be above it all.
The rain, you said,
Was too common.
Later, you blamed the leaves
For hanging on too long,
And snow, the burden
Of the shoeless.
Lightening, you affirmed, gently,
The storm’s revenge,
For my month’s silence.
The Introvert/Extrovert Dilemma
When I look back at my own psychological MO, I would also have to say that I played at being sociable throughout most of my adulthood. My more dominant side was drawn to ideas, the inner life, books, and—as a writer—observations.
Yet I chose a profession, teaching, where I had to be constantly on point—talking, explaining, analyzing, synthesizing, even negotiating. I was also very vocal at faculty senate meetings and even ended up being the teacher’s union president. So much for a shy, retiring, sensitive introvert I prided myself on being. Continue reading