Saturday, March 10, 2012

Time Heals All Wounds

Or "Why I Love Ballads/the Fallacy of Flash Fiction"

Have you ever listened to Kenny Rogers's "The Gambler?"

It's hard to miss.  It's always on somewhere.  And it highlights something that I just find so pervasive about life: that it goes on and on almost ad nauseum sometimesThe tune for the verse and the chorus of "The Gambler" is the same, so you listen to the repetition of the single theme without variation seven times over three (is it really only three?) minutes.

But hey, that's life.  We face the same problems again and again.  We do the same things over and over.

My little one struggles with this daily.  "Mommy!" he whines.  "I brushed my teeth."

"Yes, you did, dear," I reply.  "Yesterday.  But now you need to do it again."


 And that's life, that is.  No matter how much our instant flash fiction culture might try to convince us otherwise, we are caught like Don Juan in nearly 1600 identical stanzas that, funny though they may be, seemingly never end.  That lives are occasionally cut short is something that is real and tragic and something I'm not trying to make light of, but at the same time, for many of us the very banality of everyday life, its mind-numbing routine sometimes overtakes us in a way that makes us think it is unimportant and undesirable.

Yet, for all its monotony, repetition is a key aspect, perhaps the key aspect of life.  After all, we do like it when our heart beats and our lungs breathe, right? This repetition is also the missing element in so many interventions in lives.

My friend recently commented in one of her amazing posts, "I noticed that I’m only able to apply NVC (nonviolent communication) when the stakes aren’t high...." Now, that's something that I find all the time (not just for the reasons that my dear friend mentions).  As I explored my own reasoning, I stumbled on the truth above.

You see, here is a secret:  We don't always have to solve the problem the first time around.  In fact, there are limits to which things are actually problems and there are boundaries to what can actually be "solved."  So many of our interventions (and believe me, I am all about intervention) want us to solve everything in one shot.  That just isn't realistic.  It makes everything into a high stakes game.  And when the stakes are high, it becomes hard to collect one's self and hard to perform gracefully.  It also tricks us into thinking that this is the ONLY time that we will get to solve the problem.

That may be true if I'm just dealing with a disgruntled fellow customer in the grocery store who has become upset in response to an isolated incident and with whom I share no intimate connection and may never see again.  It doesn't work for my child's teacher, who holds power over my child for an entire year, for my neighbor, whom I see daily, for my children, for whom I would die, or for my husband, whom I love more than I ever knew I could.  You see, for those others, I'm not actually dealing with one single incident when I talk with them.  I am dealing with one in a series of incidents with many emotional entanglements and for which I am asking for a substantive behavioral or affective change. 

While some of these interventions do help (I am a huge fan of both NVC and restorative circles--did I mention that my first venture into restorative circles was with a kid called "Boogie?"  Do you know how hard it is to seriously negotiate and respond, "Well, Boogie wants you to know...?"), they tend to gloss over the fact that you are unlikely to undo years of hurt, damage, fear, etc., with a single conversation.  It will take both time and action.  And that's okay.  A heart can be slow to change.  Gardner and Schulz both wrote entire books on the matter. 

And time can be a really good thing.  I don't want to be younger.  I like who I have become as a result of my experience.  Time has allowed me to learn from life and to break and rebuild habits.  It lets me gather the experience to "know when to hold 'em.  Know when to fold 'em."  And I'll be singing that awhile as I keep working at peace because heaven knows I haven't mastered it yet.


  1. Dear Elizabeth,

    This post could not have come at a more timely moment. We had an amazing NVC meeting today (14 members gathered at FIN), and one of the requests that I came around to making of myself was: "just wait. Be patient." The universe has been sending me this message from so many different directions, and now it has found me through your wonderful words. I feel so grateful for the synchronicity you have just brought into my life.

    This is so true, "So many of our interventions (and believe me, I am all about intervention) want us to solve everything in one shot. That just isn't realistic. It makes everything into a high stakes game. And when the stakes are high, it becomes hard to collect one's self and hard to perform gracefully. It also tricks us into thinking that this is the ONLY time that we will get to solve the problem." Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Nothing gets solved in an instant, and the multiple layers that exist in relationships makes this even more true. Time, in a sense, helps us see more clearly and gives us a chance to pay attention to all the intricate details in a way that respects everyone involved.

    You are a dear messenger.


  2. Josette,

    *sigh of contentment* Your words are always so peaceful and thought-provoking. You also, literally, bring synchronicity into my life as well (I actually downloaded the book two days ago and have been working my way through it). Thank you for your kind words in comment and your willingness to share on your own blog. It brings great sweetness to life.