Raking (other people’s) leaves

March 31, 2012

I’ve probably mentioned before that I had a neighbor here for many years who firmly believed that leaves from a tree rooted on my property were my responsibility to rake, even if they fell onto her property, and even if she chose not to trim the branches of the tree back to the property line to reduce the volume of leaves.  She was from another country, older, arthritic, and we eventually became friendly and dealt with the leaves and pruning issues without friction.

She moved away four or five years ago, but that concept of raking other people’s leaves had stayed with me.  Getting out on the porch roof yesterday to measure baluster spacing is a version of the idea.  At least there, even though I had an initially negative reaction to the thought of doing the measuring, I kind of knew what might help.  In other situations, I might also have the sense of how to meet someone more than halfway (from my perspective), or where they are, and without judging them or becoming angry or resentful, but in some situations I just don’t know what to do even if I am in theory willing to do more at my end to resolve an impasse.  Sometimes someone else clues me in on what I might do differently, like not assuming someone is blowing me off when it’s really anxiety preventing the other person from seeking clarification from me about how to do the task they’ve agreed to do for me.  With my dad I’ve learned not to ask general open-ended questions about financial matters — I get higher quality advice, I think from his improved focusing, if I can figure out enough first to be able to ask him some pretty specific questions.

But there are still times when I am willing to do more to meet the other person where they are but I don’t know what I can do that would constitute that.  I’m thinking that maybe I need to make sure I’ve cleaned up my own frustration first and have become open to doing what would help without noticing whether it’s something I originally thought I should need to do, without noticing which tree the leaf came from anymore.  Maybe when I’ve done that, it will become clearer what I can do that would move things along.

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