Archive for the 'decisions' Category


January 31, 2016

I’ve been to a number of antique stores over the years, and I am aware that in some, the policy is “You break it, you bought it.”  Some high-end dealers don’t use that policy, some low-end dealers don’t — I haven’t noticed a pattern with regard to the financial part of the issue about who insists on compensation and who doesn’t.  (And no antique dealer I have ever known supported themselves from selling antiques, there has always been another source of income for every one.)

So what goes into the decision of how to handle breakage?  I don’t know.  Personality of the dealer?  As I said, I don’t know.

But I think the fact that there are different approaches to this issue in the context of something so tangible and concrete is interesting:  who bears the burden of the cost of damage?

Well, first issue is agreeing there is damage.  That’s why I started with the title “Convincing”: some people will try to convince you the antique was always cracked, that they did nothing to cause it or even contribute to its creation.  I suspect they convince themselves, but the usual Achilles heel of their argument is that their perspective is the only point of view.  In some cases, it is an assumption that everybody agrees that the norm is whatever it is they are claiming, say, that it’s okay to pull what you see as weeds out of stranger’s garden.  Never seems to occur to them that a gardener might prefer to have their space invaded by weeds rather than by other people, or that they might actually want that plant in there where it is.  This is why looking for internal guidance that does not come from the ego is so helpful — the content of such guidance provides neutral space for our behaviors to intersect with each other with less friction and damage.  With a cracked antique, this assumption might be expressed by saying it’s a cost of doing business that “stuff happens.”

Once there is damage — uprooted plant, cracked antique, bills unpaid when the income check bounced — who absorbs it?  I am wondering about how people decide this as a social matter, not as a matter of law.

I think it was in Maureen Dowd’s column this weekend about Donald Trump that suggested to me that rich and powerful people may feel they can get away with never having to absorb the damage at their end:  “’I’m really rich and successful,’ he replied. ‘I don’t have to make up with everyone.’”

On the other hand, some rich and successful people will want to buy that cracked antique, not just as a gesture to the dealer or in acknowledgement that the value of the item has been diminished by the damage, but because they will feel better about themselves in the long run, they feel the mishap brought the item to their attention and are curious to see how it might enhance their life, they feel that’s what is called for, perhaps through their internal guidance,etc.

An antiques dealer may just write the expense off like the expense of having paid too much for a piece that won’t sell in their area.  A browser may apologize profusely and buy a lesser item they can afford if they can’t afford what they damaged.  A dealer may not care about the money at all or may eventually close their business.

What I think is actually most important in determining the bearing of the cost of damage is the process of working it out to a mutually acceptable arrangement.  I suspect there are no “one size fits all” remedies.  But I think the problem is made worse by a unilateral attempt to leave the other person with the onus of absorbing the costs.  And I can see in this context too the lesson of the blind men needing to pool their respective experiences of the different parts of the elephant — the lesson may be about communication, not about the underlying damage.


Telling stories

December 11, 2011

I have spent a lot of time working on unraveling somebody’s stories, including how they construct narratives in order to process the world.  That’s what we do, I think, in this world, take pieces of stuff and form larger pictures.  If we try to make them cohere in a certain way, including with cause and effect, it’s more like our every-day narratives of our lives.  If it’s more like juxtaposed pieces placed near one another, sometimes overlapping, etc., it’s more like what we call collage, a type of art, to our way of thinking.

There is a tendency to use the narrative and our models of narratives more generally to guide our (future) behavior:  where does this storyline seem to be going and how can I influence it? is what seems to be the process many people use.   That stopped working for me a long time ago, and at some point between being practical about it (this just isn’t working) and willingness (although perhaps that willingness was induced through coercion or deceit) to try something else instead, I think I stopped desiring it to.

Which, on the one hand, has led to some interesting experiences, but, on the other hand, is kind of difficult to explain to other people, especially when people say, “Well, now that you have developed these skills, why don’t you apply them in this, that, or the other particular way?”

About those interesting experiences: here’s an example from last week.  I kind of heard at the previous week’s Friday night services that there would be a potluck supper after services the following week.  Maybe because they said that bringing food was voluntary, I forgot all about it.  Thursday night Jordan and I went food shopping, and I happened to buy the makings for coleslaw, which I don’t usually do.  The next day, late in the morning I find myself putting it together, and, even more unusual, throwing in things like cut up apples, walnut pieces, and dried cranberries.  I think I am being a good hausfrau and using up stuff in the cupboard and fridge.  A little later I found myself looking at an email from the congregation, with a view to forwarding it to someone else, and behold, it mentions the potluck (to welcome the LGBTQ community) and I start thinking, “I really should bring something, what should I do?” And then I realize I can bring the coleslaw.

So, it’s kind of nice to have something other than my intellectually accessible memory keeping track of what I need to do, and I’ve gotten more of this support since I got caught up in spiritual pursuits.  But being plugged in doesn’t seem to be something that I can then decide to use for my own purposes, or anyone else’s, just because it looks like it would be neat to couple this sort of support with some particular human agenda or other.  It seems to allow me to see what goes on in my life as pieces of collage, as well as a story unfolding in a particular direction.  But that collage perspective is even less about pointing me towards a particular goal.  In the past, I have figured out what some chapter in my life seems to have been about, only after the fact, in retrospect.  Maybe here, too, I will need to have started doing before I will understand what it is and why.


November 29, 2011

Someone in an email group I belong to included the following, which may be commonly known, but I had never heard it before: “‘A woman has to be in the mood; a man has to be in the room.'”  There has been much discussion, much in a jocular vein, about this ever since, among other members of the group.

But I actually found it helpful in a more pedantic way, because it said to me that maybe some men don’t trust themselves and that’s why they avoid certain kinds of relationships with women.  Which in turn got me thinking about “What Temptation Means to Me.”

For me, temptation is usually about signing on to someone else’s view not just of the world and how to be in it but of me and how I should be in it.  The (mis)step I take is something like, “Oh, they must know something I don’t” and I jump right into their idea of what I should be doing.  A good example was when my son was struggling in high school and I called all the right people for advice and they told me to convene a meeting and it turned out to bring things to a head in a way we were not prepared for (and not what was supposed to happen — many rules were broken, but as I learned, unless the student and family have the resources, including time, to go through a hearing process, there’s not much that can be done when the rules are not followed — more than one lawyer told me, “Yes, you’re right, there really is no accountability there, they are used to that, and that’s a large part of the problem.  Muddle on.”  We muddled until he graduated.).

So, one of my temptations is to take other people’s advice, and when it means adopting a worldview that actually doesn’t work in my context, if indeed it actually works for anybody — sometimes I think it just becomes more obvious in my life because the issues tend to get played out in heightened ways — I end up sitting on the ground inspecting my bruises and trying to accept that what may be appropriate for other people may actually not be what I should be doing, and that it’s part of my contribution to the situation that I asked for and took their advice.

Bruises are one thing.  I can get back up on the horse (elephant?) and keep going.  It’s when the advice tells me something akin to, “You shouldn’t be riding that horse,” or any horse, that I risk trouble.  My sense of what horse I should be riding I think has to come through me, I don’t think I can take most people’s word for it.  When I sense I’m on the wrong one, I do have some success asking someone like Gita, who does see other people’s stuff pretty neutrally, about why I feel confused.  It usually even then takes my actually seeing it for myself to accept it, although the suggestion about where to look is invaluable.

The temptation with which I am currently struggling involves the perennial favorite question, especially in middle age, “What should I be doing with my Life?”  I don’t feel like a failure, the way a relative recently reported to me she feels, but I do feel tired and that I still haven’t found a modus vivendi since Willy died that feels like it works for me.  I have opted for the “function and be responsible” part of the program, and hoped that eventually I would find the opportunity to regroup in a way that would feel more comfortable, especially since in the long term I need a way of living that is less exhausting.  I don’t know.  Maybe I am too loathe to abandon my responsibilities in favor of something else, or maybe the lesson is to find a way to meet those responsibilities without becoming so exhausted and with discovering a way to find contentment in my life as presently constituted.  I do somewhat better with answering the smaller question of, “What should I be doing right now in my life?  What is next?”

Promises and patience

October 28, 2011

I’ve noticed two seemingly conflicting themes in my life, promises that turn out to be empty and insufficient patience on my part.  When I feel called upon to decide in a given situation to which category in fact a new situation belongs, I sometimes come to the realization that I can’t figure it out myself — I am aware that my mechanisms for doing so have been too severely compromised by previous experience.  But I also know that this means I have the happy consequence of feeling nudged into the recognition that it is not a matter of my needing to come to a conclusion on that particular question myself anyway, but just the continuing need for me to be willing and to be open to the possibilities, to seeing what outcome will have apparently served my greater good, and to learning what the lesson for me will have been.