As I work to improve as a paddler for my local dragon boat club, I am developing friendships among my fellow teammates – in and off the boat. Thinking about that took me down memory lane . . . .
Waaaaaay back in my 20’s and 30’s I was a very active member of a Jaycee chapter. Women and men were equal members (no Jaycettes in sight) and while our focus was on community service, it was also an opportunity to develop organizational skills useful both to our chapter and to our workplaces. After being elected to the board for the first time I attended my initial meeting, seated by my portfolio vice president. There was a lot of discussion about possible new events and overlapping conversations. I caught the words “dog and pony show” and in my then-ignorance I blurted out, “Oh, I love dogs! I’d love to work on an event with dogs and ponies!” My VP jabbed me in the side to stop me from talking further, but he was unsuccessful. Who knew it was a term for a sales presentation?
The Jaycees gave me an opportunity to learn project management skills, work on a team, supervise others, conduct post-mortems on events and develop leadership skills – all of which contributed to my professional trajectory. And I made friends; one Jaycee friend came to Atlanta when Rick and I married and has been a constant in my life since we met. (I also fought for my rights as a woman, becoming the lead plaintiff, with my chapter’s blessing and financial support, in trying to retain our chapter’s ability to have women as full members. In writing this post I googled my then-last name and it popped right up even after almost thirty years!)
It has been a long time since I’ve been in a career position, and my life has certainly taken unexpected turns along the way. Since becoming a widow, I’ve become a dragon boat racing enthusiast. I find there are similarities to my experience in the Jaycees. I am learning new skills applicable to my life and becoming a stronger, fitter woman. The team is all-important and we cannot succeed without one another. And I am making friends – new ones who enrich my life and I theirs – and who are becoming constants just as my Jaycee friend I met decades ago.
It’s all good.
Yes, I do. I swear.
Just the other day I had a long discussion with a woman friend about social behaviors and courtesies. With some friends, a swear word may pop out of my mouth during both carefree and care-full times. With others, my language is kept suitable. I would prefer not to use bad words. As my writing expands, I am more aware of the superior impact of well-chosen words over the alternatives.
Recent inner dialogue I’ve been having with myself has included consideration of how I want to be perceived in this new normal of a life; it includes being well-mannered. I don’t want to swear and ought to stop cold-turkey. In fact, at church services this past week I even made a silent promise to avoid swear words and asked for God’s assistance in keeping that commitment.
On that same Sunday I finally had time to read the prior day’s Wall Street Journal. Oh, my goodness, the issue included an article written by Emma Byrne entitled “The Many Benefits of the Occasional Swear Word.” (WSJ, January 13, 2018, p. C3) What? Really?
Dr. Byrne noted researchers have found that using off-color words when in pain actually reduces the pain’s impact. This is true not only for physical pain, but also social pain – leading me to infer swearing may help relieve emotional pain. I use inappropriate words more frequently since Rick’s death, and it is way beyond time to wipe them from my personal vocabulary. Somehow saying shocking words have allowed me to express my frustration and pain in a way that called others’ attention to my neediness. As I noted in my last post to this blog, I am feeling “whole” in a way I haven’t for over eighteen months so I don’t need them anymore.
Just over sixteen years ago Rick had his first surgical procedure for his newly-diagnosed bladder cancer. He was discharged from the hospital with a catheter. I know I don’t need to describe the immense discomfort a man experiences from one of those. As he sat home, waiting for the days to pass until he could be released from his unwanted tether, he discovered HBO’s “The Sopranos.” There’s a lot of profanity in that show. I think just simply watching others say words which rarely, if ever, crossed his lips, provided some relief from the physical discomfort. Over subsequent years his personal relationships, motorcycling, bicycling and lifelong learning habits were all better tools for coping with his disease.
There are better tools in my toolbox, too. So I will stop cussing.
A lot of people make New Year’s resolutions. In the past I promised myself I would lose weight, always say “thank you” and take other steps for self-improvement. Not anymore. As I enter the second calendar year a widow I turn more to bucket lists, challenging myself to explore my outer and inner world.
Here are two external experiences I want to try this year to test my bravery and overcome fears: take a zip line tour and try out scuba diving in a local river. I have already found a girlfriend who wants to try zip lines, too, and we’ll give it a go – I’m terrified of the thought of hanging off a narrow wire and flying through the air, high above the ground. There are a lot of pro dive shops here, so I’ll choose one which offers an introductory scuba excursion – again, I’m afraid of going so deep into the water that I have to rely on an air tank.
My inner world also requires some attention. I find I am becoming restless with solitude. Formerly I seemed to need almost an entire day of seclusion to regain the necessary energy to engage with others. Sunday was often that day, and if I had another activity that took up most of that day, I struggled the next several days, seeking silence and sleep. Now I don’t want an entire day, or even a full day – I’ll go out bicycling on my own or call up a few friends. This shift is a good thing; it indicates the way I present myself in the world is becoming more aligned with my reality. It is not so exhausting because I am not pretending to be all right when I’m not; I’m really all right so much of the time now.
I enjoy writing posts for this blog most of the time, but other times I struggle for appropriate material. While I am willing to share a fair amount about myself, I do not want to cross the line by writing about others in a way that makes them uncomfortable. Thus I refer to my beloved stepdaughters, but I try not to reveal anything private. As I step further into 2018 I need to find a way to continue to post in a way which meets both my and my readers’ expectations.
Time with friends is something I enjoy more than ever – individuals, team mates and neighbors of both genders. It feels good, albeit a bit scary, to step out with someone with whom I have a budding friendship. Life demands different characteristics to come to the forefront in different situations. Humor, commitment, empathy, judgment and competitiveness all have their place in my world, but sometimes I need to back it down and other times step it up. Upsy-daisy!