Gran's Apple Butter Blog

January 17, 2012

Going Home, Excerpt: Remember Your Manners (8IV)

Chapter 8 ~ Remember Your Manners

Although the specifics of good manners are debatable, Gran thought their observance in general is more important than we realize. Not just for the sake of knowing where our napkin goes, which maybe isn’t all that important in the big picture, but because of the patterns and processes and ways of being that develop based on these guidelines.

We become aware of how our actions affect others the same way we notice when we’re chewing with our mouths open. You know, that incredulous stare from the other side of the table, if our parents didn’t get that fully drilled in. How we do what we do shapes how people see us, whether we like it or not, and actions speak louder than words. After all, there’s more to body language than just how you shake hands.

Gran thought the most important reason for learning manners was that this taught sensitivity to others, like a beginner’s class in diplomacy. First and foremost: Pay attention. If you find yourself in a sticky situation, slow down. Hitting speed bumps at full throttle is never recommended.

No matter what, as one friend advised, just show up and be your best self, which may include planning a few defensive maneuvers and remembering that “a soft answer turns away wrath.”  Be respectful – of your differences, each other, and yourself. When in doubt, looking for ways you’re similar is a good place to start. And if you need time or space to process, take it. Everyone will be glad you did.

At the same time, if we’re acting from our center, we may not get as impatient or angry when others do things we find offensive. We’ll be more compassionate and understanding, and we’ll know when to share our needs, to give the other person a chance to meet those needs. If someone chooses not to do that, we have other options. We can s-t-r-e-t-c-h to let go of that need, we can accept their choice, we can take our company elsewhere, or we can stuff our frustration down inside until it reaches the DANGER HIGH EXPLOSIVES level. That, Gran said, is generally counter-productive.

Whatever we do, we want to remember that those who share our lives – especially our youngest companions – are watching us and learning from our choices, helpful and not so helpful. Gran thought that’s why artists often portray children with great big eyes and little bitty ears. They may not listen much, but they watch everything.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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January 10, 2012

Going Home, Excerpt: Visiting (8III)

Chapter 8 – Visiting

But wait! Before we get too far from that front door, Gran said we might want to slow down and remind ourselves of a few things so this could, indeed, be the Best Visit Ever. She had three very practical suggestions for visiting – whether it’s your grandma, your best friend, or the Reverend Lovejoy at the end of the street.

#1. Always bring a gift for the hostess, even if it’s just your smile and a big hug.
#2. Remember: All guests, no matter how nice, begin to stink after three days (like fish).[i]
#3. If it’s a potluck, don’t bring chips – or hummus – except maybe every third time. Mix it up a little.

This might also be a good time to brush up on house rules. These change, depending on the place.  Different homes have different rules, and what’s appropriate in one may be atrocious in another, so it’s a good idea to get this straight from the beginning.

As far as Gran could tell, all these rules were pretty much right. Just different. So if I wasn’t sure which fork to use, she said to look around and see what others were doing. It’s good manners not to act or think that my way is always right. According to Gran, this meant I couldn’t always do whatever I wanted. Well, I could, but like any choice, that would carry a consequence, and those consequences can be downright inspiring when it comes to decision-making.

Gran said these different rules are one reason our reflections of home can seem a little out of focus. In our one true home, it’s simple – it’s all about love, no question about it. But along the way, as we learn our lessons, there can be a bit more involved, and sometimes it seems like the love part gets lost in the shuffle.

That’s why Gran said we want to do our best to make sure others see a true reflection of home in us, and not one that’s smeared with dust or someone else’s fingerprints. When that happens, people may do things they don’t mean to do, or say things they don’t mean to say. Feelings get hurt and we act all angry so no one sees how sad we are inside. That hurts the other person, who starts acting angry back, and our poor little reflection gets more and more muddled ‘til it all but disappears.  

Gran said if I polish my mirror each day, and fix any cracks or tarnished spots, I’ll be a good reflector. And if everyone does this, we’ll all be good reflectors. Can you imagine how shiny the world would be then?

We polish our mirrors when we forgive others, and even when we forgive ourselves. The granddaddy of all cleaners, Gran said, comes with the practice of rewriting our stories about the people in our lives, writing these scripts big enough for each of us to grow into, like a new pair of shoes, letting go of our fears and judgments and creating something entirely new.

It’s like bringing your dirty laundry home. That’s fine and dandy, but you don’t have to walk in the front door wearing it. It’s also best not to leave it outside the bathroom door: Take that stroll to the laundry room. And if you start a load, it’s nice to ask if anyone else has some whites. And remember that it really isn’t in anyone else’s best interest to do this work for you, even though it may seem like it at the time. A good friend might help you with it, but remember, it’s still your dirty laundry.

[i] Thanks, Mama Rosi, for this tidbit of wisdom

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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