Friday, February 20, 2009

Time and Relationships

I spent much of my time yesterday working on work stuff.

My relationships outside of work stuff suffered. I saw my wife for all of twenty minutes. I talked to colleagues about non-work related stuff not at all. Or nearly not at all. I worked with students as students and student actors.

At the same time, I tried to remember that they are persons - my wife, my colleagues, my students - and not just objects. Maybe, even though our relationships had no content, because I was too busy to let them have content, there was still some positive growth in the relationship.

Like when Sarah B reminded me that I swore in class that I didn't swear and then I swore in rehearsal. We all laughed.

Yeah, that was a good moment and a moment of growth in our relationship.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Crazy Daddy

Duck's work on attachment theory led me to think about a daddy and his daughter I ran into this past weekend.

He was dressed in a fairly standard Norwegian dräckt, and he had his daughter dressed in a bunad I've seen before. I don't know my Norwegian folk costumes very well, but this, it seems to me, is a fairly standard one. It may be the costume that our friend, Jill from Chicago, wears.

Daddy and daughter came to the folk dance workshop last weekend. Daddy was doting on daughter, clearly. Daughter came with a Hardanger fiddle. That's a fiddle with four played strings and four sympathetic strings. It is a very difficult instrument to master, though playing it a little isn't all that hard. Daughter played it a little.

Daddy pushed daughter to play. "Can my daugher play?" he asked the musicians. She played, and played and played. She was a very shy young woman until she got up in front of the crowd with the fiddle. Then it seemed like she'd never quit.

Sunday all the kids got out and had a snowball fight. Snowball fighting kids ranged in age from 8 to 22. They were all kids. Daughter was out in the snowball fight. Daddy was right at the edge of the snowball fight - not participating, but watching.

This was not a healthy Daddy/daughter relationship. Daddys need to let their little girls find their way in the world. If they don't get to play, to dance, to snowball fight on their own, Daddy's need not to step in as a substitute for playmates.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Thinking about Childhood

It was Sunday morning at the dance workshop, and no one was ready to dance.

The Winnipegers were still enroute when we got to Vennelyst Park, where we were dancing this year. Everyone waits for the girls from Winnipeg, particularly Ethan (Jack) Shogren - who turned 13 this year.

"What kind of car are they driving?" he asked Kris and I as we walked out the gate to climb the Missouri bluff. His sister Fiona (Tracy), seven, was with him.

Having climbed the rather steep path from the club house to the chain link gate, we turned left and continued climbing the riverbluff.

This neighborhood in North Omaha, we were told, was a dangerous one. Most of the murders happen here. Things are difficult in North Omaha.

The neighborhood didn't look dangerous. It looked declasse. A little down in the mouth, but mostly just working class. Like the neighborhood I grew up in, but with big lots and a view. I felt right at home.

I don't need much to make me feel at home. Just a neighborhood a not so large, not so well off, not so modern homes. I know they were new once, but not in my lifetime.

That's the way my house in Chicago was, and whenever I'm in this sort of neighborhood I feel at ease. On the other hand, as much as I like visiting my friends in the suburbs and the new developments, I never quite forget where I am and never quite feel at home there.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Back from the Dead?

Not quite dead, but certainly detached.

Spent the weekend (Saturday/Sunday) on the road to, in and on the road home from Omaha. We had a dance workshop for Scandinavian Dancers. Good time.

Spent some time with old friends, stayed at their house, drank some glögg, ate snacks, talked. Talked, and talked and talked.

What did we talk about? Some about mutual friends. Some about jobs and business. Some about family. Mostly we just talked. That was the important part of the visit - not the content but the time spent just talking. Relationships are built out of talking. Food and wine are the grease that keeps adult talking going.

Now I'm back at work and behind in all my work. I wonder if I'll ever catch up, but I'm actually confident that I won't and that it won't matter much in the long run. What will matter more than my being on top of every project is that I take the time to cultivate the relationships that make life a joy.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Interpersonal Communication and Observation

The Duck text suggests that we take a time in the future - two times in fact - and see what the context of day and time do for communication.

My problem is that I'm so routinized in my communication that I probably do pretty much the predictable same thing with the same people - and that's really hard to carefully observe.

I have an event coming that might be worth watching: Monday from 6:30 to 10 pm I'll be conducting auditions for Easter in the Burnett Center. That's one time that will be out of the ordinary and probably worth observing myself.

Then, I think I'll pay attention to preparation hours on Wednesday morning, from around 9 until 10:30 am.

Those two times might be worth keeping a watch on. But how will I observe myself in an unbiased fashion? What if I kept a journal of the hours and entered a note every 15 minutes to help recall and see what kinds of things I actually do - as opposed to what I think I do.

Watch this space on Wednesday evening to see how this observation experiment turns out.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It Wasn't Bad

Rotary was, as it has been, a successful meeting.

The only part of the process that I expected not to go well that did not go well was the joke time. The fellow who can't hear tells jokes at almost every meeting. He finishes his routine with a visual joke - a word or two words which, when combined, make a popular phrase. Tonight's rebus was the word "vanished" with a thinly written "air" encased in it. The phrase was "vanished in thin air." Clever. Three Rotarians got the phrase. He didn't hear any of them.

But everyone loves him and everyone just goes along with his jokes and his rebuses and laughs. He actually finds some pretty funny puns.

The program was LeGault, talking briefly and entertainingly about "I love you, you're perfect, now change."

The "happy dollar" Polio Plus went well. We've committed to raising $1000 a year for three years for the elimination of Polio. One of the ways the board said to raise that money was through an aggressive approach to "happy dollars," the loose change that we Rotarians through in each week - just because we're happy to be there. I didn't mention that in my anxieties post - but it is something that makes me a little anxious. I don't really like to raise money - I just don't like to ask others to shell out dollars, no matter how worthy the cause.

But we've got a few tricks and several very supportive members, and it seems to always go well. This meeting we raised about 30 dollars on the $1000 challenge. We'll make it I'm sure.

So, overall, my anticipation of how these interactions would turn out turned out not to be quite correct.

It's Rotary Time

Every Wednesday evening is Rotary Club night. I'm the President.

I look forward to these meetings with a mixture of joy and anxiety.

Joy because these are my friends - many are also colleagues at the college. I enjoy sitting and having a meal with these folks, joking and behaving the way "friends" do.

But it's also a time of anxiety. I'm the President and I'm responsible for getting this group to head in a new and better direction. I'm the President and I have to make sure that every member has a voice and a reason for being a part of the club. That creates anxiety. I expect that I will be anxious tonight.

But I also have anxiety because we have a few senior members for whom attendance is difficult. One of our members is nearly stone deaf, but he's there every week. I worry that he will fall or be knocked over. I worry that others will finally grow a bit weary of the difficulty of communicating with a deaf senior citizen. I expect that that will be a problem again tonight.

Now, having read Duck's text, I'm worried because we meet on Wednesday evening - probably the worst time for a meeting.

Oh, wait, church choirs meet on Wednesday evenings. Many churches have mid-week services of Wednesday evenings. Maybe institutionalized relationships don't have the difficulties Duck cites from research.

Monday, February 2, 2009

How Hard Can it Be?

I am amazed at how much popular music, popular television and popular film revolves around Interpersonal Relationships - many of which have gone bad.

Over the weekend we watched "Once." I was busy working on syllabus for Interpersonal Communication so I didn't pay as much attention to the film as I might have - but it seemed like the whole picture revolved around a potential romance between Glen Hansard's and Marketa Irglova's characters. Early on Hansard says to Irglova - "Do you want to spend the night." He almost immediately realizes that his comment was a mistake. He regrets it and apologizes, leading to a deepening of the relationship.

Just when you think that there might be a romance between the two, Irglova's reveals that she has a husband in the Czech Republic. There seems to be hope for the relationship, however, since Irglova seems to not be interested in reuniting with her husband, not even for the sake of her child. In the end it all falls apart and the two would be lovers each return to their former loves.

Relationships are like that. They're tricky at best, difficult, even impossible at times. It makes you wonder why we even try.

Perhaps the persistence of most human beings to stay related to other human beings is testimony to the fact that we are social animals, hard wired for relationships. So, maybe it's just that most of us have a few loose wires.