Actually, roses need no defense. They are thorny, lovely, fragrant, bear fruit that has nutritive value, and when selected with care, amazingly low maintenance – so what’s to defend? I’ve often found myself defending roses, though, from the standard variety of attacks: too much fuss, too few/many flowers, too much/little fragrance, prone to rambling/stunted, wrong color, wrong scent, wrong location. There is a theme there.  Do you see the thread of objections weaving through the tapestry of human experience? Too much effort, too little outcome, not quite this, not quite that – dissatisfying on some level, perhaps to costly; the same objections each of us offers to pretty nearly anything we choose to object to. ‘Too much’, and ‘not enough’, are the battle cries of discontent.

I’m learning a few things about discontent. (Call it ‘dissatisfaction’ if you’d like, I’m not sure I’ve identified a real difference, myself.) I am learning that expectations drive discontent when my experience doesn’t ‘measure up’ to the expectations I have allowed myself to indulge. I am also learning that I am sometimes quite mired in the experience of feeling discontented or dissatisfied before I realize that I’ve gotten there, and that being mindful of the developing feeling can be critical to preventing it from escalating and becoming an even less pleasant experience, such as despair, or sorrow, or disappointment. I am learning to embrace my will as a path to an outcome I’ll enjoy more, because willful action is often quite satisfying.

I am learning, and practicing, making clear specific requests to address clear specific needs. (Well, damn, that seems obvious!) I have a lot of opportunities to practice, and it’s definitely worthwhile – because I have a lot to learn.  It sounds easy, but I find that asking for action, or change, is met with a variety of reactions – based on the person receiving the request.

  • Some people tend toward the ‘helpful by nature’, and receive requests comfortably, good-naturedly, and without much argument. It is sometimes too easy to burden those sorts of people too much, because they are so accommodating about the demands life places on them to start with.
  • Some people already face their world and their experience with a lifetime of resentment, summed up, saved up,  and returned as a volley of objections to any request for action or change.
  • Some people don’t quite seem to be having the same conversation I am, and I find myself wondering what they are hearing once they have finished filtering and interpreting the words that struck their ear drums, and then wondering whether to try to straighten it all out, or just wander off in search of sense and understanding elsewhere.
  • Some people choose to be reserved, indirect, withdrawn, sullen, evasive, or ambiguous – rather than communicating at all.

I’d like to understand all that more clearly.  But, in lieu of understanding, I’m working on ‘cleaning up my own mess’.  Learning to communicate more clearly than feels safe, more accurately with fewer words, with more willingness to slow things down to gain clarity and understanding, and more good-natured frankness about my own limitations. So far so good. I’m also much more inclined to be firm about my own boundaries and needs. That one is much much harder. I dislike confrontation, and I enjoy harmony. Communicating harmoniously with people who relish conflict is incredibly difficult – because our goals in communication are not compatible.  A challenging puzzle.

…Huh…this went on longer than I intended, and as I rambled I found myself drowning in words, half-formed thoughts colliding with the miscellany trickling through my very active mind, snagging here and there on a moment of urgent meaning, and suddenly…pointlessness. So…I’ll just stop now. Unfinished. Incomplete. Human.

Here’s a picture of ‘Circus Clown’ (Moore, California, 1991). I’m sure there’s a metaphor here, somewhere…

Fragrant, thorny, robust, and lovely.

Fragrant, thorny, robust, and lovely.