Returning to being with humans again is throwing us another curve ball. There’s a certain excitement about seeing people but, there’s also edginess. You know, like a person leaving a tiny, ticklish criticism in the midst of a conversation about Christmas plans. The opening of more social connection is a bit of a can of sardines. How could a simple plan to bring dessert to a party morph into a landslide of 20 texts?
I sure miss the old days, a phone on the wall and a simple “ring a ling ling.” We’re all adjusting to change from weather, holidays, health challenges, loss, gain, or relationship question marks. This week, even the AAA guy who drove my car to the mechanic after the battery died said I didn’t need to sign the paperwork. I waved my elbows, trying to look like that emoji of the little man with his hands in the air, asking “huh?” He laughed, “those days are over, everything is done by the machines now!” Then we both mumbled about how much less personal our communications have become.
Everyone’s off balance a bit, unless you are so centered you’re glued to the ground. Last week, while getting out more than one hairball, talking to my Roto Rooter man about rising expenses, he also grumbled, plumbing and drilling, pushing some thingamajig down the drain. Groaning, he moaned that he couldn’t believe he bought a soda on his way over that cost him four dollars! He proceeded to charge me an arm and a leg.
How to maneuver social life again? Don’t do what I sometimes do – let your mouth follow the ticker tape in your head and blurt out what’s on your mind. Stay centered in the storm. Be respectful. Now we text which makes it so much easier to be rude. It’s like road rage – you can duck and hide while guarded. Being a moral and civil human is sometimes harder than it sounds.
Scratching my head about the human dilemma of constant conflict, this pervasive people problem, our combative nature, school shootings, raging politics, and war, I turned to Christopher Boehm’s study of gorillas and bonobos. In Hierarchy in the Forest he sums it up: “moral communities …implement prosocial blueprints even as they suppress the aggressive egoism and dedicated nepotism that are so powerful in our nature.” Most of their groups implement order or a leader who keeps things reasonable and doesn’t resemble Dr. Oz!
Richard Wrangham also studied apes and evolution, concluding in The Goodness Paradox: “…it will not be easy for fairer and more peaceful societies to emerge. They will take work and planning and cooperation… Every society has to find its own protection. To avert episodes of violence we should constantly remind ourselves of how easily a complex social organization can decay, and how hard it is to construct.”
That’s my nickel! Self -regulation is required for society to survive! During this changing season, dangle some bells, fumble with rigmarole, and remember everyone is going through ups, downs, sorrow, fear, glee, and gratitude. If you’re on edge, keep your sense of humor, give people a little wiggle room, ask for your wishes, and watch your words. Hum a little tune: “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”
Katy Byrne, MA, LMFT, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the Bay Area for 35 years. Author, The Power of Being Heard. ConversationswithKaty.com. 707.548.8982