Saturday, May 24, 2008

Listening to my own advice....

This past week was a fun-filled one that, among many activities, included 3 hours of stability ball classes, 2 hours of yoga and 12 miles of walking. Some of you may be thinking --- she should get a life -- and what's that got to do with advice? My thoughts about advice do NOT pertain to exercise per se, but to something that happened to me this week in the ball class sessions.

Newcomers to the ball classes were three young women, probably in their 30's; one looking painfully thin, 2 looking painfully NOT, taking positions close to "my" regular exercise spot. It's nice to have more bodies in the class except for the following...they barely listened to the instructor, gave half efforts at actually exercising and spent the entire hour(s) chatting among themselves. As you might guess, I'm fairly "into" this class and want no distractions or noise besides the loud music and the instructor's voice. I tossed a couple less than friendly glances in their direction and considered asking them to be quiet or "telling on them":( in order for the instructor to quiet them!

Walking home from the gym (part of the mileage), grumpily pondering my next action toward the trio, giving myself nothing but negative advice, the following story came to my mind.

Being the spouse of an Episcopal church's priest for many wonderful years, I find that persons in a congregation occasionally decide that the priest's spouse wields a lot of power and is just the right target to which they can aim a complaint. And so, a complaint call came to me one morning from a relatively new parishioner. The complaint was that, on the back row of the church where she had decided she wanted to sit, there was a small boy accompanying his parents to church each Sunday who was VERY fidgety, not very quiet, and who, in general, made this new parishioner uncomfortable during the service. She wondered what "I" could do about the situation.

Several thoughts came to mind as I knew the small boy and his parents and I knew with what trepidation they came to church, wanting so desperately to be a part of a church family and yet so worried that their restless child would upset someone. Many of us had coaxed and pleaded for the family to keep up their Sunday discipline, promising (prayerfully AND with fingers crossed) that their little boy would become accustomed to the quiet and settle down. The new parishioner, well, I wanted her there too but she had not yet earned "squatter's rights" as so many of us do in our home churches and without another thought I suggested the solution for her would be to move to another pew of the church, one that would be more comfortable for her personal worship. I believe she was hoping for something more dramatic than my suggestion and regretfully felt a bit chided in that I wasn't more responsive to HER individual needs.......

Now, that's a long way 'round to get to the scolding I eventually came to give myself on my walk home. I have no idea why the trio attends stability ball class - maybe it's to exercise, maybe it's the only moment in their lives that they're without their kids (we have a sitter service during class), maybe they haven't seen each other in years - who knows? But the point is, "grownup" (?) that I am, and remembering the church story, I've decided that nothing prevents me from leaving my squatter's rights and moving to another part of the gym where the quiet and attention to exercising is more apparent. The trio can certainly remain in the class as long as it suits their needs. With three additional bodies in the class there's no danger that this particular class will be closed out during the summer and that's the good news for me:)

So, the point is, of course, how often am I ready to give advice, advice I think is just the "right" advice and how seldom do I stop to take my own as well I should? I look pretty good in this instance, anyway. Any stories come to your mind about the advice you give - is it worth taking - do you listen to you?

photo - SS - The Banyan Tree, Maui


  1. What comes to mind, when I actually slow down and think, is, "Do I listen?" Do I listen to them without judgment, do I listen to me, do I listen for God (in case the bush is not burning brightly)?

    Your post tells me that your ARE listening. What a gift you receive and give by doing so.



  2. This is such a great post. And it's interesting, isn't it, how often there's a timelag between how we behave and when we wake up to our behaviour.
    I think there's something to be learned from this question of "squatters' rights". In recent years I've made it a habit to move to a different table for each meal when I'm away on a residential weekend (whether that's Enneagram or a retreat weekend). It's surprising how difficult it can be to move from the seat you first claimed for your own.

  3. Geezer - thanks for your comments. I like very much your "burning bush" analogy, have seen it before in your comments and those of Lucy and think it is relevant to our modern day experiences with God.

    Tess, I like your idea of moving from place to place within a regularly formed group. I'll be saying more about squatters' rights soon. Thanks for your sharing. I often find a new path in your words.

  4. Sometimes,I find that people who are giving advice are sometimes saying what you 'need' to hear.
    As for the squatters rights,I also think it's good to move out of that comfort zone once in a while no matter how small the move is. The next chair can offer a different perspective sometimes

  5. It's fascinating to me to see how you and I apparently go through some of the same thought processes and arrive at similar conclusions. As I've gotten older (and wiser? more "mature"? that's debatable), I more often find myself commenting to or about someone, then almost immediately realize...wasn't I doing that very thing just a couple of days ago??? Aw, man, how annoying! :-) Now, if I can just learn to recognize that *before* I say something!

    Thanks for a great post.

  6. Ceri - yes, I would agree that when we hear a comment from our friends or family, we expect that they are just being "nice" and as you say, telling us what they think we want to hear....and your thought about just moving to another chair is a good one that I'm going to keep in mind going forward. I have something to say about squatter's rights in another post.

    Thanks for your comments - hope you'll visit again soon.

    MS - oh yeah, we're quick to spot that speck in our neighbor's eye and miss the log in our own!! So, true.