Sense from Seattle

Common sense thoughts on life and current affairs by a Seattle area sexagenarian, drawing on personal experience, years of learning as a counselor to thousands of families and an innate passion for informed knowledge, to uniquely express sensible, thoughtful, honest and independent views.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Choices -Finale-People

We possess varying skills at dealing with people, physical objects and abstract information like data and ideas. My skill with physical objects is quite limited, with abstracts appreciably higher and with people somewhere in the middle. I am on the line between introvert and extrovert, inclining toward the former; or maybe more accurately I can be a people person when I have to. When I make the effort with people, I can really get into it, but after the experience is over, I often welcome solitude.

My Mom was definitely a people person and I liked being around her. Step-dad was a solitary type, one of the few exceptional times being his brief social period of alcoholic intoxication before passing out. I disliked being around him. Like many siblings, my brother and I had enjoyable times together as well as times of conflict. Three years age difference meant different traveling circles. The passing of time sobered and mellowed step-dad and brought brothers closer, but sadly took Mom too soon.

We had only one other relative in the Seattle area, an aunt who was like a big sister. Some vacations and holidays were enjoyed with a sprinkling of out of town relatives, but such visits were infrequent. The neighborhood and school were where our people relationships developed. We lived in the same house and attended the same Catholic grade and high school throughout childhood, so changes were generated by the neighbors, classmates and teachers, not by us.

Some kids have imaginary friends. The closest I got was a baseball game I played with marbles as the players. I gave the marbles names based on their physical appearance and then kept statistics like their batting average. The data compilation was the most satisfying part of the game, relating to the marble people was secondary. I still like to play computer sports games and track the stats on my players. One time when my brother got mad at me, he claimed he had two imaginary friends, Oogoo and Jocko, who were going to pour poison in my ear when I was asleep. I didn’t believe they existed, but I still went to sleep with my ears covered. So it is even now with the unseen God I learned about in school. I do not believe, but still feel a tinge of inclination toward ear protection.

During my first couple years of grade school, our neighborhood, which had been slightly mixed ethnically, quickly changed into a de facto racial ghetto. I had not yet formed sufficient friendships to miss the fleeing white children. A large and friendly Filipino family remained, as did one other white family with a boy my age. The new “colored” families, as they were called, actually came in a full spectrum of colors. One of my best friends was “colored”, but could have passed for my brother, another was quite dark and a third was about as dark as could be. When the white boy moved, I remember feeling the loss. My passable brother kept in phone contact with our mutual friend and one day told me that the boy had been paralyzed in a diving accident. That made me even sadder, and I felt like I should be doing something about it, but I had no idea what.

I like the way kids meet and make friends. There is a gravity that draws a new kid in and puts a likely pair together. No introductions or match making - it just happens. I have always lacked a natural sense of direction, so am easily lost. Somehow, in first grade I got matched with a class mate who lived only two blocks from me. He had an excellent directional sense, which was great for me, since I lived 16 blocks from school and could walk with him to his house and then manage to find my way home from there. One day I had a problem and Sister made me stay after school. My navigator was hanging out in the doorway and Sister told him he could go home. Fortunately, he understood his role and told Sister that I could not find my way home without him, so she ended my detention. That may be my earliest memory of the value of friendship.

Maybe due to lack of open housing for persons of color, there was very little turnover in our neighborhood after the white flight. I spent much time in neighbor homes and had long childhood friendships with the kids and their parents. But as we kids finished school and started our own jobs and families, we moved away and did not stay in touch, something which has always bothered me. It is one of the dismays of life that those with whom circumstances put us in close association for a period of time (neighbors, classmates, military cohorts, co-workers, clients), usually do not stay in touch once the association ends. Our mothers had Christmas card lists filled with such names. Many mothers of my childhood friends became my legal clients in later years, but the friends rarely did. With bittersweet memories, I wish that I had been enough of a people person to keep in friendly touch with all the close associates I have had at different stages of my life.

Friends sharing joint interests can be called partners, but I think of partnerships more in regard to romantic or business relationships. Privacy and modesty (and at least as much humility) limit my sharing about romantic partners. Like many things in life, concepts of romance differ among individuals, between men and women, and as we age. The thrill of the chase and of the catch sometimes ends in the pain of the miss and of the release. Nothing ventured, nothing gained definitely applies to romantic partnering; never to have tried and therefore never to have lost seems a waste of a significant part of human life.

One wonderful benefit of romantic partnering can be children, a reward I received four times. The parent-child relationship is like no other. The roles of each are so different, as children have the opportunity to more profoundly realize when they become parents. I don’t believe in reincarnation, but if it existed one advantage would be to live as a young child with the knowledge of what it is like to be a parent.

Business partnerships supposedly work best if each partner goes into it with the idea,“This is going to be a better deal for my partner than for me, but being in partnership is going to be a better deal for me than being in business alone”. Lawyers have the highest percentage of sole practitioners among learned professionals. The nature of the work and the type of people drawn to it make this so. Too many law practice partnerships end bitterly, perhaps for the same reasons. With all this in mind, I never seriously considered seeking a lawyer partnership, and I was never sought out for one. Hiring young associates is supposed to provide retirement income, but I never seriously considered that either. I suppose I mostly looked at it negatively, that the young person might do something wrong which would reflect on me, or might work behind my back to poach my clients.

I don’t think I have any enemies, or at least none that know they are. There are plenty of public figures I despise, but they don’t even know I exist. Maybe a good side of not being a strong people person is that it also makes you a not strong enemy person. There are people I know whom I don’t regard very highly. I am sure there are people who know me and don’t think highly of me either. But we are not enemies. Like Anne Frank, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”


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