(This post was originally written on 5/21/2013 and posted on a now-closed site)
I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time at Home Base, once again, because my best friend, Jen, is in town. I haven’t been to Home Base since the week of the funeral and, although the circumstances are very different than the last time I was here, it is still a nurturing, cozy place to be.
At Home Base, I am a pygmy in the Land of Giants. Jen’s family have all been blessed with long frames so, when I am with them, I am aware of just how short my own frame is. The jokes about height – or lack thereof – are plentiful and playful.
This morning, as I got comfortable in the corner of the couch to write and to work, I was using the rocking ottoman to support my ankles. Soon, I shifted positions and curled up in a ball, leaving the ottoman unused. At the other end of the couch, Jen’s sister said, “Hey, Angie, if you’re not using the ottoman, could you slide it to me?”
The couch is a long piece of furniture and there is nearly enough room for me to lay down upon it without touching her at the other end. I glanced down at the ottoman, then at her and jokingly replied, “No,” as I stretched to accommodate her request, my computer balancing precariously on my lap.
I had meant to be a brat, not wanting to give up the future possibility of using it, but as I attempted to move it to her, I realized my bratty “no” was actually more of a reality than a joke.
“Well, I was just wanting to be a brat,” I said, “but apparently…”
“You really can’t slide it to me because you’re too short.” She laughed as she reached across the space, her long arm easefully spanning the length of the void to grab the edge of the ottoman and slide it across the carpet.
“But look,” she said, “Together we accomplished the task!”
“Yes!” We laughed together and I said, “We met in the middle… although… the middle was at the 95% mark on this end of the couch.”
More laughter and she said, “But we each gave it our all.”
“What great teamwork,” I said.
And then Jen walked through the room and said, “You each gave it your all, therefore you contributed equally.”
Sometimes it can look like one person is giving more than another. Like, with the ottoman… my 100% spanned only 5% of the distance, where my friend’s 100% was able to cover the remaining 95%. If she or I had been paying attention to what the other woman was doing and comparing the perceived “effort,” it could have been grounds for a fight because it looked like I wasn’t doing enough or she was doing too much.
Life is an invitation to participate. If a participant is out of their own lane, being unaware of and unaccountable for their own participation in the situation and is paying more attention to the other person’s part, comparisons of the perceived imbalance can ensue. Comparison is the quickest way to resentment, frustration, and conflict.
When every person in the situation chooses to focus on their individual contribution and to giving everything they can, without comparing it to how much another is giving – or keeping track of everyone’s contribution with a check and balance system to verify that everything is “fair” – the collaboration can produce great things. When you are committed to fully being present, fully participating, and fully showing up, then you can meet in the middle – no matter where the middle is.
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