The Route to Righting a RelationSHIP

by Jane Tawel

“Rowboat” by Tom Gill. is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Route to Righting a RelationSHIP

By Jane Tawel

September 24, 2020

I must begin with a BIG DISCLAIMER: I am not claiming in this post that I do this, can do this, or will do this in my relationships. I am merely setting out to teach myself a thing or two along with maybe a few of you. I can say, however, that the times I HAVE done this in either my most important relationships or my most trivial relationships, I have been much, much the better person for it, and I would hope the relationship has been the better for it too.

We are most of us, in several types of relationships. Whether spouse, partner, friend, family member, or co-worker, we are also most of us faced with times when the relationship goes off course or hits a bump or sometimes, threatens to implode or explode. When this happens, we have a choice to either ignore and let the situation flounder, fester, get worse, fall apart, slowly decay, or even die; or we can try to change the dynamics, fidget with the dance steps, and right the wrong. For this post, I use the metaphor of Righting the Ship — the RelationSHIP; and I would like to believe, that no matter where any particular relationSHIP ends, no matter what the port or destiny, it is very important to learn to make things right, at minimum for one’s own self, hopefully for both of the people in it, but ultimately because there is something BIGGER in a relationship between two people than either of the individuals by themselves. While no man is truly an island, some people do manage to go through life mostly in a little one-person dingy. And while my sailing through life alone in a dingy, can feel like freedom and can keep me from experiencing the rough waters of life that one is subjected to in any relationSHIP; in a little dingy by myself, I can never sail the “Seven Seas”, the great oceans, or ever reach the amazing shores that I can when I sail a relationSHIP with someone else. Sailing any relationSHIP with others is how we best learn to navigate our own lives.

But it isn’t easy to steer any course with someone else. Even just a little day-trip with a coworker can suddenly hit squalls. And those big relationSHIPS? — yowza! So many icebergs to avoid, big waves to bounce through, and irritating mates you have to bunk with! And so we need not only maps, compasses, oars, and life jackets — we need disaster plans, escape routes, and some flexibility amongst the crew. We also must have a huge dose of humility in the face of the unknown factors or uncontrollable elements. We must humble ourselves in any relationSHIP with the knowledge we have about the unfairness of the Fates, the unpredictability of the weather, or the hidden depths we can never truly know in both the world’s deep waters, and the unknowable deep depths of each human being.

By admitting at least to oneself, that one cares enough about both the relationship and one’s own inner peace and joy to do something about whatever happened to un-right or miss-steer the relationSHIP, we can at least keep ourselves from drowning in helplessness or hopelessness. And it is not always an admission of one’s personal responsibility, as much as it is an acceptance of one’s personal ability. In other words, I have the right and the responsibility and the ability to determine the importance of any relationship’s smooth sailing and my own smooth sailing with whomever I happen to be in a particular “relation — SHIP” with. And the longer and better we sail, or row, or steer any kind of relationships in this life, the more seaworthy we can become. It doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing, but it can help tremendously in keeping one from drowning or becoming sea-sick.

Imagine that a relationSHIP is just that — a ship. Ships come in all sizes and styles, and so do relationSHIPS. Think of your friend or co-worker as the other person in a rowboat. When that boat tips over or springs a hole and begins to fill with water, you are both going to be in a world of “wet” — tears and pain, or even a drowning if someone doesn’t do something. Don’t wait for the other person, but get to work on righting the boat. Of course, ultimately you hope that the other person will need and want to help you. No one should keep trying to fix a relationship that keeps breaking apart any more than someone should keep trying to patch holes in the bottom of a boat if your sailing partner keeps hammering holes into the hull. Swim for shore, friend, swim for shore! Abandon relationSHIP if there is no hope, and look for a new horizon. There will be a new person, whether life-mate or work-mate, to row or sail a relationSHIP with, all in good time. And just maybe the person you stopped trying to do everything for, trying to fix and right the sinking relationSHIP for, all by yourself, maybe he or she will stop knocking holes in relationSHIPS in the future, (maybe thanks in part to your own suffering self).

Some relationships are so special, meaningful, deep and large that they are like gigantic cruisers or warships. Don’t try to save the relationSHIP if you know for a fact it is the Titanic headed straight for the iceberg, or the big guns on the warship have started firing at the relationSHIP itself, instead of the enemy; but if the cruiser or the warship are basically seaworthy and your mate trustworthy, then you may have to be the one to be firm with your co-captain that the ship is badly sailing off-course, and take the time and energy to do whatever it takes — batten down the hatches, patch the hull’s holes, mend the sails, change course (sometimes drastically), or fight the pirates.

“Russian tall ship Pallada” by Telstar Logistics is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

If the ship is basically water tight and usually sailing the right way to safe harbor, then during those times (and sometimes this may be daily), when the relationSHIP may hit some turbulence or even encounter a big iceberg up head, those should be seen as a time to call out a distress signal, and put all hands on deck, not to abandon the ship. And if you wake up to find you have somehow managed to go badly off course with someone you love, it only takes one person in a BIG relationSHIP to get out a trustworthy compass and to begin steering you both back to True North.

I love the music and lyrics of Joni Mitchel, but in her song, “A Case of You”, when she writes: “Just before our love got lost, you said “I am as constant as a northern star, “ and I said “Constantly in the darkness Where’s that at? If you want me, I’ll be in the bar” — Mitchel only gets it half right. She knows her own limitations in the relationship well, but she doesn’t have enough faith in her own abilities. Most of us don’t have enough faith in our abilities nor enough commitment to our responsibilities; and so we either look for a new relationship and abandon the current relationSHIP, or we stay on board, but we don’t row as hard, or care about how straight our direction, or we stop enjoying the view, and we just give up and just accept things the way they are in the current relationship. And sometimes, tragically, we let the whole “ship” sink without a fight. But any relationSHIP is worth some effort and some are worth a lot of effort.

So, let’s polish our oars and swab our decks and if necessary, learn to tread water a bit better and look at these suggestions on how to right a relationSHIP, for one day, one trip, a long cruise, a working season of fishing or tugboating, or a life-time of happier, more fulfilling, less “hole-y and more “holy”, more seaworthy sailing.

“boys climbing into a rowboat, Oak Point, Port Morris, Bronx, N.Y., undated [c. 1897–1905]” by over 22 MILLION views Thanks is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The R’s of Righting a Relationship

By Jane Tawel

1. RELEASE. If it’s a fight or argument or any situation with the other person that is getting out of control, apologize for what you are about to do and leave the person, the area, the conversation. Know that it is a bit of a power play, and do not do it until you absolutely must, but release the situation, and “walk away”. RELEASE the moment of conflict. RELEASE your need to have an immediate solution. RELEASE your power to bend the other person’s will or change their mind. Let go of a specific time frame to fix it. You want to fix it, but it doesn’t have to be right now. RELEASE yourself from your own immediate needs. RELEASE yourself and the other person from your feelings. Go away and on your own, alone, into the void of the universe, (not onto the other person) RELEASE your anger, hurt, fears, confusion, etc. RELEASE your grasp on your feelings and your justifications and your arguments. Let them go for however long it takes to find your center, your equilibrium, your mojo, your spirit, your peace, your words, your explanation, your questions, your identity, YOURSELF. When the relationSHIP has begun to speed out of control, HIT THE BRAKES, take down the sails that have inflated with too much windiness, and RELEASE the relationSHIP’s runaway energy that is steering your ship in a dangerous direction. Then take a:

2. REST. This is not always easy, but completely necessary, even if you are at odds with a boss or co-worker, and it isn’t your break-time. Sometimes we are in a relationSHIP in which we are chained like a slave to the underbelly of that relationSHIP at work or even in the family situation at home. At minimum, take a bathroom break (without a phone so you can’t call some one up to vent to), but if possible, take a walk outside. (Fresh air can clear our minds and rest our souls). After you have released yourself from the situation, REST EVERYTHING. Rest your emotions, your body, your mind, and your spirit. This means you can not do any work on any of them. Stop thinking about anything (use deep breathing or a mantra or hum some silly ditty). Stop feeling (recognize feelings as something you can now control now that you have walked away from their cause). Stop doing (whatever your body is doing it should be “play”, not work for it to feel rested). And Stop “spiritualizing” (if you pray, don’t — you can get help later after you have rested and usually prayer at this point will be about the problem you just RELEASED, so give yourself a REST). If you are stuck at a desk, or next to a sick bed, or with someone you must share space with, at least close your eyes, breathe deeply, and completely empty your mind and relax your body for as long as you can get away with it. If this is a home relationship conflict that you have just RELEASED yourself from, REST as long as you possibly can. Even if you need to read a book or watch a show, or take a walk (without your phone), or sit or lie down (even take a nap) in a private place, do it. The important thing is to DO NOTHING about the conflict, and do nothing that will just detour the stress onto something or someone else. Take an attitude of REST from the situation as long as you need to, even if you have to do it for a day or a week, (longer than that is usually not very helpful for either you or the other person), but REST for as long as you can or as long as you need to. Do not feel guilty; feel instead the toll the problem in the relationSHIP has taken on you, and the effects of the depletion or the added weight that your recent disagreement has had on your emotions and your inner strength, and REST. Regain your strength before heading from your berth back to being on-deck. Think of the recent conflict as if it were the last leg of a very hard race and you have rowed or manned the sails or the wheel, until your arms ache and you absolutely must take time to recuperate before heading back to the relationSHIP to do your part in steering, full-speed ahead. Relationships, no matter of what kind, take work and if yours just involved a lot of work without seeming to “get you anywhere”, then you need to take time before trying to recalibrate your direction and set sail again. You can re-navigate the course much better after you REST.

“Resting Couple” by Adam Tinworth is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

3. REJUVENATE. This is another way of saying RENEW. This can be either a time when I REJUVENATE my own thinking about the relationship, the problem or conflict, or renew some old thinking about myself; OR it can be a time when I RENEW my desire to see the other person with more kindness, more understanding, more desire, more acceptance, more adjustment, more humility, or just more need to make things right between us. REJUVENATING can not be forced however, and until there is a spark of this RENEWAL or perhaps sense of “wholeness” inside me, I can’t get the relationSHIP righted. Think of this idea of REJUVENATION like fixing the battery of a big boat. It may only take a spark, but eventually there have to be two jumper cables to attach in order to REJUVENATE the source of energy and life. There has to be a spark of energy to get the battery up and running again, but until you have let things cool down, you shouldn’t try to jump-start the RENEWAL process. Until there is that spark of desire or some idea about how to RENEW the energy needed to right the relationship, it is best not to force it. On the other hand, you can’t keep the ship going forward without some new and added energy and whether that is from a jump-start to the old battery, or some new wind in the sails, or some duct-tape on a broken oar, you will want to find the energy to REJUVENATE towards the future journey and up-ahead horizon. On the flip side, you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bilge water or forget all the things you have already learned or shared in your time together in any particular relationSHIP. So — -

Remembering him on our trip

4. REMEMBER. One of the greatest ways to REJUVENATE the relationship besides giving it new life, is to REMEMBER. This can be something you do together as soon as you have RELEASED, RESTED, and REJUVENATED; remembering with the other person if you are feeling strong enough to do that, or you can REMEMBER just by yourself. REMEMBER the good times, recall the good things about them, pull up memories no matter how small about shared vision, accomplishments, or tears or laughter. But, you can also strengthen your ability to right the relationSHIP by REMEMBERing your own past accomplishments in your own life, in this relationship and in other relationships that may seem to have nothing to do with this one. Reminding yourself of your strengths, your abilities, your accomplishments, and your successful relationship moments can hone your skills and give you faith and hope in the one you are dealing with now. REMEMBERing the good things and good times in and with the other person specifically, and the strength and successes and good times generally in yourself and your own life, will take away some of the fears about your abilities to navigate these particular waves that may have buffeted or bashed up your relationship in the present. If possible, REMEMBER the fun, the joy, the mutual accomplishments (whether that is a project or a child), the strength you found in each other and together, and let the memories grab like strong arms and open hands, onto each side of your overturned relationSHIP and right it. Then when the boat is right-side up in your mind and hopefully in the other person’s because you have shared those memories — THEN you can begin to bail out the water that threatened to capsize the two of you. Bailing out the dirty water left over after you have righted the ship, means you — 

5. REJECT. This doesn’t mean I REJECT the other person, or the other person’s feelings or ideas of how to solve our smaller immediate issue or our long-term bigger problems. What I REJECT is a need to go backwards and REGURGITATE the disagreement. Have you ever tried to row a boat backwards or back a ship into dock? It isn’t easy and it isn’t advisable. This doesn’t mean we will not have to REVISIT the problem in the relationSHIP, but we should first REJECT any notion of picking up the same broken oars or tattered sails or stubbornly sailing in the wrong direction toward a rocky, undock-able shore. Don’t let the Sirens’ song tempt you to prove you were right and he was wrong and lull you into a false sense of happiness or sense that you are “winning”. And do not let your feelings rise up like dead pirates from a watery grave to convince you that there is buried treasure in what you feel or imagine to be “out there”, rather than the true treasure in what you already have — right there in the relationSHIP.

6. RECOMMIT. This is when you begin to bail out the water, together. I can do this alone, and if I really value the other person, and have an understanding of him or her that lets me know they just can’t help bail us out right now, I may begin the hard work of bailing out alone and by myself. Eventually I have found, if I managed to RELEASE, REST, REJUVENATE, and REMEMBER, then I can RECOMMIT and give the other person some time or cut them slack. Maybe the next time they will be the one bailing me out of the mess we got our relationSHIP into, so I want to take the long view and see important relationships as worth bringing safely home to shore, even if the other person can’t “get on board” with that yet. I do hope though, that in any truly worthy relationship, the other person will want to join me in that commitment to the work of mending, recalibrating, fixing, redirecting, and righting the relationSHIP before it completely tips over and sinks. When she does, that is when I know the relationSHIP is worth the hard work it takes to keep sailing forward. When both of us commit to figuring out how to navigate the present and future journeys together, then we RECOMMIT to something bigger than either of us — the relationSHIP. Somehow, then we are not just two deckhands, or two captains of our fate, left to the whims of weather or the world, but there is a THIRD identity that we make together — we are the relationSHIP. This has an almost mythical quality, when we remember that ships have long been personified by sailors, captains and crews. Ships and boats and seas and all that go with them, are symbolic of those eternal ideas and ideals, and crossing all cultures and people-groups throughout time.

Us Two

In terms of relationSHIPS, I want to mention here, briefly that we are usually most concerned with those we have between the sexes or with those who identify as a different gender than ourselves (our spouse or partner), or in families, perhaps even with those who are the same gender we are but manifest it differently due to age, or power structure, or understanding of identity. But if we maybe step back, and think that in deep, important relationships especially, we can be more aware of both the feminine and masculine attributes each of us has, we can understand the yin and yang, or the push and pull of our individual and mutual needs, desires, and understanding of our destination. For now, can we all just try to channel our inner “feminine” spirits. Think of the mastheads on ships, which are always female. Thinking of my own part in righting relationSHIPS as more feminine in spirit, as opposed to a more masculine understanding of my psyche, can not only help me find the right kind of strength, but can help me look at the other person as more complicated, more mysterious, but also more understandable than I might otherwise do. He or she is just like me, both feminine and masculine — and also completely mysterious to me, depending on my own current balance or imbalance between the two sides of myself. I think, reaching down into our inner “female-strength”, can tell us a lot and help us a lot, if we are willing, (for both those of us who are male or female in gender or character). To right a relationship that has been attacked by the sirens of our need for power or fear of vulnerability or just our plain mistakes or wrongness in what we have done as part of the “crew”; we might all do well to meditate on that “feminine” quality we all have (or should?), that part of us that wants to be both cared for and taken care of, that “nurturing” side that is in all of us. If you can’t do this, perhaps you can at least see your important relationSHIPs as the old sailors saw their real ships. The relationSHIP has its own type of feminine power and its own ability to nurture, just like sailors once thought the ship had its own goddess or mother power to protect and nurture and care for those sailing her.

7. REACH-OUT. Seriously, this is perhaps the most obvious but also the hardest. Don’t let the other person drown. REACH OUT a hand to save them. We all do love to be needed and it is easy to watch a little too long as our partner flails around in the watery depths, not knowing how to get back to the safety of a healthy relationSHIP, while watching us with-hold our hand or refuse to throw our mate a life-jacket. Don’t watch too long, or the person really might decide it’s better to risk drowning or to wait for another relationSHIP to come along so they can board that one instead of yours. But if you are the one that seems to be drowning and you can’t seem to get back on board or find the desire to grab onto the side of the relationSHIP and get back to work on the relationSHIP, at least tread water until you can find your strokes. If you can’t yet imagine wanting to mend the tears in the sails or the breaks in the hull, at least just grab the hand your partner is reaching out to you. Don’t reject that helping hand because it isn’t being reached out in the way YOU would do it, or the life-jacket looks a bit flimsy or dirty, or you want her to jump in the water and risk your pulling her down with you. Just do it, grab on, seaweed and all, and get back on the boat. Don’t float around in the flotsam and jetsam waiting for a better way to stop drowning — REACH OUT. Get back on the boat however you manage to scramble up there. There is time then to — -

8. REASSESS. In a relationship, whether with a friend, a spouse, a child, a parent, or a coworker, we all have to eventually REASSESS. REASSESS your capabilities, your desire, your options, and the seaworthiness of the relationSHIP at that particular place and time. It may be that the crew has changed, and it’s time to let your mate or the once children now grown, have more responsibility in the steering department. It may be that you have had a successful run, and now it is time to retire and take up fishing from the shore. It may not be worth your working so hard or taking the time for this journey you have recently embarked on, but you may want to take a trip with it later. At the same time, the relationSHIP may not be something you want to continue to crew. This may involve looking at the relationSHIP as ultimately unseaworthy, and you need to jump ship before you go down with it. But usually, you have just hit a bad wave, or you have fallen overboard but you can get back on, or you have had some really, really, really bad weather, but you still want to keep rowing ahead with the person who has had the other oar all this time.

The end of a relationship is usually not because the craft has suddenly hit bad weather, or suddenly one of you changes your rowing style. No, usually your relationSHIP has been gradually inching its way off-course. But most relationSHIPS are worth at least some fixing, some help, some learning and growth, even if the crew changes. It is usually, in the end, more a matter of REASSESSing the situation not REASSESSing the relationship.

Before I let a situation irrevocably change my relationship, I should ask: Is it a deal breaker that will eventually cause the relationSHIP to steer into an iceberg of irredeemable consequences? Or is it something that I and the other person can both steer around and recalibrate the speed at which we were going? Is this situation salvageable, with a little elbow grease maybe, but perhaps better equipped and seaworthy in the long run? Is it a matter that will take some hard work together, but can ultimately lead the relationSHIP to a better shore, a brighter vista, a home where even a Crusoe or a family of Swiss Robinsons can live happily ever after? Or is the glitch in the smooth sailing of the relationSHIP really, as so often it is, something so small and inconsequential, something like a pigeon pooping on the deck, but which got all out of proportion, and was blown- up into a “sh*&%$#t storm”? In that case, we just need to say, “well, that was a bunch of pigeon poop! Let’s swab the deck and get back to the sailing ahead, my Matey.”

If we are honest, most of the time, no matter what type of relationship we are talking about, when we hit a snag, we tend to see icebergs when there really are none. The mirage of dangers ahead when we have a disagreement with someone can persuade us to actually steer toward a real danger that we don’t see or imagine. This is the opposite of the tragedy of the Titanic. I call this the Robert Peary- RelationSHIP Conundrum. Seeing something that isn’t there can cause the relationSHIP to go just as far adrift and off -course as not seeing something that is there.

The joy of relationship with my child.

9. Finally, to right a relationSHIP — RESTORE. This last step is the hardest, but also the most beautiful. If one of you ends up with a broken oar, you need to fix it or get another. Don’t make the other person row without one. If you have worn off the paint on one side of the boat by coming in too fast to dock at the pier, you will need to take some time to RESTORE the luster and beauty of that boat. It may be something you don’t want to do, but this is a lot easier than buying a whole new boat. True, it will not be the same as when the relationSHIP was brand new, but working on a RESTORATION together, can even end up making the boat more seaworthy and more beautiful. Even if the relationSHIP however, has truly crashed into the shoals, and there is no saving it, you can still work on some RESTORATION. At first, this might mean you can not bail on the other person and jump on board right away to another relationSHIP. Eventually, you may not both end up on the same ship, but you can still do some RESTORATION. Alone or together.

You may need to restore your own equilibrium, maybe take some courses in how to be better at whatever your last “job” was in a personal or professional relationship, maybe get some therapy to get over the traumas that caused this particular relationSHIP to crash and bust apart. Eventually you may even find you can RESTORE at least the peace between you and the other person. This may involve a long, long wait and it may involve a willingness for both of you to “investigate” the real cause of the shipwreck of your relationship. It will involve forgiveness of yourself and the other person but also at least a RESTORATION to communicating your hopes that both of you will have smoother sailing in your separate futures and hopefully, that your time on the deck of your relationSHIP together has made you both better at crewing and captaining your own relationSHIPS now.

The very best RESTORATION, though, comes when you and the other person RESTORE the relationSHIP together. This should be our goal in all the things and people who matter. Neither I nor the other person can ever really restore ourselves to some idea of our “original -self”, but we can RESTORE the things — the essences — that make up the original intent and purpose and greater good and higher meaning of the US. When we RESTORE, we understand that the relationship is so much more important than either of us on our own.

There is a “holiness”, an “eternity”, a “sacredness” that may exist in each one alone, but to know what is truly all that a human being was created to be, we must accept that true wholeness is when one is with some one other than just one’s self. Relationships no matter the importance, the length, or the circumstances are what keep the true horizons of life and keep us focused on the safe shores and the ultimate goal in view as we steer our own small crafts through life. Being with another person, whether partner, friend, boss, or family member gives me a vision of other vast seas, unimaginable depths, and glorious vistas; and allows me to live into the mysteries that surpass my presumptions. As Emily Dickinson wrote:

“As if the Sea should part
 And show a further Sea — 
 And that — a further — and the Three
 But a presumption be — 
 Of Periods of Seas — 
 Unvisited of Shores — 
 Themselves the Verge of Seas to be — 
 Eternity — is Those — “

If you have given up on a relationship or your relationship is truly and permanently busted apart, never to set sail again, I would recommend you at least not give up on other people or on yourself. For a while, you may need to see yourself as a lonely sailor, who will, like a relational Odysseus, have to Right the Relationship of yourself to others, even if it is scary and lonely and you aren’t very sure you have the heroism it will take. And if you are in a relationship that you are afraid has hit a pretty bad shoal, or you seem to have misplaced your oars, don’t give up. Don’t give up hope and don’t give up on the other person and don’t give up on yourself.

Release. Rest. Rejuvenate. Remember. Reject. Recommit. Reach-Out. Reassess. Restore.

Be that which makes each of us the very best person one can be — a sailor who knows she can not sail for long alone. We will only see the highest stars, and set the firmest course, and only reach our most sacred shores, when we keep our relationSHIPS righted and right.

My great teachers about relationships

In closing, I would like to look at this idea of Restoration from another difficult endeavor and point of view — the restoration of a work of art. It is interesting, if you have ever had the privilege, to watch an art restorer work on a valuable painting. The restorer can not of course restore something to its original — that “ship has sailed” for good, passed away into the history of different materials and the original artist long gone. No one can step into the same place in a stream twice, not even a brilliant art restorer. But the art restorer will do his or her very best, using all the skills and knowledge and imagination, history, and creativity possible to restore the beauty and integrity of the original painting, before it was damaged or allowed to decay.

This is our job in any relationship, to use every possible means to restore beauty and integrity to our own life and to the lives of those who choose to share life with us. We can not try to do the impossible and go back in time to an original idea of what a relationship was, and if we can not fix the damage, we need learn to live with the damage, heart-breaking as it may be. We may not be able to restore a relationship and with sorrow but more wisdom, we may need to move on to something we can work on, and restore. The new some thing won’t make the old damaged painting any less special, but will add a new layer of paint to our pallet, and bring a new sense of our own and others’ beauty, and allow us to embark on a different but no less artistic and beautiful endeavor. We should feel sad if we can not restore a relationship, but it can still hang in the halls of our memories and make us better at restoring the art of our lives and those of others in the future.

“Art Restoration” by claud334 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Our task at present, may be a restoration of the classic art we already have, or it may not. The old can not be made the same but it can be restored. And even if I must paint something new, by that I can restore something within my own artistic, relational soul. Either way, we must RESTORE our faith in our own artistic vision and our abilities to live and love, work and play, and imagine and create.

I hope that by doing the work and these suggested practices to right a relationship, we can set sail with new direction and greater joy in our relationSHIPS.

Welcome aboard, land lubbers. Avast, mateys! Ships Ahoy! — Jane

Sea Fever

By John Masefield

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

© Jane Tawel 2020

“OCEAN SHORES: New Lens” by GD Taber is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Leave Me Alone I Can’t Stop Talking

Leave Me Alone I Can’t Stop Talking

By Jane Tawel

March 19, 2017

Elephant Man


When I am with people I tend to talk. Some might say, I talk a lot. For this reason, it took me a long time to realize that I am actually what is called an Introvert.  It will take me a lot longer to convince some people I know that I am in fact an introvert, but that is neither here nor there.


An introvert, as psychologists now know or believe they know is not someone who is shy.  That is the definition of well, a shy person.  An Introvert is a person who “gains energy from being alone and loses energy from stimulating situations, such as social events”. When I read the list of what an introvert is, I was relieved on so many levels. It was like going on WebMD and diagnosing what is wrong with you. You read the symptoms and can say– “Wwhhheeewww! –well, at least I know what will kill me!” When I read about what Introverts are, I felt I had discovered what was wrong with me all these years. But I also felt I was not alone – that there were all these other people who everyone thought were “outgoing” but who were really just yakking their way out the door until they could get home to a good book.  When I was able to self-diagnose myself as an introvert, I felt the same way I did when I thought I had leprosy –until I looked up my symptoms on Wikipedia Symptom Checker and discovered the rash all over my face was due to a reaction I was having to my “Fountain of Youth Cream”  that the Israeli at the mall kiosk foisted on me. I was so relieved I didn’t have leprosy that I didn’t even feel angry anymore about the $50.00 I had spent on a fancy jar of what turned out to be plain old petroleum jelly.


Here is a primer easy-read link if you want to know more about “The Introverts”, or “My People” —


We have a joke– at my expense, as is often true in my family– about “my people”.  Whenever we are watching a movie or reading something about what I believe to be my ancestral folk, I might yell out, “Hurrah!  Those are MY PEOPLE!”  or “How awful!  They did that to MY PEOPLE!”


One’s own people are always spelled in ALL CAPITALS! At my house, the historical or social connections to MY PEOPLE might be on any given occasion a connection to something about The Irish, The Scottish, The Native Americans, or The English. It is rarely about my people The Germans, although their DNA is in there on my maternal Grandmother’s side. One tends to selectively choose one’s People when one is a mutt as most of us are.  It’s like saying on the licensing form that our dog, Jolie, is mostly Golden Retriever, because if we told them she is actually mostly street Coyote, they would take her away.


My husband will josh me, “who are your people this time?”   He can kid me because his people (no caps) are not MY PEOPLE.  I joke back that my people were all the Conquered and his people were all the Conquerors. Another HAHA at my expense, though for The Conquered Peoples,  not such a hilarious joke, although one of MY PEOPLE’s great traits is learning to laugh at dark, bad things. Humor is definitely one of those traits you get from whatever DNA sticks to you.  Speaking of my husband, he, like his French ancestors likes to laugh at prat falls and slap stick – a type of humor the Conquering Peoples enjoy at the expense of other people. On the other hand, I love self-debrecating humor. I sit in coffee shops laughing out loud at Charles Dickens whose black humor at the expense of himself, slays me every time.  Self-directed humor is the primary love language of  my people as we laugh our way back to the servants’ quarters.


We can now discover what the science of DNA testing tells us about who our people are. Conversely, if we don’t want to commit to any people group, we can on most forms check the box that we “feel” we relate to as our people. Take your pick –race, gender, culture, or none-of-the-above-listed peoples.  I used to have a key chain that described me and MY PEOPLE perfectly.  It said: “I live in my own little world; But it’s okay, they know me there.”


In my family, I am known for choosing movies which are not just about underdogs but about severely disabled people – severely disabled people either physically, mentally, or socially – but often physically. And mentally. Favorite movies of mine include ones like “Being There” or “My Left Foot”.  If someone  tragically dies in the movie, even better. My children are still angry with me about the un-intentional emotional scars I gave them as small children when I thought it would be a good idea to celebrate New Year’s Eve by watching the movie “The Elephant Man.” If you don’t know it, “The Elephant Man” is about a severely disfigured man and the famous line is “I am not an animal, I am a man!”


Even though I am introverted, I tend to talk a lot. But I finally have realized thanks to “The Huffington Post” that this yabbering on and on in a group of people is actually a disability due to my introversion – a trait that psychologists seriously considered diagnosing as a disorder.  I talk because when I am with people, I think I have to “give” to them of myself and when you are in the same space as another human being, to me that means giving them words. I am known as a giving person. So I give a lot. Of words.


When reading about Introversion, it also relieved me to realize that introverts do not talk “small talk” and tend to be “too intense” with “a penchant for philosophical ideas and thought-provoking books and movies”.  They also prefer writing  as a means of communication.  All of you who know me – let me know when you stop laughing and I will go on………..


Hence, I guess, I thought it was a gift to my children to watch “Elephant Man” — a profound philosophical discourse on how the outside of a person can deceive you into missing what he or she is inside. As someone once said, you never know who has a disability that you can’t see. Whether a person’s outer disability, like John Merrick’s physical deformities, makes you think they are inhuman; or if the opposite is true and you are worshiping someone’s outer self because it seems beautiful or brilliant, someone like the serpent in Eve’s garden – we tend to be fooled either way by appearances. We should be looking for the created humanity that is “a little higher than the angels” that is inside of The Other. We should be daily searching in the faces and hearts and minds of total strangers and daily companions, that spiritual God-like part that resides in all of us. Conversely, we should also be aware of how easy it is to make idols of those whose outer glory confirms our own selfish  and self-serving desires.  As C.S. Lewis says in The Weight of Glory: It is a serious thing, to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or another of those destinations. It is our gift – to ourselves and others—to help each other towards our  eternal destination – because it is a destination meant to be travelled together, introverts with extroverts, men with women, believers with non-believers, Us with Them. MY PEOPLE with THE OTHER PEOPLE are God’s People.


 If one of my 7th graders is having a “put myself down” moment, I make them say out loud these words from the Psalmist: “for I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. This wonderful verse reminds us we are all made in the image of God. But it is a very specific image – we are not god-like because we are human, we are human because God made us like Him. When we are more like Him, we are more what we as humans were created to be and when we are less like Him, we are less human. When we treat The Other as like God, we become more like God ourselves.  This is the Jesus way and why He could say, “when you see me, you see God the Father.”, the Father of All People.  Remember that funny old politically incorrect children’s Sunday School song? It went like this:  “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of God’s world. Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in His Sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”


My gift to my children at our New Year’s party of “The Elephant Man” (to name but one of the many movies I have forced them to watch in parental attempts at what I hoped were guiding lights) — And my passionate conversations –even when they are utterly misguided discourses– on life with friends, family members, people in waiting rooms, women and men standing on the corner waiting to be picked up for a job, homeless people I have gotten to know, like David, and John, and Clifton, and  random pick up conversations with total strangers I am stuck next to in grocery lines—all of these come from my need as a fearful, timid selfish introvert to GIVE.   Which is why I am often so very wrong while simultaneously being so very right – Because of course sometimes my Giving is really just a cover up for my desperate need – a need to be someone or do something–  A need to be “worshipped” instead of to “worship”. A need to force the outside of me to make up for what I perceive to be my inside flaws. Sometimes my “giving” is perhaps a bit like forcing a leg of lamb on a vegetarian.  I need to allow myself the idea that, If you don’t have the right gift for the right person at the right time, go back into your little metaphoric monk cell, Jane, and be quiet. But sometimes, even though I look and sound like a crazy lady pontificating, I am at least on the right track when I am treating someone I am sharing space with, as if they are godlike in importance and worthy of all my emotional passionate energy and connection. I am most who I am created to be, when I am depleting my energy by pouring myself out into The Other. This is what Jesus came to show us about who God is — a God who pours Himself out into all people who seek Him.


It is always hard on some level though to accept and honor the “Differentness” of The Other. No matter whether that Other is a person we dearly love as I do Raoul, Justine, Clarissa, Verity and Gordon — my favorites of those I call MY PEOPLE — or whether we are trying to get along with some one so radically different than we are, that we would prefer to pretend they are not even completely human, as we  sometimes do people who are different than we are religiously or politically or geographically.

My daughter Clarissa is probably an extrovert.  It’s taken me a while to realize that when she comes home and we are all just sitting around reading or watching reruns of “Sunny in Philadelphia” or “Monarch of The Glen”, Clare feels depleted.  Her energy sinks and she needs to get back out there and go, go, go and socialize with people – horrors! – even at a party with small talk among –gasp! – new people or —gag me with a spoon! –  passing the time of day with co-workers!  Clarissa is delightfully different than I in this area.  As an Extrovert, she is The Other – beloved but different. She is in many ways like me but she gets energy in different ways than I do. This can cause misunderstanding but because we love each other, we don’t stop trying to figure it all out together.


My husband, Raoul, tends to be somewhere in the middle of all of this introvert/ extrovert spectrum.  As one example, Raoul prefers to go to parties and people’s houses, not host them. I am the opposite, preferring to host people so I can be The Giver –and at my house I can also have a good excuse to go hide in the kitchen and not talk with the guests who I truly love but just can’t chat with right now because I am cooking or some such thing. I prefer to speak to a large group of strangers rather than to chit chat in the hallway with someone I really do like a lot.  I can teach a group of students and sell them ideas but I couldn’t sell a product to my best friend to save his or her life.  I will discourse with random strangers at length about theology, philosophy, psychology, art, the meaning of it all—but I feel completely de-energized  when asked what my  favorite color is. People debate my introversion by saying to me – but you went into acting, teaching – you speak in public so well – well, yes, being someone other than myself in a crowd of people and talking about IMPORTANT LIFE ISSUES–is so very much easier than being my silence- loving, imaginary -world reading self forced to discuss the weather with a group of close associates. I figure my friends are mostly those people who know my odd philosophy -spouting passionate-imploding self and for some reason stick around me any way – perhaps they stick with me really only because I make a killer cheesecake?


I should have had an inkling of my introvert-disorder back in high school when we were given the task of memorizing a poem. I chose this one by someone who was perhaps not an introvert but in fact shy, Emily Dickinson:


I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t tell! they’d banish us – you know!


How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog –

To tell one’s name – the livelong Day –

To an admiring Bog!


So going back to the Israeli at the mall.  I often hear MY PEOPLE or American Christians, quote this verse from I Chronicles 7:14: “if my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”  I hear this verse taken out of context on so many levels it isn’t even funny. I wish it were humorous so I could keep this essay light and a joke about myself, but Scripture is pretty serious after all. All I want to point out here is that in the particular Judeo-Christian worldview to which I espouse,  even when I diagnose myself as a part of a certain people group – Native American, Irish, Female, White, Introvert – My rooting for MY PEOPLE does not let me off the hook of connecting with “THE OTHER”.  I find too many people who want God to “heal the land” of MY PEOPLE, while they themselves are busy destroying “the land” of THE OTHER PEOPLE. Because THE OTHER, in my mind, and possibly in yours, is always in CAPITALS as well.  THE OTHER is he or she who is not like me. In Religion, this becomes like one of those jokes: An Jew, A Muslim, and a Christian walk into a Holy Site…  The joke is ironic, because all of those three religious groups see each of the others as “THE” Other. Each claims to be God’s “MY PEOPLE” and the only God’s people in the world. And as much as my DNA has geared me to love irony, humbling myself enough to pray for the healing of The Other takes serious hard work. And that is rarely a joke to any of us.


Just because I am an introvert and I dread social environments does not mean that I don’t walk into those uncomfortable situations any way; because I believe that is what people are “called” to do – to give of themselves to THE OTHER. So too, we must invite THE OTHER into the protected space of our comfort zones – into the Holy Sites of OUR PEOPLE. And for some of us, The Other is the Conquered.  And for some of us The Other is the Conquerer. If we take Jesus seriously when He said, “someday you will worship neither on this mountain or on that one, but in spirit and in truth, then we must believe that the Holy Site  is one we all and we always carry with us. The Holy Site is our soul; it is our God-image, as we each are“fearfully and wonderfully made” human souls. This sometimes means, not giving by talking into, but giving by listening to – sometimes listening to what is not said aloud. It sometimes means acting without speaking, as Francis of Assisi is assumed to have first said: “Preach the Good News. Use words if necessary.” It is sometimes and often admitting we are wrong or selfish. It is sometimes speaking out against injustice when all we want to do is watch a movie about it.  It is sometimes being in the wilderness alone praying.  But it is always, according to God, loving THE OTHER as deeply as I love MY PEOPLE. It is treating the different Other as my Own.


I have not only spent a lot of time speaking into, but have spent a lot of time “listening into”.  I have even actually been hired in certain jobs of mine to be  a “listener”.  I have found sometimes though, that I am often so nervous in a social situation that I begin to babble in order to cover up my fear and my overwhelming desire to run away from the person or persons in front of me and go on a nice walk or sit in a corner of my house with a book –all alone.  When my children were small my husband often offered to get me a jogging stroller so I could be with the child even more!  My daughter, that same extroverted Clarissa, has recently asked me to go on a charity race with her.  I feel horrible saying no, but I have never been in a race since “Field Day” in Junior High.  I don’t say no because of the running or walking, which I have done for years. I decline to race with any one because of the sure knowledge it will involve a crowd of real people. People who will want to small talk with me. People everywhere all around me, people without the time to discuss before the race with me about Pascal’s Wager or the humor of Charles Dickens in Great Expectations  or Covenantal Theology vs. Arminian Theology. People who won’t leave me alone with my silent thoughts as I run.  It is all the “Humanity, oh the Humanity!” — all  THE OTHERS. And I know all of them will want to know what my favorite color is.


St. Paul, whose character traits I struggle with (perhaps because he was possibly an introvert like I), claimed that in Christ, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Paul was trying to explain a new way of seeing each other to two very different sets of believers, sets we might today call 1. God’s first MY PEOPLE, The Israelites (as Paul was himself) and 2. God’s grafted on MY PEOPLE, the Greeks or The Church – who had actually been included from the beginning, but that’s another story. Paul suggests that if we want to follow Jesus, we can no longer see someone as THE OTHER. Jesus, the Only King,  the only One who was truly THE OTHER – and yet completely one of us, said it even more directly,”The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)



Let me honest – I am not one bit sorry for making my kids watch The Elephant Man as a New Year’s party celebration all those years ago. They certainly have gotten a lot of funny jokes out of it. But  maybe they have also, in a small way, realized that if we really want to party hard like Jesus, we must invite into our parties, our homes, our lives, the least, the lost, and the disabled. If we want to be like gods, as Lewis says, we must first recognize the scars our parents give us  which we heroically live with and over come– and we all have scars from our ancestors – the distant and the immediate ones.  This is what it means in part when the scripture tells us, “the sins of the parents will be reborn in the children to the third and fourth generations”.  Sins are like DNA, they are passed on whether we want them or not just like our people pass on  red hair or brown eyes or a penchant for Kimchi  whether we want them or not. But we must also accept that we can not always see the scars of others, and yet, not seeing them, is no excuse for not seeking to heal them. We are called to be humble healers of The Other and therein lies the secret to the healing of our own “land”. When I don’t want to look at the scars of others or listen to the angry hurt and maybe hurtful confessions of THE OTHER, I am running away into my safe, private introverted comfortable space –and that is true even if I am speaking in a crowd of thousands.We are best served when we party hard with THE OTHER delighting in them as our audience. That is who Jesus came to party with. Based on all Christ’s trips to the  wilderness, mountaintops  and out on the sea retreats that Jesus took – He had to be an Introvert.  With a great sense of humor. And a laugh like a truck driver. And lots of important words. And a heart for listening. And healing in His hands.


When we are honest, we can admit that we are all disabled. “We see as if through a cloudy set of glasses, as Paul writes of our abilities to understand or know. Robert Hensel says rightly, “There is no greater disability in society than the inability to see a person as more.”  He agrees with Lewis – being in the presence of any human being is a serious thing. When I look at THE OTHER, do I see God’s created image? Do I look for The Other’s “More”? Robert Hensel was born with the quite obvious and life-changing disability of spina bifida.  He was also the Guinness World Book record holder for the longest non-stop wheelie in a wheelchair covering a total distance of 6.178 miles. I wonder if there is a movie about him I could show the family for Raoul’s birthday?

As a disabled person myself recently diagnosed with Introversion, perhaps I should make an autobiographical movie called “The Chicken Woman”?


Hey Kids – Want to come over for Easter and watch a movie? It’s about this disabled  woman named Chicken but her real name is Jane Tawel…..