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Five words to end an argument

 

Sunrise to sunset, they’re all around us.

So much so that lately I’ve felt like pretending to be Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, and singing “Words. Words. Words.  I’m so sick of words.”  In particular, the arguing ones.

Being a fan of vintage musicals, it’s not surprising that another line then comes to mind, this one from The Music Man—“You can talk, you can bicker…”

Bicker is a good word.              And too often the bickering is downright thorny.

The outcome of such discussions or disagreements can have significant impact on my life and yours. So I need to clarify.  It’s not the words that I’m frustrated with, that shut me down.  It’s the tone of hostility in which they’re spoken.  A tone that doesn’t have to be.

I recall a conversation I overheard while vacationing last summer.  Two women (no idea if either one was an oldest daughter) at a nearby table were having a conversation about just exactly when a mutual friend had called to announce that she was getting married. Their discussion was becoming more spirited.

“It was a week ago last Friday,” said the one woman.

“No, it wasn’t.  It was on a  Saturday.”

“Huh uh,  It was a Friday.…”

Their back and forth could have gone on pointlessly except that the friend with the Friday opinion said, “Don’t you remember?  When we talked after she called, I said the weekend traffic was going to be horrific because of the music festival.”

Saturday didn’t say anything. Friday continued.

“I’m right.  You’re less right.”

Those five words put a stop to the discussion.  But not to the relationship.  Spoken with a smile, they didn’t have a winner-take-all attitude. Instead, they made the friend with the differing standpoint smile.  (And me, too).  “Saturday” wasn’t exactly wrong, just less right.

It works.  I’ve tried it out.   A couple of times when the situation has been reversed.

You’re right.  I’m less right.

 

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Why send a heart-ening message?

 

The card has hung where I can see it for at least ten years.  The bends and wrinkles on the front are evidence of the many times I’ve opened and re-read the words that encourage me to keep on dreaming, reaching…

 

 

The words were written for that Hallmark Card by Renee Duvall. They were sent by my sister when I was in the midst of making a major career change.

 

 

Now two colleagues are facing serious health problems.  Friends have told me that they need words of encouragement.

Encouragement.   What does that word mean?  

To give courage.

It came originally from the Vulgar Latin (common speech) cor, which means heart.

With all the dis-courage-ing news, commentaries and tweets out there today, it seems more important than ever to show some heart when we communicate with each other.

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, there may be no better time to do that.

In a box of my mother’s keepsakes,  I found a Valentine I’d made for her back in the day when I was a Brownie Scout, doing crafts in after-school

meetings. She’d kept the simple message, just as I keep the card from my sister whose birthday—truthfully—is on Valentine’s Day.

Show some heart.  Send messages of encouragement. 

 

 

Very. Almost.

 

The response to her husband surprised me.   He had called from the downstairs great room where we were sitting to his wife who was upstairs in their bedroom.

“We’re supposed to be there in 15 minutes.  Think we’ll make it?”“I’m very almost ready,” she called back.

He chuckled. So did I.

It was an answer I immediately committed to memory. I loved the wording.   Much better than what’s been said so often that no spouse believes it —  “Just a few minutes more.” A vast improvement over the honest, but negative,  “Not quite.”

Filled with hope. 

I have begun to use this combination of of words in a variety of situations. Sometimes to describe actual progress.  Other times to describe feelings.

I’m very almost finished writing my book.
I’m very almost finished with Christmas shopping.

Or I’m very almost in love with you.”  (That might not have been what my future husband wanted to hear when our dating became serious.)

Now I’m wanting to say, I’m very almost done with all the political talk on television, requests to write to my congressman, or (most often) send a contribution.  Very almost.

I believe it’s still important to stay tuned in, to become/remain informed.But am I willing to do more than that?

copyright 2012 Pat Schudy

 

 

To be out front or take a stand with others? To weather a storm of possible personal reactions?

Those who study such things say that oldest daughters are leaders, influencers.  In our families and often beyond.

I’m very almost ready to decide what, if anything, the oldest-daughter side of me will do.

She could take a nothing day…

How is it possible to feel so sad about losing someone who wasn’t a long-time personal friend?

Actually, that’s not accurate.  She just didn’t know she was my long-time personal friend. And I didn’t know for years that she was also an oldest daughter.

For over a decade I watched her television shows, admired her spunk, made wardrobe decisions based on what I saw her wear, and hopefully took on some of her characters’ grace, integrity and humor — especially as a young woman in the workforce. I even believed I could make it someday, too.

I felt a real sense of loss when her television series ended.  Then I realized that in the world of reruns, I could still catch, enjoy and take lessons from her interacting with a cast of characters that we knew someplace in our own worlds.   The irascible but tender-hearted Mr. Grant, the bumbling Ted Baxter and the oh-so-different Rhoda, Georgette, Su Ann and Phyllis.

But today’s news isn’t fake news.  The Emmy-winning actor and my television friend is  actually gone.  I mourn, until I smile, remembering that freeze-frame of her tam-tossing jubilance in the face of life’s challenges.

Bravo, Mary Tyler Moore.  Thank you.

Moving On

As I recently explained in a last post to another blog, it’s taken me an unplanned year to realize it’s time to move on.  I hadn’t posted anything on that blog for several months.

The truth is, I haven’t had the stomach to join the talking heads—especially as a blogger simply adding her two cents worth.  (Wise decision — the value of the penny is now so low, they’re talking about doing away with it.)

The message for me?  Time for “change” of a different kind. Maybe even to turn things upside down occasionally.

So I’ve moved to the current address, oldestdaughter.com  It’s a space with a new view—on what makes our lives as oldest daughters worth living, enjoying and sharing.

Please come and bring your friends —there’s lots of room for new viewpoints.

How a tennis trip turned into tips for an oldest daughter

Last weekend I went to a tennis tournament at the awe-inspiring 18,500-acre Air Force Academy in the Rocky Mountains.  Liz, a friend I’ve known since we shared an apartment after college, went with me. Trying to find our way to the courts,  we took the wrong road.  We ended up at a guard station in a restricted area where we were promptly and firmly turned around.  Once back on the correct road,  we looked at each other and laughed out loud.  “What would our 22-year-old selves think if they could see us now?”

That  led to something we’d heard about on national TV: writing a note of advice to a younger version of ourself.  The project had gained a lot of attention when Vice-president Joe Biden made public the letter he had written to his 12-year-old self.  Liz and I wondered what we have learned that might have helped our 22-year-old selves avoid taking the wrong road in the future.

letter to self

Back home, I found a picture of myself at about that age and sat down to write.  

 

Dear Patty:

I’m writing from an age you can’t imagine you’ll ever be.  Patty is the name everyone in our family and friends from school continue to call you.  Pretty soon new friends and colleagues will call you Pat.

This note is about the relationships you will have going forward with those who call you either Patty or Pat.  And with yourself.  And about how all these relationships are affected by the words, “oldest daughter.” 

Tip #1. “Oldest daughter” describes where you fit in the family lineup. Don’t let those words define you.

That can be a little hard, because it’s the way everyone in the family continues to think of you.   Mom and Dad have brought you up with expectations — to set the example, to lead, be responsible and caring. Our three younger sisters and brother expect those same things from you. They’ve watched and learned from what you do and the choices you’ve made.  They’ve grown to trust and often rely on you. 

Tip # 2.  Studies show that leadership and nurturing are characteristics that  go along with being an oldest daughter.  You’ve already experienced both.  You can choose, or not, to continue developing them.

In the future, you will be surprised at the expectations our family and others, without even thinking about it, will continue to have of and for you.   Sometimes you’ll feel frustrated when others don’t seem to  see what needs to be done or to take charge of a situation in need of “fixing.”  So you’ll end up doing it.    You’ll set yourself up to be overwhelmed if you continue to take on others’ expectations while also responding to the needs of your husband, your children, your job.  And I haven’t even mentioned taking care of yourself.

Tip #3.  It will be up to you to set boundaries that respect your own time and energies.

 

Tip #4.  Re-read Tip #1.  Then understand that what will define you is up to you and your choices going forward.  You have the right to decide what role you will play in contributing to this great, wide world we’re each part of.

That’s it for now.  

Till next time, with love from 

Your Older Self

“It’s like we’re connected.”

Maybe you’ve seen the auto-insurance commercial about  a younger fellow with long hair and a stocking cap who has just rear-ended an older, business-suited man’s car.   In exchanging insurance information, the two discover that they share not only the same company, but the same agent.  “It’s like we’re connected,” observes the younger man with zen-like pleasure.  “No, we’re not,” protests the other, obviously not liking that idea at all.  But as the younger man’s facial expression points out, there’s no denying it. 

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In somewhat the same way,  being born the first female in our families is a connector that’s not always or immediately apparent.

I’ve been surprised to realize the number of oldest daughters in my life.

  • My first housemates after college were all oldest daughters.  So were the four of us who subsequently shared an apartment.

That common characteristic was not realized, I’m fairly sure, at the time.  But it’s continued to be a fact in the people with whom I find myself associating.

  •   Four out of the five women in my original writer’s group were first-born females.
  • Six out of the eight women in the movie group my husband I belonged to were oldest daughters.
  • The majority of my close friends, business associates and colleagues in education fall in the same category.

In none of these situations has our family position been identified or discussed beforehand.  But our similar experiences, expectations, resulting feelings and personality traits have come to light in the course of conversations.

It’s those common connections that led me several years ago to begin researching this topic.  As one person I interviewed told me, “It’s like at some level we simply recognize each other.”

Hello world!

Friendship is born at the moment when one (woman) says to another, What? You too?  I thought that no one but myself …—  a slightly modified observation from C.S. Lewis’ book, The Four Loves

Over breakfast at a favorite neighborhood deli some years ago a long-time friend and I made a surprising discovery about each other.  We are both the oldest child in our families.  Which means we are also each the oldest daughter in our families.  We began to talk about why that was important. For the next two hours that day, stories about our first-child/oldest-daughter experiences poured out and spilled over like coffee from the pot of our distracted waitress.  We commiserated so totally with each other that by late morning when we left, we laughingly considered forming an ODA — an Oldest Daughters Anonymous group.   That never happened.

What did happen is that I began researching the topic of oldest daughters and spent the next ten years writing a book about us.  I heard from several hundred survey participants and conducted personal interviews with more than one hundred first-born females and family members.   And now I want to continue the conversation through this website and blog.

Patricia Schudy