Author Archive

MY FRIEND NICK SPOONER DIED   18 comments

Not the famous Nick Spooner you’ll find if you google the name, but the Nick Spooner who spent his life overcoming obstacles out of which came more wisdom each time.

Let me tell you more about Nick Spooner who made his living driving a private town car limo service. I met him in spring, 2015, after I had rolled and totaled my car. Finding myself being neurotic about driving, I crunched the numbers about car ownership and decided to stop driving. Then came the godsend recommendation from my friend Karen Noren who gave me Nick’s card. From the beginning he was “my driver,” as long as I made my plans mostly for after 11:00 a.m. and reserved him ahead of time. After all, he worked all night, so he needed sleep time. I wasn’t the only person who claimed him as “my driver.”

So let me tell you more about Nick Spooner. Like the time he drove me to the Chanhassen Dinner Theater. I was accustomed to popping into the front seat and enjoying one of our interesting discussions. There was so much to learn and share about his life, his wisdom, his personal philosophy. Many times we sat for a while to carry on the discussion. That night at the dinner theater, however, he would drop me off at 6:00 p.m. No time for chatting, I started to get out of the car when he stopped me with his delightful laugh and said, “Let me get out and open the door for you. We can let people think you’re an important person.”

Now let me tell you more. On February 6, 2019, he drove me to my dentist appointment at 12:15 p.m. On our return, we sat in the car for a while as he told me his concerns that people might choose to walk home in the freezing cold weather. He remembered in body and mind his own experience of nearly dying in his teens of hypothermia making his way home as a snowstorm blew in. So he had called his referral contacts telling them not to let anyone try walking home. “Call me.”, he had said, “I’ll come and get them. It doesn’t matter if they can pay me.” That was Nick, and that was our last conversation.

He worked as usual on the night of February 6-7, among other things helping a young woman customer whose lock was stuck. That was Nick. He would make sure she was home and safe inside. As he left there, he called in a report to the police that he had spotted a car pulled off to the side of the road and waited there until he was sure officers had been dispatched. A short time later that car spotted Nick’s limo in a snowbank on the side of the road and called it in.

Nick had suffered a seizure, grateful later that he didn’t have a customer in the car. At the hospital he was eventually diagnosed with a glioblastoma – maybe more than one. Senators Ted Kennedy and John McCain died a year after their diagnosis, as did my former husband Lou Affinito. Nick didn’t have a year. He died at 1:18 a.m. on March 23, 2019. Quietly, it was reported, but until those moments, he hadn’t “Gone Gentle into that Good Night.”

I received the news as I was attending a “One Day University” class on resilience- why some people overcome adversity and others do not. Nick had overcome so much with such grace. Resilience.

He was a good writer, with so much to tell. During our years of friendship, I pleaded with him to write. I do have something in a folder marked “Nick’s writings.” In his last days, he had regular entries on Facebook. I want to put together what he wrote there. Someone should know the story of his last struggles. In his last entry on March 21 he complained of falling. Just the day before he had asked, “Who would like to go to Lowe’s or Home Depot with me? I need to find a polycarbonite tool case for a project that I’m working on.” Resilience.

Would someone be willing to check for me on the legality of copying his entries and pasting them into a Word document for potential sharing? I am leaving soon for a month at sea, and I’m struggling with computer/printer problems, so I don’t have the time to do it now.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF A CONFIDENTIAL CONSULTATION   4 comments

I just broke a couple of my own rules, and here’s the lesson to be learned. It’s important to have a confidential consultant – either a paid counselor or someone in a professional position that requires confidentiality. I’m talking about a place where you can talk about something that you should be working through only with a person who is sworn to keep your issue confidential.

Two important rules (out of many) – two places (out of many) to be careful.

Mona’s broken rules.

AVOID TRIANGLES.  My own thinking convinced me I wasn’t getting caught in a triangle. Primarily my reason was that the issue involved me directly because of my own pain. But a good counselor would have pointed out to me that I was still creating a triangle.

TAKE APPROPRIATE ACTION AFTER CONSIDERING ALL FACTORS: I should have spent time with a counselor who would have helped me do a better job of considering all factors and pointed out to me where my action(s) were inappropriate.

CONSIDER THIS A COMMERCIAL. But you don’t need to have a paid counselor, as long as the person is professionally committed to confidentiality. Don’t trust or burden a family member or friend with this job. It’s not fair to them – or even safe – to ask that a secret be kept.

 

 

WHY?   2 comments

I have the feeling I haven’t emphasized enough the importance of asking yourself, “WHY?” before writing that e-mail, or snail-mail, or making that phone call, or taking that action. Why are you doing it? What do you hope to accomplish? What are you asking of the other person?

It’s a little like the editing I’m doing with “My Father’s House.” With each sentence in each paragraph I ask myself that question. Why? Why that word? What am I hoping to convey? Why am I saying it that way? I try to make each paragraph one line shorter.

I’m doing it with each paragraph or section too. What purpose does it serve? Sometimes I’m not sure, so I tighten it up and leave it for when I’ve finished this editing go-round and other people will be willing to go through it. I’ll want them to mark the stuff they find boring, uninteresting, misleading, or superfluous. I will need the help of people who are willing to be honest with me.

But I can’t send out my plea for those consultants until I’ve done my darnedest to clarify it for myself.

My goal is to get 800 pages down to 500 or less. To get down to basics, I guess.

And that’s what I mean by “Why?” Why do it? What purpose does it serve? What do you hope for from the other person?

WHAT TO DO IF YOU WANT TO RECONCILE   4 comments

First: true confessions. Sometimes I wish I had never started this blog. Why? Because I find it hard to get to. It seems sometimes like obstacles just hop in my way, like a computer game where things pop up that I have to knock over or shoot down. (Actually, that’s what I get to see and do on the stationary bike I try to ride everyday.) Most recently, it’s a problem with my billing system for which I first sought the aid of a techie a few days ago, and we’re still playing tag with each other trying to follow through.

Oh well, here it is. I hope it’s helpful.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU WANT TO RECONCILE

APPLY JENNIE’S RULE:  “Always put the best construction on all your neighbor’s actions.”

You probably wouldn’t be seeking reconciliation in the first place if you didn’t see something positive in the person you’re working with, but don’t’ come up with your own answer and assume you’re right about how he or she feels (or felt). Don’t assume you’re wrong either – unless you know for sure that you are. Chances are you are two fallible people, because that’s what human beings are.

MAKE IT A TWO-WAY CONVERSATION

Create an opportunity to let the other person know how you felt about what was going on and be equally sure there’s a place to hear the other side of the story. Don’t issue an invitation that will shame or anger the other person. Try something like “I miss you. Could we get together and talk?” or maybe, in an e-mail, “Could we have lunch together next Friday?”

And find a comfortable and neutral place to do it – preferably away from both your homes – like a back booth in a restaurant, or a park bench. Somewhere that will help keep expressions of anger under control and neither one of you will possess location control.

Before making your reconciliation move, be sure you know what you hope for as a result. Do you want to call off the divorce? Or have lunch together on occasion in the future? Maybe just feel comfortable riding the bus together? Or feel that you’ll be able to enjoy eating Thanksgiving dinner with the family. You don’t need to announce your goal at the beginning –or even at the end – of the discussion. But know when you are satisfied that you are both feeling better about the whole thing – or at least you are.

AVOID BLAMING THE OTHER PERSON

Don’t start out with something like, “I’m trying to figure out why you didn’t see that what you were doing was wrong.” And don’t start out with, “I know I did something wrong, but so did you.” “Wrong” is not a positive word. Not only does it imply blame, but also it just plain creates a negative atmosphere – and may give the other person an opportunity to latch on to what you did wrong, or get defensive, either reaction interfering with an open discussion.

AVOID BLAMING YOURSELF

Don’t start out with a focus on you. That could be a conversation closer, as the other person might reply something like, “Oh, that’s (meaning ‘You’re’) the problem.” Or you might get a sympathetic reaction like, “That’s OK. Don’t feel bad about it. I’ve already forgiven you.” A good reconciliation discussion requires paying attention to both sides, listening carefully to each other, and searching for the positive in what each has to say.

IN OTHER WORDS, AVOID BLAME IN ANY SHAPE OR FORM!

DESCRIBE YOUR CONCERN

Be honest about what is bothering you, and then expect the same from the other person.

COMMIT YOURSELF TO FOLLOW THROUGH AND DON’T EXPECT IT TO BE EASY

ANTICIPATE HOW YOU’LL FEEL AFTER IT’S DONE

Like preparing for an important test or interview, picturing how good you’ll feel when it’s over can be relaxing — stress-reducing.

AND I’LL COMMIT TO FOLLOWING THRUGH WITH A SEGMENT ON FORGIVING SOMEONE WHO’S GONE — MAYBE THROUGH DEATH. I HOPE IT WON’T TAKE ME TOO LONG TO GET THERE.

Posted February 28, 2019 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR   Leave a comment

I’m happy to say I have finally carved out time to dig into editing “My Father’s House.” Lots of pieces landing on the cutting room floor as I try to reduce 800 pages to more acceptable size. But it means I’m neglecting other things, like my blog Seminar. I know I left you with instructions on how not to reconcile, and I won’t really relax until I focus on the “¨How to…”

In the meantime, I want to share this piece from the Sojourner’s message of a few days ago.

“… Let us be quick to welcome and slow to judge. May our faith be accessible to all and our relationships a testament to [the] beloved community.”

 

 

Posted February 24, 2019 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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BACK TO THE SEMINAR   8 comments

Forgive me for the long delay. I’ve been busy preparing and giving an in-person presentation on reconciliation at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Excelsior, Minnesota, on Wednesday, February 13. You might be interested to know an answer I gave there to the question “Why?”

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go: first be reconciled to your brother or sister and then come and offer your gift.” Mathew 5: 23-24

It’s the biblical way of saying you can’t enjoy the blessing of internal peace if you are harboring anger over a damaged relationship. It’s another way of emphasizing the importance of removing the impediment from your own eye before trying to straighten someone else out.

The point is, reconciliation requires coming together in one way or another with the other person(s). It’s a two-way street. Except when the other person refuses to engage. Then the reconciliation requires engaging oneself internally in working through the hurt and anger.

For now, though, I’d like to talk about initiating the connection. It’s important to know the outcome you hope for …  and how likely it is that you’ll get what you’re looking for. Do you want a response? What might it be? An offer to meet and talk? An agreement to follow through on the direct action you’ve requested? Or even for the person to realize there’s a problem in the first place? Are you creating more pain and anger for yourself by imagining an unlikely response, the absence of which will leave you disappointed (and even angrier?)

Or what if you just want to express your anger. If you do that and stop there, it’s guaranteed you’ll accomplish two things – hurt the other person, and encourage defensiveness, denial, and/or retaliation.

But if hurting the other person is what you want, here are the rules for doing it.

  • Create a triangle. Try to get a third person to deliver your message for you. Or maybe bring in someone else as in, “And Mary Jane agrees with me, too.”
  • Don’t respond if the person reaches out to you
  • Send a letter – snail mail or e-mail – with no opportunity for the recipient to respond. End it with something like, “I just had to tell you how I feel.”
  • Make sure you blame the person.
  • Make sure you imply that you are blameless.
  • Maybe offer a diagnosis to explain the other person’s misdeed, as, for example, “You always were good at being passive aggressive” or “I have to understand that you can’t help being like that, given what I know about your upbringing.”
  • Avoid the Jennie rule. Jennie, my mother, one of those people who qualifies as a natural confident – one whom other people felt comforted by – recommended “Always put the best construction on all your neighbor’s actions.” That doesn’t mean making excuses or accepting abuse. It means there’s always another side. Finding it is the essence of love. It’s also the best route to understanding and potentially resolving a painful issue. Or maybe realizing that it’s time to give up. So, if what you want is to hurt the other person, then don’t invoke the Jennie rule.
  • Finally, and above all, if you want to avoid reconciliation, don’t communicate directly with the other person.

Maybe you can tell from reading this that I’d rather be talking with you in person, watching your reaction, coming up with spontaneous stories to illustrate my point. But I hope these thoughts are of some help.

And, to tell the truth, I hope you won’t apply any of the rules I’ve given above.

I’ll be back soon with the more positive side of the story, but maybe you can guess what will go into the next section: “What to do if you want to reconcile.”

I’d love to hear your reactions to this.

 

 

SEMINAR CONTINUED: RECONCILIATION – WHY?   4 comments

Now that we’re thinking about it, what is reconciliation anyway? The answer to “why” depends first of all on knowing what reconciliation means in the particular case. My thesaurus has some interesting answers, the first of which is “Settlement.” Under that it lists the following as equivalents for “reconciliation:”

  • Understanding
  • Resolution
  • Compromise
  • Reunion
  • Ceasefire
  • Appeasement
  • Bringing together
  • The opposite of Conflict

I think this list is as good as any as a jumping off point to answer the question “Why?” Why strive for reconciliation?

I’d like first to focus on “settlement.” Yes, I know the definition refers originally to money settlement, the payment of debts. But I’m choosing to take the psychological/emotional route. Reconciliation doesn’t even become an issue until something unsettling, disturbing, stressful happens, or creeps into one’s awareness. It’s the feeling that someone else owes you something and refuses to pony up. How quickly do we get to “He owes me an apology, or a change of attitude, or cooperation, – or at least an explanation.” If such is not forthcoming, there’s a good chance anger will follow. How good it would feel to get even – to tell the offender off. How about a nice angry e-mail? “There. That’s settled.”

But is it really? What about the recipient who, chances are, will not be happy to receive that hurtful anger? Would it really be enough just to make the other guy unhappy? Nope. There’s no settlement there. Just an increase in the pain total. Settlement and stress reduction and pain relief won’t follow.

So, why reconciliation? One potential reason, because unilateral vengeance won’t make the pain go away – unless, of course, one enjoys another’s distress. They call that sadism.

And, of course, there’s no opportunity to receive the apology or explanation if other people have been turned off, or the reciprocal desire to hurt gets turned on.

Conclusion, reconciliation requires a genuine desire to reduce distress. Something more than one-sided spewing of anger is needed for settlement. It seems to me that’s where “understanding” comes in.

Oh, but now what does “understanding” mean?

Or maybe it’s not anger that erupts, but despair that depresses. “I give up. There’s nothing more I can do.” Maybe settlement can’t happen between living people. Maybe the other person isn’t willing, or isn’t even capable of responding, as in having an issue with someone who has completed the earthly journey. Maybe the settlement can only be internal.

“Understanding” can still help. The stress can still be reduced. Next time I’d like to introduce “Jennies rule.”

In the meantime, are some of you willing to give examples of what “settlement” would mean to you?

 

 

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