Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Lessons from Assisted Living - Sassy

We've watched two different groups of senior citizens recently. One group is much physically healthier than the other. But we've seen human dynamics or "politics" in both groups.

I've noticed one lady these last couple of days. The first day I met her, I had bumped her chair without realizing it. I did not even feel it, but to her it was a sudden jolt. And . . . she let me know that I had bumped her. Now the distance between chairs in the dining room is not very much - you're going to get bumped every now and then. But I moved to a different position at the table so I would not bump her again.

I noticed her again today. She was coming down the hall. Another lady walking her dog was coming down the hall in the opposite direction. Now, I did not see the beginning of the altercation. But all of a sudden one lady says, "Well, YOU could have moved to the other side." And of course, at that point the other lady said: "WELL, YOU could have moved to the other side." As I passed the lady I'd been noticing, I asked her how she was. She gave me a quick smile and said, "I'm sassy today."

I looked up the word, "sassy" this evening. Webster's says: impudent, vigorous, lively, distinctively smart and stylish. So, I checked out "impudent:" marked by contemptuous or cocky boldness or disregard of others : insolent."

I've been friends with Bettye Baldwin, (Secrets of a Lazy Trainer) for eight or nine years now. She has taught me the importance of having a "bubble" around you when you are working with horses. The horse needs to know where you bubble ends and it is extremely important to continually reinforce that boundary. A horse who knows that boundary won't run you down (and I have it on good authority that it HURTS when a horse runs over you!)

That bubble is actually a boundary that you teach the horses you are around. I know that I was not raised with good boundaries, but as an adult I have learned the importance of both establishing boundaries in my human relationships and respecting other people's boundaries. One of the difficulties in human relationships is that each one of us has a different set of boundaries. Some people have tight boundaries - they don't want people standing too close, they are friendly but sometimes in a standoffish way. Some people have tight boundaries with strangers, but looser boundaries with their friends and family. I am someone with loose boundaries. I may not realize I have blundered into someone's space (as I did when I bumped the lady's chair.)

When watching wildlife, I have watched many species "defend their territories." Usually, the battles are simply skirmishes where one animal "tests" the boundary of another one and quickly backs down. But sometimes, these turf wars can become fights that lead to death.

When we're dealing with people, we need to pay attention to the signs that indicate boundaries. We need to watch body language and tone of voice. Humans are social critters - we need each other. But when you have a lot of people living in fairly close quarters, it is doubly important to respect those human boundaries.

1 comment:

Bettye said...

LOL Ya wanta try for more like twelve or thirteen years?