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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

To Be Assertive Or Not To Be Assertive...?

To Be Assertive Or Not To Be Assertive...?
Reclaiming My Humanity

I just stood up for myself today at the gym--which shall remain nameless to protect the blameless; also I work out at several gyms--, and not with hubris, but with calm assertiveness. How do I know that I was calm?  When I become irate, my body shakes uncontrollably, my heart rate goes way up, and my breathing becomes labored--none of those symptoms or factors was triggered in me, in this specific case, today.

The insight about rules, in general, is that one cannot selectively observe only those that are convenient, and not obey those that are not expedient to our means, and thus end, for our brain is a patterning organ, and soon a general pattern of behaviors arises, in spite of our original goal:  Rules, in general, become impediments to our very raison d'etre.

To be assertive, to me, does not mean that one gets into a physical, or verbal, for that matter, altercation with the other; to be assertive means that I stand up for myself, my principles, and morals by practicing life- and self-affirming rituals to develop the muscles of a moral imagination, in order to become more human, and nevertheless, at times, knowing, well in advance, that the likelihood of getting my gluteus maximus royally kicked in the arena is a very high probability.

Case in point
The nameless gym has clearly posted rules, and one of them is that folks should not use "more than one machine at a time," but a few do not follow that rule, I have observed on several occasions.  So one powerful externally, young man, along with his workout partner who happens to be a paid employee of the nameless gym, were using, alternately, several machines; the bench-press machine was left unattended, so I proceeded to clean it in order to put it to good use, when the young man came up, and said belligerently,"I am still using it!"  At that time, I took a few steps back, and retorted, "You didn't have to say it like that!"
Now the young and externally powerful man could clearly have kicked my gluteus maximus, but I stood my grounds, and then told him that he was not supposed to alternate between machines according to posted gym rules, and that he could have said it nicer; at that point, he retorted that, "You are not going to talk to me like I am a child!"  Now the word, "child" coming from the young man crystallized in me something, for I then said, "Do you know what I do?"  And as soon as I said those words, I thought to myself, "What am I saying?  I am not in law enforcement?"  But later, upon reflection, I realized that those words were clearly for me:  to remind myself that I have a career, a son, reason, and the skills to deescalate myself, and possibly the other, in certain situations.  (Insight:  sometimes the words, we speak to the other, are mostly for us, for they serve as reminders or cues to take heed, and be mistresses of all of our faculties, actions, and choices.) Several people, at that point, had gotten between us, including another paid employee, to ease the tension between us, two. 

I, also, did not use any "fighting" words that could have further escalated his ire against me, in general, like the what-are-you-going-to-do type, when he told me, "to move back," and that he was "still taking over the bench" in question.

I walked away with two certainties, today:  one, I could have gotten my gluteus maximus kicked royally, two, and my humanity reclaimed, once more--one does NOT need to claim one's humanity ever, but, at times, one may need to affirm and reclaim one's humanity through assertive rituals.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong [or weak, in my case, physically]  man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”  --Theodore Roosevelt

And with more practice, practice, practice, the next time I get in the arena with the other to assert, affirm, and reclaim my humanity, I may be more calm and empathetic, in the process.  But I will NOT monday-night-quaterback myself in this case specific, now and hopefully never, for to do so is to fear the consequences of being assertive--the consequences are well worth affirming, and reclaiming my humanity.

With agape,

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