Big list, little list

Earlier today I was comparing two lists. On one list I'd written everything I can control. On the other what I can't. Predictably, the first was very short and the second was much longer. As I thought about the first list, it occurred to me that when I'm at peace and content, this is where I'm focused.

And the second list is where I spend all my time.

Not surprisingly, this is also the place where I encounter almost everyone else. Which is fine. Recognizing my own foibles and rapidly approaching sainthood with the exception of few bad habits like occasionally swearing with frustration and the now rare public tantrums, I graciously accept all the things I can't control.

It's what other people should control that makes me nuts.

Take dogs for instance. Other people, let's say "dog-people", should control their dogs. While I like dogs, I currently don't have one to displace my maternal instincts onto, so I am not at the moment a dog-person. To a non dog-person therefore it is not cute when your child substitute jumps up on me in the park and attempts to jostle the yogurt cup from my hands. This is compounded when instead of being horrified, which they should be, this behavior is briefly acknowledged by the dog-person as an adorable manifestation of the animal's natural interest in taking food from any passerby.

So, if I'm struggling with not having control over your dog, why aren't you?

What makes sense to me isn't "right". It just makes sense to me. That said, I'm living proof for the axiom that having lower than average emotional intelligence doesn't help when it comes to influencing people. Actually just the opposite.

Explaining to others what makes sense to me is just not a winning approach. Trust me.

That whole dog-person question I just wrote? Won't fly. When you're living with a dog, sleeping together and having meaningful conversations with him, really, what's a little yogurt between friends?

So let's look at something that isn't so emotionally fraught with family connotations and failed relationships.

Take flossing for example. When I discovered that the dentist would have very little to do if I flossed every day, I became a convert. Flossing every day makes sense to me. One small daily moment with my gums and the dentist is bored to death whenever I come in for a check up. Nothing exciting going on with my gums.

Flossing is a good metaphor. Every day I use my teeth and every night I give them a little extra thanks for doing their job. I'm looking forward to having them around for the rest of my natural life. It occurred to me that I hated going to the dentist and having work done. So I thought about it and took the next logical step.

This isn't "right." It just makes sense to me. Like servicing the car, rotating the tires, changing the oil, maintaining what is working to extend it's life.

Like it makes sense to me not letting your dog jump on people. And that's the rub. I can take control of my gums and service my car, but not your pet.

Or your kids, mother, husband. Or for that matter mine.

Turns out that relationships are not like gums. While daily flossing can preserve my gums, relationships with others involve lots of moving parts. And while I can do little things every day to maintain my connections to others, they might not share the value of regular flossing.

And just like being with other people and their dogs, this requires that I focus on what I can and cannot control.

Little list. Big list. Happy, not happy.

While you think about it, hang on to your yogurt.

I think I see a dog-person headed your way.

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