Slow and Steady

“But I can’t just carry all those bags back and have enough time left -- and I’m not going to try! So you can go and make that long walk there and back  by yourself, come with me and actually help me do it, or find another way to get us some dinner.” This was the first of the conversation I heard as I gradually came into earshot from upstairs. Dustin and Ron were arguing again. This time, it was about who was going to get the stuff for dinner tonight.

“I told  you already, Ronald, I have to clean up the living room before Felicia gets here. I don’t have time to walk you to the market, come back here, clean up the entire family room, and make sure the kitchen’s all set up for Uncle Ronnie and Aunt Nelly .” I’d forgotten they were coming. I’d meant to start gift-wrapping their presents from Christmas. In the half of a second it took Ron to respond, I already knew what would be coming next.

“There you go again with your smart little tone. I told you not to talk to me like that. I’m not dumb, hard of hearing or slow. So I could REALLY do without all the crap you put into your tone. And besides, it’s not like you’re the only one who has a lot to do. I have to wash the car and go get everyone’s dry cleaning for the play tomorrow. Do-”

“Guys”, I calmly interrupted. “What are you two arguing about again?”. “Oh nothing”, Dustin replied more to Ron than to me.

“Ronnie just doesn’t quite grasp the concept of time vs. amount of work to be completed.”

“Actually, I get that just fine. Dustin’s just too lazy walk to the store and get the food for dinner himself.”, Ron snapped back.

I could tell by the way they’d been going on and on before I heard the noise and came downstairs that they were getting no closer to a solution; the only way this would be resolved was by my intervention.

“I know that you have to wash the car and go pick up our clothes, and you have to clean up the living room and set up the kitchen for dinne-

“Yes, so obviously, it would make the most sense for Ron to go and get the food for dinner. Thank you. Okay, Ron, you do that while I get started.”

“Wait”, I objected, “Ron has a lot to do too. Maybe you could just help him carry the bags back - wait, why would you have trouble carrying the bags back, Ron?”

“Because we need so much more food than usual. Aunt n’ Uncle are bringing Rob, David, Tracy and Morgan. So we need a lot.”

“Oh I see”, I said, realizing. Alright. I’ll go with you to get the dinner stuff, come back, help you finish up the living room, then help you finish washing the car. How’s that? Oh yeah, the uh, dry cleaners. I’ll go do that. Ron, you can stay here and help Dustin while I get the dry cleaners.”

“Wow, that’s a lot to do. You sure?”, Ron asked me.

“Trust me, not a problem. I have a lot of time. We should all get started though.”

“Alright, let’s go”.

Growing up, my siblings argued a lot. It wasn’t always so bad, but still, sometimes it would be completely taken out of proportion. Something that started out as a simple “why don’t you do this?” could turn into something a lot bigger, when the resolution was clear. I’ve never liked seeing people argue.  In my opinion, it’s pointless. Especially when you’re talking about a matter of physical things or something that’s either a fact or false. But sometimes they’d let their emotions cloud their judgement, and get into an argument that led them to nowhere. That’s when I would decide to intervene. Most of the time, like in this scene, I would calm whoever was arguing down, and my solution would work. If it didn’t the first time, we’d always eventually work something out. But an argument isn’t resolved by just walking into a room and telling people to calm down and do what you say. Trying to solve something by  doing that would only lead to an even greater conflict. One that would take a lot more to resolve.  The way I’ve always done it is by remaining calm throughout the entire process, analyzing the origin of the conflict, and coming up with a solution or compromise that makes everyone happy. Sometimes, not everyone could be happy in a situation, and if so, they would just have to accept that fact that the reality of the situation cannot be changed. Over the years, I’ve realized that the key to getting into and getting out of an argument is emotion. Getting into one is usually the product of a lack of control over one’s emotions. To get out of one peacefully requires great control over one’s emotions, and this control must be exercised whenever possible.

While reading the essay “If Black English Isn’t A Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?”, by James Baldwin, I came across a quote that quite stood out to me. It reads, “People evolve a language in order to describe and thus control their circumstances or in order not to be submerged by a reality that they cannot articulate. (And if they cannot articulate it, they are submerged.)”P1. This quote says a few things, in my opinion. It says that the reason people evolve a language in the first place is to have the ability to communicate all their emotions to someone else. To be able to control what happens in the situation they’ve been placed in by expressing their emotion through their language. I think it’s also saying that when a person cannot “articulate their circumstances”, they are really submerged in a reality, and they don’t like it, because they’re stuck in a world they have no control over anymore, and the basic human need for compassion and communication is not being met. I imagine it would be similar to not knowing a single word of Portuguese, and being dropped out of a plane over Portugal with a parachute, and trying to find your way back home. It would be extremely difficult, unless someone who spoke your language and who was willing to help you did something about it. You would be helpless and miserable.

In my opinion, a person’s language is one of their most important tools. It is one of the only ways for people to communicate. I say “one of the only ways” because someone might consider an email, text message or letter another form of communication. But, even when you get into those, it all comes back to your language. They way you word things, the way you structure the message overall, these are all personal to every different person. In addition to the possibility of influencing the outcome of a conversation, and thus an event, in person by using the right language, tone, and body language, it is also within the realm of possibility to do exactly the same thing when writing a message to someone else. This can be tricky, considering the person on the other side can’t really see you, and might mistake a genuinely kind sentence for an attack. Usually when people are expressing anger or frustration online, they use exclamation points, capital letters and such, in the same way that people use a lot of angry facial expressions and hand movements in person when expressing anger or agitation. If an argument does erupt on an online site, it’s always better to get off of it, and then discuss the matter in person.

All in all, there is  a way to control the outcome of any conflict, and all you need is your language. Control the way you speak. Listen to what others are saying and how they’re saying it, and let your tone reflect that in a positive way. I’ve learned this very important lesson over the course of years and years. I’m not that old, but my point is that it’s taken a very long time. I hope this essay is inspiring in that it prompts the feeling to take this into consideration and apply it to everyday life. In the long run, that’s the best way to go.