When Needs Collide


 A One-Act Play

Scene Backdrop

Rae in a shoulder sling waiting….

Visions of Maui sunsets and beach walks were delayed when my decision to walk our Alaskan grand dog (a large Labrador retriever belonging to our son, Jason and our daughter-in-law Stephanie) on an icy Minnesota path in January of last year, resulted in a hard fall to the ice and a torn rotator cuff.

The unexpected surgery required me to delay my departure date for at least a month.  Knowing it was too late to cancel our condo, I insisted that my husband Tim leave on the planned date and I would join him when I was allowed to travel. With great care from family and friends, my recovery went better than expected and I set the date to join Tim.

During the month of waiting, I longed for time together, imagining visiting our favorite haunts and sharing the rituals that come from repeated visits to a place holding cherished memories, I pictured our first day….

Scene Imagined

We wake early as is often the case in Maui with its four-hour time difference. We go to one of our favorite Maui yoga classes, followed by a trip to a local market to buy an Acai bowl (berry smoothie with fruit and toppings), and walk across the street to the beach park to enjoy it.  We gaze past the shallow pools created by lava stones embedded in the sand near the shoreline where small children play, their tiny hands clutching parents’ limbs, waves slipping in from the ocean beyond.

We would catch up on all the small details of life and experience the intimacy that couldn’t quite be captured in our nightly phone conversations.

Scene in Reality

Yoga – Not.

Doctor’s orders – no weight whatsoever on the shoulder. Sling on at all times for the prescribed period.

Acai bowl at the beach – Yes!

Intimate  conversation on the beach – Not.

Enter stage right

A disheveled man weaving between groups of people, pausing to connect, but ignored,  heading our way.  Arrives at our bench.

He begins talking, talking, talking, repeating and talking some more about his time in the military, his vagabond life with stops in Oregon, his life on Maui. Tim was listening, questioning,  and when he could get a word in edgewise, talking.

All the while, I was upset, disappointed, and furious at Tim for prolonging this interaction. My thoughts were, “How could Tim be so insensitive to my feelings, especially when I had shared on our phone conversations how I looked forward to this exact moment?”

Finally, leaving the beach with melting Acai bowls, the now purple liquid contents dripping over the side of the container, I told Tim just how I felt. He looked mildly remorseful, and explained that this likely homeless and clearly mentally ill man needed some attention. He went on to say that we could come to the beach another day.

The Plot

Was Tim an insensitive man, totally lacking in emotional intelligence?

Was I a self centered woman, focused on my own needs, oblivious to the needs of what appeared to be a lost and lonely soul?

This year as I made plans and strategies to launch Significance Matters, with its mission to inspire people to treat themselves and others as having inherent worth and value, I had cause to reflect on this experience.  I have a deep desire to grow, learn and change for the better in the same areas I will be hopefully inspiring my readers to do so through my blogs, with their calls to action. For that reason, Tim and I spent a fair amount of time in deep conversation about the experience and more importantly its broader implications.

In our early conversations, our lesser selves showed up as we focused on who was right. Then we progressed to our better selves and discussed what we might have done differently. Finally, we came to be the best version of ourselves and moved to talking about what questions we should ask ourselves when natural tensions arise between treating ourselves with significance and treating others with significance. We talked about ways we could fully live our values in such times.

We agreed that in the future we wanted to be more intentional about examining our own needs and boundaries. We said that we could consider how important those needs are in a given situation. We want to pause a moment and consider the other person’s needs and try to imagine their importance to that person. In some cases we may ask the person directly how important a particular need is to them.  Then the questions become: Are there ways to meet our own needs AND those of the other person? Is this a case where we need to honor our own needs? Are we called to forego our needs and meet those of the other person?

When sharing an early draft of this blog with a good friend, she asked me some tough questions to consider.  She asked if Tim and I had been sitting on the beach and somebody else had come up to talk to us (rather than the homeless man), would it have made a difference? For example, what if it were:

  • Someone we both knew well.
  • Someone only Tim knew.
  • Someone only I knew.
  • Someone we both knew vaguely.

My knee-jerk reaction was absolutely not! But as I challenged myself to consider her question more deeply, I am not so sure.  When I consider how much I value family and friends and how uncomfortable I felt around a scruffy disheveled man who rambled on in a disjointed and sometimes incoherent manner, I am just not sure.

While this example may seem inconsequential, I believe it is the every day choices and small acts which form the fabric of our values. They determine how we show up as a human being and often create ripple and multiplier effects on those with whom we share the planet.

As I began thinking about our work with Significance Matters, I initially pictured positive joyful stories that illustrate the power of caring for self and others.  Through my reflection and conversations with others, I realized that this path is not always an easy one.  There are and will be tough situations where honoring your needs and boundaries will collide with honoring those of others.  The choices may be difficult.  I do know that I will be more intentional when I make those tough choices in the future.


Your Needs Defined

  • Reflect on and write down your top 3-5 values.  Some ways to prompt your thinking are the following: Consider your parents or others who were role models in your life. What lessons did you learn and internalize? Think about tough choices you have made in your life, what are the common threads or principles you called upon to make those choices?  Consider times in your life when something felt wrong or not quite right to you. What value was being called into question? Think about a time when you felt a sense of pride about how you handled a tough decision. What value did you fully live in making that decision?
  • Now consider what needs emerge from those values?
  • Think about your personality, talents, and personal style? Jot down a few words to describe some of your central characteristics.
  • Again, consider what needs emerge because of those characteristics.
  • Review your list of needs and prioritize them.

Teach People How to Treat You

  • Before considering how others treat you relative to your needs, reflect on the tougher question of how you treat yourself.
  • Identify an area where you want to treat yourself with more reverence and care. Commit to an action this week to do so.
  • Consider the needs you identified above.  Now reflect on your words and actions.  What messages and lessons are you sending/teaching to the people in your life about how you expect to be treated.
  • Pick one area you are going to send stronger or different messages about a need that is important to you.

Understanding The Needs of Others

  • Reflect back on The Call To Action in Blog 1 – I SEE YOU – Commit to seeing someone in your life and acting in such a way that the person feels seen.
  • Reflect back on The Call To Action in Blog 1 – I HEAR YOU –  Choose one person with whom you will foster love and connection with by being fully present more regularly, starting this week.
  • What did you learn about the needs of the persons you chose. How might you extend yourself to better meet those needs?
  • Consider someone in your life you would like to foster a stronger connection to.  Simply ask that person some questions about what is important to them. Take the time to observe that person’s body language to gain further insights into their needs. Make a commitment to do more to contribute to that person’s needs being met.

Ways to Resolution

  • My husband Tim and I came up with a method to short cut or resolve disagreements and have used it with good success over many years and to this day.  When we find we are having the same conversation or disagreement without coming to a shared mindset, we call a time out and each share if that issue or need is a high, medium, or low.  We have agreed if either of us rated the issue as a high while the other persons was a low or medium, we would end the discussion and honor the need which was highest.  This method assumes that you each want the other person’s most important needs to be met.  It diffuses that human tendency to want to be right and focuses the energy around what matters to each of you.  Additionally, it creates an incentive in each of us to use the high need card sparingly to ensure what is really important gets the attention it deserves.
  • What approach might work for you and people in your life that matter to you?
  • Agree on an approach and try it for 6 months.

2 thoughts on “When Needs Collide”

  1. God put the beach walker there for a reason and we are now beneficiaries of your encounter and the resulting ripples from your reflections. Perhaps our needs don’t have to experience a collision rather a pause and/or redirection as our journey in life is often interrupted. Great suggestions for learning how to take that pause and reflect in a way forward. Thank you.

  2. First I want to thank you for sharing an intimate moment. I have to say it brought tears to my eyes. I think it was a combination of the tumultuous photography and a story I could relate to. Also possible where I am in my life. I want to take the advise and create a stronger connection to someone I love. I want to add a thought that carries me through those emotional self absorbed moments. It is a breathe and a pause. Like the dishelved man on the beach we can’t stop sometimes. But if we can pause we can hear. If we pause we can feel. If we pause we love.

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