Monday, December 11, 2006


Reflecting on the conversation I had last night with my sister and brother I was drawn to the dictionary. One word has been resonating with me since our discussion. Negotiate.

The online dictionary offers one definition of the word as being: to move through, around, or over in a satisfactory manner. Indeed last night our three-way phone call was an example of negotiating on multiple levels.

As has been the case for many important birthdays, Christmas’s and milestones, my sister first called me and then she requested I call my brother so that we could decide collectively what we’d be getting our mother as a gift. With three very distinct personalities and tastes it has always been a large feat for us to agree on one gift. There have been several occasions when we decided not to do a group gift because of our varied opinions.

My sister put forth one good idea and several that I didn’t like at all. All of her ideas were certainly practical and well meaning. My brother had no suggestion. My idea was immediately shot down. I wanted to duplicate my last birthday gift for my mother. I wanted to get her something that she wouldn’t normally purchase for herself, several tickets to theater performances stretched out for the next several months. My suggestion was met with much skepticism. This was partly because of geographic location and also due in part to personal beliefs and where each of us finds value.

After several more minutes of back and forth we’d come to a satisfactory agreement. With a tag that says “To: Ma ~ From: Queen J, Jimmy Jam and ClayStarr” there will be a package nestled under the Christmas tree this year.

On another level the negotiation of the gift was another reminder that the world that I have created for myself over the past several years is far from the world that I lived in when I was growing up which is to a great degree the reality for my siblings. Respectfully navigating my way through both waters at times triggers a different type of negotiating for me. Not only am I doing my usual asking others to meet me where I am but me working and being cognizant that I should meet others where they are. There are times when I am interacting with people, not just my brother and sister, but people all around me, and we are in different places and spaces.

That is when the negotiation takes places. I must move in, through and sometimes around in places and spaces to reach that in between. It is the point where we all connect. Last night it was that each of us cares deeply for our mother and wanted to express that love through a physical gift and we know that she enjoys when she sees us come together.