Monday, May 14, 2012

Breaking Down Barriers

Now you might think that this blog post title has to do with physical barriers: it doesn't. Not that they don't exist. 'Cause they do.

But this catch phrase has been part of my life and my consciousness for SO MANY YEARS!

I am a person who likes to break down barriers.

I respect authority, I respect formality, but it doesn't mean I have to like doing so.

I am not "Aunt Pearl" -- I am Pearl. I am not Mrs. Saban -- I am Pearl. I like to breed a sense of familiarity and comfort when people are around me and I am around people, so I allow them to call me by my first name -- if the situation allows for it.

When I worked in-house as a copy editor for so many years, I dealt with NYC-based editors; yes, I could send them queries via emails or typed letters, sent via inter-office mail, but I often preferred to speak to them on the phone. If I could at least put a voice to a name, it would have to do because of the distance. I was never sent to our NY offices, but editors often visited us in Toronto, and so I would finally get to put the name to the voice to the face....simply because I had broken down some barriers in order to make some more-than-minimal human contact.

I knew the editors were busy but I tried to make conversation with them at times and let things turn to a personal nature, if even for a few short minutes, and whether I asked about the weather or vacation plans or what these editors were writing for their own enjoyment, I took pleasure in knowing that I had broken down some barriers.

Over the years I had plenty of regular contact with some of the editors -- enough so that once when one of them came to Toronto for a three day conference, I invited her to a girls' night at my house, along with some of my girlfriends. Instead of this editor sitting alone in a hotel room and eating dinner in a hotel restaurant, she could sit among my ensemble of wacky and wonderful friends for a few hours, have a home-cooked meal, and just be herself. Yes, she came, and even though she was probably several years older than me, not married, and living a different life than mine, she was comfortable with us and we were comfortable with her -- and I know that she greatly appreciated the friendliness and hospitality she was shown that evening in my and my friends' company.

It pleased me what a little friendliness could do and how far it could go.

These days you don't find me much in blogland; I much prefer Facebook, and over my three-plus years of giving myself over to that wicked, time-sucking medium, I have broken down other barriers. I have become Facebook friends with celebrities, comedians among them. I still put "Facebook" in front of "friend" in their cases because I'm realistic. We're not friends, but with several, I do more than just write a comment about their status update, I often write them an off-line message. There is one such celebrity with whom I did so, and as a result, I created some poetry, inspired by some of his artwork and stories, and he created some poetry, based on my inspiration. How thrilled I was to learn that his creative mind was inspired by my offline "conversations"!

To know that my words and comments -- whether online or offline -- are leaving some kind of impression on a FB friend gives me great joy. To get a thumbs' up or a response directly related to my comment gives me double joy.

I will still refer to some of these people as Facebook friends, but I know for a fact that one of them has referred to me simply as "friend".  I have seen her use it in print, I have heard her use it on Internet radio.

And then I smile because I know...that I have managed to break down barriers. It's all about jumping on a bandwagon, becoming a back-seat passenger for a while, and then slowly inching to the front-seat passenger seat, alongside the driver ... helping to navigate or just be a friendly companion.

To be a reader on FB is one thing; to be an active participant is another. It is thrilling to think that over on the other side of the country there are celebrity types who read my words and smile, just as I do with theirs. To think that one can have an ongoing personal type of rapport with someone who not all that long ago was a familiar, well-liked but distant person whose path you'd hope to cross but couldn't imagine having the chance to do so. ..

As was once a familiar expression: "Who'd have thunk it?"

It pays to be friendly and have no airs about you, it pays to know when to listen and when to speak, it pays to have an honest interest in what is happening in people's lives -- along with sometimes displaying just the "right" measure of chutzpah.

I have extended my hand to many people in this life, I have extended an ear, as well. To break down barriers, one has to see, one has to listen, and one has to hear what the other person is saying. Reception works both ways...

It just occurred  to me that maybe the title of this post should be amended to BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS AND....BUILDING BRIDGES.