Archive for Confrontation Posts

Cell Phone Etiquette – As Taught by the Sharp Elbow Jab


cell phone etiquette respect

“I’m so tired of people saying that phones are disconnecting us from each other. I think they’re connecting us too much. They’re just connecting us to people who aren’t in the same room with us.”

– Mark William Lindberg

Okay, I may have been a tad sensitive when the, er, cellphone incident took place a few weeks ago. But in retrospect, it was certainly a mothering moment – in which I acted in a very Mother-like way – so I thought this little story would be suitable to share in a Mothering Matters blog 🙂

Here’s what happened:

I had been asked by the Threads of Life organization – a Canadian charity that provides support to families of workplace tragedies – to attend a press conference at the British Columbia Parliament Buildings in Victoria. The purpose of the press conference was to announce a working partnership between Work Safe BC and Threads of Life, as well as raise awareness about the importance of workplace safety.

So I attended the press conference, along with several other family members who have been impacted by a workplace fatality, serious injury or occupational illness. The media event took place in a secure section of the building – so unless a person had been specifically invited (or was authorized to be there), they wouldn’t be in attendance. So basically, in the room were: people from Threads of Life, some family members, the media and several government representatives.

Now, also happening near Victoria on that same day – at the exact same time, in fact – was the police funeral for RCMP officer Const. Sarah Beckett, 32, who had been killed in a car crash. Sarah left behind a husband and two young children.

The seat beside me was vacant until the last moment. Then, just before the press conference began, a good-looking guy in his twenties, dressed in a suit and wearing an ID tag, sat down and promptly began to scroll through the e-mail on his phone. Hmmm…

The press conference started and the first person to speak was a senior provincial government representative. She started off by commenting about the importance of the work that Threads of Life is doing in the community – both in terms of raising awareness about the need for a reduction in workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses, as well as their commitment to supporting individuals and families who are coming to terms with a workplace tragedy.

But the guy beside me just kept on scrolling through his e-mail. Strike one, buddy: I’m a family member of a loved one who died as the result of an easily preventable fall at an unsafe workplace.

The speaker, clearly emotionally impacted, then went on to say a few words about how her thoughts were with the family and friends of Const. Beckett – and how the public appreciates the ultimate sacrifice the officer made.

The guy beside me just kept on scrolling, eyes glued to his phone. Strike two: I’m the widow of a police officer who died in the line of duty.

We didn’t get to strike three. The next thing I knew, I wound up my arm and jabbed my elbow sharply into his arm – the one holding the phone.

He turned and looked at me, livid.

“I’m listening!” he hissed.

“THAT IS RUDE!” I hissed back.

He gave me the stink eye – and then immediately put his phone away.

Well, you could have cut the air between us with a knife for the rest of that press conference 🙁

And as soon as the conference ended – it lasted a whopping 15 minutes – he got up and left the room.

So I sauntered to the back of the room and had a little chat with the nice gal who had given me some water prior to the press conference.

“Well,” I said to her, “this is a little embarrassing but I think you should know what just happened.”

I told her about the elbow jab and pointed to the chair the guy had been sitting in. Her eyes grew wide as saucers.

“Oh, I am SO sorry!” she said. “That should NEVER have happened…he knows better. That is completely unacceptable.”

“Oh, that’s okay,” I said, giving her a little wave of my hand. “That seems to be the norm these days…people glued to their cell phones…”

“There’s a time and a place,” she said, shaking her head. “I’m going to have tell his supervisor.”

By that point, I had returned to my usual self – not wanting to rock the boat…don’t want to get anyone in trouble.

“You don’t have to do that,” I said.

She looked me in the eye. “Yeah, I do. But don’t worry, I will do so appropriately.”

So that was that. If he didn’t get the message when I jabbed him with my elbow, he was going to get it from his supervisor.

And what, exactly, WAS the message? That there is a time a place for scrolling through one’s cell phone – and if you are supposed to be paying attention to what is actually happening around you in real life, then pay attention…if not for yourself, then out of respect for others.

Then, on the drive home, I was listening to the radio and heard a clip from the eulogy given at Const. Sarah Beckett’s funeral. One of Sarah’s old supervisor’s delivered the heart-breakingly beautiful eulogy and he was talking about how Sarah didn’t take guff from anybody. If something needed to be said, she said it. She wasn’t afraid to speak up.

I looked to the sky and smiled.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her weekly blog, please sign up here.

published in Boundaries, Change, Confrontation, Relationships, Saying NO! by Maryanne | November 4, 2014 | 2 Comments

Back Off Baby – You Just Crossed My Boundary


In early October, I took a rather enlightening course at Royal Roads University entitled, Boundaries – Learn to Say No to Others and Yes to Yourself.

When the two instructors teaching the course, Shannon Beauchamp and Valerie Watt, asked the class what people actually thought boundaries were, the answer “a line in sand” came up several times. But a line in the sand, the instructors reminded us, is easily erased – our boundaries shouldn’t be.

line in the sand

Yes, our boundaries will shift and change over time but if they are washed away with every tide – e.g. each time we get asked to do something and want to say no but hear ourselves saying yes – then they aren’t going to be of much use.

On the other hand, if our boundaries are carved in stone – if we automatically say no to everything that might infringe on our pre-set boundaries – then we may miss out on some fabulous opportunities.

The instructors then asked the class what makes it so difficult to set boundaries in the first place? Here were some of the answers:

  • Guilt
  • Fear of not being liked
  • Sense of obligation
  • Low self worth
  • Fear of being wrong
  • Wanting to please others
  • Fear of conflict
  • Fear of being judged


Check, check, check…and check.

The instructors then addressed the importance of looking at our underlying core beliefs because those are where we’ll begin to discover what drives our decisions to set – or not set – boundaries.

In other words, learning about boundaries isn’t just about learning to say no. If you don’t look at the reasons behind saying no, the same scenarios will keep coming up again and again until you figure it out…rather like the film, Groundhog Day 🙁

It took me awhile to wrap my head around this concept – but I think I have, if for no other than reason than I’d have to be a complete idiot not to have noticed that the same damn situation keeps re-appearing in my life. Different people, different location, different circumstances – but the exact same personality-type!

And that personality type is this: people who want more from me than I have – or want – to give. And the lesson for me, in the Boundaries Curriculum, is this: it’s up to me to let them know what my boundaries are.

And trust me, I’ve been on the other side of this boundary business more often than I care to admit: me wanting more from others than they have to give. As such, I have learned a great deal about boundaries when people have politely but firmly (usually through silence) showed me theirs.

What about when it comes to setting boundaries for ourselves?

About halfway through the class, one gal stuck her hand up and confessed she had no trouble setting boundaries between herself and other people. But when it came to setting boundaries for herself to adhere to, that’s where she ran into trouble.

My ears perked up. As a writer with the propensity to overwork, I know all about the danger of not setting boundaries for myself. It was actually my dog, Soda, who taught me how to set working-from-home boundaries – and stick to them. At 5pm every day, she would come to wherever I was working and start barking for her dinner.

But it wasn’t just a cute little bark. It was a shrill this-is-your-quitting-time-bell-and-time-to-feed-me-NOW bark. And she would not stop barking until I got up, turned off the computer and went into the kitchen.


Soda Pope

Even though Soda is gone now, it is a very rare day indeed that I would ever consider working past 5pm. And if do, I can hear her barking in my head!

Then another woman in the class had a confession to make. I will share it because I don’t think she’s alone on this one. She said she was hesitant to put a boundary in place because that might lead to conflict, which terrified her.

“Fair enough,” said one of the instructors. “But conflict can be rather helpful, as it teaches you whether a relationship is worth it or not.”

Uncomfortable as it is, conflict does have much to teach us…as I would soon learn.

Here’s another gem of wisdom from the Boundary Ladies: if you’re saying yes when you would prefer to be saying no, you need to look at how you are spending the bulk of your time – for how you spend your time reflects what you truly value.

Time is a non-renewable resource – once a day is gone, you never get it back again.

Another hand shot up. “But if I say no, that could potentially mean the end of a relationship…and what if I end up regretting that ending?”

“Flip the fear,” replied one instructor. “Maybe if a relationship ends, it’s not the worst thing that ever happens?”

And this nugget was the very last thing I took from the course: Responsibility is response-ability: you get to choose how you respond to something.

Then, armed with all this newfound knowledge about boundaries, I headed back into the big bad world/classroom of life. And wouldn’t you know it but a week after the course, I found myself completely overstepping someone else’s boundaries. I just barged right on through that good ‘ol boundary and spoke my truth – which, in hindsight, wasn’t necessarily THE truth but rather the truth as I knew it, based on my experience.

I won’t get into specifics but let’s just say my candour went over like a lead balloon.

I felt absolutely dreadful for saying something that ended up being so hurtful to a close friend. But here’s the thing: instead of apologizing for my behaviour, I defended it! Because upon closer reflection, I realized that, right or wrong, my reaction was telling me how I genuinely felt about the subject matter, which happened to be about how, as pet owners, our powerful emotions – such as grief, anger, sorrow, fear and anxiety – can impact our pets.

In fact, I felt so strongly about this, that when I was working on the book manuscript about my dogs, Sable and Soda, that week (go figure), I realized I had inadvertently, through conflict, stumbled upon the very theme of the book.

So there you have it, boundaries do need to be in place for good reason. But if we find ourselves in the difficult position of overstepping someone else’s boundaries,  we can’t expect it will always be warmly received – even if it is coming from a place of love. But as one who has been on the receiving end of an awful lot of tough love over the years, I wonder if perhaps some boundaries are meant to be crossed…just not many and not often.

Maryanne Pope is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. She is the author of A Widow’s Awakening and the upcoming book, Barrier Removed; A Tough Love Guide to Achieving Your Dreams. If you would like to receive her weekly blog, please sign up here.


When a Fear Demands to be Faced

 By Maryanne Pope

Tiger roaring photo

My friend Alan once said to me that perhaps not all our fears are meant to be faced. Some fears, he suggested, are best left alone – for they’re probably in place for good reason.

Some fears, on the other hand, demand to be faced. These are the ones that find their way to the surface and, like a tiger, make their presence known.

For while we can pretend, for a time, not to see an elephant in the living room; when a tiger waltzes in, we don’t get the luxury of ignoring it…if we want to survive, that is.

Such was my experience the day after my Mom passed away in early March.

She died quite suddenly on a Monday morning. It was my brother Doug who phoned to tell me the news. By Monday evening, I was back in my hometown of Calgary with my family. Tuesday morning, we went to the funeral home to get the logistics sorted. After that, some of us piled into Doug’s truck and we went to the grocery store to pick up the makings for lunch.

And that, strangely enough, is when things fell apart.

When Doug and Pat returned to the truck from the store, they were carrying the food in plastic bags. And for some reason, I ignored the voice of reason in my head that said, “Don’t say anything. Don’t say anything. This is not the time to mention they should have taken re-usable bags.”

But of course, what did I say?

“You shouldn’t be using plastic bags.”

This, not surprisingly, was akin to poking a wounded and already pissed-off tiger – my brother Doug – in the bottom with a nice sharp stick.


Now prior to this, I had never fought with my brother, Doug, in my life. And trust me, I never will again. Doug is one of my greatest fans. He gets me like no one else. I can do no wrong. This time, however, I did do wrong – and he let me know it. Let’s just say the drive back to my Mom’s apartment was a very loud and fast one, with Doug and I screaming at each other the entire way about who has the worst environmental footprint. Thankfully, the rest of the family members in the truck had the wisdom to know not to intervene but rather just let this play out – and hope to God they lived to see another day.

Now, I would like to say that by the time Doug and I got back to my Mom’s apartment, we had cooled down. But no. In fact, I think we were even angrier at each other by that point. So I jumped out of the truck, stomped over to the building entrance and yanked open the door, smashing it against a bench. Then I ran up the stairs and into my Mom’s apartment, past the concerned faces of my other family members who didn’t know yet what had happened, and into the guest bedroom…my room. And then I did what I always do when I don’t know how to handle my feelings: I wrote.

Ten minutes later, I emerged from the guest bedroom – at the same time Doug was coming out of the bathroom directly across the hall. And before I even had to time to think, I threw my arms around him.

“I am SO sorry!!” I wailed. “This isn’t about the plastic bags! I WANT MY MOM!”

And then the oddest thing happened…something that has never happened to me before. I began to sob uncontrollably on Doug’s shoulder. It was ugly. It was messy. It was embarrassing. And it turned out to be the smartest thing I could have done.

We moved into the guest bedroom and sat, side by side, on the bed. And the best way to describe what happened next was that it felt like there was an alien inside me, trying to get out. By this point, I wasn’t just sobbing, I was heaving.

Doug wasn’t mad at me anymore; I think he thought I was possessed.

“Googie,” he said. “What’s wrong?”

“I can’t do this!” I cried.

“Do what?”

I turned to him and heard myself say, “Live the rest of my life without a Mom.”

And there it was: my fear of being motherless. That’s the alien that had been trying to get out. That was the tiger.

“You don’t have our Mom anymore,” he said. “But you still have all of us. And we will always be there for you.”

I managed a smile. “I know.”

“And for the record,” he continued, “I usually do use re-useable bags. I just didn’t happen to have any in my truck today…and it was the last thing on my mind.”

I nodded. “It was completely inappropriate of me to say something, today of all days.”

“Actually,” he said, “knowing you, it kind of makes sense. Because our Mom was just like Mother Nature…tough as they come and in the end, she was going to do what she was going to do. Just like Mom, Mother Nature always wins in the end. Don’t you forget that, Maryanne. We are pushing Mother Nature to her limits and it’s just a matter of time before she really starts to bite back.”

As it turned out, my meltdown on Doug’s shoulder turned out to be very therapeutic, partly because it was such a physical release of the hurt, and partly because it brought to the surface a deeply rooted fear of abandonment. I cried after my Mom’s death like I never could after my husband, John’s – probably because I was absolutely terrified of facing the fact that I had been left behind.

But if I could turn back the clock and go back to John’s death, I would say to hell with the stoicism bullshit – and proceed to have the most spectacular meltdown imaginable. Because now I know that the sooner the hurt and fears are out, the sooner you can heal.

Although I can’t turn back time, I can handle the future better. And I am pleased to report I did just that when the day came, six weeks after my Mom’s death, to put Soda down.

It was around 11 a.m. on a Thursday when I could tell where things were headed with Soda. So I said to the vet, who looked to be about half my age, if that: “I am emotionally ready to let her go.”

The vet nodded slowly and gave me a funny look.

Half an hour later, whether I was ready or not, it was Soda’s time to go – and as I watched as the light went out in her beautiful eyes, I didn’t hold back. I was a wreck!

Right there on the floor in the back room of the vet clinic, I cried and cried and cried. And then I gave Soda one last kiss on the head and then, just like my Mom had after putting down so many of our family pets over the years, I put on the dark glasses and sobbed my way out the door, bawling like a baby.

“Maryanne,” said a staff member, “we can’t let you drive home in this condition.”


I can still see the young vet with the old soul, peeking around the corner of the door to the back room, watching me with huge eyes.

“Emotionally-ready, my ass,” she was probably thinking. “Nobody is ever ready for that moment, sweetheart. But at least you had the smarts to let it out.”

When I get in the car, who’s the first person I call? Well, it would’ve been my Mom, of course – but since that was no longer possible, I called Doug. For another thing I’ve learned is that although we do, eventually, get left behind by those we love, we are never left alone.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening and the upcoming book, Barrier Removed; A Tough Love Guide to Achieving Your Dreams. Maryanne also writes screenplays and play scripts, including the play, Saviour. She is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. To receive Maryanne’s Mothering Matters blog series, please subscribe here.