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Are you the hero of your own comic book? Or are you the sidekick? You know, are you more like Batman? Or more like Robin? More like Sherlock? Or Watson? Han Solo? Or Chewbacca?
The reason I’m asking is because recently my loving wife made the comment that she feels like our lives together are ‘always The René Wells Show’. Now as exciting as that sounds, and I wish my fictional agent would hurry up and get me that gig, what she was saying is that I am dominating. At first I was a bit hurt, and then defensive, since I feel like I very often don’t put myself first at all, more concerned about her happiness than my own. But then I got to thinking deeper, and stopped focusing on my feelings because, hey, that would be The René Wells Show, right?
I tried to understand why she would say such a thing, or feel such thing — is it really always The René Wells Show? Am I Tarzan and she’s just Jane? Superman vs. little Lois Lane? Hmmm.
At the same time as this has been happening on the home front, I’ve been observing a similar phenomenon at work, which is like a never-ending episode of Who’s The Boss. I don’t mean the 80’s TV show, but literally the ever-shifting roles played out on the stage of the work world. See, over the last two years I’ve gone from supervising some student assistants to managing a team of over twenty-five staff members. Add up all their student assistants and other helpers and volunteers, and there are hundreds of people who see me as ‘the boss’.
I have to somehow keep them all on track: I instruct, I decide, I lead, trying to balance out all their various strengths and weaknesses while hopefully keeping them motivated and happy employees as well. This is no small task which I relearn everyday because at the same time I’m playing this role, I’m also just another staff member reporting to bosses above me in the company food chain. Depending on which meeting I’m in, I’m in charge or I’m being charged so to speak.
In short, one moment I am the center of attention, the star of The René Wells Show, the next second, I’m the third spear carrier on the left, a role I literally played twenty years ago in Julius Caesar which is probably one of the greatest dramatic and historic example of Who’s The Boss. I must say, that spear-carrying experience has helped me to this day of knowing when to keep my mouth shut and pretend like I am listening and ready for action. And how to get out of the way when the daggers get drawn!
Anyway, what’s interesting is not who’s really in charge, it’s how people behave, the mannerisms they assume, the subtle and not-so-subtle changes in tone and voice that mark the role of boss vs. underling. The way authority manifests itself in style and tone is endlessly fascinating. I like to think I’m a good boss, fair and compassionate for my fellow employees, but I know that there are times more and more where I am just too tired and my patience is too gone, and I have to pull out the big gun of attitude and use the ’because I said so’ ammo.
Ironically, I find more and more that this is actually what staff wants – decisiveness and clarity. I know I appreciate it when my bosses give me that, so why does it surprise me when I have to do it? People want to know where they stand and what to do. Which may be all well and fine at work, but do I then somehow bring this energy home? Do I come home and play Lord of the Manor? Or rather King of the One-Bedroom Castle?
Truth is that in recent years I have become more decisive about what I want personally and professionally. I think for most of my adult life I was often too ambivalent about what I wanted. In the interest of avoiding conflict and trying to please others, I often metaphorically ate vanilla when I really wanted chocolate. That led to years of built up resentment and frustration of my own creation until I realized one day that if I want chocolate, then I should just say so since there is no reason not to be clear about what you want out of life. If you don’t ask, you will never receive, right? Okay, maybe once in a while the sun will shine when you want it to without saying anything, or someone will give you chocolate out of the blue, but in general, you have to make the most of whatever weather there may be and go out and get your own damn chocolate.
So now, maybe at home, even though I like to think I’m caring and loving and considerate and all that good husband stuff, perhaps I’m more decisive in all sorts of ways and manners that I don’t even realize that maybe it is somehow ‘always The René Wells Show’.
I wonder if this is how my mother might feel about my father. Is she playing second-fiddle in The Ronny Wells Show? He is a very charismatic and persuasive character, having led many endeavors both at work and at play. But then again, how did he feel when he was around his own father? Was he just one of many of children in The Raymond Wells Show? Or was his mother really in charge and it was The Hazel Wells Show? Or is my mother actually really the star of The Rena Wells Show by being so clever to let my father think it is The Ronny Wells Show? Hmmm.
I guess we’re all stars and bit players in one way or another, and depending on the day and the age and the stage we find ourselves in, we boss or we are bossed. Maybe before I know it, the roles will reverse at home and I will be lucky to have a cameo in The Diana Wells Show!
Hmmm. Maybe I should never have written this T.I.L.T. . . . Guess I’d better get back to The René Wells Show before it gets cancelled!