Part 1 gives an overview of a person’s three strong suits as Landmark theorizes. Strong suits help us succeed in life and are our primary ways of being. Part 2 is a description of when and how they develop. They occur at three specific time periods as the result of a traumatic life event. Part 3 described my first strong suit of social that resulted from me feeling I couldn’t compete on smartness.
This post describes my second strong suit and the very traumatic event that triggered my decision to become independent. I am an independent dude.
At age 11 when I was in the 6th grade, we would go to the roller skating rink on Friday night. I remember having a favorite pair of pants that I would wear each week. Many of my classmates from school also attended.
One Friday I arrived with my friends and was immediately approached by a group of girls. These girls were the people of one particularly popular girl. The fact that she had people was proof of her popularity. I suspected part of her popularity was the fact that she had a womanly shape at age 11. The girls approached and proclaimed, “You’re the boyfriend!”
“I am?” was my reaction. “What do I do?”
They informed me my job was to ask Miss Popularity to skate during the couples skate. I had never done that before. I previously would sit in the corner and punch my friends in the arm and make fun of the couples skating and holding hands while the disco ball spread sparkles everywhere.
Well I did ask her and we did hold hands as we skated together. This repeated itself all three times the couples skate song was played. I was the boyfriend.
The next week I arrived and the pattern repeated itself perfectly – life was grand!
The third week arrived. When I walked into the rink the same girls from two weeks prior unceremoniously informed me that I was no longer the boyfriend. They laughed and sauntered away. It seems Miss Popularity had found an older guy who was 13. He shaved. I was devastated.
I tried to hold my head high. I tried to pretend that it didn’t matter the rest of the evening. My mother picked us up and after dropping off my two friends at their respective homes, I burst into tears.
Mom greatly alarmed asked, “What’s the matter? What happened?”
“Nothing,” was my response. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Mom and I went back-and-forth. She tried to get me to talk. Me refusing.
I remember very specifically my mother saying, “Well I think you should talk about it but I can’t force you. If you’d like to talk about it tomorrow than I’m here to listen.” That settled things for the evening. I did understand her rationale about talking about it and I seriously considered her offer as I went to bed.
The next day I intended to discuss this with Mom. A few times I approached thinking now might be a good time. Each time I chickened out. Mom never brought up the subject. I figured I’d discuss it tomorrow. A few days went by and then weeks. Nothing was ever said. It became my secret.
Forty-plus years later, I realized:
- I didn’t know why I became the boyfriend
- I didn’t know why I un-became the boyfriend
- I probably thought to myself at that time, “Relationships are scary and unpredictable.”
The roller skating rink incident set in motion my decision to be independent. “I don’t need anyone else.” … “Woman are unpredictable and untrustworthy when it comes to matters of the heart.” I decided to solely trust myself in these types of situations. It wasn’t safe to trust someone else.
And so my 2nd strong suit of being independent was established.
Independent has served me well. I’ve done things in my life that would never have occurred if I was not independent.
- I’ve traveled the world (mostly alone)
- I moved to CA at age 22 and then to MT at age 49 (again alone)
- I’ve worked independently as a freelancer since 1990
There have also been things in life that I’ve missed out on because of my decision to be independent.
- Relationships. I’ve never married or had children
- My intimate relationships have been short-lived with long periods of time in-between
In 2009 during the Landmark Forum, I identified the roller skating rink story along with patterns of behavior throughout my life where I was fiercely independent. I was reluctant to allow myself to be close with woman. I always put up a wall. Rather than see myself as the problem, I would figure out ‘what was wrong with them.’ But in 2009, I still hadn’t put all the pieces together.
In November 2013 I reviewed the Forum. When the discussion of strong suits took place, I had all the pieces from the work previously done in 2009. Our assignment the second night was to put together a list of our strong suits. Using my iPad and a mind-mapping program, it suddenly came to me. It hit me like a ton of bricks.
The roller skating rink story was the dragon. It was the giant elephant in the room for the past 40 years – I didn’t want to talk about it. The common denominator in all of my failed relationships was me – not the nice woman I met over the years. The leader of the Forum said, “If independent is one of your strong suits – I guarantee your relationships have probably all been short-lived and few and far between.” He was speaking directly to me.
Prior to that moment, I didn’t realize how being independent had affected my life – for both good and bad. Being independent was a blind spot. Relationships had no chance to succeed because as soon as I’d start to get close I’d chicken out, put up a wall, and wouldn’t want to talk about it. I frustrated countless numbers of woman who tried (unsuccessfully) to talk about it – they deserved better.
So today, I’m still independent. But … I’m aware that I’m independent.
In early 2014 I shared this story publicly from the platform for the first time. I was shaking in my Nike sneakers. Sharing it that first time was pure, 100% therapy. Today I regularly share this story with audiences. It’s no longer the scary monster that it was.
Today I share this story with woman that I date. They need to know. They need to know who I was.
The good news it’s no longer a secret. It’s no longer a blind spot. I haven’t yet found a special woman to share the final third of my life but it’s now a possibility. Who I’ve been no longer needs to define who I can be.
When I finally figured this out, I felt like I was standing on top of a giant, slayed dragon. I was holding a sword high above my head. Pumping my fists. I was victorious.
Note: This series is a description of what I learned and how I benefited from attend attending the Landmark Forum. It is not meant to precisely replicate what Landmark teaches – it’s what I learned. The strong suit concept is one of several unique theories that participants learn during the 3-day seminar. I encourage all to attend and benefit in your own special way.
In Part 5, I’ll describe another dragon. The next dragon was only slightly smaller than the roller skate rink dragon but still a monster. It was only a 30-year secret. Part 6 will be a mind map that describes this entire series in a single diagram.
Here are the links to the rest of this series:
- Part 1 – Strong Suits
- Part 2 – When & How They Begin
- Part 3 – Smart Was Already Taken
- Part 4 – Roller Skating Rink
- Part 5 – Delusions of Grandeur
- Part 6 – Mind Map