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Caught Between

All Artwork by Suzanne B. Stryker

I was working out in the weight room at the local university's gym. Mike, a tall fellow resplendent with muscles, was doing squats, his squat bar loaded with weights at least double my body weight. At only 108 pounds, I am slight, but picking up two of me is not something most people could do. However, lifting just little me seems to entertain bigger people. On more occasions than I would like to remember, guys at a dance have suddenly picked me up and tried to twirl me upside down and around like a majorette's baton. They neglected to factor in: my lack of wings, the people dancing nearby and the hardness of the floor–my likely landing pad. I strongly advise people to resist the temptation to pick me up. Lift weights instead.

Meanwhile, Mike had finished a set of squats and went to another part of the gym to work on the pec machine. A large young man I will call Bob asked him, "Are you done here? Can you remove your weights from the squat bar? Can I use it now?"

Mike replied that he would remove his weights when he was done. After he finished with the pec machine, he went back and did another set of squats. Then he walked over to the pec machine. Again, Bob asked him several questions about removing his weights.

Mike shouted, "I already told you that I will remove the weights when I am done!"

Bob squinted his eyes, walked closer to Mike and peppered him with loud questions about when he would be done, when he was going to remove the weights, etc. I happened to be working nearby on the lat machine, which put me right between these two volatile men. I felt like I was in a danger zone.

Since an early age, I have found myself inadvertently placed in the middle of two arguing people. At a summer camp in the woods, two girls in our cabin got into a fight, while the other two of us tried to calm them down. Alice had mentioned to cross-eyed Brenda that her eyes were crossed. Brenda punched her in the nose. To break the tension, I offered my most coveted treasure. My mother had sent me a small box of my favorite treats because I hated the camp food. I encouraged each girl to choose whatever treat they wanted. The sounds of satisfied munching quickly replaced the yelling. I suggested the four of us form a secret club with the motto being "All for one and one for all." They loved the idea. Harmony was restored.

Just before bedtime, Alice noticed little teeth marks in a piece of candy. A discussion ensued about what kind of scary creatures crawled around in our cabin while we slept. The girls were terrified to sleep alone, so all three of them piled into my tiny cot designed for one child. This was not exactly what I had in mind with our "All for one and one for all" motto. I woke up the next morning feeling cramped and damp, but I was glad everyone was getting along. I never asked who wet my bed.

Now, instead of being between two arguing little girls, I was between two large muscular men who were screaming profanities at each other.

I should mention that typical gym protocol is to remove your weights from the bar when you are done, but there is a gray area of what to do when you are in between sets. Most people rest briefly nearby between their sets, but some of us like to go work on another machine. If someone wants to use the squat cage in between my sets, I remove my few weights. It's a hassle, but that is what you do when everyone else is bigger than you. Removing all Mike's heavy weights between each of his sets would have been a workout in and of itself for some people. On the other hand, no one likes to wait to use the equipment. I sympathized with both men's points of view.

As the men argued about who was being selfish, I saw into their individual lives and how both of them and their families had been extensively mistreated in the past. My heart flowed with compassion. The yelling got so loud that everyone in the gym had stopped what they were doing and were staring at them. Mike tore off his tank top and threw it on the ground. He was challenging Bob to a duel. He puffed up his massive chest and started advancing on Bob. Mike clenched his fists and was ready to take a swing. 

In a flash, I saw terrible consequences for their future educations and careers, if they got physical. Without thinking, I stepped between the two men and said, "I'm the selfish one here."

I looked at Mike and said, "I want what you want."

I looked at Bob and said, "I want what you want. I want what I want, when I want it."

I looked at Mike and said, "I want what I want, when I want it."

There was dead silence in the gym. Everyone was looking at me with their mouth opened. The two men were so shocked, I guess they forgot their anger. They both blinked and looked like they had woken up from a bad dream. Between them stood a silver-haired lady half their size, who claimed she was the selfish one. They couldn't argue with that, and so they closed their mouths and everything settled down.

Now, I don't recommend stepping between two fighting men, or you could end up like Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. The point here is to understand other people's points of view so you feel genuine compassion. That helps connect you to universal love which can then guide you to do what is appropriate for the situation. It may be best to not even speak a word; simply your loving intention could be just the right thing.




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With love,



  • So interesting I picked this blog because I being an only child was between my parents fighting my entire life! They were so funny and terrible at the same time. They fought up to their passing. My mom actually ‘died’ once in front of me in the hospital and came back spitting,“what about Bob, who will take care of Bob!” I said, “Mom you were gone, so peaceful and then you frowned and came back, worried about dad.” They died in their nineties. I can always see both sides of any argument and did not realize what a gift that really is until now. Probably helped me when I was a therapist for years.

    lisa mapes
  • I got chills reading this. It reminds me of a time when I was working a customer service desk a few years back. One customer was particularly angry and I could tell they were determined to be defensive. The moment I realized that I chose to truly listen, with my whole being, and to try and understand their frustrations. When I did this, they immediately softened, realizing I wasn’t going to resist and fight them. They thanked me for listening and I felt it sincerely.

    Jen Fairchild
  • My past job as a manager in a store often required me to “come over” to solve customer issues. When I would meet the customer with the problem I always greeted them with a smile and my sweetest voice. If they were angry I would a imagine that they were not only disturbed by the current situation but also by all the daily frustrations we all experience. By your standing between these two men in the gym you totally disarmed them and changed the energy immediately. What a great thing to do.

    Linda Gauvin
  • A great story. I had a similar experience at work recently. I had upset someone and there was a meeting with everyone and management (4 of us). A lot of shouting went down, myself included. Then spontaneously I said to the person I had offended “You know I really like you and I think you do a great job. I really do.” My voice cracked with emotion as I said it and my eyes filled with tears. Everything changed after that. The whole atmosphere quietened down and we all apologised for having shouted. The whole thing turned around and was resolved and we all felt better. The funny thing is I hadn’t planned to say that, it just spontaneously came out of me at the moment.

    Hamish Davidson
  • What an inspiring story, thanks for sharing it.

    Hulya Seckin

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