Thursday, February 28, 2013

Going To The Mattresses

*Author's note: if you are unfamiliar with The Godfather, this post will make little or no sense to you. While I would recommend familiarizing yourself with The Godfather for the pure cinematic beauty of it all, if that's of no interest to you, just skip this one and I'm sure I'll post something else sometime soon.

I am a wartime concigliere. Do you speak The Godfather? I never read the books, but I do enjoy the movies. How can you not, really? DeNiro, Pacino, Duvall, Brando, cannolis? What's not to love? I sublimate my pacifist tendencies in a horrid fascination with organized crime. We will explore this at a later date.

Sometimes in life it's time to "go to the mattresses." In the seasons of life as they come and go, there are times of peace and prosperity and times of chaos, tumult and uncertainty. This should go without saying, but it seems we are almost always surprised when the season shifts. There are people who lead well in maintaining peace and prosperity, growing it, cultivating it. There are people who are good in a crisis. I am the latter. I am a wartime concigliere.

I'm not bragging. Give me peace and calm and I will be a neurotic mess. I get panicky and walk around with a constant feeling that there is something huge I'm missing. It is, oddly, in times of nothing much going on that I excel at the art of self-castigation and anxiety. But give me a crisis, give me a large undertaking or an uncertain situation and I can take a deep breath and calmly wade into the fray. I can sort things out and take charge and soothe frazzled nerves; make tough decisions and lead others. It is only after the situation has passed that I fall completely apart.

In several areas of my life, in the last several months, I have had to "go to the mattresses." So, I don my crisis shirt and plan my strategies. I have a real crisis shirt, by the way. It has the Chinese characters for "crisis" on it. The characters that combine to make the word "crisis" in Chinese are the characters for "danger" and "opportunity". It's all in the perspective. (I can comfortably and smugly say this because of my particular personality makeup, as if it was something I did when really, it's just who I am and I don't think I really made myself that way. Just playing to my strengths.) My crisis shirt has gotten a workout of late and instead of feeling overwhelmed or lost, I am calm, energized and alert.

This is part of my space this year: to acknowledge and understand these things about myself, to see how they can be used, and to stop wishing I was otherwise. This thing I must acknowledge is double-sided. It means that I can be dependable and efficient in a crisis and that people will look to me for help. This is help that I should willingly and cheerfully give. It also means that I will need to remember to reach out for my own help when the need for a wartime concigliere is past. That I will need to re-instate Robert Duvall, so to speak, because I will fall apart and tend to grow restless in peacetime.

Which one are you? Are you Tom Hagen or Vito Corleone? 


  1. The only reason I understood the title is because of You've Got Mail. I'm a wimp and the Godfather is rated R. I'm assuming it's because of violence. If it is.. then I can't handle it and...well.. I will be going to the mattresses. Specifically for the purpose of hiding underneath them in fear of Italians.

    I envy your calmness.. I tremble inside and appear calm, but the dark circles underneath my eyes give me away. Then when I've done all I can I walk around frantically and check my calendar because I know I'm missing something. Mine is a frantic existence sometimes. -_- Ok most of the time.

  2. I do not speak Godfather, but I stubbornly read this anyway. In a crisis, I speak to my nearest, dearest friends as I am barely hanging onto the end of a fraying dental floss, and then go out into the world to calmly and efficiently deal with everything that needs to be dealt with. Afterward, I freak out. I would love to have a replica of that shirt.

  3. I tend to also be a crisis wrangler, though my rosy outlook preempts the hand wringing and awaiting the other shoe. I also want a replica of that shirt.

  4. I only know what phrase means because of You've Got Mail :)

  5. I've never seen The Godfather all the way through and only vaguely remember You've Got Mail so I'm a teeny bit lost in the mattresses, but I can definitely identify with the crisis-management personality type. It's been a while since I've had a stretch of crisis-free existence so it's difficult for me to say how I would feel about peace time. :)


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