Apr 09

Day 8 of Positive Impacts: Cousin Barb

Shortly after my father died when I was 14 years old, a young girl in my high school came up to me and asked me if I was Dan Carroll. I assumed she carried a note telling me to go to the vice-principle’s office because I had committed some infraction, but I said yes anyway.  She looked me in the face and said, “I am your cousin.”  This was the start of one of the oddest, amazing relationships of my life.

Her name was Barbara Denny, and she was my polar opposite. She was a highly driven, regimented soul who knew her life’s goals when she was, I assume, embryotic.  I was a haphazard collection of whims, experiences, hopes, and faith. The gaming community had given the world a moral model that is popular on the internet based on one’s level of lawfulness and desire to do good.  I am, with no excuses, considered CHAOTIC GOOD. I will always strive to do the right thing, but never because I am supposed to do it. I do it because it’s good.  Barbara was LAWFUL GOOD.  She always valued the right way to do things. This would create much friction between us, because we had always had different approaches on life. But, that’s not the story today.

She was the daughter of the McGarry branch of the Waters Family. If I remember correctly, our grandmothers were first cousins. This made us blood-kin, but barely. We were close as any two people could be for a long time, and we discussed the possibility of romance between us, but never had a romantic relationship, though rumors of our romance were prevalent.  Instead, Barb was actually the model for future platonic closeness that has always been a staple in my life. That is surely positive influence enough on my life. But, it is not the story that concerns us.

I could write volumes on our time together, our friendship as adults, and the shared intimacies and frequent disconnects. We were both unabashedly interesting in things of the mind and the heart.  She introduced me to Leo Buscaglia, love Yeats, and was appalled by my love of Stephen R. Donaldson. But, that’s not the story I want to tell today.

Barbara taught me about standards. Standards are basically principles you hold up as norms or minimums. We use them in business, we live by them, we build or reject associates based on them. Barb, over the course of three years of close friendship helped to school me in recognizing and establishing my own. I became truer to myself under her influence, and learned to know what parts of me are authentic, and what parts grafted on. This was all about standards. I had grown up in chaos and disorder, she in a highly regimented home. Her ability to share some of her expectations in life, taught me to increase my expectations for myself.

The first was that I would no longer care if people liked me, but I would focus on if I liked people. Secondly, I would try things (which I was prone to do anyway), but I would prepare and consider the possibility of doing them right so that I could have success and enjoy them more. I would make lists and work with them (I learned this from her).  Cheating was rampant in my high school, but I would avoid cheating. (The level by which grades were inflated through cheating is, all these years later, unimaginable.)  I secure a role in a play I wanted, I wrestled, I did numbers of other things, I would not have done without her encouragement and support.

One of my personal standards is to always take my work seriously, but not myself. When I achieve this goal, there is a little bit of “hanging out with Cousin Barb” to credit. That’s one of the standards I live by today, that I codified years later.

Because, good influence like this lingers.






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