I know it hurts, but you need to listen

standard November 14, 2016 1 response

I was still living in France on 9/11, so while I fully felt the effect of watching my country be attacked, I didn’t experience the mass grief effect that affected everyone on American soil. By the time we landed in California just over a month later, the initial shock had passed and people had started processing and moving on.

In short, this week, I’m experiencing mass grief for the first time, and while it has some uncanny physical similarities to the grief I experienced when my father passed away, it’s so very different in so many ways. Not the least of which is the fact that, since so many of us are feeling this way, it’s hard to know how to comfort others or know how to find comfort from them.

Also, the anger. So much anger everywhere.

I keep asking myself “what now?” and, more importantly “what do I want my kids to think/do and how do I role model that for them?”

I’m not ready to accept anything or simply “get over it.”

I’m not just upset that Trump was elected, like many others, I feel betrayed by the people who elected him both because of or in spite of his rhetoric. My heart is breaking for every woman whose post-assault PTSD is triggered every time they see his picture. My soul hurts for every person who feels like each Trump vote was a vote against their personal human rights. And I feel a silent scream building when I start to think of the world this will create for my children, for all of our children.

And then there’s Facebook.

Where everyone is just yelling and screaming and not listening to anyone else. Making the situation a million times worse.

So, what now?

How about we start with something incredibly simple and unbelievably powerful.

When someone is saying something, instead of instantly jumping to the defensive, let’s all try to

STOP and LISTEN.

Set aside whatever discomfort the words cause you and just LISTEN.

Say “That is not how I see things, can you tell me more?”

Say “I’m not sure I understand your point of view, can you explain it to me again?”

Say “I’d love to hear your side, please tell me how you feel.”

Say “Things are different where I live, please share with me how things are by you.”

Or, just don’t say anything and LET THE OTHER PERSON TALK.

And while they’re talking, actually LISTEN. Don’t mentally prepare a response or a defense. Don’t think about how you feel. Look at them, and listen.

It’s the hardest thing in the world to do, and the most important at this time.

We have reached this point, as a nation, because everyone is so damn convinced they are right that they never take the time to hear anyone else. Social media and cable news has made it so we don’t ever have to hear anything we don’t agree with, so we’ve literally forgotten that people can think differently.

It’s time for that to stop.

It’s time to stop putting people in neat little buckets and assuming that, once filed, you know how they feel or think.

The only way to get past that is to LISTEN.

“Tell me what that safety pin means to you.”

“Tell me more about your take on this.”

“Tell me how you’re feeling.”

And then, shut up, and LISTEN.

And if you really have something to say, AFTER the person is done talking and you are done LISTENING, then, I highly suggest you start your sentence with the word “I.”

It’s simple. “I” sentences engage. “You” sentences alienate and put people on the defensive.

“You” starts an argument. “I” starts an exchange of opinions and ideas.

On Tuesday night I watched the election results and wept. And then I kept right on crying as the reactions unfolded. It’s been a brutal week. A week where I have had to, repeatedly, put aside my own knee jerk reactions to people’s comments so that I could actually hear what they say.

I keep wanting to yell at the top of my lungs “I AM A WHITE WOMAN AND I AM SCARED TOO. I AM NOT TO BLAME. DO NOT LUMP ME IN WITH THE REST.” But I haven’t and instead I’ve been trying to listen. It’s how I was actually able to hear the person who explained that I have guilt by association because I didn’t do enough to convince other white women to vote.

It stung, but it’s not wrong. I was complacent in the belief that sharing Facebook posts to my already converted audience was enough. I could have and should have done more. At the very least, I should have asked more questions, and listened more carefully to the answers.

Just like we all should now.

Listening, letting people feel heard, is so much harder to do than we can ever imagine. But it’s also the greatest gift we can offer to others and to ourselves. Listening leads to compassion and understanding, and there’s no way to achieve peace in our hearts or in our nation until we go through that process.

I beg of you, for yourself, for your family, for our children. Stop talking, just listen. Whatever side you’re on, hear the pain and sit with it until it becomes a bit of your pain too. Only then will we be able to move forward together.

listen

I am a terrible juggler

standard October 21, 2016 Leave a response

Like most moms, I wear a lot of hats.

Wife. Mom. School volunteer. Family organizer/manager.

Like every mom who also has to bring home a paycheck, I wear even more hats on top of those.

Since I freelance, those hats, on any given day are doubled, tripled, and sometimes quadrupled depending on what I’ve agreed to take on.

I currently have two regular clients, one project I’m co-founding, and one on-again-off-again client.

So, yeah, a lot of hats.

And a nearly unmanageable amount of chaos.

Which I hate.

Because I hate disappointing people or not delivering what I’ve promised.

I keep trying to juggle everything I’ve got going on. Keep trying to stay on top of the requests, demands, deliverables. Keep trying to remember it all, keep it all straight, keep every ball in the air.

And, for the most part, I manage. No, the juggling isn’t gorgeous. Sometimes balls get snagged out of the air just before they hit the ground, sometimes two balls get caught at the same time, some balls don’t get the attention they deserve, but it all happens.

Until something happens to upset the balance and then it all goes to hell.

Two weeks ago, I switched phones. From an Android to an iPhone.

You’d think that would be fine, but, as it turns out, I rely on my phone rather heavily and having to change operating systems threw me.

My calendar got messed up.

The way my emails are sorted got changed.

The notifications are different and not as intuitive.

Tiny things. Big repercussions.

I scheduled an event on Yom Kippur.

I dropped the ball on a volunteer thing that will affect a bunch of people.

I forgot to calendar a meeting with someone at school and only realized I was missing it when I was already 15 minutes late.

I didn’t check the date that my sister had said she’d come see C in her play and told her to come on a day C isn’t performing.

Not one of those things is groundbreaking or disastrous. No loss of limb. No blood. No death.

But they’re adding up.

They’re adding up to me feeling out of control and with each ball that gets dropped I feel less capable of keeping the others in the air.

I feel the need to press pause. To breathe. Ground myself. Pick the balls up one by one again and start fresh.

But I can’t. Too many balls still soaring and needing to be caught and thrown back up.

So this is my truth today:

I’m juggling a lot of balls. Each one really, truly important to me.

And I feel terrible that I’m doing a terrible job of it. But I’m not going to stop trying.

This little block crafted by Robin Plemmons has sat on my desk for years. Maybe I should read it more often.

We owe each other the truth

standard October 4, 2016 1 response

We have one rule in our house, other than the usual health and safety rules that can be found in most homes. Our one rule is this, we don’t lie.

Three simple words that sum up the hardest act in the world.

We don’t lie. We tell the truth. Always.

I made up the rule and, I have to admit, even I’m tempted to fudge it a little here and there. Lie about whether there’s chocolate left in the pantry. Lie about forgetting to get something critical at the store. Popsicles. Popsicles are apparently critical, and yet I can never seem to remember to put them in the cart. Lie about forgetting to schedule playdates rather than choosing not to because, dear god, not that child again.

Or even lie about how I’m feeling.

Yes, Mommy’s fine. No, Mommy’s not crying. 

But I don’t lie. So I tell the truth. I admit to my children that I make mistakes, that I’m making choices they might not like, that sometimes I want to hoard things and not share even though I’m always on them to share their things. That I have real feelings like anger, fear, sadness, and that I see no reason to shield them from that fact.

I figure that my four seconds of discomfort are well worth the fact that they’ll grow up knowing that I might not be perfect in any way, but that they can always trust what comes out of my mouth to be honest and that I’ll do my best to be real with them. In a world packed with uncertainties, I believe that this one certainty is a gift.

I’m a stickler about the no lying rule in my house, but I have to admit that I haven’t always stuck to it out in the real world.

It’s just easier, often, to stick to the approved script. “I’m fine, you’re fine, we’re all fine, isn’t parenting the most fulfilling thing in the whole world? Isn’t being a wife and a mother simply the best every day?” 

It’s easier to hide behind the thought that, by saying a little white lie, we’re sparing the other person’s feelings, we’re doing them a kindness.

It’s easier to say the thing that will save you from having to get into a bigger conversation than you can handle right then and there.

But what happens each time you hide behind a lie is that you’re cheating yourself and the other person of a real connection, something we all need desperately to get through this thing we call life.

I’ve been reading Glennon Doyle Melton’s books and listening to podcasts where she’s interviewed, and she keeps talking about life as if we’re all in a big body of water. We’re either treading water, drowning, or when things are going well, floating along on the surface. She explains that, to her, life is all about treading water and fighting the things that routinely pull you under.

Her analogy made me think of logs bouncing along on the water. If we’re each a log, subject to the whims of the currents and the storms, then the only thing that makes us more likely to survive is to lash ourselves to other logs so that we become rafts. The things that literally tie us together is connection, truth, little shared moments of honesty. The more we are real with each other, the stronger our raft, the more likely we all survive the journey.

So, much like my children know that when they ask me something, anything, I’ll speak the truth, a truth that they can hear, that’s age appropriate and relevant to their needs and wants, my friends should also know that I always strive to speak the truth.

I won’t make up a lie about why I can’t come have coffee with that other friend of yours, the one who gets under my skin.

If you ask me how I’m doing, I’m going to try my hardest to be honest with you. As honest as I am with myself at least. And if I can’t go into it right then and there, then I’ll say that.

If you ask me for advice or feedback, sorry sister, but you’re going to get it. And you might not love what you hear, but it’ll be true, and helpful, and I’ll be there to hold your hand as I say it.

And if you need to be truthful and honest with me, I’ll sit, as quietly as I can, and I’ll listen with my whole heart, because, as I’ve discovered over the years, telling the truth is only half the battle. Listening without judgement or assumptions is the other half.

This path of truthful speaking and listening isn’t an easy one. There are people along the way who like living the script, find great safety in the pretense. Those people might take offense, might even choose to not be my friend any more. And that’s fine. I’ve had to make my peace with that because, in the long run, I’ve found that the ones who see me, really see me and my truths as something of value, those are the ones I want as part of my raft for the duration.

Truth binds us together

Things that make me me

standard September 12, 2016 Leave a response

Having written about not ever letting myself be my true self in public, maybe it’s time I start honoring who I really am.

Ok, ready? Truthy truth? Who I really am? Here you go.

flowers

I am a hard core geek. I watch Doctor Who and wear the t-shirts (mostly at home, if we’re honest). I mostly only read urban fantasy, stories about werewolves, vampires, faeries, and other paranormal stuff. Though I’m on a bit of a Space Opera kick these days. I love, love, love comic book movies. Most of the people in my “real” life do not understand this, like, at all, so I pretend my obsession isn’t one.

I write. All the time. In notebooks. On this blog. On other blogs. On Facebook. In more notebooks. I’d rather write more than pretty much anything else. Only thing I wish I wrote more of is fiction. One day I’m determined to write another novel and yet…I don’t work on it, like ever.

I’m a sucker for candy. Not chocolate. Gummy candy. Preferably slightly stale. I’m one of those adults that keep candy stores in business. I always feel slightly guilty when I indulge. OK, a lot guilty. And yes, I hide candy from the kids. Shut up.

I watch TV. Like a lot. Dramas. Comedies. Please no reality TV unless it’s Inked or Tree House Masters, or some cooking show. I get pathetically attached to characters. I get tragically drawn into story lines. TV is full of my friends. I stay up too late watching TV most nights.

I hate housework. I usually trick myself into doing it by carrying around my iPad and streaming TV shows while I clean/launder/cook/etc. Despite all that, my house is never as clean or as well organized as it “should” be.

I love my friends. I have a variety of people I love. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses. I love them despite, or rather because of all of them. I’d do anything for my friends. I’m pretty sure they know that. And yet, I’m terrified that none of them like me quite as much as I like them.

I’m determined to raise strong, competent adults. I love my kids dearly. They mean more to me than words could ever express. And yet, I’m tough and demanding on them. My kids will not be victims of helicopter or lawnmower parenting. I do often worry if I’m too hard and too demanding and if it’ll make a difference in the end or if I’m wasting precious coddling time.

I try so very hard to not be judgmental. We’re all doing the best we can. I recognize that. And I recognize that we’re all on different paths. But I’m also human. So sometimes the judgement breaks through. Sorry.

I adore my dog. I didn’t think I would. I try not to be ridiculous about it, but, let’s be honest, I have more trouble dropping her off at the kennel when we leave town than I ever did dropping the kids off at daycare.

Good food above all else. No, seriously. I love to eat. Tasty food makes me happy. Tasty food with good people? Nirvana. I mostly consider low-brow food to be the tastiest. Burgers. Pizza. Grilled cheese dipped in tomato soup. Donuts. Oh, donuts, how I love thee…

Nothing panics me more than not having something to read. There are books in every room of my house and my Kindle is always loaded with at least three or four unread books. Words, even more important than good food. Don’t ask me how much I spend on book. That’s between me, Amazon, and the IRS.

I am harder on myself than on anyone else. And I’ll never measure up to my own expectations.

I’m constantly coming up with new projects, plans, business ideas. I believe in all of them. Just like I believe in a lot of people who want my help making their businesses successful. I fully believe that one day, one of these projects or businesses will really make me rich or at least very fulfilled. One of them…though I’m not really sure I’ll have the wherewithal or gumption to ride anything out to the end.

I’ve always believed I was an underachiever. This makes people laugh, and yet, still fully convinced it’s true.

I have no idea what people think of me. I try not to think about it too much because I’m not sure I’d like the answer. I’d much rather pretend everyone thinks I’m made of pure awesome. Humor me.

 

Your turn, who are you really?