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

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

From the mouths of babes

standard October 30, 2008 1 response

I like to think that I speak Kidease quite fluently. I understand where C and Little L are coming from most of the time. I usually have a good sense of what’s bothering them or what’s exciting them, and yet sometimes my little 3 year old says something that catches me completely off guard, and reminds me that I still see the world through very fixed “grown-up” eyes.

“Mommy, you are in so much trouble.” C’s very condemning voice came from the backseat.
“I am? What did I do?”
“You forgot to take me to the lessens again! Silly mommy.”
“Oh, right, the piano lessons! I have to sign you up for those. Are you sure you want to learn to play the piano?”
“Mohhhmeeee, I know how to play the piano.” She said, in her best exasperated teenage voice.
“Right. Right. But, you might want to learn how to play music on the piano.”
“I know how to play music. I play my music.”
“Oh. Right. But it might be fun to learn to play other people’s music. No?”
“Maybe.”

That’s the kind of thinking that keeps the world turning. And isn’t it inspiring to remember that there isn’t a set way to use the tools that our ancestors have gifted us.