Departing Wisdom

Running-Late

Recently I saw a sign which read: WHEN ANGER ENTERS, WISDOM DEPARTS. These words touched my heart as well as the profound which rests in my soul. I felt as I read this simple truth that the words were meant for me alone and that they were there because I needed that gentle reminder.

This summer has been hectic what with sports practice five days a week, my volunteer work and with my chauffeuring  kids to college and high school summer school. The reason for my increasing anxiety over the summer is a very tight schedule in which pick up and delivery had to be perfectly timed. Frankly, I don’t do being late well. For whatever reason since I was a little kid it was hardwired into my brain that you are not late. EVER. And I have lived by that rule my entire life. Except once. That was the time I was 5 minutes late and it haunted me for days.

“If you are late it shows a complete disregard for others and that you think that your time is more important than theirs. Your time is no more or less important than any one else’s. Don’t forget that!” admonished my father throughout my growing up years.

And so I have a heightened sense of anxiety if I have the slightest inkling that I (or anyone I am responsible for) will be late.

The lengths to which I go to ensure that I am never late come with a price…my sanity. I am three hours early before taking an airline flight. I am 30 minutes early for my Gracie’s orchestra performance. I am early enough to get my choice of premium parking spaces and my favorite pew at church. I get the best seats at the movie theater and I am always the person who is waiting for their friend to show up for coffee. Anyone who knows me knows that if I am 10 minutes late that means I am probably stone-cold dead.

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And so with back-to-back obligations this summer it is hardly surprising that I found it difficult to just stay calm. Unfortunately, as my anxiety rose it often turned to anger. This is not to say that I yelled…I didn’t…but irritation crept into my voice way too often and words came out of my mouth that that are not meant to be heard by a child. Thoughts of shooting the bird to that 85 year old woman driving at a speed of 10 miles per hour entered my mind on way too many occasions. And as my anxiety/anger increased I became distracted and I once almost mowed down a kid on a bike doing stupid tricks in the street to impress his buddies.

As I reviewed my actions during these dog days of summer  it became apparent to me that in those moments of high anxiety and anger; my wisdom did indeed depart because:

I said thoughtless things.

I thought evil thoughts.

I showed my children a side of me that they do not want to see.

And I disregarded my own health by letting stress take minutes off my life multiple times a week.

So in an attempt to increase my sanity I made a change. I now have the saying WHEN ANGER ENTERS, WISDOM DEPARTS taped to my dashboard. I find it comforting. And now as I drive along and the tension starts mounting, I just look down to give myself a gentle and loving reminder that wisdom in all aspects of my life are important if I am to become all that I am meant to be.

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Comfort

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The other night B hurt my deeply. He didn’t mean to but he did.  We were dialoging and I got to choose the question. It was: How do I see our future together?

His response, ” Is this tomorrow’s future? Like how do I see tomorrow?”

“No it would be in ten years.” I replied.

“So how about in one year,” he shot back.

And so it went until I told him that whenever there was talk about a long time future together he avoided it and it hurt me deeply.

Perhaps I push too hard.

Perhaps I want answers that aren’t ready to be given.

Perhaps I demand too much.

But with tears in my eyes I said to him,”It hurts when you don’t talk about a long term future together. It makes me feel very insecure and sad. And it makes me wonder about why we are doing this at all. For when you love someone you talk about the future. Remember how you felt before we got married? All we wanted to do was talk about our future together.”

He replied,”I am trying to just take one day at a time. My therapist wants me to be in today’s moments not projecting out into the future and I have found I am more peaceful living that way.”

And with tears in my eyes I explained, “I understand that and it is a good way to live. I am trying harder to live in the moment too. However, when this happens, when you refuse to talk about a future ,it takes me back to when I was a 9 year old child who didn’t know where she would be sleeping or who she would be staying with. It puts me in a scary place. So for me the future is very important. It reduces my anxiety about our relationship and talk of it makes me feel secure. It makes me feel like I know where my head will be resting and that is really important to me and that scared little kid who still lives inside of me.”

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B looked at me. Hard. Tears coming to his eyes.

“Come here,” he said with open arms. “Let me  just hold you,” he said as he wrapped his arms around me moving me closer towards his heart.

And so he held me. He stroked my hair. Then, quietly, he began sharing his thoughts of what the future with me looked like. And it was then that I knew he really heard me and understood why “knowing” the future was so important to me. He opened himself up and shared because it was what I needed.

Comfort means different things to different people. It may be provided in different ways and at one time it may be meaningful, at another, not so much. But providing comfort because you have heard a need and you wish to answer it is probably the greatest thing that we can give to one another. It promotes good will. It promotes understanding and healing between two people.

So today, instead of asking what we can do for our partner, perhaps, we would be better off asking how we can comfort them. For when we do a strange thing begins to happen. Love awakens. Love strengthens. Love endures. Because by stepping outside of our own comfort zone to comfort another, we ultimately get provided with a kind of comfort we didn’t even know was needed.And as it turns out, we end up giving and getting a gift more precious than gold.

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Words You Regret

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When we were young B was driving me to the airport and the engine in his car blew out in the middle of nowhere. He was mortified because at that point I was that dream girl he wanted to have. Forever. And a blown engine was not part of that equation of what to do to impress a girl. Nonetheless, he tried to remain valiant and cool so he put up the hood and poked around a bit, putting together this and that, in a futile attempt to get the car going again. As he worked I asked, “What can I do to help?”

“Nothing” he replied “Just sit there and look pretty.”

Being the 25 yo feminist I was, well, that just didn’t sit well with me. Sit there and look pretty. How dare he! What did he think I was, a piece of arm candy? And so I stewed about it a little before letting him know in no uncertain terms that I found that offensive and that I was more than just a decorative object.

Fast Forward 30 some years. Tonight B is cooking dinner and I ask him “What can I do to help?”

His response, “Nothing. Just sit there and look pretty.”

“Wow,” I thought. That sure sounds nice his telling me that I am pretty and all. And after all these years too. It really has a sweet ring to it.

“Remember you said that to me when your car broke down when you were taking me to the airport?”

“Yeah, I should have said it more but you got mad and told me you didn’t like it, so I didn’t think it was the thing to do.”

“I wish I hadn’t,” I said full of regret.

And with the benefit of hindsight I now realize how silly and hurtful that was to both B and I that I couldn’t accept his kind words. For 30 years I could have heard him tell me that I was pretty and I missed that opportunity. I could have heard him say “Just sit there and look pretty” with lust in his voice, with concern in his heart, or just admiring all that he saw and appreciating the complete package. Instead, I have missed 30 years of something that B could have said that was meaningful and playful to both of us. A shared memory of how far we have come and how far we could go because I was still his girl.

Regrets…I have a few.

Trying to Maintain Dignity & Grace

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Its hard. No doubt about it. When you feel so wounded and so hurt not to lash out. Not to want to say “Stop being an asshole!” over and over again. To not to want to destroy or implode the last vestiges of your relationship or something that is meaningful to the two of you.

It would be very easy for me to get in a “bad” place very quickly right now. A place I would not be proud of in the future. But I know that it would only serve to heap more shame, guilt and sadness on a plate that is already filled to the brim with it. So instead, I am trying to focus on acting with intentional dignity and grace. I am trying to use words that embody dignity and grace. I am trying to act in ways that show my love for myself, my family and B being mindful to incorporate these ideas into my actions. For instance, a small petty way was when B gave me a chocolate bunny for Easter yesterday and instead of taking a hammer to that damn 5,000 calorie creature I thanked him. So while my thoughts may not always be inline with my thinking regarding dignity and grace I am trying to  be mindful and change them too. Thanking instead of hammering. Acting elegant instead of spiteful.

I am trying desperately to remember that no matter what happens with this relationship, the truth is that ugliness, bitterness and anger will do nothing for anyone. And it won’t make me a better person. More importantly it will not make me feel better about who I am and will certainly steer me away from the person I have been trying to become. A more peaceful person. A happier person. A person who loves what is in front of her and not wishing for something more.

So even though B may not see a future together and even if there is no future to see I have to believe if I act with dignity and grace then it will allow the good stuff to come to me and to be seen by me. And that is what I need right now and in the future. I want to be mindful and happy with myself and I want to minimize regrets. I want to see the beauty that is all around me. I want to feel the softness of soft feelings and actions even though things feel angular and hard right now. I want my heart to be open to possibilities so that I can make decisions out of love for myself and not out of anger and confusion.

Dignity and Grace. In fact, I like them so much that I might just go get a tat. I have never had one and could never find anything that I would like enough to permanently place on my body. But maybe these are the most important things for me to remember especially now. Dignity and Grace.  They are my new mantras and just maybe my new ink.

 

Regrets

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption-Sinatra

Throughout my life I have tried to live a life of few regrets. In some regards I have succeeded spectacularily and in other aspects I have failed miserably. But since I have the immense need to make amends and dispense advice before I board that plane for China on Monday; I have decided to inform my children what my biggest regret in the world is with the hope that they will try to do better for themselves than I was able to do for myself.

Regrets are tricky things. If you are fearful, regrets are often too few because you never have taken yourself out of your comfort zone enough to do much of anything that might cause you distress or regret. In fact, often your regret is that you had no regrets because you played it safe. On the other hand, going off pell-mell-willy-nilly without thinking things through, well, in the worse case it can lead to tragic results. Yet, in the best of instances in can involve seeing your name in the police blotter of your local paper for something people will talk about long after you are dead and gone. Personally, I think it is prudent to shoot for the notorious remembrances that don’t involve jail cells or lawyers.

It often takes chutzpah to admit your failures and gain insight on how you might do better in the future which is exactly what a regret should serve to do. It takes more than brutal honesty to dig deep to examine your shortfalls. It often takes courage and really listening to the people you love the most as they dish about what they love about you the least.  And so in that spirit I have decided to share my biggest regret which is this… that I have not been as GENTLE as I wish I had been during the days I have walked this earth.

Frankly…I wish I had been more gentle with my words, more gentle with the tone of my voice, and gentler when giving advice. I wish I would have been more gentle by holding my tongue, gentler in my touch, and that I would have been softer with my facial expressions. I wish I would have provided more plentiful and gentle/nurturing hugs, held my children more tenderly than I did, and that I would have gently laid down the law without malice or anger. I wish my first reaction to that first spark of anger would have been one of gentle compassion to myself and the other involved by refusing to allow the spark to turn into a bonfire and by allowing myself to listen in the hopes of greater understanding. I wish I would have understood that there are so many things that you will be remembered for throughout your life and I wish I would have appreciated the fact that if you are living well that the best thing people can remember you for your gentle/loving nature.

One of the gentlest individuals I can think of is Mr. Rogers. He once said, “I’m convinced that when we help our children find healthy ways of dealing with their feelings–ways that don’t hurt them or anyone else–we’re helping to make our world a safer, better place.”  I wish I had taken these words to heart when I first starting raising children. Had I understood that my reactions set the stage for my children’s reactions now and in the future, I’d like to think I would have taken the time to develop gentleness and all it entails. I also think it would have been awesome to have really understood that to help our children deal with their feelings we have to be gentle with our own. I wish I had known that way back then too.

Gentleness is important. It is a calming influence. Gentleness is merciful, compassionate and kind. It is also wise, dignified and considerate.

Perhaps Max Lucado describes gentleness best when he says “I choose gentleness… Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.”

Gentleness…its something we could all use a little more of as we go about our busy lives. Perhaps in practicing it we can become it. That is my wish.

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A No Negativity Day

urlPema Chodron

One of the things that Pema Chodron talks about on her Udemy lecture is exceedingly difficult but excitingly profound.

Chodron says that once a week we should strive to not talk or act out of a place of negativity and that by refusing to act out of negativity it creates a sense of heightened awareness. This is especially true to observe in regards to ourselves. None of that negative self-talk (I should have know, I should have done better, I am so stupid…or whatever it is you say to yourself that is done in a negative state of mind) is helpful; its only destructive. Chodron states that when we engage in negative self talk we are just throwing kerosine on the fire of our soul.

When you are going through an “almost divorce” it is difficult to not engage in self-talk that is defeating and detrimental. The “what-if’s” and accusations of all that is wrong with the relationship and YOU are difficult to not take on when a monsoon of sadness and negativity is swirling around you. But in order to see things with a new perspective and to gain our grounding we must.

So let’s challenge each other to each live tomorrow (Friday) within the positive instead of the negative. Then on Saturday we can go back to being as negative as we desire LOL!

The Doctor Is In…316 Odd Days Or So To Fix This!

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According to my Grandmother, in order for a relationship survive there must be a lot of give and take. I admit, I do more than my fair share of giving…advice that is.

Sometimes my advice is golden:

“Learn to adapt”

“Invest in quality pieces, they never go out of style.”

“Just go ahead and do your own thing. It won’t matter after you’re dead. Just don’t hurt anyone else while you are doing it.”

“Don’t compare or else the grass will always look greener from where you stand.”

But more often than not I find my advice sounds somewhat like this:

“If you do X then X will happen,” (da-da…insert evil music)

“Don’t have sex with her unless you can see yourself waking up to her for the rest of your life”…which is valid but not always helpful at the time.

“If you would only take out the trash we wouldn’t have ants”

“You should have listened to me and this never would have happened.”

Recently, I had noticed that my commentary was full of If’s and Don’ts and Should’s. In other words, I often used these if’s and should’s unintentionally as word grenades; words which when said warn the unfortunate listener that something more is coming and it usually isn’t good. They are just “pull the pin and toss” words that can have near lethal effects on a person’s soul. Words which imply that the person is lacking in some way or has failed in some sort of duty owed. While I have used these grenades on others recently I have realized I have used them consistently on myself during negative self-commentaries that came to prance through my mind from time to time. Usually the word should figures predominantly in those head games I play with myself.

“You should have…”

Frankly, I think the word should be banned because it is a word that sets a person up for a lifetime of regret and self-flagellation.

“You should have…”

Lately, I have been working on decreasing the amount of should’s, if’s and don’ts in my vocabulary. Instead, I have tried to replace them with “feel good words” like… please, could you, and it may be better if…

And it is working.  As I use gentler words my family does too infusing a sense of calm in the atmosphere of my mind and in our home.  Best of all, I find I am turning into a kinder gentler woman … a Glenda the Good type of person who helps to remind me that “There’s No Place Like Home, There’s No Place Like Home, There’s No Place Like Home!” and I finally believes it.