Human beings are strange creatures, often waiting until we are forced to change rather than choosing to change before we "hit the wall." We see signs--irregular sleep, discord with others, regular illness, excessive drama, acting outside of our values--but we ignore them. We don’t act or we don't act consistently. Each time we ignore a sign we place a brick in the wall we eventually hit when all those signs add up to crisis. Sine qua non is Latin for indispensable element or condition. I call it "readiness." This blog seeks to connect those who are searching for or have found the sine qua non of change. What makes you or keeps you from taking off? What keeps you from flying or helps you soar? What do you know about change that can help others?

Monday, January 04, 2010

The truth opens the door to change


The holidays smack us in the face with human paradox, simultaneous and incongruent feelings leave us dumbfounded (relief and sadness, joy and fear) and foggy. Uncomfortable feelings often sprout into honest (if not heated) conversations otherwise left in the vault locked away feeling no particular intention to speak, but pissed off by their own silence.

The stress of some event likely erupts them. My heart pumps for my sweetie who had to endur that awkward moment when the children, obviously beside themselves with excitement, watched me open their special Christmas gift--a couple months after he bought me a similar item. He was silently crushed that I wasn't able to say, "Wow, how cool. Too bad XXXX bought me one already. How about I trade this in for the speakers I still need?" I was just so excited that they had bought something so meaningful and prideful and wasn't ready to let them down. Sigh.

As she ages my Mom struggles with adapting to new things, and remembering some simple ones from the past. This sometimes makes me impatient and short. There were tears mixed with her complaints over the the holiday break, "You talk to me as if I'm stupid and worthless."

"I'm sorry," I said, "I am your daughter, not your caregiver. I am not a good caregiver."

There was something about those blatant, honest statements that HAVE to be said, are essential to feed our souls, extract the sting out of "the secret" we harbor, and allow us to go on. We hate sucking up the breath to speak, worry about what others will think, stew about what we assume others can't handle and yet when we actually speak (or are spoken to) it is cathartic.

After our tough conversation I am more aware and hopefully more sensitive to how I speak to Mom. That's a good start. My sweetie, once he spoke about his frustration about the gift "pinch" informed me he's fine with me using the kids' gift over his. Both parties just needed to be heard. Done. No more time spent thinking about, planning or worrying about worst-case scenario. No more energy devoted to assumptions.

The point is that if we have things we are unhappy about but are unwilling or unable to speak about, it takes up brain space, keeps us from living our values (how's that honesty value measuring up), devotes precious time to something other than pursuing our life's work, keeps us in a foggy spin.

I'm thinking about how much time we could devote to important things if we were able to speak about and put tired old things to rest. Think about what we could do that is REALLY important, something that might stand long after we are gone.

Oh, and a note. When we speak our truth we must focus on the issue, and the issue is almost NEVER outside ourselves. The issue is inside us. I can't speak to you being a tail-gater. That is arguable. What I can speak about is the discomfort I have when I feel scared about how close we are to the car in front of us. The issue is MY discomfort. I need to speak to you about my discomfort respectfully, as if I our relationship is at stake. It always is.

1 comment:

cactus petunia said...

You, my dear, are absolutely amazing and insightful.

The Journey

by Mary Oliver



One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

I mourn for you

I cry because someone important once degraded you, carved a mark on your soul that colors your lens, distorts your thinking. I ache because your head has built a wall around your heart that protects you from people you long to know. I grieve because you serve others, settle for less than you want, sit with that lump in your throat and ache in your heart that leaks tears when you speak. I mourn for the signs you saw and ignored, parasites sucking you dry of money and emotions, of goodwill and compassion until you cannot put a sentence together any more than you can repair your life because you are clueless about where to start.

Awareness before change

Awareness November 2008

“I was hoping to come back and join you in bed,” my sweetie said clearly disappointed as he walked past me on his way to the bedroom after spending the night in the guest room where his back finds respite. “Too late,” I retorted, fully clothed, brewing a cup of coffee and unfolding my buttermilk pancake recipe. He continued to our bed, surely hoping I would change my mind. Standing my ground meant we missed out on the irreplaceable morning “spoon”—a defiance way beyond the occasion and very much out of character.

I had nothing to say on this Pancake Sunday--a ritual we started to bring the family back to the fold once a week, even after Mom arrived; even when my sweetie tried to get me to leave my post at the grill to come see the critters converged on the deck enjoying the morning’s banquet of seeds and suet. I ignored him. “I’ve got pancakes to turn,” I growled under my breath.

I could feel myself slipping over the edge as Mom poured syrup and detailed the lives of her neighbors and their little girl whom she cannot forgive for going without underpants, and the impending birth of twins, and the small house they live in, and the Mom’s favorite coffee and their latest conversation encased in a “Then I said,” and “Then she said,” recalling every word. “I don’t care,” I thought, through my blank stare.

That was the first time I realized my heart hurt. Not the “I’m-having-a-heart-attack” kind of hurt, but an ache in the anterior. I breathed deep into the pain and sighed.

Luckily only Mom had joined us on this Sunday after Thanksgiving. Instead of the usual group of friends and optimistic chit-chat, we ate with an uncomfortable quiet. It didn’t take long for her to pack up and go home after breakfast, leaving me alone to dwell on the status of my relationship, the recent and untimely death of a friend, my floundering career. My heart hurt. I breathed deep and sighed and relieved it for a moment more.

Awareness October 2009

Darkness had not yet dissolved on the Saturday morning I awoke anxious and sad and inconsolable. The contrast was stark to the usual song in my head. The frenzy prevented me from turning and breathing and willing myself back to sleep. What? I wondered.

The channels flipped on my internal tube, exposing trailers of unfinished business, the chasm I feared growing between me and my daughter, the class the previous day that produced two negative evaluations, conversation with the neighbors at dinner the night before where we talked about elders and our turn, Thanksgiving plans upended again in a phone call.

I paused and hit replay. Decades of chaotic Thanksgiving scenes montaged through; my Dad’s death on the holiday when I was 5, yelling and swats with the hair brush over dresses and curls, a major riff in the family where half split off to celebrate elsewhere, Mom insisting on celebrating one place or another creating the necessity to “pick sides,” my daughter throwing up to avoid choosing, the ache in my heart the year before. Years of chaos and drama created by ancient sadness and suffering disguised itself as current reality and visited me there in my bed to me to remind me to move on.