Conversations We Keep

March 27th, 2009

The things you talk about with the people that matter in your life are the air in your relationships. This seems a timely discussion in light of the conversations that are bound to take place in the next several weeks as our family structures, past and present, collide back into full view. We call them holidays. Give yourself a new gift this time – pay attention to what you say.

There is an extraordinary power and grace in calling a thing by its right name. This applies to oneself as much if not more than to a situation. It is the foundation for believing yourself. A few critical instructions are essential here – first, stop repeating or making up a story. Pretend that you are a reporter, objectively describing an event. Don’t attach the event to a lifelong history. Bear witness to it as a singular moment in time. Does this change the view? Experience a brief moment where judgment is suspended and we see with fresh eyes the people that we have known from our lifelong stories.

Try not to experience the world from the gut reactions that are so automatic that often they occur before we are even aware of our own feelings. Moving away from reaction requires time and space. The first response is the one that lives deep inside of you, that has been in memory since you had a memory. It might not be the thoughtful response that has grown in you over all these years of building a life of one’s own. A good way to create the time you need to develop a thoughtful response is to actually take a deep breath. Feel it going in and going out. Remarkable what can change internally with even three small breaths.

If your relationship to your partner feels fragile, or for that matter if your relationship to yourself feels fragile, make agreements before you enter the larger conversations about what you believe about love. This is LOVE in the largest sense – because if you are walking into a conversation where family does not have a shared definition of LOVE, then it is easy to quickly feel lost and alone. This is fertile ground for losing connection to one’s own beliefs, or the connection to your partner, or worse still to yourself. Keeping your agreements about LOVE, with yourself and your partner, will not only transform the larger conversation at the dinner table, it could even release the story line long enough to enjoy the company through dessert.

Trust me that we teach what we most need to learn, and the next several weeks will give me many opportunities to practice these skills. I know that this will be practice, and at moments will feel successful and at others, a total mess. My husband and I already have engineered a schedule of physical bonding to keep our conversations true. It is a good agreement to make before the conversation gets too difficult.

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