It has been just over two months since I spent a couple of nights with my son in the hospital, wondering if life would ever be the same. It was a miracle, and remains one- even now 60 days later that life could be so much back to normal. For all outward appearances, except for a significant scab on the back of his head, my son is pretty much back to life as usual. But when I watch him compete at his favorite sport now, I witness a tentativeness in him that wasn’t there before. He recognizes it too, and knows that playing scared is not really playing at all. ”This is normal,” I tell him as he boils with frustration. “Recovery is a path.”
Archive for the 'Air' Category
“There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul.” -Arnold Bennett
I married into a family whose primary operating principle was “If something is wrong, don’t talk about it.” Even as a young woman in my early twenties, I knew instinctively that silence in the face of difficult emotions is a mistake. In the years of therapy that I undertook during adolescence to deal with my own family’s dysfunction whose version was “If something is wrong -scream about it,” I learned the power of giving language to emotions.
Talking about feelings requires learning the nuances of first identifying them. Many children grow up not knowing the difference between basic emotions like fear, sadness and anger. Anger is the easiest emotion for most people to express, whether inward or outward, and many grow up without the emotional support to experience these other more vulnerable and painful emotions.
It is never too late to learn about your boundaries. I am coming to believe that it is perhaps one of the aspects of living that most defines our maturity and facility for accomplishing our goals. Boundary issues are common to most of us; in fact, our personal boundaries are the basic, yet often invisible rulebook that guides all of our relationships. Our boundaries define how and what we communicate, what we give and receive, and even, in the most basic sense, provide the parameters for what we expect from others and life itself.
Boundaries reflect how we love ourselves and what we value most deeply. They impact our capacity at work, with authority, with our money and our sexuality. Knowing when we want to say yes, when we want to say no, what feels like self-respect and where our own needs start and end are the foundations that build the sense of boundaries that control our lives. Mine have long been porous, which is a generous way of admitting that my lines between myself and others, in family and even more so at work, have been fuzzy.
An old friend once told me that our boundaries are the truest measure of how we love ourselves. I thought I understood the meaning at the time. Raising four children should have bestowed on me a mastery of setting limits and protecting my personal space over the last two decades. It hasn’t. I am not alone in my struggle for healthy boundaries. Learning to define our boundaries is challenging for many people because they are fluid and change with our sense of ourselves.
“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” ~Albert Einstein
My kids taught me to text. They all have cell phones that they rarely answer except if I am calling, the condition that I set for paying for all their texting. But if I want an immediate response I know better, I text. Texting is actually quite convenient for taking care of the mundane details that can often jam up the works between all the kids and their various schedules. Increasingly I hear about their sorrows and joys over text too, although usually those exchanges put me into autodial on the phone. Come to think of it, most of the “love u’s” come through text now, too.
Our basic need to connect and communicate is in the process of another significant face lift. The endless hours that I stretched the cord from the kitchen wall around the dining room table for some privacy and spoke endlessly to a couple of my closest friends is folklore now. Most people don’t even have phones in their kitchens. We still do, just for old time’s sake, but my kids rarely pick it up anyway. They know that no one would call them at that number. They have their own.
The shift to personal phones was just the beginning of cell phone technology, although I am still partial to real voice exchanges. In my memory and my mind, hearing a voice, even when I am far away connects me to that person and gives me a chance to hear an inflection. I can hear my children’s mood on the phone, harder to decipher in a text. Emoticons choices are only a small piece of the communication I have learned, the subtlety of text relationships is being invented among our youth and there is some reasons for concern.
“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts…” –William Shakespeare
The distance between our public persona and our private selves defines our lives and relationships in ways that everyone experiences, but cannot always name. The truth of this was written large at the middle school talent show that I attended where I watched my son and his friends impersonate a teen rock star and dance team. They pulled it off big time after hours of practice and some great costume finds. Amidst the middle school crowd there was no impersonation, they are stars at school. They boast to me sometimes on our way home from practice how they will spread out to fill a hallway, just to watch the kids get out of their way. The boys are funny, smart, and athletic and they know it.
Other kids are not so lucky to land in such a sweet spot in school as I witnessed at the show. Of the many kids who aspire to land on American Idol came and went, my heart cracked open when a girl had the courage to get up and sing a song about the rejection and pain of her middle school years. I was overcome by a deep compassion for her courage, the painful memories from my own past on the edge of middle school favor and the intensity that happens when the private self emerges under bright lights into the public sphere.
Most of us learn early to separate our personal dreams and visions from the scrutiny of public view. You only need to be mortified once to learn how to avoid the humiliation of sharing too much with the wrong people. Sometimes the injury is so great that the break between our public and private selves becomes so complete that we divorce our insides from what people see so completely that we can be left unable to see who we are, so busy at constructing who we think we should be.
Many people have trouble talking about sexual topics, including me. Thinking about how to recognize and overcome some of the following obstacles might help you develop an ease and vocabulary for having meaningful sexual conversations in your relationship or with your kids.
‘We are all androgynous, not only because we are all born of a woman impregnated by the seed of a man but because each of us, helplessly and forever, contains the other — male in female, female in male�. We are a part of each other.’ -James Baldwin
The discrepancy between the male and female forms of communication is the topic of hundreds if not thousands of books. Since John Gray’s, ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus,’ the discussion and awareness of the biological imperatives that drive human communication has been dissected and examined over and over again. We know, for instance, that conversation serves different purposes for the male and the female. We also know that men and women have different comfort levels with personal conversations. Finally, we also know that conversation does not equal intimacy for both men and women.
Despite these findings being expounded upon in new books and magazine articles every month, the biological experience of falling in love continuously tricks us. We believe that loving someone should or will make them communicate, behave and think like us. This is one of those erroneous beliefs we can’t seem to let go of. We insist, to the point of destruction of the relationships that we cherish, to expect our partner to be us. Partly this is because the mirroring and connection that we share in the early phases of falling for someone diminishes the space between two people. For a brief and euphoric time you feel totally together, united. It is a sad awakening to the reality of living and loving someone after that initial connection fades. Many relationships don’t survive it.
Holidays are challenging times for many people. Rather than a storehouse of loving memories, for many of us holidays serve as annual reminders of the dysfunction and pain that characterized family life. As unique as the stories are between families, the feelings of loneliness, disappointment and worthlessness associated with a history of failed holidays is universal. I have spent much of my adult life breaking the ties to my past by building rituals around the holidays for my own family. Yet, I am still caught off guard, each time the holidays come around by the persistent small voice in me that continues to miss out on the fantasy of warm extended family gatherings and feeling twinges of envy for my friends whose families come together year after year.
Perhaps it is because of the bittersweet nature of my childhood holiday memories, but I have long been intrigued by the endings in life. Although my fascination with endings was probably initially sparked by fear and insecurity, I have come to value my need to ritualize endings as a gift, one that serves to continuously remind me to be grateful even in the face of difficult relationships. The truth about life for all of us is that things are continuously coming together and falling apart. When you pay attention, every day offers opportunities to acknowledge the endings that capture this flow of connecting and letting go. They are the turning points in life that are easy to miss, but have the power to create and carry heartfelt meaning in our days.
Perhaps the most challenging listening that we attempt in this life is learning to listen to ourselves. We know our inner voice well in childhood, but often lose touch with it as the opinions of others dominate our life in adolescence. It is tragic really, how we are trained to not listen to ourselves, to believe that other people know what we want to become or do with our lives more than ourselves. Listening for this inner voice is sometimes referred to as listening to our instinct or to our heart. It may be all those things, but even more importantly, it is the voice of what is genuine in us.
Steve Jobs once said, ‘your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinions drown out you own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.’ The chief dreamer of Apple products has clearly lived by his own advice and yet why is it so hard for so many of us to listen for and believe what is in us?