Kindness with US
Kindness is getting easier!
Well, what I mean is, I actually found some grip this week, something to grasp onto as I consider how to fully embody kindness. With a focus on the people within my immediate family and friend circle, it seems a lighter load than being Kind to ME or Kind to YOU.
This is where I start….with an apology.
A few months ago, a friend and I were on a early morning walk. We talked about some of her blended family concerns, a subject I feel most experienced with, especially since her situation is more recent than mine. With older kids involved, she was finding it challenging to strike a balance of what was ignorable under her roof, and what was worth hashing out.
I opened my mouth, spurt up strong words from a ‘tow the line’ kind of parenting playbook, believing with all my heart she should put the brakes on her adult step-daughter who was taking advantage of her generosity. Why do I owe her an apology?
Because recently, my adult daughter returned home to land for a while, taking shelter with us while she plans and saves for her next steps forward. It is such a blessing to have her within touching distance, unlike the previous ‘other side of the world’ distance. Bu even though she is under our roof now, in the busy of daily life, it still takes an effort to make connection time happen. Combine that with her being independent for 2 years….and well, there have been some bumps.
In fact, the same kind of bumps my friend described to me on our walk not so long ago. On one hand, it is comforting to know we are not alone, that others are etching out the same struggle, meaning this may not be a dreaded defect in our particular family unit. But on the other hand, it was disappointing, because I was hit in the face by my own snap judgments when discussing it with hubby.
He had taken the same stance I took with my friend, and I took a point of view not only contrary to him, but contrary to myself only a few months prior.
While some might muse this to be the perogative of a woman, to change her mind on a whim, not knowing from one moment to the next what may tumble off her tongue, it is not quite the way I would like to do business. At least not in significant matters that might possibly jeopordize relationships within my family….no, no! The mission is to live, love, think, and act boldly, not to wreck a delicate framework of family carefully constructed through years of repairation and restoration with quick, bold words.
So, I ‘shut up’ for a couple of days.
Partially due to hubby being out of town this week and his ear is not available to stretch right now, but also because I needed to stop my mouth from blurting out things to which I obviously have not put in the work of truly considering and I really, really need to do that.
What am I considering since I stopped talking?
Priorities, Personalities, and Possibilities.
I mentioned priorities in my last week of Patience, and how I might form a healthier perspective on smaller, seemingly insignificant details. My priority has been for many years to build a home full of love and acceptance, a place where kids want to bring their friends, and will trust to bring their children when that time comes. Sometimes amid ‘piled on’ plates of busy and ‘piled up’ rooms of heartbreak, I forget my priority and focus instead on rules, expectations, and consequences….because it feels like something I can control. I do not think this is wrong. I think it is surviving!
But here is what I notice. Our kids friends are not running amuck in our house or yard. We have a low tolerance of mess, disorder, and malfunctions. Acceptance levels are deeply in question due to empty beds of sons that once lived here, causing me to feel like I am surrounded by a dense fog, can barely see a glimmer of light, yet keep stumbling toward it. I hope to find kindness in that light, and a better sense of priority.
My first step toward that light was to realize I can clean the house like a maniac, have everything exactly in its place, grumble about clutter and chores, AFTER the kids are no longer part of our everyday happenings. I cannot get back this time with my kids at home, as adults, teens, or any other stages that are already gone.
AJ, stop fussing and get loving! Priorities, girl!
Personalities come next. Our family has no shortage of these. Can there ever be too much, though? Too many personalities all clambering for the spotlight, wanting to be comfortable in whatever way suits them, sporadically cognizant of whether or not clashes in personality are occurring….and then jumping onto the next mood or flip-side of one’s personality. When looked at through an unbiased lens, this seems to keep our family dynamics bubbling along, in their disjointed, wacky, sometimes explosive way, when we come into contact with each other.
Is baking soda wrong for erupting when mixed with vinegar?
Is iron bad for rusting when oxygen pulls at it??
Can Mentos be faulted for their gigantic reactions when plopped into Coca-Cola bottles???
So it is with personalities. Some combinations are going to ease into contact with others, mixing effortlessly without struggle. Some….are gonna start a fight.
And it is nobody’s fault. If we are open to it, we can learn to manoeuver in a manner that does not set fireworks off when we mingle, unless that is the sort of action we enjoy creating! My middle son sought out those kind of thrills, and often tormented his older sister just to see her ‘go off’ on him, then run like a bandit….scared out of his wits, but laughing….in order to escape her coming wrath.
Stirring the pot was his adolescent way of coming into contact. In a heart to heart son and mediatory mom moment, he made me promise I would never tell her that he actually loved her, even though he said the opposite to her many, many times. She is the only family member he talks to now, which proves to me, balance can be found in the diverse nature of our multi-faceted selves.
I think personalities should be considered like gifts that we get from each other everyday, a celebration of who we are, what we bring, and who we can become, when we mix all our juicy bits together. It is the ‘show’ of life.
AJ, enjoy the show!
Finally comes Possibilities; the kind of possibilities that go to a maximum, ultimate, unlimited version of whatever is on the radar. This is hope after 9 shots of espresso!
After realizing I owed my friend an apology, I started to think about how things could have played out differently, had I explored priorities and personalities before opening my mouth. Inside my most loving and positive imagination, I could see the situation changing, making a difference without even acting on it yet. Just dreaming of how the challenge could be overcome, was lifting the weight of it from my heart.
I am going to share a concept I learned from a professional communication course I took a few years ago at work, Crucial Conversations. The authors use several steps to avoid getting ‘stuck’ in a conversation that will likely not end positively. One of those steps is to avoid the ‘or’ in a situation. For example, I am on a major life health overhaul (aka ‘a diet’) and if I tell myself I can only have this OR that, I feel deprived, craving the thing I did not get, even more. But, if I figure out a way to have this AND that, by cutting both in half or alternating between the 2 things, I have still satisfied all my wants and will likely continue to eat better, for longer.
With people, if I stop thinking relationships need to be this way OR that way, I start finding a middle ground where everyone feels like they got what they wanted. I need to see relationships as being able to have it all. A perfect example of this is from hubby and I. It took several years for me to learn that disagreeing with him would not end in pain or shame. I could safely disagree AND still be closely connected to a loving husband. What a beautiful, calming, powerful freedom. What else is possible? It is all possible, with enough creative will power.
The possibilities are there. Stay open, AJ!
Now that my little self pep talk is over, and I have my 3 P‘s in perspective, it is time to dream up some kindness for US.