While we’re swirling from fires and politics – we land smack dab in the midst of holidays, with family and other humans – trying to get along.
Relationships are a part of the season, whether we like it or not. If we tell the truth we might get “foot in mouth disease,” and lose our loved ones. But, if we stuff all our feelings, we might get bloated from resentment. It’s a dilemma. So, what to do?
Frustrations can build those murky little round balls of stuff that stick in our throats –you know, emotional hairballs.
So, saying what’s on your mind is tricky. And even though speaking up is the new norm, the words that come out of our mouths (and how we delivery them) are important. When we tell the truth, we could be cantankerous and cause chaos. But it’s not always the things we say that destroy relationships – it’s also things unsaid that sever them. Silences can deaden our connections.
I know because I lost the most important conversation of my life – with my mother. Our final connection didn’t happen, mostly because I was afraid to say things that might hurt her.
As she got older, she was angrier and I withdrew. I was tired of her outbursts and criticisms. It didn’t occur to me to tell her that. I told myself “you can’t change people,” or “I don’t want to rock the boat.” A big part of me shut down.
In the end I might have said what I wished for: “Mom, I want to feel closer to you. I need to feel safe around you. Can we talk about your rage, so that I won’t have to pull away?” That might have opened up our connection and built a bridge between us.
I left our visits in a hurry and after one of those trips, she died.
When we don’t know how to talk to each other, we get nit-picky or pull inside like a snail with salt on it. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid of abandonment or rejection. And this topic is more important than ever. Our world is rocking and rolling with tension and attacks. If we could talk to each other, we could mend fences.
Words unsaid stay in our throats and in our bodies. We can get stomach or back problems, congestion or locked jaw syndrome from unspoken, unmet needs. But, whatever we struggle with – the problem with the world is unresolved conflict. And we each have the power to change that.
Fragmented connections weaken our world’s safety nets and our vitality. Frayed communities limit our ability to thrive.
Deep down, the majority of us want the same thing: belonging to a kind world. But how to accomplish it? George Monbiot insists that our longing for cooperation is a central fact. He writes: “But something has gone horribly wrong…” We have this idea in our heads that we are competitive and selfish. This belief system, this narrative has had such persuasive power that it leads to a loss of faith in ourselves as a force for change – the ability “to find common ground in confronting our predicaments, and to unite to overcome them.”
So, when faced with difficult relationships – say your intention. Good intent paves a road in troubled times. And listen deeply, even when you want to jump out of your skin.
Offer self-disclosure, stop blaming and reveal yourself rather than concealing. Listen well and bring some wit, without giving advice or getting high falooting and uppity. Sometimes it helps everyone to add a dollop of wit to a heavy situation. I sent this note to Santa and friends this year: “Dear Santa, I’ve been good this year. Ok, most of the time. Once in a while, never mind. I’ll buy my own presents.” Humor helps.
And remember: “When someone really hears you without passing judgement on you, without taking responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels damn good…” (Carl Rogers.)
All I am saying is, give peace a chance.