Tag Archives: friendship

Joy. And how to use both faucets

A couple of months ago, my friend Misha asked me to write a guest post on J.O.Y.

So it’s been in the forefront of my mind, each day, since then.  Looking for it. Feeling it.

And since then, life has happened. Some little pleasures. Some little sadness’s. Some big delights and thrills. And some deep sorrows and heartache too. And, in between, all the beige when life is just ordinary.

I used to think that joy would pour into, or out of, me (not sure how that works) like British water taps (faucets).

ALL.  Or,  NONE.

Hot and scalding joy on the left.

Or FREEZING to the point of numbing whatever body part was unfortunate enough to be under the spout, from the negative emotions out of the tap on the right.

But in my life’s journey, joy isn’t usually that all-encompassing.  Like mixed taps in the rest of the world, I find joy usually blends in with whatever else is going on, across a whole range of my emotions.

 And although the Brits are probably right that separate taps are character building, I don’t find it particularly pleasant. And, I’d much rather my life, and its impact on others, lean towards the pleasant!

 When Misha asked me to write on joy, all sorts of examples jumped into my mind, immediately.  Most of them small, everyday delights. Much of mine felt through my senses, as though sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste, are receptors of joy.  There’s a physical component, whether it’s savoring a glass of wine on a Friday afternoon on my patio, sensing the Divine as I watch the sun set in a cacophony of orange and red, making love on a lazy Saturday morning, catching sight of my kids sleeping peacefully in the twilight, or the rush of seeing my ‘sent’ folder ping with the deliverable I just completed. My senses help me realize when joy is happening.

I think joy can quickly turn from the warm glow of pleasure as you visit with a friend, to all-encompassing ecstasy, when that visit turns into laughing from so deep within, for so hard and so long, that someone ends up wetting themselves. And then you laugh even harder as your joy somehow expands even a little more (especially if it’s not you that did the wetting. That might have the opposite effect.) And finally there’s tears streaming down your cheeks and no room for much of any emotion, but blissful joy. (Of course the memory might have a touch of embarrassment too. For their sake.)

But, even when it’s a milestone JOY, like delivering your first speech as a Vice President, the emotions can be mixed. After all, we really are complicated creatures.  What if the technology failed on you?  Or your boss, or spouse, didn’t make it?  But, I venture a guess that your overarching feeling on that day, and the memories afterwards, are painted with big, wide, brush strokes of joy, with only smaller strokes of irritation or sadness.

The opposite extreme is true too.  I’ve sat with friends whose precious six-month-old has died. And with friends whose parents are gone, much, much, too soon. The sadness is almost unbearable. And the grief palpable. But, there is still a trace of joy. From sharing sweet memories. From silly pictures. From simply showing up–being together and helping to shoulder the pain.  From the shared love.

I guess what I’m saying is, there is room for joy in the mundane, to extreme pain.  Joy can be found each day. In the routine. In the grey.  Our job is to look for it. Acknowledge it.

But I also think that for both faucets to operate together, you have to allow it. No, even stronger, you have to WILL it.

For some unknown reason, which I find sad, we humans see the pain quite easily.  That faucets seems to always work well. All the time.

But, in the extreme moments of pain, I have to make a choice that the event doesn’t, and won’t, define me.  That I am more than the event of my suffering. Sometimes good days are hard to come by, and I have to look for the joy.

I am not the victim of abuse. I am not the spouse who was cheated on. I am not the mother of boy who was hit by a women who had been drinking, and forever changed the trajectory of his life. And the list could go on, of events that have happened in my past. Not one of which defines me. And honestly, none of which I carry with me.  I have chosen to turn on my joy-faucet.

The same is true in the everyday, where joy is not obvious. Where sometimes it is harder to remember to turn on the joy-faucet.  When I’m heads-down, lost in Excel-induced torture, and under the gun for a deadline, there is joy in my accomplishment and expertise.  Joy in the logic and organization of each formula I finally get right (believe me, I celebrate each one).  Or how about when it’s grey and rainy, with nothing but organizing and cleaning on the day’s agenda?  I find joy in the completed accomplishments as I check of my to-do list, but I also revel in my health and physical abilities while decimating spider-webs in those hard to reach places.  And then I celebrate the day is done with a glass of robust, red, wine. That tickles my tongue.

Happiness and joy are not inherently found in my job. No corporation or boss is going to give me joy. Even if it’s the company I founded.  Joy is found, or rather, made, by who I am. By my passions.  This  has been a new revelation for me. I thought this year of travel and experiences we’ve just completed would translate into THE job.  The dream job. The one that would help to change the world.

It hasn’t.

And I’ve had to re-evaluate why I work, and how to find joy in what I do. Because I’m not doing my dream job (and one day, hopefully soon, when I am that fortunate, it won’t bring me joy either). So, I look for joy in things that bring me fulfillment–like the joy I give others when I fix what was driving them crazy. When I create process where there was chaos. I find joy in the skills that I use. In the quality of my work. In the expertise I share. And of course, in seeing the paycheck hit my account.

Many of us intuitively look for, and experience, joy. For others, it is a learned experience. I think joy can be a favorite viewpoint, a way of life, a habit that becomes a discipline.

Because you know what, joy builds a foundation for me to be strong. For me to have hope. For me to dream big. For me to love well.

Here are some steps I follow, to awaken my life, and turn my joy-faucet on full-force:

  1. Know myself. Stick to it. Don’t let someone else’s behavior (or poor choice) make me feel inept or get lost in self-doubt.
  2. Make a conscious choice about what matters to me, things or experiences, without apologizing for it. And then spend my time and money there. And find others with the same values.
  3. Be honest. Life is hard. It’s not all rainbows. Admit how I’m feeling. Both positive and negative. Don’t live in denial. Personal and professional transformation happens when I look inside and ask the hard questions and face up to what I’m feeling.
  4. Be a friend. To myself. To my  Dreamboat. To my friends. Not just when there’s drama. When things are ‘normal’/beige/boring.  Have a conversation with someone who really knows me, when there is NOTHING to      catch up on. That’s when I get to the good stuff. When we have to share from the heart. Or sit in silence. Either way.  Be. Together.  Just show up.
  5. Be brave. Trust my heart. Change the atmosphere around me by stepping out. Bravery is contagious.
  6. Be vulnerable. (Read anything by Brene Brown on joy and vulnerability.)

So I challenge myself, and each of you, to turn on the joy-faucet and make it a habit, to infuse our lives’ paintings with joy. And therefore not make others’ interactions with us, an opportunity to build their character :-)

BE joyful!

 

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Filed under July 2014

Fierce and Clueless – My Messy Beautiful

I’m fierce.

I know that. Maybe not Beyoncé’s “Sasha Fierce”. But, fierce nonetheless. That’s who I am inside. I feel like my world is big. BIG. I feel like the impact I’m called to have on the world is big. BIG. I feel summoned.

But to WHAT????

The doors just keep closing. I’ve read all those helpful sayings, or not so helpful in my case, about rejection simply being a way to push us in a new and better direction. Or that when a door closes, a window opens. I’m looking. I’m watching. Believe me, I am. But, no apparent window or new direction has surfaced. Yet. Just more rejections. And ‘thanks, but no thanks’ emails. And phone calls saying they’re sure I’ll do great wherever else I land.

The temptation is to lower my ideals, reduce my dreams, so there’s less gap between them and my reality.

This isn’t where I thought I’d be. After getting rid of all our ‘stuff’, quitting our jobs, and taking just over a year to travel and volunteer, I thought we’d land somehow different. Better. I thought this year of intentional discovery and challenge and growth would be like a magic-carpet-ride. Transporting us to a magical place in our lives.

And for a while, with three amazing, different, jobs, it almost did.

Where I could help change the world.

But it didn’t.

And, I’m still at a crossroads.

But you know what? If I hadn’t taken this time ‘off’, I’d live with regrets. Big ones. And that’s NOT. ACCEPTABLE. Not to me.

And I know that it took huge courage to step out and make this dream happen. To rid ourselves of the things that kept us busy and scheduled and focused on things that weren’t the most important to us. And to take the kids out of school, against the wishes of Peanut’s therapists. And to spend our savings. And to go. And to do. And to see. To really see.

Seeing the Eifel Tower. For the first time.

And I know that I bring all those learnings and the amazing experiences with me. I know that Dreamboat, myself, and our three kiddo’s are forever changed, in a multitude of ways, from this year.

In addition to our new skills of surfing and Spanish, and our love of Ceviche, we have taught the kids how to love those who were unloved. (Now that we’re back, I have to admit, I’ve regretted this a teensy bit. I’m just a tad nervous, but proud too, as I watch them befriend those who are lonely, and odd, and without friends.)

How to give generously of our time, skills, and resources.

We’ve all learned to be more flexible (some of us more so than others, but nonetheless, I, oops, I mean ‘we’ have improved…at least a bit).

How to focus on others, while not losing sight of who we are. (For me, this one is hard. Unfortunately, it’s still a daily lesson.)

To appreciate the beauty of things being unique and different. And to not be frightened by them. Or to judge.

So, I’m reminding myself of these and all the other gifts we’ve received from this year. (And of course the two gorgeous bags I had made in Marrakech. I’m pretty grateful for those as well.)

And I’m trying to drown out my fears with my gratitude.

I remind myself that I would chose this path again. And I’m taking to those lessons and insights into who I am.

And I’m refusing to lower my faith in myself.

As a wise friend of mine said to me this morning, “Being uncomfortable is OK. Necessary even, to move forward and grow.”

And, she’s right. Of course. (Thank goodness. ‘Cause I AM uncomfortable. That’s a very benign word for the angst that comes in waves. Big, scary waves.)

But, I’m choosing today. Again. Not. To. Lower. My. Dreams. To continue to find a way to make my reality reach the seemingly impossible. To see the invisible and hear the inaudible and then make those things a reality. (That last sentence is shamelessly stolen from Scott Aughtmon’s FB page this morning. I love it.)

And, I’m giving myself a not-so-little pep talk, to suck it up and keep looking. Keep trusting. Keep doing life, even though I’m afraid.

We can be fierce, AND afraid. Right?

——This post and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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Filed under April 2014

Not so gracefully

Dreamboat says I’ve a tendency to be a martyr.

I’m not saying he’s right. (But, he may be right.)

I need to give a disclaimer here that this post is going to be shallow. Maybe even vapid. There’s no excuse. But, I took a vow of honesty, so here goes a spotlight into that part of my personality.

Getting older sucks.

I’ve watched my grandparents this week. (We’re gearing up for Grandpa’s 90th birthday party this weekend!) The amazing and beautiful legacy they have created will last for many, many, many, many generations to come. But, still, they’re old. And they know it. And it’s hard.

Peanut getting kisses from Gigi (his great-grandma).

Because people treat them differently.

People don’t automatically see the nearly 70 years they’ve been dedicated to each other. Or the businesses they’ve created. Or the children they’ve reared (and the hundreds of thousands of lives changed by those offspring and their spouses). Or the grandchildren who are continuing with their lives’ work, to impact those less fortunate. Or their brilliance. Or their kindness. Or their wisdom. Or even their inner-teenager-troublemaker-at-a-moment’s-notice.

People see them as old.

Grandma Janice, Grandpa Charlie, and me.

 

And I’m getting old. (See how I made this is about me?)

Before 40, I didn’t have a single grey hair. In the teeny bit of time since then, I’m stunned by the number of non-blond hairs (ok. Some should be DARK blond too. That’s all I’m admitting here.)  And the lines on my face. And that the skin on my neck is sagging. And that when I caught sight of my reflection in one of the very few full-length mirrors we’ve had during our travels, I thought I saw an old woman!

I have to tell you how much I looked forward to turning 40. I truly did. I felt like finally, I had achieved the proper age number to support my experience. That I would not be disqualified for executive roles for being too young. That my age was a badge of honor and long-awaited entrance to the ‘inner circle of the wise’.

That lasted 5 minutes. (Or two years, if you’re being literal.)

But as the international portion of our year of travel started to wind down, and I started to think about going back to work, the more I became aware of the downsides of getting older.

I’m no longer the ‘young hire’ with the fresh, new ideas. I’m no longer the cheap hire. I’m no longer at a place where I want, or am able, to try new things ‘just because’.

And that’s just the work-related issues.

It doesn’t matter that I feel (and sometimes act) twenty-two-years-old. I’ve just turned forty-three. And it’s caused me to take stock of where I am in life. To evaluate my contribution.

And I’ve come up lacking.

I understand why many of those I know are divorcing. Moving. Buying mansions and sports cars. Writing books (which I totally want to do).

I am getting a first-hand-look at the motivators behind a mid-life-crisis. I get it. I feel it.

I want my life to count. I want meaning and fulfillment in, and from, my relationships. I want my internal beauty to make an indelible impact. For me, it’s for those less fortunate, for the downtrodden. And I feel like I’ve not made a dent. There’s so. Much. More. To. Be. Done.

And, of course I’m being honest here, so I have to admit I want my external beauty to last, too.  I want the men who ogle to stop getting older (well, sort-of. At least stay in the thirty to fifty year-old-range. I draw the line when they’re young enough to be my offspring. Ewww.) But, why is it my eyelashes need to thin and break? (Who are the nasty little elves that yank them off my sleeping lids each night and give them to my Littles??) Are the sun spots really necessary? Does the skin under my arms have to loosen up and swing back and forth when I wave? Do the pores on my nose really need to be big enough to welcome the family dog into their crevices?

I feel like I could write the book “What to Expect When You’re Aging,” except no-one would buy it. No-one wants to know what the downhill slide really looks like. I don’t.

Getting older, and doing it gracefully, is hard.

By the way, what does “age gracefully” really mean? Every time Dreamboat objects to a (costly) spa treatment I would like, he says that to me. Does it mean, hush up, don’t mention what’s going on, and pretend not to notice? Does it mean stand proud and smile through the lines? Does it mean fall on every Botox-filled needed you can find?  Does it mean cover up the damage as best you can with lotions, spackling (some might call it make-up), push-up bras, and long sleeves?

I’ve no idea what ‘gracefully’ looks like for me, as I age.  So far, every day has a different answer. But, I see the ageism in our society. I watch people interact with my grandparents. I see HR folks’ reaction to my resume.

But, I am going to identify with my inner twenty-two-year-old, who convinces me, on a daily basis, to work at being healthy, inside and out. And I’m going to throw ‘mature’ caution to the wind. I will continue to dream. To achieve. To try new things. To look for learning and wisdom. To nurture existing, and build new, meaningful relationships. To (hopefully) one day, adopt more children. To try new bleaching solutions for my grey hair.

So, whether Dreamboat is right or wrong about me being a martyr, I don’t know (or won’t admit). But, in regards to getting older, I will not lie down and take it (unless it’s under an aesthetician’s lamp).

I will not be a martyr.

I want to change the world. Enlarged pores and all.

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Filed under August 2013

The preachy post

Social media can make us feel like we’re not really connected to those with whom we interact. Faceless. Safe and protected by our anonymity. As though we’re not really having an impact.

In reality, the OPPOSITE is true.

Our words posted on Facebook, and other online mediums, have a real impact. One that is deeply felt.

On a daily basis (Hi, I’m Heidi and I’m a social-media junky), I laugh deeply from a shared memory, shed tears for a friend’s suffering, and mull over new thoughts and points of view. All from online posts.

I’ll let you in on a secret…I have online FRIENDS with whom I laugh, cry, identify, and yep, love. And this summer, I’ve made plans with two of them to get together and deepen our friendships. Offline.

We’ve ONLY ever met online. Facebook.  Isn’t that great?!

In fact, I am writing this, squinting through swollen eyes, having spent the last two hours SOBBING over the posts on Chasing Rainbows (and using some ‘colorful’ language as I rant my confusion, anger, and questions to Dreamboat), in response to five-year-old Gavin’s death. He died two weeks ago, today. On his mama’s birthday. His short life has changed me. Profoundly. Forever. And I’ve never met him or his family, face-to-face.

And, similarly to me, there are lots of others who feel deeply the comments made from those known, and unknown, behind a screen.  There’s data–We’ve seen the reports of so many teenagers who’ve committed suicide, the world over, as a direct result.

Our words hold power. Just like our actions, they hold consequences.

And in the last few days, with the topics of marriage equality and the resulting votes in Britain and the US, the Gosnell trial, gun control, Boston bombings, and other hot-button topics, I’ve seen some posts that hurt.

They cross the line. Even beyond bullying. They’re hate-filled.

All of these are from friends. Facebook friends, yes. But, all of these are real people whom I know. And whom I love.

Shame on you.

Currently, none of my three kids have social media accounts. But, they’re clamoring for them, and the day is soon approaching when Dreamboat and I will cave. And, I’d like to think I would encourage them to deny strangers access to their profiles, and instead, to ‘friend’ my friends on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

That means you.

The people I’ve known and loved and welcomed into my life. And, who’ve written disrespectful, hateful, posts about others. This week.

I know that none of you would say those things TO me. Or TO anyone. TO their face. Things that filled my feed this week, like:

“Well professor dumbass.

“Why don’t you shut your pie hole?”

“Dumb French.”

“stupid, muslim, president.”

 

Shame on you.

 

Especially if you consider yourself a follower of Christ. Or Allah. Or Buddha (you atheists get a pass on this one). Whose example are you following? What kind of an example are you setting? For your kids? Or grandkids? Or me (obviously I’m still very impressionable)? or MY kids?

Where’s the integrity?

Now, I know that some of you are truly brilliant. Off-the-charts-smart. And that being witty, comes easily and naturally to you (which makes me a teensy bit jealous). And that sometime (ok, maybe OFTEN) witty can be catty. And petty. And your minds are filled with witticisms that take the ‘bad guys’ down a notch. And you deliver a good laugh.

And I understand and truly love a good laugh. In fact, my grandpa, never met a driver who wasn’t an “IDIOT”, which brought all of his kids and grandkids oodles of laughs over the years. And, compared to his incredible driving skill, he might be right. But, he’s never yet posted that opinion online. (Please forgive me grandpa, for posting it now).

But, I want to challenge you to save laughs and slurs for drinks with friends (who hopefully will not remember it the next morning. Or, more importantly, will NOT broadcast, it with your name attached. For eternity.)

Or, even better, don’t say it at all.

And don’t EVER write it.

Instead, take the time to first be self-deprecating.  And second, be funny, to make your point.

OR. DON’T. WRITE. ANYTHING.

And, definitely don’t forward anything. Or ‘like’ anything.

Until you think about my ten-year-old daughter sitting in front of you and asking if that’s “how we’re supposed to treat people?”

Remember your mother’s advice; “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?”

I’m not saying don’t post opinions. God knows I love and learn from the thoughts, across a wide spectrum, of my varied friends. I like that. I learn from that. It enriches my life.

I need each and every one of you.

But, just because you feel a certain way today, doesn’t mean you’re RIGHT.

And, doesn’t mean you’re smarter and better than someone who feels differently. (OK. Honestly, some of you really are smarter. But, that’s NOT equivalent to ‘better’ or ‘right’!). And, no matter what you think, God hasn’t given you more insights than anyone else here on earth.

In my opinion, politics is a journey. (And should be a personal one.) Where I stood ten years ago is different from where I stand today, and probably very different from where I’ll stand ten years from now.

And when you belittle others, regardless of whether or not I (or others) agree they’re wrong, and act as though they are not as good as you, it backfires. My opinion of YOU, and respect for YOU, diminishes.

Now, obviously, we all know I’m not very important. But, the same rule applies to all your friends and acquaintances. When you are hateful, and belittle others, everyone’s perception of you shrinks.  You become small.

So, let’s learn from the bullying we’ve seen (and COUNTLESS supporting scripture), and chose to use our words to build people up. Not tear them down.

I don’t really care whether you support the current US President, UK Prime Minister, King of Jordan, (although who can find fault with amazing Queen Rania?), or whomever is in power in your country. Truly, I don’t care. But I do care that you give them the respect they deserve. No matter what you think of their politics, OR their personal life, they are human.

And, not you, nor I, are a better human than they are.

We’re not.

And until we have been President, or PM, or King, none of us know or understand the scope of the misrepresentation by the media, or the depth of the pressures they face. And, when you or I have been PM (or other head-of-state), if we still feel that the current administration in our country is filled with incompetent buffoons, then we may say so.  PRIVATELY. To their face.

If you’re unable, or unwilling (please don’t), to refrain from the offensive, public, belittling of others, whom I think you should probably stop and pray for, then be warned that I begin to see you as a three-inch bobble head on my desk. (Like the one I have of President Obama, bought as a quirky memento from a visit to Washington DC. Whenever our more conservative family visit, we put it on their bedside table. Because we’re thoughtful.)

You begin to resemble a talking head for one of the politically-funded-commercials that may, or may not, have checked their facts. But, intended to emotionally sway the opposition.  (THAT I IGNORE.)

When in fact, you cause others to…Lose. Faith. In. YOU.

And, when Dreamboat and I do cave, and allow Miss O, and then my sweet and innocent G-man, to get Facebook accounts, I’ll first have to unfriend YOU.

 

How’s that for an opinion? Hope it made a point, but was still respectful :-)

8 Comments

Filed under April 2013

Unfriending

With all of the current discussion around marriage equality, I broke one of my personal rules – to not get involved in political discussions on FB. And I dipped my toe in. And then I was shocked when the universe didn’t stop in awe at my wisdom, delivered in the form of a witty quip, and lay the argument to rest.

People kept on talking.

And a lot of it was unkind. Which I find offensive.

And I have been sorely tempted to unfriend.

 

There is an inner tension that I live with. And am becoming quite comfortable living with.

I face it occasionally with my friends.

I face it daily with my children.

I face it hourly with myself.

(I’m leaving Dreamboat out of this one. You can decide if it’s because he’s perfect, or if it’s because I think he needs such frequent intervention.)

 

It’s the balance between showing absolute love, and conforming to absolutes.

 

 

When should I just love on my kids?  And when should I correct them, and help make sure the consequences are understood for a poor decision?

When should I just lovingly accept my friends? And when should I ask a carefully worded question to encourage them to look at another perspective?

When should I gallantly forgive myself and move on? And when should I bring myself to task and humbly review a pattern of poor behavior?

I think that most of the time, when I feel the internal tension rising up, I listen to that small voice inside to guide me. I’ve learned to trust myself about when to speak up. (Well, most-of-the-time. Now that-I’m-over-40. And what people think of me has lost its hold. And I’ve got plenty of wisdom-producing-battle scars-of-life that are worth sharing). Because, speaking up can be loving too.  It can deepen the beauty and safety and joy.

I think living with the tension of those two, seemingly opposing forces, is a good thing.

Sadly, I think most of the American Christian “church”, has lost the balance. Instead of focusing on hunger, poverty, unwanted children, and other social issues that need their absolute love, the church is focused on enforcing correction, in a legal arena.  And, while doing so, it has not been loving. It has driven people away.

Which I find sad.

No wonder people don’t want to embrace God with that kind of representation. I wouldn’t. It’s not how I want to be treated, and it’s not how I want to treat others–even those people that just really rub me the wrong way. Where is the small voice inside the church, guiding on when and how to speak-up?  Where is the safety? The joy? The beauty? The love?

I think of my friends who secretly and openly love. I think of each of my children, who one-day may come to me, wanting my acceptance of their love. And I forget to breathe for just a second, as my stomach does flip flops of fear. Like it does when one of them steps too close to the edge of a cliff. I see how the church will treat them. I see deep, life-threatening pain.

I am broken-hearted for those who have already struggled with acceptance, to be rejected again. This time by the church. For wanting their commitment of love to be recognized. By the government. How ironic is that??

Whether you chose to keep-quiet or speak-up (on this issue, or any other), as the tension builds in the crossroads of your relationships, imagine this scenario: What if the friend in question was your young child…Will your interaction be rehashed, with tears and tissue, on a therapist’s couch? Or lauded to their future partner, as the way to raise kids?

Then, pick accordingly.

I didn’t unfriend anyone today, at least not for how they voiced their views on marriage equality. Because if I had, I would be choosing mental blinders. I would be surrounding myself with only those who are like-minded. And I chose to be open-minded. To listen. To accept. I chose love.

But, be warned, tomorrow is another day, and I may just chose to pay the therapy fees ;-)

31 Comments

Filed under March 2013

Coward’s way out

This one was untitled, because I couldn’t bring myself to write down what I think it should be called. Because this post is about not liking one of my kids.

Gasp. I can’t breathe. I feel like I shouldn’t admit that to myself, let alone write it down and then post it!

I see and hear others gush about their lovely, smiling offspring. It’s not just others—my FB page is full of admiration for all my kidlets. Here’s a recent pic of them.

My kiddo’s, smiling for the camera

But, this morning, and for several days now, one of those cherubic smiles was missing. And, I was biting my tongue (really hard) to keep from nagging them, wishing for the clock to speed up so it would be time for them to head off to school. (Yes, the kids are attending local school while we’re in our little, Spanish village. That makes me sooo happy. Especially today!)

My irritation has been building with this child. I’ve not been enjoying time with them, mostly due to their lighting-speed launch from ‘normal’ to ANGRY. And, for being unkind to my other kidlets. Dreamboat and I have talked about what to do to make it stop. And our frustation. And our sadness.

I was just about to pull back a little emotionally, to allow some space between us, to try and hide from them how taxing I find time together. Because of course, that always works. Right?  Because when someone pulls away from me, without explanation, it always helps the situation improve. Right?

Then I read my little one’s letter home to a friend.

And my heart broke.

This tender child wrote that they’re lonely. Missing their friends. Struggling. Lost.

As I myself wrote just this week, “the people that are the strongest are usually the most sensitive.” The strength of my little one’s anger, is an attempt at a self-protective shield from the pain they’re feeling. I know that.

Or, I should have known that.

And, I know from friends telling me of their kids’ reactions to culture shock, and the many books I’ve read on the subject, that anger is one of the main responses to being in a new environment. It’s natural, normal, and healthy.

I knew that too. At least it my head.

This emotional reaction will help my kiddo work through their unease of being new, different, uncomfortable. They need to work through the pain and privilege of currently inhabiting both a local home, and a new, foreign ‘home’. To maintain their friendships and identity in their local home, but to establish new friendships and identity in their new, temporary home. Their reaction is a reminder of how important that work is, and what is at stake. And what they can gain from working through it.

What wonderful people, and friends, they will become if they can learn to overcome their feelings of unease, but remember what it’s like to be new. To be the foreigner. And to reach out to others, throughout their lives, who are also new and in need of friendship and support.

I should have been there, offering the support and understanding they need, drawing us closer. Pointing out gently the process they going through. Instead of taking the coward’s way out. Instead of withdrawing.

Yet here I was, about to distance myself from this child who needs me most. I wasn’t looking beyond the emotion, to see the root of the issue. To look for understanding. Instead, I allowed my buttons to get pushed (which my children are so very well-skilled at finding). I lost my clarity, blurred into oblivion behind my own emotional reaction.

I share this today, hoping you will avoid the mistakes I’m making, not only if you have kids, but with friends. With parents. With spouses. With partners.

Be bigger than me.

Be the gracious and understanding person I wish I’d been. Don’t withdraw. Don’t cause more pain.

If only I had said, “Sweetheart, you don’t seem yourself. Is something bothering you? Are you finding it difficult to settle in here? Would you like a date with me to have some special time together?”  I wish I had immeditely offered additional encouragement, supporting them while they figure out how to adapt and get their equilibrium back.

The good news is that I’ve not blown it completely. I have a chance to make it right.

And guess what?

I’m off to plan some special time tonight with my kiddo.

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Filed under February 2013