This Too Shall Pass

IMG_1963I stand looking out the window of our rustic vacation home in the mountains. We had just spent a week with our daughter and her husband and our first grandchild, who was only five months old at the time. I couldn’t see the lovely view from the window because my eyes were filled with tears.  It was time to leave this precious baby. We wouldn’t see her again for four months.

Nothing lasts forever.  Things move on.  It was time for us to return to work.  It was time for us to return to our respective homes.  

This too shall pass.”  This thought relaxes my shoulders.  My tears morph into a gentle smile of gratitude – for this baby, and for our expanded life.

Next month our first grandchild will be 24 years old.  She now has two siblings.  There have been many comings and goings and stressful times of many forms throughout the years since that first parting. That simple phrase, “This too shall pass,” has been wonderfully helpful in helping me to get through many challenging times.  Remembering the truth behind these words  gives me the hope I need to move through whatever situation is causing me stress.

A good friend pointed out to me that these words can apply to pleasant experiences as well as difficult ones. Just as difficult times don’t last forever, neither do exceptionally enjoyable ones.  Realizing this helps me face the conclusion of whatever event my spouse and I have been enjoying.  It also encourages me stay in the present, accepting the challenges and the gifts that each moment brings.  When I am fully present to the present, it is easier to let go when the time comes.  I don’t claim to have mastered this letting go process; however, these words do help ease the pain of closings and help me move into new beginnings.

Whatever the day brings, I will accept the truth, “This too shall pass.”

 

 

Connections

IMG_5576It’s a simple little game, played as we take our dog for her evening walk.  As we each share about our day, my husband begins kicking a small stone.  As it comes to a stop, I give it a good swift kick, sending it flying, then rolling, several yards in front of us.  Then he gives it a good kick.  We go on this way around the block — walking, talking, taking turns kicking the rock. A simple game.  It adds a new dimension to our walk.  We feel more connected to each other.  Instead of a cocktail of the alcohol variety, we each receive the benefits of a “happy” hormone cocktail.

The ways to connect are endless.  A quick two-handed card game, a little spin around the living room to a favorite piece of music, singing a duet (good singing voices not required), cooking together, even tackling a little cleaning or organizing job together — whatever a couple enjoys doing together.  Imagination and spontaneity add to the experience. We can break the monotony, heal a rift, or recover from a tough day by making a point of connection with each other.

I will be open to opportunities for points of connection today. 

Tantrums

IMG_0504Anger as soon as fed is dead — 

‘Tis starving makes it fat.

                 Emily Dickenson

One day when our first granddaughter was two years old, she did what most  two-year olds do when they don’t get their way.  She had a loud, kicking-and-screaming tantrum right in the middle of a large superstore. Her mother, who is our daughter, responded by calmly leaning down so she could be heard above the din her daughter’s wailing.  She spoke in a quiet and kind voice as she called her name and said, “We’ll be right over there when you’re done.”  Then she walked the few feet over to where her Daddy and I were waiting.  We didn’t have to wait long. Our two-year old quickly tired of the tantrum that was not getting her the results she wanted.  She rejoined us and we continued our shopping.

I can certainly learn from the wisdom of my daughter’s response to this tantrum. She didn’t argue with her child or try to tell her she was being unreasonable; she simply gave her space to allow her feelings to play out.

When my husband seems to be having a struggle with his feelings, I can give him some space to work them out in his own way and time — without my interference or judgment.  In the same way, when I feel like a two-year old having a tantrum, I can give myself some space and refrain from being critical of myself.  It’s even possible that my feelings are trying to tell me something I need to know.  I won’t know this if I don’t allow them to take their course.

I will give space to the feelings of my spouse and myself today. 

Raising Children

I think our children were the biggest challenge in our marriage.      

                                                                       Anonymous

IMG_3838As our children grow there are new challenges.  Children seem to be masters at playing one parent against the other from a very early age.  And if parents don’t have a united front, they can easily fall into the traps of these little masters of manipulation before they can say Dr. Seuss.  Good communication and agreements worked out ahead of time will bring harmony where chaos tries to get a foothold.

Each parent comes with his or her own histories and ideas of how to be a parent. Some parents tend to be stricter than their partners.  Or, they vacillate between being strict one day and more lenient the next. Differences are inevitable. How a couple handles them can make a huge difference in the harmony of the household, as well as how well the child is supported in growing up to be emotionally stable and self-sufficient.

Raising children is definitely a place for teamwork.  And, good teamwork requires good communication — preferably without the child as audience, especially when there is always the possibility of civil discussion veering off into emotional territory.  Witnessing one’s parents in an emotional tirade with the child as the topic of discussion cannot only  feed the child’s data base on how to manipulate their parents more effectively in the future, it can also leave the child feeling confused, and possibly unsupported.

That’s not to say that any of us will do it perfectly.  Perfect doesn’t exist in this realm.

However, as parents, we can begin with respect for each other and our children, as well as open communication and teamwork.

Do my spouse and I agree about how to raise our children?  Do we stand united in setting and enforcing healthy boundaries for them?

I’m Sorry

IMG_6312“I’m sorry.”  How freely these words used to spill from my mouth — often with little thought behind them.  The words were simply a habitual response.  It took very little to trigger them.  I might have even found myself apologizing to a table leg that I accidentally kicked.  If I had to step over people to get to my assigned seat at a concert, I repeatedly said, “I’m sorry.”  I’m sorry,” until I sat down.  

Used habitually and superficially, saying, “I’m sorry” can send a message to myself and others that I am pitiful and guilty and unworthy to take up space in the universe.  This is not a message I want to reinforce in my psyche. 

Many years ago a counselor helped me see that I had a tendency to apologize even when I had nothing to apologize for.  For example, if my husband and I had an emotional  exchange, I was so uncomfortable with the discord between us, that I readily accepted blame.  My people-pleasing tendencies took center stage.  I just didn’t want my spouse to be mad at me.  And, quite frankly, I don’t think I even stopped to consider what my part in the exchange was.  

I’ve since learned to think before jumping in with an apology.  I do a short replay in my mind of the conversation to get clear as to whether or not I owe an apology and specifically what I said or did that warrants one. When I do apologize, my words are much more meaningful because I take full responsibility for the specifics of my behavior. Sometimes, I still feel a little uncomfortable waiting until I am clear before apologizing because I want to fix it now. However, an apology that is sincere is much more meaningful than an apology that is designed only to clear the air.  The latter always falls short of its goal. The negative energy in the air is not dispelled by insincerity; rather, it is fed by it.  

As for the table leg that I kicked, it didn’t hurt the table a bit, but my toe was sore for days. Hmm.  It would make much more sense to apologize to myself.  As for the people I step over in the concert hall, I now say “thank you” as I step over them.  This is a more appropriate communication to people who are making room for me as I progress to my assigned seat.  “Excuse me” me is also a polite thing to say; however, I rather like the more positive feel of “thank you.”

Are my apologies always appropriate?  Are they sincere?

Divine Wisdom

 

Note: This post was written over six years ago.

 

IMG_1959A couple of days ago I was faced with a difficult choice, which required me to choose between my husband and our 17-year-old granddaughter.  My husband and I were invited to our granddaughter’s school for Grandparents’ Day.  No problem —  well, except for a couple of issues.  Our granddaughter lives over 700 miles from us.   The choice arises from the fact that Grandparents’ Day just happens to be two days before Thanksgiving.  As this is my husband’s busiest time of year, he cannot take off work that week.  We both agree that I can represent both of us for Grandparents’ Day. However, most flights for our frequent flyer miles have been blocked out that week, and there are no flights available for the return  home until after Thanksgiving.  That leaves my spouse home by himself with the dog for Thanksgiving.  This is not like any Thanksgiving we have had in the past.

My husband generously encouraged me to go without him.  My granddaughter and her mother, who’s our daughter, both said they would completely understand if my coming did not work out.  They too weren’t comfortable with the idea of Granddad spending the holiday by himself.  At this point, neither option was completely satisfactory because it meant whomever I chose to be with, I couldn’t be with the other.  

So what to do?  I decided to have minimal discussion or mental activity about the situation until I’d given it to Divine Wisdom for guidance.  My experience has taught me that my own intellect is quite limited, while the Source of Love and Wisdom knows what is best for all concerned.  I went to sleep that night and slept well.  When I awakened, my first thoughts gave me an answer that brought me peace.

My husband and I enjoy many events together. In addition to holidays, we go dancing in full formal attire several times a year.  We go to many performing arts as well.  We see each other every day.  In comparison, the events I have been able to share with our granddaughter have been few, and I see her only a few days out of the year.  She will graduate from high school this spring and will go to college next year.  It will probably become more challenging to spend time with her as time goes on.  And, I don’t want her to experience Grandparents’ Day without a grandparent present.  In addition, I know that my husband will do quite well without me.  He need only mention to any one of many friends that he will be alone on Thanksgiving to garner an invitation to someone’s feast.  He and the dog have already made plans to participate in a 5K Dog Jog.  I will be with our granddaughter for Grandparents’ Day.

I am grateful for the invitation to Grandparents’ Day.  I am grateful for frequent flyer miles.  And, I am grateful that my husband does not depend on me for his happiness.

When I am faced with a choice, I will seek the guidance of Divine Wisdom.  

Feelings

IMG_5573Long ago I was told by a wise counselor that feelings are neither good nor bad;  they just are.  She went on to say that feelings are spawned by our thoughts. Thoughts precede feelings. My experience bears this out. Sure, it often doesn’t seem as if a thought precedes a feeling because it can happen almost instantaneously.  If we can make a practice of identifying our feelings and tracing them to their origins, we are on the road to serenity and more harmonious relationships.

Sometimes we may feel guilty or disloyal for having certain feelings about our spouses.  If we feel disappointment or anger or disapproval, we may quickly shove those feelings down into the depths of our subconscious.  The problem is, the feeling didn’t go away.  It just went underground where it will continue to fester and influence our behavior without our knowledge or agreement.

To complicate the issue a bit, we also have a tendency to project our own negative issues onto our partners.  If I’ve shoved my own guilt, anger, or disappointment about myself down into the dark corridors of my mind, there’s a good chance I will find a target for unloading these feelings, and my spouse is the likely recipient.  All the more reason for learning to address my feelings in a healthy manner.

Although feelings are neither good nor bad, what we do with them can be destructive to ourselves, our spouses, and to our marriage. In a like manner, if we allow our feelings to teach us, we can enjoy happy relationships with ourselves and others.

Acknowledging our feelings to ourselves is the first step in addressing them in a healthy manner.   It is only in  acknowledging them that we can examine them to see if the thoughts that spawned them have validity.  If they are valid, we will now be clearer about our feelings and appropriate responses.

For example, once acknowledged, anger can awaken us to that desirable place within us where self-respect resides.  The voice of self-respect can then set healthy boundaries or spur us on to much needed change.  Similarly, fear can save us from harm by leading us to an appropriate course of action.

It is important to let these feelings go once they have been examined in the light of day and we have responded with restorative measures. Admittedly, some feelings might be complex and deeply rooted.  In these cases, it may be wise to engage the assistance of a professional counselor.  A counselor can help us sort through our feelings in a healthy manner and develop a course of action that can help free us from the many feelings that can sabotage us and our relationships.

 

From now on I will not be afraid to look at my feelings and the thoughts that gave rise to them. I may find that some of them are based on a history that has nothing to do with the present.  Or, I may find that healthy action is needed. 

Saving Resentments

UnknownSeveral decades ago some merchants offered their customers stamps that could be “cashed in” for products of varying values.  The customers were given booklets for storing their stamps until they had enough to cash in. Many shoppers saved faithfully and waited patiently for the bigger “prizes.”  Long ago I heard someone compare this practice of saving stamps to that of saving resentments. Some people save their resentments until their stamp books are full. Then they cash them in all at once.  For some this means a raging emotional storm.  Unfortunately, there are others who cash their saved-up stamps in divorce court.

The reasons for this practice of saving up resentments are many.  The partners may not know how to address their grievances.  They may have never learned to express anger in a constructive manner.  They may never have learned how to confront another with unacceptable behavior.  They may be so absorbed in a career, they just don’t take the time and energy to tend to their marriage.  They may simply be in denial that anything is wrong.  The sickness in their marriage may try to make itself known to their consciousness, but they keep the door closed to it because they just don’t feel they can face it.

So, the resentments accumulate year after year.  And the marriage gets sicker.  The couple drift apart.  Until one day, one of them cashes in his or her stamps.  The divorce papers are served.

Am I saving up resentments?  If so, why?  Do I need help in getting them addressed in a healthy manner?  

What is a Successful Relationship?

IMG_6284He was a very likable pleasant person — funny, courteous, sensitive and wise.  She was thoughtful, pleasant, confident and wise.  Her eyes lit up when she talked to you.  They were a strikingly beautiful couple.  When they danced, people stopped to watch as they glided around the floor, a perfect extension of the music.

But together, alone?  All wisdom, sensitivity, and humor went out the door.  He became a raging bull, wrapped up in his own petty desires and demands. She became a cowering kitten, totally unaware of her own innate strength, allowing her husband to abuse her both physically and emotionally, while inwardly seething with unexpressed hatred.  All light went out of her eyes.  In short, these two brought out the worst in each other.  Yet they lived together for over 60 years until parted by death.  Longevity of a marriage is clearly not the only indicator of a successful relationship.

What then is a successful marriage?  Each of us would probably answer that differently and there are probably a plethora of definitions. One definition could be that a successful marriage is a partnership that brings out the best in each partner.

However, it is not the marriage itself that brings out the best in each partner, but the partners themselves who use their marriage as a classroom to help themselves and each other grow.  They reflect on the unpleasant moments so that they may discover where they have room for improvement.  They reflect on the good times to see where they may expand.  They praise and encourage their partners’ strengths and achievements.  They are cheerleaders when their partners succeed and comforters when they don’t.  They don’t put their own interest ahead of their spouses’.  With these habits and attitudes, the partners continue to grow into their fullest potential.

I am grateful for a marriage that blesses my spouse and me and helps each of us achieve our fullest expression.  

Blessing Others from a Happy Home

IMG_6276How my spouse and I interact with each other can set the stage for our interactions with everyone else with whom we come into contact  in our lives — our children, our colleagues and coworkers, or the customer service representative we may speak with on the phone or in person.  The hug and kiss my spouse and I shared before our departure this morning, for example.  Little moments, like the shared laughter we enjoyed over one of his silly and highly inventive, spur-of-the-moment stories.  This morning’s contribution was about our dog going out in the snow to taunt the rabbits with the promise of juicy carrots.

As I go through the day, the mood is set.  These loving moments are extended to everyone else I may encounter throughout the day.  With these memories tucked neatly into my brain cells, it is easy and natural to extend kind words and a smile to the sacker in the grocery store or to the solicitor on the phone who is interrupting what I am doing.    The opposite is also true.  If my spouse and I exchange angry words, I may find myself a bit impatient or intolerant of others.

Before my foot hits the floor in the morning, I can begin my day by stretching from head to toe and deciding to have a happy and loving day.  I don’t have to depend on my spouse to set the tone for the day.  If he beats me to it with a hug or a kiss or a jovial remark, wonderful.  If he doesn’t, I can choose what kind of day I wish to have, and start by giving him a bit of sparkle to carry in his pocket as he goes through his day.

Marriage embraces more than the couple within its folds; it spreads its wings over all who come into contact with its participants.