Family, friendships

the words and silences that matter

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This morning, on my morning jog, the car making a right turn didn’t stop.  It hit me.

The angry words spewed from my mouth; my adrenaline spiked high.  What were you thinking?  Did you not see me?!!  (I was hard to miss in my white fleece jacket and bright pink cap.  I was within the crosswalk and just about to step on the opposite curb).

Sometimes it’s not the words you say, that matter.

One of the character traits I appreciate in a person is the ability to communicate honestly and openly.  I am a woman of words.  But lately I’ve come to realize the wisdom in the adage that some things are better left unsaid.

  • I stood at the office door; the opportunity opening to share my angst when the director asked how he could help me.  It was on the tip of my tongue.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s a social group of friends, co-workers or volunteer groups like PTA and booster organizations; drama and power struggles exist everywhere.  When the student stood behind me, I allowed him entry first.
  • When my dear friend shared the words that I was being thrown under the bus, in a social dynamic between two former bffs, the words came to mind, ready to deploy.   I am not afraid of confrontation and always advocate for transparency.  This would be a welcome conversation since I tire of those who don’t own their words, judge behind people’s backs and deflect on others.
  • I hear the family chatter about finances and wills; feelings of exclusion and rejection.  There are favorites and black sheep.  Long held resentments and actions that can never be undone.  After the headstone arrives and the financial obligations are met, doors come to a close.
  • I gaze at the hubs across the table, listening to him share newfound discoveries in web page design.   He explains the various statistical data from testing the time it takes to load a website, the process of upload speed and data transfer in programming language and military acronyms.

I sat across from the girlfriend I’ve known since aged seventeen for coffee.  I reside in my current suburb because of her.  She stood in my bridal party when I married my husband and held my hand with calming words to “push” with the birth of my youngest, my almost eleven-year old son and our middle children are in high school classes together.

I ate lunch with my bubbly girlfriend; the one who left her position to stand up for what was right.  She never received affirmation for her time and dedication and felt discouraged and alone.

Catching up with my girlfriends the common theme revealed itself in the scenarios we shared.  We walk similar paths.

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When parents get too involved in their children’s dynamics and live through their lives; drama enfolds and relationships are destroyed.  Parents who serve for PTAs, booster or religious organizations revert to the social capacities of their children’s ages…queen bees and wannabes.

There are always favorites and black sheep in family dynamics.  Our family members, whom we expect to be our biggest supporters, sometimes become our biggest liabilities.

At the heart of all of these things is that we just want to belong; to feel like we are needed.  To not be rejected.  To know that we have meaning in our lives and that we are loved and accepted for who we are.

Years ago when we moved from one duty station to another, I met various groups of women in military spouses’ clubs.  As an only child it was my first introduction to group dynamics, not of my choosing.  As our husbands deployed we relied upon one another for information, support and camaraderie in a new place.   When the commander’s wife pulled rank and caused drama for us, as well as our husbands, I had been rudely awakened to the subtleties of human nature.  There are always those who want to control everything and have the power; to prove their self-worth.

I learned the mistake in saying my words.  To speak the truth.  My husband got an earful on the aircraft carrier half a world away and for six months he endured.  It brought me no pleasure to share that when this commander came home, my words had rang true.  Years later, when the hubs ran into his former commander; he learned he was divorced and unhappy.  The commander genuinely had been happy to know that we were one of the few couples, that made it.

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One of my unfavorable traits is in using my words without sorting and filtering them.  My hotheaded, need-to-be right, type A personality allows my mouth to pick and shred; to defend without listening or thinking.  I am finding that it’s not always the truth that matters.  I shared this with the priest, in confession, and to my surprise, he readily agreed.  It was one of the best and honest conversations I have ever had as we talked of child molestation in the Catholic church, hypocrisy in people of faith, abortion/ right to life issues and rituals that are archaic and unrealistic.

We may not always agree in our points of view.  But we came to an understanding and respected the other’s stance and life choices.

That’s what matters.  The ability to empathize and connect.

  • I waved at the director when he peered past the student; trying to decipher what was bothering me.   I smiled and walked away.  I cannot push my need for transparency in the organizations I serve if others are not willing to see or hear it.
  • I thanked my dear girlfriend for sharing what was being said about me.  I have been blessed with her friendship as she’s undergone big transitions in her life and let the toxic words roll off my back.  I am grateful to finally realize which friends are true and which ones are not.
  • I keep my thoughts to myself regarding family matters; ready to share if ever asked.  I have not walked in their shoes and cannot place judgment on other people’s choices and actions.  This would not be how I choose to handle relationships but I must respect other perspectives and find my own way based on my personal relationship; not others’ points of view.
  • I affirm my husband.  Does he need to know that my to-do list runs in my head and that I have no idea what he is saying?  No. Not really. I am happy he has found his hobby in programming, once again, and nod in encouragement.

In teaching my sons to say their words, I also have to teach them how to filter and sort by modeling this on my own.  When the car cuts me off, the words that come off my lips aren’t ones I want my sons repeating.   They readily tell me so.

But every once-in-a-while you realize your kids hear them, the words that matter.  Each Friday, after school, my son and his four high school buddies converge on our home to hang out.  Later that evening, as I cleaned up the empty soda cans and mess, this son quietly approached and without preamble, murmured, “Thank you.”   I straightened as he walked away, too stunned to respond.

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When the words are sincere and genuine, their weight settles upon you, making the daily, mundane every day routines worth it. 

I had picked myself up, off the road, and continued on my jog; too angry to think.   The car stopped alongside the heavily traveled road and to my irritation, the driver stepped out.

Are you okay? she shakily had asked and immediately my questions snaked out.  How could you not have seen me?  You had a red light! 

It was then that I noticed the shaking.  The tears in her eyes.  Her windshield had been fogged up and she had been distracted and I saw the truth in her words.  The angry diatribe disappeared and instead, I gave her a hug as she shook like a leaf; a mother dressed for work, close-in-age, to myself.  After several more assurances to her frenzied questions and apologies, I let her vent her fear.  I silenced my words, hearing her,  and I eventually sent her on her way, urging her to drive safely.  I still needed to jog and get home to awaken my own household; to merrily send them on their way.

I was okay.

I continue to filter and sort and choose the words that have meaning and matter.  The peace wraps itself around me, like a warm, fuzzy blanket.

 

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