I Can’t Hear You, You are Talking Too Much

Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness.

–Margaret Miller

for conversation articleMost folks seem more interested in talking than listening. I notice this as I sit staring at my cold coffee and listening to the person sitting across the table from me who has been talking for twenty minutes without a single thought that the other person might like to be involved in the conversation also.

Isn’t a conversation a two-way street? I always thought so, but maybe not. Perhaps culturally, the word ‘conversation’ has morphed into ‘monologue’.

 

conversation article 2

Typically I look forward to conversations with friends in anticipation of them talking, then me talking, then them talking, then me talking . . . you get the idea. I’m usually the first to dig into the meaty stuff with soul-probing questions like ‘how’s your life going?’ or ‘what’s the best thing that’s happened to you this week?’ which launches an interesting  dialogue. I love to hear what’s going on in hearts and lives and also sharing what’s going on in mine. I love the inspiration and direction that comes from a stimulating conversation.  A rhythm develops, a natural give and take of laughter, caring and transparency.

Every good conversation starts with good listening. Deep conversations with the right people are priceless.

–Anonymous

Of course, this expectation is off the table if one of us is going through a shattering life struggle. That person gets a free pass and my job (hopefully I will not be the one going through an equivalent event at the same time) is to hold a hand, say a prayer, listen with real concern and not look at my phone. Not even once.

But let’s get real, here. Barring a person going through crisis, who wants to spend a couple of hours listening to someone chat conv art 4about themselves indefinitely without realizing the other person is getting all glassy-eyed and bored because they haven’t been asked a single question or given a few seconds of space to jump in and join?  I don’t get it. And I’ve tried being transparent about my feelings, but ohmigosh you’d think I’d barfed all over them by their reactions.

I don’t do that anymore.

Instead, I’m careful to limit contact. I don’t understand the mentality. Plus, I feel devalued when I’m with them.

On the flip side, my husband and I have experienced evenings with couples that leave us smiling and content when we part ways. I think it’s because they were really interested in us. And I suspect they treat most people that way. It is a lovely thing to be around these kinds of folks. I strive to be that kind of person.

Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.

–Margaret Wheatley

 

After the Party is Over

Christmas has come and gone, and with it, my balloon-like joy.  It popped the minute everyone left my house.

cloudy sky

Oh, we had lovely memories and lots of gift exchanging. Lots of hugs and oohs and aahhs. But the elephant in the room, the one sibling/adult child that didn’t make it for Christmas because he was in rehab (again) sat in the room (virtually) and glared at us as if his disability was our fault. As if being excluded from our Christmas celebration was an abuse of his familial privilege.

To all parents of drug addicts, a select club of which I am reluctantly a member, I salute

adventure beautiful blue dawnyou. I’m in my eleventh year of this stuff, and I can’t even feel my fingers anymore, where the addict is concerned. NarAnon has taught me to take one day at a time, to do the tough love thing, to distance myself from the addiction but love the addict.

And it is working, kind of.

But the emotional pain, the offense, the expense! The wondering if I should pay his bills, as if I, somehow, caused this and should suck it up. If I should be the one to tell his roommate sorry, buddy, for my child causing you such financial hardship, here’s a few thousand bucks to make up for it

Such insanity! That in no way, shape or form, did I cause. At NarAnon meetings it is common to recite “I didn’t cause it, I can’t cure it, I can’t control it.”

This helps.

But believing it, trusting it, stiff-arming the addict’s onslaught of unpaid bills and possible jail time . . . well, that’s a different matter altogether. We parents want to rescue. And so we do, over and over until we realize it does no good. It delays their sobriety, actually.

beautiful calm clouds darkOn the bright side, I got a book contract about the same time that Christmas came around and I have many, many books in me that need writing. I have many stories to tell, not the least of which include a postscript of addiction in there somewhere. Too many people can relate. Way too many. It is an onslaught that needs curtailing, but how?

Don’t get me started.

So I fall to my knees, recite the same prayers over my son, try to carry on as if ‘normal’ is a thing I can do in spite of.

But it never leaves, you know, the weight of a child that still struggles to be born.

Since he is in rehab, an inpatient, four-month program, I sleep better. The nightmares lessen. In this facility, he cannot call often, a good thing since the sound of his voice still brings tension and fear. It is a good thing not to hear it sometimes. A four-month program that is voluntary, I pray that he will stay, not run; that he will finally understand that his life is at stake, and not only his, but mine. His father too, his sisters and his brother.

The hard thing to internalize is that nothing matters to the addict but the next high.

Nothing.

We are all praying that this time, he will stay long enough that things matter. That his life matters. His family matters. His friends matter.

That we can finally love him the way he is meant to be loved, in spite of everything.

We cling to hope. As long as he is breathing, there is hope.

person standing on hand rails with arms wide open facing the mountains and clouds

Ode to Blended Family Holidays

So Thanksgiving is over and tucked away. It was wonderful, it was stressful it was . . . in a word, family.

Family gatherings with all their differing perspectives and personalities are often difficult to manage, but throw in a history cluttered with divorce, remarriage and painful experiences and it’s difficult to keep a lid on the simmering stewpot of the past.

So why was it, I often wail to God, that I didn’t have the Norman Rockwell marriage? Why did you allow me to travel such rocky roads rutted with despair and discouragement?

I finally learned to move on and express gratitude for what I have now. Leave

My husband, the energizer bunny.

the hard lessons of the past in the past. Run the race of life with courage and confidence. It was me, not God, that chose the detours that led to those rocky places. It was God, however, who protected me there and led me out of the rocky places. Then He allowed me the grace to grow in knowledge and understanding along the way. Thankfully, I’ve now been married to a great guy for eleven years and counting.

The Pew Research Center specifies that in America, one in six kids lives in a blended family. One in six kids has experienced upheaval with role models, parenting styles, perhaps differing religions or living arrangements, the list goes on. It is a sad fact, and one that I hope will change. Marriages are meant to thrive and grow instead of ending in a courtroom with a stranger dictating who gets what.

Absolutely perfect nuclear family in “Father Knows Best”

I wish I’d had an enduring, wonderful marriage when raising my four kids. I wish I could’ve spared them the agony of change and rearranging the family unit. But it does no good to look back and dig around in the bottomless pit of ‘what if’. I’m learning a new way of looking at life with an excited and hopeful ‘what now’?

So on this day, as I ponder holidays and blended families and emotional potholes along the path, I choose to be grateful.

Grateful for the little spats that somehow manage to draw us closer and help us understand each other better. Grateful for my husband who cast a net of fun and frivolity over things in spite of my irritation with his methods. Grateful that my oldest daughter’s family and one son actually LIVE here now (yay) and I get to enjoy them all the time. I am also learning to be grateful (through a jaw-clenched faith) for the sad detours my kids take at different points in their lives before they finally dig in and figure it out. I know that God is in control of this too, and if I survived my detours on the path to contentment and wisdom, so will they.

I think there’s something to this ‘being thankful’ thing. After all, when does griping and complaining ever make us feel better? For me, it just makes things worse. But being thankful zips me back to emotional equilibrium in a heartbeat. I start looking up instead of down.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because in bold type and underlined it emphasizes the concept: Thank God in all things.  Even when the circumstances aren’t favorable. A thankful heart goes a long way to helping us stay on top of our circumstances instead of under them.

Especially for non-Norman Rockwell families like mine.