Forever Hold Your Peace

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I wasn’t nice to my brother’s girlfriend. She was 17, and he was 20, and I was jaded by the string of girls he brought along before and thought “it’s not like he’s going to marry this girl,” and so I gave her the cold-shoulder. And then he married her. And boy was that awkward for awhile (like, even now, 8 years and a sorta-divorce later). I didn’t have the decency to treat her nicely at the beginning, though, deep down, I have a pocketful of reasons to give in defense of my bad behavior, if it’s ever necessary. What I learned from that experience, was my relatively shitty inability to articulate my feelings in the moment, which could have saved years of conflict down the road.

All of this was brought up in my mind, yesterday, when I was chatting with my bestie Ruth about a conflicted experience she had recently. In my brilliant wisdom (sarcasm? maybe?) I reminded her that emotions are stored on one side of the brain, and language on the other, and that sometimes it’s hard to get the language and emotions to match up nicely and to be able to articulate all those fee-fees that you’re having. Not to mention, it’s fucking awkward to confront someone, regardless, because very few of us were taught how to do this type of communication in our formative years (and as adults, do we really want to risk losing relationships if the conflict goes badly?).

It’s reminiscent of the “forever hold your peace,” line they say in movie weddings (because, that’s not a real wedding thing…right?). But you know what, this ‘forever hold your peace,’ shit is pretty fucking hard when you’re someone who has lots of opinions and thoughts and wants things to be logical.

I don’t like things that feel incongruent. I have a hard time when I see people say one thing and then do something else. I have a hard time when things don’t seem to add up or make sense, at least on some level. When I sense these mixed messages, I feel confused, and frustrated, while also unable to articulate my feelings in a way that doesn’t seem rude or attacking because it’s hard to verbalize frustration with unspoken energy actions. Does that even make remote sense?

I’m good with conflict in the moment, when I feel something and am able to say, “I’m annoyed,” or “I’m feeling uncomfortable.” What I have a hard time with, is feeling annoyed or uncomfortable with something, brushing it off as ‘no big deal,’ and then having something else happen, and something else, and something else, until finally I’m at the point where I’m unfriending them on facebook (true story: hi sis!) and they’re like “um, wtf just happened?” If I had just told my sister that I was annoyed with her inconsistent love and open acceptance paired with terribly racist retweets on facebook, the first time it happened, maybe I wouldn’t have been so far down the line that I either wanted to shut down (or cut off) or scream and throw things.

So I’m stuck in this dilemma and I don’t know what to do, how to change, to be a different person. It feels unfair to bring up conflict or frustration over something that happened six months, two years, ten years, ago, especially when realized that is bottled up and I might not be able to say it in a nice way. And yet, I feel like trying to live in the ‘forever hold your peace,’ camp is eating away at me. And I would feel shitty, too, if a friend came to me six months later, I might be like “why didn’t you tell me when this happened? Why did you pretend everything was okay?”

What to do?

Because avoiding it is only adding to the pressure, and I don’t want to be a fucking psycho, you know?

 

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A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Questions

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I posted this picture over the weekend, and I realized the power of visual images to spark conversation. Mari’s husband asked me why I had posted it, and after I clarified that it was Potamus (and not somehow a picture of me), I was struck with the thought that I often put things out into the world (writing, photos, words) that have a definite meaning to me, but may be misinterpreted or misunderstood by others. Or maybe there’s room for both my interpretation and someone else’s experience of my image to both be true and right at the same time.

It made me think of poetry, and how I loved the college classes where I had to buckle down and analyze a few lines of poetry, trying to figure out the word choice and how it intersected with history and the author’s life. And yet, when I write my own poetry, I am hardly so careful as to make sure I choose the word eggshell vs. white in describing that lady’s shirt. Though sometimes I am that careful, but how does the reader/listener know my intention fully when they bring their own thougths, life experience, emotions to the table?

The conversation about my child’s image, which I had taken in a moment of pure love, noticing that tiny little mole that dotted his neck (in contrast to the many moles that are all over Boof), my mind wandered to the thought that this is how I one day could identify his body if he were to die tragically. Maybe it was morbid, or practical, we argued a bit about it, but the exchange clearly showed different perspectives, neither right or wrong. I looked at that “morbid” detail of identifying a body by a little birthmark from a future-nostalgic motherhood place, the remembrance of his less-baby-more-little-man stillness as he sat on my lap in the sunshine watching TV and I stroked his little curls that look like mine did at that age. I don’t know what prompted him to comment on this particular picture (of the thousands I’ve posted), but I’m glad he did, because the dialogue and thought process made me take a tiny moment and examine it in light of all the things I do online (or in person, too).

It makes me wonder about every picture I post or text and the story that’s being told on the receiving end, or the intercepting end, or when you turn to your neighbor and say “hey look at this.” Maybe it’s my arrogance, or self absorbed way of living, but I often think that the way I intend a picture to be interpreted will be how it’s interpreted. But like the lines of poetry that I analyzed in college, we bring our own biases toward it, and meaning may be lost or changed or questioned, and it’s really a neat process if you think about it.

After college I took a communication class that detailed how miscommunications can form, and as she diagrammed Speaker A putting words into the universe, and Speaker/Listener B hearing and interpreting the word, it struck me that it’s really a miracle any of us can communicate effectively. Even recently in conversations with Boof, I said a word, that to me has a ‘standard definition,’ and we clearly were talking about different things, from different perspectives based on our gender, age, life experience, etc. It’s a really remarkable process to sit and sift and be vulnerable to get to the point where understanding occured.

That one image sparked a thousand words, a thousand questions. I might have posted it and forgotten about it, like I’ve done with the thousands of other images. But the dialogue brought me back, and almost like a meditation drishti point, I will think of that moment I thought how beautiful my child was, and how sad I would be to have to identify his body by that tiny little mole.

Be Nice

I’m trying out a new mantra, it goes like this: Be Nice.

I got an opportunity to practice this mantra over the weekend, when spending time with my family in Eastern Washington. I had started to dread the trip, getting about half way and thinking, “ugh, I hate making this trip,” which is true. Mostly my anxiety is before an event, and I’m okay when I get there, but there’s just something about going to the shithole I went to highschool in that brings up a lot of angst. Not to mention, knowing it was going to be a 24 hour trip and I’d probably end up spending time with my sister, who I’ve been in conflict with for awhile now.

When she walked in the door 45 minutes late, as we were packing up to go, and I had to realize that we were going to end up leaving later than anticipated, instead of making some flip comment about being on time, I bit my tongue and gritted my teeth into a smile. When my dad made some sarcastic comment about his career being ‘work’ and not a ‘job’ I just changed the subject. It did feel forced at times, and somewhat awkward, but overall it had a pretty pleasant vibe to the visit. I left feeling like nothing had been resolved, but nothing had been made worse.

So why is this Be Nice mantra so hard for me? Because it feels fake. It feels superficial, like we’re not addressing the deeper issues of conflict and just ‘pretending everything is okay.’ That’s not how I like to roll. Maybe it’s because of my own anxiety, but I prefer to voice when I’m frustrated, saying “I’m annoyed with this conversation,” or, “I’m upset that you’re late again,” rather than just sitting there feeling upset. I don’t like superficiality and the Ms. Suzy Sunshine role. But can I share my anxiety in a setting or time that works better, and in the meantime just let it go? I don’t know, I managed to do it this weekend, but I’m not sure how long I could just hang out ‘being nice,’ without also, ‘being honest.’ And I haven’t figured out how those two can go together well.

Thoughts? Have you ever told yourself to ‘be nice’? What was the result? How do you balance that with wanting to be emotionally honest with people?

How to communicate with family…

Standing on the couch

Verbal communication is hard. I’m much better in the written form, which is why I blog instead of submitting videos to Youtbue, I suppose. But I have found that communication with family is especially hard, and only lately have I been struggling to manage it all (probably due to lack of sleep and a helping dose of ‘not-giving-a-damn-the-older-I-get’). Like, my parents have been over eager and insecure in their dealings with Potamus. They make strange statements like, “oh, I’m so glad he remembers us,” (he’s 15 months, who cares if he doesn’t remember you), and the over-repetitive phrase of “such a handsome doood (how my dad pronounces dude).” It’s annoying.

But then so are my in-laws.

Like the constant saying of “no,” by my sister-in-law to Potamus who is in an exploratory phase (see 15 month old comment above). It’s one thing to say “no” and re-direct when he’s trying to grab the butane torch for the fireplace. Telling him “no” repeatedly that he shouldn’t bang his plastic maraca on the table is a bit overdramatic and overbearing to be perfectly honest. But I don’t know what to do. It’s not MY sister, it’s Boof’s. And he doesn’t seem to be as perturbed by it as me.

I just don’t want to have him hear NO all the time. While no is going to be used, I want it to be reserved for dangerous things, and not just used mindlessly. A re-direction is more appropriate. Or an explanation. And saying things like “gentle,” with no context for him to understand what it means. But I’m too deep in the emotion grating across my skull that I can’t rationally say anything because if I open my mouth it is going to be a SCREAM at them. So I bottle it in and don’t say anything and that just makes it worse.

Ugh.

Then, on Friday I was hanging out with Uncle Silly (my adoptive brother) and we got to talking about our sister, and communication within our family and some hurt feelings over her boyfriend not visiting with us, but having the time/energy to drive 3 hours to visit her birth family in Oregon. And I talked about how I try to navigate reunion with our parents and he talked about how he tries to navigate it with them, too. And then, I learn, that my parents were hurt that I invited my birthfamily to my Master’s celebration. I’m glad to know, but also glad that they didn’t tell me themselves at the time because I would have been pissed. The jealousy and insecurity named above is the bedrock of my adoptive family’s communication style and it’s just annoying that I have to deal with it in so many arenas.

If they weren’t helpful to me, I would just take a break from all sorts of things family related and do my own thing. Friendships are much easier to navigate, because I can just tell my friends what I feel without worry. Not sure why I can’t do the same for my families.

Suggestions? How do you deal with overbearing or overanxious or jealous family members? How do you communicate about your parenting styles when it comes to things like discipline.

Fourth Anniversary

Yesterday Boof and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary. It almost got lost in the hullabaloo around Potamus’ first birthday, but my mother-in-law swooped in at the last minute and offered to babysit while we went out to dinner. But THAT plan almost backfired when we called the pediatrician to ask about the late night crying jags and fear that it might turn into an ear-infection as we travel over Snoqualmie Pass this weekend.

The pediatrician had an opening in his schedule at 4pm, so we bundled up and headed out. But, in true doctor fashion, he was running late…by an hour! This waiting and waiting and waiting is SO annoying in the waiting room, but once he is in the exam room with us, and giving us his full undivided attention and never makes us feel rushed, it is worth it…which is why we keep going back. After a thorough exam, it turns out that my previous suspicions were confirmed: Potamus is constipated. The introduction of a little bit of whole milk, paired with his lack of drinking anything else but scarfing down tortellinis, has caused some backup issues. We were prescribed pear juice to help, and wowee, so far it has been doing its job! (but that’s another story for another time).

Boof and I managed to race him back to grandma’s and squeek in to Anthony’s for their “sunset dinner” special (aka, earlybird with the old folks) with two minutes to spare. You can’t go wrong with a $19.95 appetizer/salad/entree/dessert special, ya know? Especially on our tight budget and paying with a gift certificate. The night was lovely, and gave us a chance to really talk and try to get back on the same page. I told him that my massage/growth coaching session by Courtney Putnam of Rising Bird Healing Arts had focused on my intense emotions and my discovery of the 3 parts of myself that are in conflict: Individual, Mother, and Wife. And how wife is the one that gets pushed aside because it is the one that I can ever go back on. I cannot stop being myself and I cannot stop being a mother. Once Potamus was born, I now, forever will be a mom.

We talked about that struggle and trying to do things as a “we” instead of making an individual decision and getting the other person on board with it. There was tough, honest, brave comments and tough, honest, difficult reflections on observations. I think I was hit hardest with the observation that sometimes Potamus seems confused by my struggle between Individual and Mom, in the moments where I seem a little bit cold and don’t attend to his needs, that Boof notices the confusion in his face and posture. That hit me hard. Not that I will be a perfect mother, but that confusion resonated with me, as there were so many moments growing up that I thought I was the problem, when it was really my adoptive mother having difficulty regulating herself. I want to minimize that as much as I can, which means being more mindful that that is happening.

And we’re going to start looking at things as a couple to do, and have already thrown out the idea of a 5k walk/run together sometime in February. We’ll see how “training” goes, but it’s sort of exciting to think about doing something like that together!

December 20 2008