Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Way to Go, Thing Two, Tell it Like it Is. On the Record: You Are Right.

So, hard act to follow there Thing Two. You've definitely got the good questions laid out. What may really surprise you is how much of what you describe so accurately is also true for me. It's harder than I expected. There are things I want to do, too, that seem to be stuck semi-permanently in the almost started, partly finished, going to start soon, messy pile of rubble, broken dreams stage.

Like painting with you. Relaxing more together. Sewing. Reading. Making pots again. Having a comfortable house where guests feel at home. Making walking trails in the woods and walking on them with you. I could go on, but you get it, I know. There's that broken down, discouraged feeling that comes when you think you have the bits lined up just right to realize your vision of the dollhouse, or the family home, and just as you get one right piece to fit in, something slips and it seems like its going to be totally impossible. This is where your grandfather's voice chimes in: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

As strategies to solve our problem, yelling, crying, neither one of us has chosen a winner. On the other hand, as long we continue to make space for conversation, to ask the clear, tough questions you have asked, we are on track to the land of Possible. High five to you. I certainly want to change. For one thing, feeling frustrated and angry, yelling and fighting, is not winning me any friends in Nowhere. Furthermore, it feels awful inside.

Feeling awful inside is clearly something you can relate to, even if  you don't feel like I understand. I know that feeling like giving up, crying or spending time lying in bed when, in your heart of hearts, you want to be painting, or being hugged, or singing on top of a pile of wood, or twirling a stick, or watching tv shows on your iPod, or reading a book, or just about anything other than feeling frustrated, like you did something wrong, oppressed, yucky, is certainly as awful a feeling inside as yelling, feeling angry, like nothing I say is heard, discouraged, confused.

I used to spend a lot of time crying when life seemed too hard. Crying didn't work. I still feel yucky sometimes. The results are not good. Please notice the sometimes.

There are countless moments with you
when I feel amazed, delighted! amused,
filled with joy, love, elation,
thrilled by your very existence and being.

As for "feeling the love" my heart aches. I hear you crying and I hear the things I sometimes say to you when you are crying and I just want to curl up and die. It feels like being two people at once to me. It's as if  I am you, and I am my mother, actually it feels like being three people. The third one, the one stuck in the middle, trying to figure out how to get out, is me, Thing One. You know that kind of stiff hug, the one where I don't seem to be able to get huggable? I totally recognize what it feels like to be on your side of that hug. Now, sadly, I'm learning what it felt like to be on my mother's side of it. What we are doing is going to change that.

So, while you may think that I have all the power here and that you are helpless, it ain't necessarily so. There are times when I feel helpless. Do you remember how I used to say to you when you were much, much littler, "Can you stop yourself, or does Mommy have to stop you?" If we were somewhere that there was a lot of traffic and you didn't want to hold my hand, and I didn't want to risk you skipping gaily out into the traffic and getting squashed by a car, I could offer you the choice of holding my hand, or wearing the harness. Sometimes you choose one, and sometimes you choose the other. Whichever it was, it kept you safe.

Arranging some things as if we are having a business meeting, insisting on using email when I am standing right there! is the choice I make to stop myself. I don't want to just speak off the top of my frustrated head and come out with some foolish thing my poor mother might have said when she was at her wit's end. I want to learn a new way.  Here's the scoop. Emails don't YELL without some extra effort being made. Using emails gives us a chance to think before we speak.

Look at that very formal email you sent me after you were expelled. It was polite and it offered a solution. Or at least a first step towards a solution. It was a useful strategy. It got my attention. It gave us a quiet forum to make a plan. Please note: I am telling you that you did right. That email is one of the many things you have done well, and right, not wrong. It was a much better approach to the mess we were in than days and days of sniping our way around the house trying to figure out what to do next.

When I feel like yelling, or you feel like crying, each of us has a choice to make. We can keep on doing what we are doing, whether it feels good or not, whether it gets us what we want, or not, most likely not. Or we can  figure out how to handle the feeling under the yelling, or the crying. It's not easy, especially if you have a long held habit of crying when you are upset, or of yelling when you are upset, to learn to do something else. But unless the strategy is working really well for you and it makes you feel great, investing the effort in changing how you respond to the way you feel is one of the most important things there is to learn.

You are free to disagree with that, after all, it's my opinion, and you want to do things your own way.

What I plan to do is to think of the place I am when I am yelling as just a place. Not some horrible monster that has taken over my whole being by pouring a huge angry bucket of frustration soup over my head, but a place. As soon as I start to feel like a yell coming on I am going to say to myself, "There's a different place right next to this one."

Then I'm going to stand up a little more consciously, and feel my feet on the place I'm standing a little more clearly. Next, I'm going to take a slow, deep breath and step sideways, very deliberately.

That's my plan. I may need to make a few signs to put on the wall.

Be Sure
Brain is Engaged
Putting Mouth
in Gear.

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