“One day in retrospect the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.” -Sigmund Freud
Last week I shared the revelations about how what I have been forcing myself to forget has caught up to me. I decided that I had to start remembering differently; so now, one week in to this new agreement with myself in my marriage, a few things have come clear. The thing is that the remedy is not really a revelation at all. In fact, it is so basic as to almost be an embarrassment to share just how much I had forgotten these basic truths that make a relationship a warm and comfortable place to reside. So although you may likely have heard this before, I realized last weekend just how often we need a reminder of how kindness transforms us and makes love possible.
1. Feeling Everything
If kindness has any chance at reaching others, it must first be seated in our own heart. For me, the best test of this is whether I have the courage to experience everything, and not selectively make myself forget the uncomfortable places and interactions. It is neither kind nor realistic to force ourselves to replace our negative feelings with positive ones, although it seems like a reasonable idea at first glance. As I proved last week, all of my efforts to make myself focus on what was working instead of where I was struggling just set that struggling pot brewing. Not only was I unable to be kind to myself, but the forced suppression of what is real for us, makes it impossible to be open or kind to others. There is a kind of magic that happens when all your feelings are heard. They relax.
- Listening Better
The greatest kindness we can offer to anyone is to listen to them. The problem is that it is easy to get into a kind of complacent listening, where we are either trying to figure out our reply while someone is talking, or we half tune out what someone is saying because we are sure we heard it before, or we aren’t really interested, so we listen but not really. Unwittingly, I have been guilty of all three. And as I opened to truly listening to my husband on our drive out of town last weekend, I learned something about an issue that had long been a source of our isolation. We have always had very different availability and interest in social interaction, but it wasn’t until he shared the story of the five different towns he moved through in his childhood and how as soon as he made some friends, he was gone, that it clicked. Something that I had always considered a deficit in him turns out is actually a profound mark of his resilience. He could always make friends, but life circumstances didn’t allow him to keep them. So he grew to not rely on it. How could I have never understood this as resilience? Because I wasn’t really listening.
- Selective Attention
The whole half full, half empty thing has everything to do with where we focus. Often, without realizing it, I get stuck in the half empty place like I did last weekend when my husband, who is an astronomy buff, declined to go look at the stars in this remarkable observatory where we were staying. Mind you, we did go see the solar viewing during the day, but I couldn’t let go of the fact that we didn’t go back to see the stars. Before long, it turned into an issue where he was defended and I was lost in not being connected. All I can say is that when my focus is on what didn’t happen, every other good thing recedes from view, so even if my reflections are true, they are not kind to our relationship.
- Small Tender Gestures
Along with all the other things that I had trained myself to forget, I had totally lost sight of engaging with the small tender gestures that make you feel held in love. So this last week we have been practicing and I want to say that it is remarkable how a warm hand on your shoulder, a sweet love note left on the table, or an encouraging text in the middle of the day all made me feel like we were together. It is the smallest things that make reflect loving intentions… So remember that.