I experienced something this week that brought me back to my family of origin, if you will. Growing up in an alcoholic/dysfunctional home, I learned certain behaviors that I wasn’t aware I was still exhibiting in my adult life, until now.
For example: If my father confronted my mother about something she did, she would deny it and then turn it around about something she didn’t like in him. They would end up arguing about what he said to her and the problem that was brought up in the beginning was never resolved.
When I confronted my ex-husband (who was not an alcoholic) when he forgot to bring the milk home after he said he would, he would say, “Mrs. Saint, you never forget anything, do you?” I would then defend myself and we didn’t address him not bringing home the milk.
I still get defensive sometimes, especially when I “PERCEIVE” that someone I love is making a judgment about me or they don’t approve of something I‘m doing or not doing. Talk about giving your power away because I know what others think of me is none of my business.
Here is what happened with Larry and I. I love to listen to soft music playing in the background when I am in the house. I feel comforted, relaxed and peaceful.
For the most part, Larry likes quiet. Since we are both living in the same house, I respect his need for quiet and keep the music quite low. I don’t like the sound of the TV playing, but that doesn’t bother him. He loves to eat his lunch in the TV room to unwind and relax. That has not been a problem for us because I like to sit outside on the lanai looking at the ocean.
When he asked me this question, “Do you think you are getting enough”quiet” with the music playing all the time?” I didn’t blink an eye and came at him with a vengeance. I not only REACTED but ATTACKED him and said, “What do you mean by that? What do you think I do when I sit outside every morning? I have plenty of quiet time. I like the music playing in the background because it relaxes me and makes me feel peaceful.”
Instead of not reacting or taking it personally and just listening to his perspective, (which was not right or wrong), when he asked me the question, I turned it around just like the alcoholic turned things around when confronted about a behavior. I said, “I don’t like the TV playing and see you in there for hours at a time. I don’t judge you or complain about that.”
Later that evening, I realized how defensive I was and apologized for my behavior. He accepted it and were both able to let it go. As I thought about it and prayed about it the next morning, I realized that my reaction was so strong not only because I felt judged by him, but because it didn’t appear that he trusted me to know what was good for me That was the bigger issue for me.
I know it shouldn’t make a difference because it was only his perspective and that doesn’t make it right or wrong. Even if I am being judged by another, that doesn’t mean that I have to defend myself or make myself wrong. I can’t tell you how many years I did that to myself
I brought it up to him again because it didn’t feel settled and because communication is so important to the both of us. I said, “Do you think you were being judgmental about me playing the music?” He said, “No, I don’t think it was judgmental, but just an observation.” It is understandable that we both have different needs and perspectives and we are learning to communicate and respect each other in that way.
As we discussed it further, he realized that he sometimes likes the music playing, but not all the time in the house. He wanted me to turn the music off when I was outside or left the house, which I agreed to do. That was very different from, “Do you think you are getting enough “quiet” with the music playing?” Rather than saying what he wanted – to have the music off when I am not in the room, he projected it onto me that I wasn’t getting enough “quiet” time.
I feel like this was an “awakening” for me because I had no idea this behavior that I learned in childhood was still playing out. I want to be open, to listen and not defend myself and take things personally. With God’s grace and my willingness to change, it will happen
Lately I’ve been having trouble discerning what to write about. Usually I have an idea that’s been floating around for a while and the words just start coming. It hasn’t been that way the last couple of weeks. When we decided that I would contribute to Pat’s blog there was an understanding that I would try but I didn’t want to start stressing out if I had nothing to contribute.
Last week I contributed and the week before that I did not. This week my thoughts have been pretty scattered and I felt I had nothing to contribute, so I informed Pat that I wouldn’t be writing. She was fine with that and told me not to worry about it but suggested that I could perhaps share what I was experiencing.
When I decided that I wasn’t going to write the blog, a funny thing happened. My ego started having a ball with this. It started with, “Hey, you have a responsibility to contribute and you are not living up to your responsibility. Pat can’t depend on you. What about the people that look forward to reading your stuff every week? You are letting them down. Is this process too difficult for you? Is there too much soul searching for you? Is it too difficult? Do you just not want to do the work?”
I don’t want this to sound like it’s a “poor me, poor me” because it isn’t but it is very hard work to strip away all the defenses and perhaps knock down some walls and let others see how vulnerable I am. In all honesty, this worlk has to be done week in and week out if someone wants to contribute to a blog like this. In the end it’s worth it because whether anyone reads it or not, I learn a lot about myself, that I didn’t know before.
Pat shared with you her reaction to my comment about having music playing all the time and my inquiry if she had enough quiet in her life. Well, I said it, so I have to do the work to understand why that makes any difference to me. After doing some work on it I realized that what I really wanted to communicate is that from my perspective it is easier to hear the silent voice of God when we have silence. The lesson I learned is “Larry that’s your perspective, keep it to yourself.”
I know you all have had similar experiences in a friendship or relationship, it’s not always easy. If we can learn more each day how important love, compassion, patience and forgiveness is we will have a happier life together.
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