These aren't -- or weren't -- theoretical questions. I was angrier and more hurt than I would like and had imagined this weekend. I didn't cope particularly well. The silence was paramount and the fear was rampant. The way forward was decidedly unclear. "What to do?" I questioned. "What to think? What to say?"
In the end I forced myself to engage in some small way when I felt like skipping town and never looking back, a strategy many if not most psychologists call emotion transformation. I forced myself to be productive and thereby improve my mood and surroundings when I wanted to give up, cry and lay in bed. And I decided to find a way to laugh, because I wanted to do anything but that.
Each of those things put the needle back in the emotional granade that almost exploded. But they didn't necessarily have a disarming effect. What did was engaging people twice my age in a church class that I'm enrolled in. It was calming, soothing, contemplative. It was anything but reactive. These are the people who know how to stay calm in the midst of of a crisis. They know how to give thanks during turmoil. And they know how to relax, be themselves and stay humble when the wrongs being perpetrated aganst them would make lesser men and women feel self-righteous.
"This is life," one woman said to me. "We have to find a way to be calm and patient with unfortunate developments." And all of this reminded me that I could not see not see the forest for the trees. I tried to that to the woman: "But x, y and z have happened. It's so disappointing for so many reasons." She just shook her head. "That's grief talking. That's the pain coming out. That's not him."
A similar thing happened to me when I taught this week. I told the program leaders that my girls and I were going to have a Come-to-Jesus chat and that I wasn't sure I would be coming back. A year later, they are more boisterous, disrespectful and arrogant. So, when my girls and I sat down to talk about it, it went much worse than I expected. Much worse. And I was at my wit's end.
But something inside me calmed down when the protagonist -- who was screaming loudly at and threatening me while I asked each of them to define respect -- broke into tears. It turns out her anger wasn't offensive; it was defensive. She knew that she had done something to disappoint me, and she thought that if she defended herself I would be convinced. But respect doesn't work like that. You don't get respect because you've been abrasive. So, it exacerbated the problem.
And then, just moments after I realized the circumstances behind it and gave them all a second chance (I'm big on unconditional love and second chances), in came reinforcements. The program leaders entered and were much harder on them than I was. They, therefore, smoothed over the tension and made me look and feel better in the process.
The way forward for each of these situations, though, is very different. It's engagement and trying harder with the girls on the one hand, and realizing that, on the other hand, my relationship requires me to trust, create my own happiness and both give and expect less. I'm to work hard with the girls because that's the only thing that will make it a success; I'm to let organic growth occur and trust in the confines of my relationship. (In effect, it's once again The Serenity Prayer.)
I was doing the opposite in both of these situations. I've learned my lesson.
#131 - Support from the first unexpected place: a church where I went to learn.
#132 - Support from the second unexpected place: educational reinforcements.
#133 - Time with Mr. Wonderful, which turned out to be very, very sweet and romantic.
#134 - Call from Mr. Wonderful while at work (Tues). Hasn't happened since May.
#135 - Call from Mr. Wonderful while at work (today). Tuesday wasn't a coincidence.
#136 - More work completed on my book. Hooray!
#137 - Something fun to do every night this week.
#138 - Someone I love who's far away who told me last night that he missed me. Heartbreaking.
#139 - Long call with my sister-in-law, who I rarely get a chance to catch up with.
#140 - Touching story from a woman in my class on Monday night. She told the group that when she visited our church for the first time, it was Christmas. What she took note of were the horrible looking, misshapen wreaths hanging from the balcony. She thought, "Good Lord, this place doesn't have enough money to buy better looking wreaths?" She stayed anyway. And it took her a year to discover that the wreaths were made during Family Night, where families -- including some very tiny kids, made the decorations. She closed by saying, "Now we have uniform, perfect looking wreaths. And every year I hate it. Every year I petition to let the kids do it."