KNOWING WHAT WE NEED #4
We learn from the cradle to be considerate of others. To be compassionate. Sympathetic. To care about things beyond ourselves and not be self-absorbed, selfish. We’re taught to be modest and humble and meek. Not to boast or brag, not to act superior to others and to be tolerant of our differences and respectful toward others and their belongings--and that includes their dreams and goals and desires.
Some of us learned these character traits and social skills from parents and/or other authority figures when we were young and thinking in this way comes natural.
Some of us had parents/authority figures that were clueless and that condemned us to learning these traits and skills via the school of hard knocks and attrition. Treat others shabbily or without respect for them and their aspirations and they exit your presence as speedily as their feet can carry them.
A few of us are hardheaded and insist on being self-absorbed and self-centered and usually end up lonely or trapped in a life full of strife that is of their own making.
But by the time we become adults, most of us have become apt students of these character traits and social skills. Some of course are better at it than others. To gauge, ask yourself what your peace ratio is. If there’s little peace in your life and little contentment in your work, you’ve likely spent too little time looking outward and too little time looking inward attuned to becoming a more balanced human being. If that’s the case, ask yourself what you can do to make someone else’s world a little better. That will always lift you up. Then ask yourself what peace means to you and that will give you the key to create it in your life.
As adults, most of us have matured and found a balance that serves us well during the course of our lives. And yet, if only at times, we find ourselves exhausted, mentally or physically or emotionally, and creating anything worthy of our time--again, your time is your life and not to be squandered--is almost impossible.
Why do we do that to ourselves? I say to ourselves because even if an outside influence is the instigator, we choose to allow it, and that means ultimately it is our responsibility.
In part, the reason goes back to the root of the teachings. If we want respect, we must earn it. If we want less conflict in our relationships, we have to work at better, gentler communications. We have to tamp our temper, bite our tongue and not consider confrontation essential to conflict resolution.
Think back to your last conflict with your spouse or someone who matters. Do you even remember what it was about? At the time, did you just have to beat a point to death to make sure you were heard and prove you were right? In five years, will being right matter? In this conflict, who won? Did it change something significant? Was it worth the energy expended in it?
I’m not advocating playing ostrich. I am advocating to blow off the little things, because odds are that was the nature of the conflict. Something is said. It irritates. And one or the other snaps off a heated response and the battle is in full swing. An hour later, often neither can say exactly what started it--they just kind of fell into it. It’s those conflicts that we need to develop patience and insight to ignore. Choose your battles carefully. Fight only the ones worth fighting.
In the work, the same principle applies. Say you got back the copy edits from hell. You could rant and/or rave. But you’re still going to have to go through the edits and make sure the copy is as you want it. So why not skip the energy waste and just do that. STET what you feel should be. Justify the major points. But if you approach those edits from the perspective of keeping every single word exactly as you had it, then you’re looking at them from a skewed perspective that well might have your ego/temper STETing an error the copyeditor caught that could save you embarrassment or have a book with an unnecessary flaw.
Fight the fights worth fighting, but you don’t have to fully engage in every potential battle. Life is often like a minefield because everyone has issues and emotions. Do you really want to step on every single mine? Won’t save a lot of time for anything else. Choose not to engage, unless it really matters to you.
My point in all of the above was to say that we become apt students and embrace these character traits and social skills to others, and that’s good. But far, far too often, we don’t extend them to ourselves. And that is not good.
Nurture your dreams, goals and desires. Give to yourself that which you would give someone else. Just an equal share. That doesn’t make you self-indulgent or self-serving. It means that your respect yourself and your dreams, goals and desires--your creations.
This fills your personal well. And it is only when your personal well is filled that you have the resources needed and necessary to reach out to others. Without resentment, without remorse, without regret, and without worry that you’ll give and suffer not having enough yourself.
Remember the need for a positive environment and all the reasons it is important and make the connection that without nurturing you don’t have the emotional resources, and therefore the emotional stability, to think with clarity. To create to your potential.
We’re human. And when we’re lacking, we suffer the effects of the lack. Those that are evident and those that aren’t apparent to the naked eye. Think of it in terms of an infant and milk. If a baby doesn’t get sufficient milk, s/he is underweight, hungry, cranky and catches every single thing that comes along. Those things are pretty evident. But the hidden effects are equal, just not visible--yet. Among the challenges are weak teeth and bones. Those might not become evident for a while, but they will become evident.
Well, the same is true for us. If we don’t get sufficient milk (nurturing) our emotional and spiritual aspects are impacted and those impact our physical aspect. We all pay the piper.
We’re human and impacted in another regard as well. When something is grating at us, it is that we dwell on. That which gets our attention, and often in a negative way. Often in a seek-someone--anyone but us--to blame way.
We tell ourselves, “When am I supposed to exercise? If my husband would take care of the baby for an hour in the morning, I’d walk. But he can’t or won’t. It’s his fault I don’t exercise. I can’t do it.”
Now if our desire to exercise were strong, we’d buy or borrow a Baby Bjorn or fashion a sling or grab a stroller and walk with the baby. We’d find a way--if we wanted to walk badly enough.
The same holds true in our writing. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve been told, “I’m going to write a book when I have time,” or “I would love to write, but I don’t have time. I work full-time.”
Many, many writers work full-time. Many are parents of small children. Many are the head in a single parent household. Many don’t own a computer so they type on a typewriter--or write in longhand and at intervals go to the public library to type what they’ve written.
If you want to write, you will. It’s that simple, and that complex. To increase your odds for doing what you want, do what you can to create the right, positive environment to attract what you want to you: nurture others, but also nurture yourself. Your potential and goals, dreams and desires are depending on it--and you need it.
Now what if your pursuit to attain these things we’re discussing generates conflict in your relationships. It certainly can because others are accustomed to you doing the bending, the giving, the fllexing required to make things happen. If you change, and things become more balanced for you, then whomever is slacking is going to have to step up. They’re not going to like it.
But that isn’t your problem. You can’t control their actions or their responses. You can’t control their words or their tempers. You can and must control your own. Calmly state your rationale and then do what you must do. Listen to feedback--ears and mind open--and if you can compromise (remember, choose your battles) then do so. But don’t forfeit because if you do, resentment is going to rub you raw and keep you raw and then everyone gets to be miserable.
The best you can do is to be honest, straightforward and clear that this specifically is something you need. Need. And then hang tough during the transition until you too are getting what you need. Change isn’t easy or painless, but it is necessary and when all settle in, then you too are more content. And when you are, then you’re a bigger blessing to yourself and to those around you. So in the end, it’s a win/win situation, and we all know those are the best kind.
And that brings us to forgiving ourselves. Sounds easy but execution can be darned difficult. We’ll discuss that next time, in Part 12 of MISTAKES WE MAKE.
©2007. Vicki Hinze