From my archives: 10/18/2008
I had a conversation today with a friend who had been married for 20 years. Over the past year, she has been making a new life for herself and her two teenage sons, now that her husband is gone from their home. She is, on the whole, a joyful person and deeply appreciative of life. This is remarkable to me because she has some handicaps that I’m not sure I would be able to deal with, and she handles them with ease and grace.
We were talking about men. You know … “men”. One of those conversations that I do my very best to avoid. I don’t like those conversations – when I engage in them, I feel like it belittles me as well as the men who are and have been in my life. I don’t want to do that – it feels, to use a technical term, icky.
She mentioned that she couldn’t imagine the hoops that a man would have to jump through in order to “get her” to trust him. I couldn’t imagine that either – but in an entirely different way.
During my conversation with her, I realized that I’ve pretty much let go of the need to hold out hoops for anyone to jump through. Men, sure. But also family, friends, cashiers, professors. I don’t need them to do anything for me in order for me to … be happy … trust … succeed … learn … grow … have a good day … enjoy myself.
And even more interesting, I realized that I don’t hold out hoops for myself anymore. I trust myself. I know that I have my best interests at heart — as well as others in my life. If there is someone I care for – well then, I care for them. And I’ll treat them with courtesy and respect that doesn’t depend on how they treat me. It doesn’t mean I remain in their company if they are unkind or abusive, but I respect their inherent soul.
My current employer is a little moody. She can sometimes lose her temper and speak with great discourtesy because I haven’t done something that she expects. And her expectations can change daily. I’ve realized that when she acts out – I can still treat her courteously because .. that how I want to treat her. I carry no expectations that she’ll return the courtesy – it just feels better to me. Often, she shifts her mood into something kinder and more reasonable pretty quickly. I don’t do it for the outcome, but I do enjoy the shift.
Take a look at your relationship, do you have any secret hoops that others have to jump through? Do you feel trapped by the hoops that others place around you? We lose our temper, we speak unkindly, we have expectations that change depending on the day; they generally can’t be met because our loved ones can’t read our minds and our hearts. When we act out – so do they. When they act out – so do we.
“S/he started it!,” we may think … or say. But, it doesn’t ever have to go past that first little flare of temper. So what if s/he started it.
After enjoying our conversation, sharing hugs, and setting up a time to chat again, I walk home and I think — I may have finally given up hoops. I’m not perfect – I’m the first to admit it. People continue to move in and out of my life that I despise and I do my best. There are often people in my life that I find a certain perverse pleasure in annoying them whenever possible. But, on the whole, I’m moving more closely to Gandhi’s suggestion to “be the change you want to see”.