Monday, August 13, 2012

Civility Week 33, August 13, 2012

Respecting others’ opinions doesn’t mean being untrue to our own.” ~ P.M. Forni
   It was another ouch lesson this week in the civility field experiment. Ouch in that, just when you think you are learning something, or that just because you are with family you think you are safe… think again.

   My family, my siblings and I that is, have always been a tight knit clan. We back each other up, stand behind one another, never, ever, ever say an unkind word about each other to anybody outside of family.

   With that said, sometimes all that backing up can backfire on you.

   Along with being raised with “If you can’t say anything nice, you should not say anything at all” also came the unspoken rule, “You must never ever say anything negative or bad about another family member.”

   No matter how frustrated we were with one another, you didn’t speak it.

   While this is a good way to teach your kids not to tattle on each other, or get each other unnecessarily upset, it could backfire into sullen moods, going off alone to lick your wounds or just being depressed.

   My siblings and I planned a family celebration together. It was going to be great to all get together again and it was. The problem is, at the stage of life we’re all in, we’re all stressed to the max with things going on in our own little worlds and so by the time we staged this family surprise, each of us was totally wrecked, tired, stressed and worn out.  So tempers don’t flare in my family, they just smolder and that’s not a good thing. By the end of the evening everyone thought everyone else was mad at them and everyone went home not feeling so good. And that is an understatement.

   Why did this happen? Sometimes we mistake civility for keeping our mouths shut. But civility doesn’t mean you don’t ever say anything negative, but you must say it with love.  My family loves each other immensely, but sometimes that love doesn’t allow us to help each other out of a funk or negative thought because “we afraid to say the wrong thing.”  But keeping quiet just perpetuates the wrong thinking.

   While I don’t want to encourage people to yell at each other, (it’s just as disturbing to do this in your home as it is in traffic) we need to be able to be up front and say, “So what did you mean when you said this?”

   It tells me that this whole civility project is a lot bigger than I thought. It’s tons more than just being nice, or smiling or letting someone get in front of you at the store. It’s hard.

   It’s hard because there is no easy answer. There is no easy way to confront someone who thinks differently than you. And you know what? It’s even harder to talk to someone who DOES think like you, especially when both of you are stressed beyond all imaginings.

    I honestly was ready to give up on my civility project before I even began this week because I thought if I can’t even have an evening with my siblings without someone thinking the wrong thing I must really not be the person I thought I was.

   Our communication had broken down. Because we only get together a couple times a year, because we are all still dealing with the death of my dad and trying to help our mom get through that, we could not sit down together and have a good time. It just wasn’t happening.

   Our lack of communication for weeks at a time, because we are all busy with our own families and jobs, etc. added to the stress of not being able to say the right thing at the right time.  We came with expectations that everything was just as it used to be and nothing could be further from the truth.

   Those of you who have lost a family member and try to pick the pieces back up with the rest of the family already know this. My family did not. And it hurts to find out we didn’t have the communication skills to deal with this, even as close as we are as a family.

   So, while we try to pick up pieces and now mend our hearts and spirits, we are all back at our homes, dealing with the stress of normal lives and having to figure out how to deal with the stress that we all encountered this past weekend being together for what was supposed to be an awesome time.

   Just because you love people, doesn’t make it easy. I learned that lesson the hard way. Just because you are a grown up, doesn’t mean it’s easy to communicate with each other.  Learning a “new normal” is not easy.

   Many of you already know this. And now my family does too. I hope and pray we can get through these trying times and look back seeing how love did keep us together because I truly want to plan future parties, parties where we all come with a different thought in mind. Love, love, love, we have different ideas on some things…but we can voice those things. And maybe, sometimes, we just shouldn’t. Maybe we just need to play games and laugh and exhaust ourselves with something other than talking… so we don’t land up not talking.

Anyone for flag football?

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