Monday, January 30, 2012

Its good to phone a friend

One day, when I was doing another stress-filled school run, I turned out into the road and saw, to my horror, a scene of devastation. 

Before he had caught the early train that morning, my husband had decided to be helpful and put the rubbish bin out. It was recycling collection day so the right bin was out but with two glaring errors. He thought they also collected bottles (they'd stopped that service the year before) so the evidence of our weekly wine consumption was laid out for all to see, plus he had put polystyrene (non-recyclable material) into the already full bin.  Not only were the bottles lowering the tone of the neighbourhood, the wind had blown the lid open and polystyrene was scattered around our rather genteel and pristine street.

Now I was caught in a dilemma. If I stopped to pick up the litter and bottles the delay would mean I would get caught up in traffic and we'd all be late for school and work. If I drove away I would be guilty of the biggest crime of all - a litterbug - not to mention that the neighbours would see how drunken and irresponsible we were. The stress levels were now dangerously high. All the blame, resentment, 'might as well be a single parent for all the help I get' thoughts were whizzing through my head. I was only aware of how dangerous my mood was because the children had become very quiet.

As I drove I silently fumed, desperately trying to make sense of the way this man thought. His complete lack of knowledge of day to day family life made me feel isolated, resentful and downright furious. His lack of awareness of the consequences for this lack of knowledge just deepened my feelings of resentment.

But.... I had started a personal development programme and one of the most important principles I was learning was to change my attitude to the events that life presented. Even though I knew intellectually that I could chose another way of seeing this, I was so furious I couldn't find a way of breaking my old habits and thoughts. Then I remembered my friend, she radiated peace and wisdom. I knew she could help me.

After dropping the children off I called her.  "Please help me to see this differently." I begged, "I'm raging, I know there is supposed to be another way but I am so angry I just can’t find it.”
“That is so cute”, she laughed when I described the scene. 
 “He is so adorable and so are you.” 
 Yeah, yeah. 
 “You are perfect for each other.” 
 And that was it, that was all she said. 
Thanks, Yoda.

I admit it took me a while to understand. But the fact that she regarded his behaviour as ‘cute’ stopped me in my tracks and helped me see that he hadn’t done anything out of malice or stupidity (even though I was thinking that). He was actually doing his best to help and support me. Infact, he had taken the bin out before he had caught his 7am train! Okay, he was pretty clueless about how daily life ran, but I didn’t need to bomb him with weapons of mass resentment I had stored up. Maybe, If I took time to talk things through with him, a simple chat could create an outcome where we would both benefit; he would feel appreciated and I would feel supported.

We did have the chat. I put up a chart by the back door so everyone understood the mysteries of bin days. But more importantly, I learnt a few things that day that really helped me. I realized that when I stop blaming and finding fault, when I can find someone’s behaviour ‘cute’ (to see their innocence), there is a much greater chance of resolving misunderstandings successfully.

Also, when its really hard to get out of your old patterns of thinking,  phone an honest friend and ask for help!  

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