Looking at life through orange colored glasses…

Archive for the tag “thoughts”

We have the right to remain silent

I have just returned from a week away in the beautiful mountains of Colorado where I was participating in a spiritual leadership training program.  Part leadership development, part meditation practice, along with a healthy dose of reconnecting with nature, the program asked each of us to explore the question, how can I be of best service to my family, my community, and the organizations in which I work during the difficult times we are currently facing as a nation?

There is a lot to unpack from this experience and I suspect I will be doing so for a while. My initial thoughts, however, come from the way we started each day while in training– in silence.  Each morning, from the time we woke up (for me that was about 6:00 a.m.), through our morning meditation, breakfast in the dining hall, until our first learning session at 9:00, we were asked to remain silent.

This was new for me- spending the first three hours of each day in silence even as I was at times surrounded by people.  And it has gotten me thinking about our need as a society to fill every moment of the day with activity, noise, distraction, and chatter.  A friend of mine pointed out recently that she can’t even fill her car’s gas tank anymore without a screen babbling to her in the form of advertisements, celebrity gossip, and “important” news of the day. From early in the morning until we collapse into bed at night, exhausted, we run ourselves and our children ragged racing from one activity to another- work, school, the gym, sports practices, tutoring, volunteer obligations and more-all while listening to podcasts, audio books or music while driving; receiving and responding to texts and emails throughout the day; updating multiple social media accounts with our whereabouts and pictures of our specialty ‘Frappacino’ and lamenting to friends and family that we would love to be spending more time with them if only we weren’t so busy.

Why do we choose this constant state of busy? And can we be clear that it is a conscious choice? As I theorize about why we make this choice I can’t help but ask myself these questions: What are we trying to prove by maintaining this constant state of busyness? What do we think we will accomplish? What are we trying to avoid? What is the void we are trying to fill? Are we so afraid to spend quiet time with our own thoughts and feelings?

I can’t answer these questions for anyone else but I can share what I learned by taking a few hours each day to slow down, be still, and be silent.  For me:

  1. Silence creates space for things that are often times squeezed out in the busyness of each day- divine presence; prayer; clear and calm thinking- just to name a few.
  2. Silence leads to noticing.  In these moments of silence I found myself more awake and aware of what was happening around me and inside of me.  I listened more deeply, observed more carefully, was more in tuned to how I was feeling.

You may be thinking- this is all well and good if you have three hours a day to dedicate to silence and stillness.  How am I, this very busy person, supposed to find the time to be silent? We may not have a few hours.  I certainly don’t in my “regular” life. I am suggesting, though, that perhaps we take back a few minutes from our day to sit quietly and see what comes out of it.  What will fill the space that you create with silence? There is only one way to find out.


Pulling A Sadie

(Note: All names have been changed in order to maintain confidentiality.)

My mother in law recently told me a story about a situation that a friend of hers, Millie, has been dealing with for quite some time.  The situation began about ten years ago when Millie attended her 50 year high school reunion and reconnected with a childhood friend named Sadie.  Millie and Sadie had been the best of friends in high school but had lost touch over the years.  They were excited to reconnect at the reunion and although one lived in New York and the other lived in Florida they began to speak regularly by phone.

It did not take long for an unpleasant pattern to develop.  Sadie would call and within a few minutes would shift the conversation to a topic (frequently politics) on which she held a very strong opinion.  Sadie would rant, barely allowing Millie to respond.  When Millie was able to get a word in edgewise, Sadie would immediately tell Millie she was wrong and list all the reasons why.

Eventually, Millie started to dread receiving these phone calls from Sadie.  Feeling badly that a relationship she had once treasured was becoming burdensome, she tried whatever she could think of to change the dynamics of the conversations.  Millie tried changing the subject; she tried telling Sadie that she wished their conversations weren’t so confrontational.  Millie even suggested that perhaps instead of their regular phone calls they should instead begin communicating via email.  Sadie would not be deterred.  Finally, out of desperation, Millie simply stopped answering the phone when Sadie called.  She assumed, that eventually, Sadie would get the hint and stop calling.

That was more than five years ago, and Sadie has not given up.  Sometimes she calls and just hangs up when the answering machine comes on.  Other times she leaves angry messages telling Millie that she is a terrible person.  Sadie even called Millie’s daughter in law to inquire why Millie wasn’t calling her back and expressing outrage that Millie would suggest that they communicate by email since this would require Sadie going to the library to use a public computer.

I am fascinated by Sadie’s behavior.  Clearly, by now, she must know that Millie does not want to talk to her and is not going to answer the phone.  I would imagine that this takes a lot of energy on Sadie’s part.  Not only does she take the time to make these phone calls, she is emotionally invested every time, despite being able to predict what the outcome will be.  To me, this sounds emotionally exhausting.  It begs the question- why can’t Sadie just let it go and stop calling.

The only thing I can come up with is this: as long as Sadie keeps calling and Millie continues to not answer, Sadie can justify being angry at Millie.  She can put herself in the position of being a victim – after all, she is the one being ignored for seemingly no reason.  If Sadie were to give up (or let go) and stop calling, she would no longer be able to comfort herself with the argument that she has been wronged and use it to absolve herself of any of the responsibility she may have had in causing the reasons that Millie did not want to speak to her in the first place.

In my mind, I can picture Sadie going to her weekly Mah Jong game and complaining about Millie- how once again she had called and once again Millie had not answered.  I can picture Sadie’s friends’ tutting about how rude it is that Millie has completely shut Sadie out.

As ridiculous as this behavior seems, I see variations of it all the time and I have coined it “pulling a Sadie.”  Pulling a Sadie is when someone repeatedly puts themselves in a situation that they know will have an upsetting or undesired outcome and yet they continue to put themselves in that situation and let those negative feelings fester. Or, they spend countless hours complaining about how unfair and upsetting it is that they are in that situation.  Perhaps, they continue to put themselves in that situation so they CAN complain about how unfair it is and how they have been wronged.

If I am to be completely honest then I have to admit that I have at some point or another in my life “pulled a Sadie.”  It is easy to get sucked into the drama that a Sadie situation creates and with so many emotions involved it can be difficult to see how we share the blame for that situation.  But as I have gotten older I have realized that sometimes all I can do is recognize a pattern for what it is so I do not fall into the same trap again and then do my best to just walk away.

When my mother in law told me this story, I wondered if Millie could have done more to diffuse the situation.  For example, would it have helped Sadie to get closure if Millie had written Sadie a brief letter explaining why she had decided to end their relationship? I suspect, however, that Sadie would have called repeatedly anyway, being unable to let the situation go.  Ultimately, I don’t think Millie had any other choice.  By repeatedly picking up the phone and conversing with Sadie she was continuously finding herself feeling upset and angry.  Millie walked away because she didn’t want to pull a Sadie.

Maybe it’s time to coin a new phrase- to describe someone who recognizes a negative pattern in their life and decides to break it.  I think we should call it, “pulling a Millie.” The next time you find yourself complaining about the same situation or person for the third, fourth, or tenth time take a step back and look for a pattern in the situation.  Then decide- would you rather be a Sadie or a Millie?

Turns out, you can lead a girl to a 5k and make her run.

My eight year old spends a lot of time looking in the mirror.  She is as girly a girly girl I have ever known (something she doesn’t get from me).  Sarah spent much of her early childhood  pretending to be a princess.  She even once referred to me as her “servant” (once being the key word in that sentence).  Even now, she maintains a second residence in Fairy World.  While Sarah likes to ride her bike, jump on the trampoline, and swim in the neighborhood pool, she doesn’t like any scheduled or structured sport or exercise time.  Sarah has no interest in soccer, softball, basketball, or even swim team.  I tried to convince her that swim team would be fun because she could pretend to be a mermaid while racing at swim meets.  Mermaids, are her second favorite mythical creatures  behind fairies- but mermaids, she tells me, do not race.  They frolic.  Sarah would rather be doing something, anything,  creative.  She has already decided that a career in the arts (preferably the performing arts) is in her future.  If her dramatic tendencies at home are any indication, I’d say she’s well on her way.

But when Sarah started looking in the mirror and asking if I thought she was fat (I don’t and she’s not), I was concerned.  I had heard about Girls in The Run (GOTR), a running group for girls in grades 3-6.  In addition to training the girls for a 5k race, they also use part of their meeting time to talk to the girls about decision making, values, body image, and other relevant topics.  It seemed like just what Sarah needed, but selling it was going to be hard.  When I asked her outright, she said no.  When I started dropping the names of the girls from her Brownie Troop who were going to participate, she still wasn’t interested.  Finally, I resorted to a bribe.  With the promise of a mother/daughter pedicure outing to a “real salon” (told you she was a girly girl), she begrudgingly agreed to complete one season of GOTR.

I know I could have just MADE her do it.  I know plenty of  kids who are signed up for soccer season after season against their will.  But Sarah is already feeling subjected to Hebrew School and she’s in that for the long haul, so I really wanted her to do Girls on the Run on her own volition.  Providing someone with the motivation to complete a task, however, does not mean they will enjoy it.

Humor me through a brief but relevant diversion.  When I was 13 (you know, that magical age that turns normal kids into snarky space aliens) my parents decided that I needed to revisit piano lessons.  I had taken lessons for a couple of years in third and fourth grade, but stopped due to scheduling conflicts.  Fast forward four years and my parents had found a piano teacher who could come to our house after school.  I was no longer interested in piano lessons and told my parents as much but they insisted that if I didn’t resume lessons I would always regret it as an adult.  At that time, I was taking violin lessons, playing in two orchestras, and singing/performing with a show choir.  I understood the value of music in my life, just not piano lessons.

I was determined that piano lessons were not going to work out.  I didn’t practice, hoping that the teacher would find me not worth his time.  When that didn’t work, I took more drastic measures.  I would “accidentally” take the wrong bus home from school, getting me as far across town as possible.  This would leave me a long enough walk home to allow my allotted lesson time to lapse.  When that didn’t work, I would pretend I didn’t hear the doorbell ringing, or once (this was really bad) I had one of my friends answer the door pretending to be a non-English speaking housekeeper (piano lessons, no comprende).  I eventually wore my parents down (or maybe the teacher just refused to come back) and I no longer had to take piano lessons.

Back to the present.  One morning, I reminded Sarah that she had Girls on The Run after school that day.  She responded that she didn’t think she was going to GOTR that day.  I quickly vetoed that option, and silently thanked our school district that they do not allow kids to take a different bus home without parental permission and a transportation pass.  I was also less than shocked when Sarah came home on the bus that afternoon saying she had “forgotten” about practice.  The Orange apparently does not fall far from the tree.  Since there was not time to bring her back up to practice, I took Sarah up to the park and had her run laps around the basketball court followed by an obstacle course around the playground equipment.  It was, by her own admission, a harder workout than she would have faced at GOTR.  She did not “forget” practice anymore after that.

I had really wanted her to love GOTR.  I wanted her to find a passion that would help her lead a healthy lifestyle, and an interest she could share with her dad.  I wanted her to feel the pride of working towards a goal and then achieving it.  Who knows, it could still happen.  I’m not holding my breath.  Sarah did complete the 5k this past weekend, whining and crying for 3.1 miles.  My husband commented to the coaches that he had literally dragged her across the finish line, to which they responded that they had been pulling her around the school track for seven weeks.  Surely, I asked Sarah, there was some positive morsel gleaned from this experience.  “Yes,” she replied “I got to miss Hebrew school this morning.”

Yesterday, I saw a glimmer of hope.  At school, Sarah’s GOTR team got to lead the pledge of allegiance and had a group photo taken wearing their medals.  Of all the girls in the photo, Sarah is wearing the biggest smile.    Plus, since starting GOTR, she has not once looked in the mirror and asked if she looks fat.  Despite all her grumbling, I think she is glad she stuck it out.

P.S.– This morning I walked past our piano and thought maybe it’s not late to take those lessons…

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