Be open to surprise
One of the most difficult parts of any relationship is the fantasy we create in our heads of how it should go as compared with how it really is. We have scripts, we have characterizations, we have motivations.
All of these items add up to appreciative words; flowers on the right day; a spontaneously cleaned up space without anyone asking; sharing freely; affection and warmth; cooperation; sincerely listening; not judging; space for our breakdowns; help right at the moment, not because I asked for it…
Then we walk into our days unaware of these well directed scenes at work in our subconscious and measure the people we love by them.
- “She didn’t even notice her mess from last night.”
- “Why are they fighting again?”
- “Isn’t anyone aware that I need help?”
Once these imagined scenarios get a grip, we become easily disillusioned or despondent when we are faced with a scene that does not match our hopes.
But sometimes, if we stay open, if we can hold back from projecting our expectations onto the ones we love, we might find ourselves surprised. The only part we have to play is sharing an honest feeling with our family members:
- “Gosh. I feel discouraged. I can’t rise above the mess to see the good in today.”
- “It pains me when I hear fighting between kids that I love.”
- Via text: “Help! I feel abandoned and unimportant.”
Some days, if we can let it all out on paper or to a friend, we can then stay present to the surprise: an unexpected hug or love text, the clean up of a small area (even if not the whole thing), kids who repair their relationships without intervention from you, even an offer to get you a cup of tea or a glass of juice. Maybe someone will draw you a picture, strewing crayons and bits of paper in its wake but the illustration is priceless goodwill coming your way. The gift will likely not look like what you imagine in your head.
I know what it feels like to spiral, to imagine that everyone has missed your obvious need and pain. See if you can get a hand hold somewhere (give yourself a pep talk—this feeling is temporary, you can take care of yourself, you will find your joy and equilibrium again), express a real feeling (not an expectation or disappointment), and stay open to the possibility of being surprised.
See how that goes…