I learned one thing posting a single gratitude message to social media everyday.
There’s always something for which to be grateful. Period.
I learned one thing posting a single gratitude message to social media everyday.
“Why did you come?” That’s what Dwight asked me as we drove down I-10E, away from his brother’s home.
I came because I should be able to visit family without there being a problem.
I came because it’s what I do. If I’m in your city or state for business, then I let you know so that we can see one another, even if the other person wouldn’t do the same.
I came because I finally realized that it’s not anyone’s job to like, love, or validate me, so how they feel about me (positive or negative) doesn’t matter.
I came because, despite what people may think, I actually do like family.
Those are the answers I gave. But there is one more. I came because I believe part of my purpose is to work out relationships and their challenges. That’s why I write about them so much. Visiting my brother and sister-in-law was one more opportunity to work through how to be in relationship with them.
To be clear, the visit was pleasant. In fact, I had great conversations with my nieces and nephews; we even laughed and played on their trampoline.
Even though it was great, a few concepts were reinforced about interacting with family.
Compromise is required sometimes. My brother and sister-in-law are Christians. We visited on the weekend; therefore, SIL announced that the six of them would be attending church Sunday morning and we were welcomed to attend. The alternative? “You’ll just be here in an empty house if you don’t come,” she said.
Neither Dwight, nor I believe or participate in organized religion. I haven’t attended a church service in countless years. But from 11a until 1p, we listened to praise and worship songs and a lengthy sermon on the Samaritan woman (John 4).
We could’ve stayed at their home. But we didn’t for one reason. We hadn’t seen them in seven years. We came to spend time with them, and if they’d planned on being at church while we were there, then that’s where we would be too.
Differences make connecting difficult. The more I conversed with my SIL, the clearer our differences became. She likes rural communities; I like major cities. She’s introverted; I’m extroverted. She likes the cold and snow; I live for the warmth of the sun. She has a very quiet voice; I speak from my chest (a colleague once told me). She prefers tea; I love a full-bodied coffee. She’s conservative; I’m liberal. I could probably continue but I’m sure you get the point.
There’s nothing wrong with being different; however, it does make establishing a relationship a bit harder because there rarely seem to be common liftoff points. For example, although it was nice of her to buy coffee for me to have prior to church, it was instant. She didn’t realize this might be an egregious act to a coffee drinker. But because I was in a space of compromise, I drank it with gratitude. This brings me to the last lesson.
It’s okay not to be close with family members. It really is. Sometimes family is just family. Sometimes they are just the people to whom you are related. Sometimes family are just the people who married into your space, or you into theirs. For a long time, I thought otherwise. I believed family should be the people with whom you connect with the most. This isn’t always true, and I was reminded once again last week.
Close relationships require shared activities that allow for bonding. There are families who bond over vacations. Some families bond over holiday drinks. Other families bond over sports. I’m not sure our differences will allow for many bonding experiences. And without those, I’m not sure how the relationship can be closer.
While my visit was enjoyable, it was clear that we will more than likely remain as simply family. And that’s okay.
So, that’s the update. Let me know what you think about either of these points. Also, it’s the holiday season! Will you be spending time with family you aren’t particularly close to? If so, how will you manage?
A week or so ago, I revealed that there was some anxiety surrounding my upcoming visit with my brother and sister-in-law. For months, and all the way up to the moment we drove to their home, there were three specific things I did to prepare.
#1: Let go of all grievances! Like many people who have had challenging relationships, I had a list. The list was mainly comprised of interactions with my brother-in-law. They spanned from 1993, when Dwight and I first met through 2015. Everyday leading to the visit, I thought of each act where I felt mistreated. I actually saw the sentence in my mind on a piece of paper, until there was a list. Next, I crumpled up the list and threw it in a fire (in my mind). Because I believe that we’re all energy, I knew that I couldn’t possibly go into their space with a twenty-five-year-old list of everything I was angry about. I couldn’t bring that negative energy with me because it would be disruptive and it would cloud how I engaged. I’d be speaking and functioning from a space of hurt, pain, and suffering, instead of love, which was my ultimate intention.
#2: Love them the way I would anyone else! Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that if I like, love, or care about someone, then I interact differently. For example, if I care about you, then I look you in your eyes, ask you about your well-being, and fully participate in conversation. If I don’t, then one of those actions is missing. For this trip, I knew it was my sister-in-law’s birthday, so I decided to act as I would if I was visiting a friend and it was his or her birthday. Dwight had already planned to buy a bottle of wine, but I also suggested bringing enough gourmet cupcakes for her and her family of six. We’d also chosen a beautiful card to accompany her gifts.
#3: Visualize positive interactions! Law of attraction and creative visualization have undergirded the last two decades of my life. If you’re not familiar, at the base of these teachings is the idea that emotion and images create the life you want or the life you have. As I mentioned before, I intended to bring love to the situation; accessing that emotion was no problem; however, visualizing it in their space was challenging sometimes. I imagined myself ringing their doorbell and both of them opening the door. I created an image and a dialogue where I was very excited to see them.
I’d planned to say, “Heeey Happy Birthday!”
She would then say, “Thank you so much.”
Then, I would hand her the box of cupcakes and she would be very appreciative.
I’m sure there’s some scientific name for this, but visualizing positive interactions was hard to do because my brain kept reminding me of the old story. It goes like this: even if they knew it was my birthday, they would probably never bring me a gift. Then, my brain reminded me of something on the list: one year my brother-in-law convinced his father that my birthday was two days later, which was hurtful. When that happened, I reverted back to strategy number one, removed the act from the list again, and continued visualizing. I imagined holding an in-depth conversation with my oldest nephew, and even though I didn’t really know my younger nieces and nephew, I saw us laughing and playing games.
These three things worked for me, and as promised, I will update you on the actual visit tomorrow.
Written for Debbie’s blog and #ForgivingFridays.
I was going to tell you the greatest thing about my brother and sister-in-law, until I realized…I don’t know. The truth is I cannot.
That’s what happens when you don’t take the time to get to know someone. That’s also what occurs when you’ve allowed what you perceive to be a person’s flaws to dominate your interactions.
I have to admit that’s happened here.
Between 1993-1996, I was so busy trying to get my brother-in-law to see that I was a ‘good’ person and worthy to be his brother’s wife, that I didn’t just stop and communicate in an authentic way, a way where I’m listening to and understanding him and his point of view. I was in a space of proving.
Once I realized attempts at demonstrating my worth were futile, I entered another mode. Today, you’d call it IDGAF. Twenty years ago, I suppose I just distanced and detached myself from the entire situation. By 1999, he had a wife. But I didn’t give a f*ck. And I certainly wasn’t going to treat her better than I’d been treated.
Over the years, I fluctuated between proving myself and not caring at all. I’d show interest by purchasing Christmas gifts for their one, two, and eventually four children. After all, Dwight and I are their aunt and uncle. The strain in my brother-in-law’s voice when he’d say, thank you, sounded like a child’s forced greeting. So, I returned to a lack of care. Who cares? This isn’t going to change anyway, I convinced myself.
I was right. Partially.
In 2015, my sister-in-law and I agreed to read books together. We both enjoy reading, so it seemed a great way to bond. It wasn’t. We don’t even like the same genre. Her answers to our first book, A Terry McMillan one I chose, were terse. My answers to her selection, The Book of Negroes, were filled with insecurity and arrogance. I didn’t want to sound like a university professor analyzing a book, and I also loathe historical fiction. Turns out we didn’t need to read together.
Later that year when my father died, I took score. Who called? Who didn’t call? Who sent something? Who didn’t? In essence, who seemed as if they cared? Aside from a sorry to hear that via Facebook, neither reached out. That was the proverbial straw. I mailed a letter telling them as such. I also let them know it was okay. It was clear they didn’t like me. And it was okay.
As of today, there are three years of unspoken words between us. However, I’ll be in their hometown in less than a week and plan to visit with my husband. Similar to times past, I’m in a different space. I understand we’re all human beings, with histories that shape how we interact or don’t interact with others. I care about what this visit will yield, but not because I’m trying to prove myself to anyone. I stopped that behavior a couple years ago. There’s little reason and like this relationship showed, it doesn’t work anyway.
In my new space, I’ll be fully present. I’ll engage in conversation without wanting to show my worth or to denigrate theirs. I’ll attempt to get to know both of them. Maybe this time next year I can feature them for the Greatest Thing About category, or maybe I will have finally learned what people mean when they say, “it is what it is.”
We should ask nothing of others that we don’t ask of ourselves” – kelley from Black Burgundy.
I read this quote on kelley’s blog a month or so ago. It resonated so deeply with me that I typed it into my notes and vowed to write about it one day.
We should ask nothing of others that we don’t ask of ourselves. But we do it often. My father did this when he discovered he had Stage 4 throat cancer. He wanted me to demonstrate a self-less, compassionate, and giving love towards him, when many times he had not shown the same towards others, especially me. How could he expect me to do something that he had never done, and because he was dying, would never do? It baffled me for the first two years, until I made a choice and decided who he chose to be didn’t matter. All that mattered is who I chose to be because I had to sit with my own character.
We should ask nothing of others that we don’t ask of ourselves reminds me of a Jill Scott interlude. It’s called Willing. In it, Scott describes a relationship that all too many women may be used to. It’s a relationship where the man wants his mate to exhibit certain characteristics: “flawless,” “patient,” “willing,” “honest,” and “loyal,” just to name a few. Have you seen this type of romantic relationship? One person expects these qualities, but doesn’t offer it themselves. In fact, consciously or unconsciously, they may be the opposite: flawed, impatient, stubborn, dishonest, and disloyal, yet they desire something else.
We should ask nothing of others that we don’t ask of ourselves seems like commonsensical advice for all relationships, but I suppose it’s not. I have a great aunt, who is 96 years old. All of my life she’s never called me. In fact, she relies on her sister, my Grannie, to call, keep up with, and pass on information about my life’s happenings and me. However, in her later years, she’s become a widow, lost her eyesight to macular degeneration, and lost her mobility to old age. As she sits in her tiny apartment, this way of keeping up with me has stopped working for her. Her solution?
“Call me once a month,” she says.
Notice, she didn’t say, “I’ll call you once a month.” Instead, she wants me to do something that even she doesn’t plan to begin doing.
People are funny. And because of that, relationships and how we relate to one another and tend to one another’s needs (or not) are also laughable.
I’d advise that we stop this behavior and begin anew. Give to others what you desire. If you want love, then give love. If you want compassion, then be compassionate. If you want honesty, then tell the truth as much as possible. In this way, you’ll always have what you want because it will begin with you. And if you don’t have it to give, then it might be time to dig deep to figure out why.
Let me know what you think, and if you want to check out the Jill Scott interlude, here it is. It’s a little over a minute.
Being adopted has shaped the way I view who is family and who is not. When I found out I was adopted over thirty years ago, I saw the people around me in a different light. I saw them as strangers, yet I still accepted them as family because they had taught me to do so. I instantly realized that any combination of people could make a family.
In this way, I accepted my mother and father as my family unit. These were the people who’d decided to raise me from infancy as their own. They loved me, and I them. But when my mother died and my father gave up his parental rights, I began to question the definition. Was my adopted father not my father anymore simply because the Court said he wasn’t? I mean the Court deemed him my father in 1974, and so he was. Was he not in 1990 because they said he wasn’t? He was the only father I’d known. Could the Court demolish sixteen years of relationship?
At the age of seventeen, I was briefly orphaned, until my adopted grandmother assumed responsibility. She became my legal guardian. I never called her mother or mom because I’d already had two of those. Plus, she was simply my Grannie as she’d been before. She was family, not only because she was my mother’s mother, but also because she’d provided love and comfort throughout my entire life, and at a time when I’d most needed it. She’s been the most consistent relationship I’ve had.
As I grew older and had children of my own, curiosity about my own background grew. By the age of thirty-two, with a lot of hassle from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, I found my birth mother’s family. My biological mother had committed suicide five years after I was born. Few family members were easily contacted. One of her older sisters, Aunt Catherine, was found and I immediately felt connected.
Our shared name was odd. But what was stranger was the point of her nose and the idea that her face looked like mine. It’s a luxury adopted children don’t have. In fact, people who didn’t know me asked her daughter who I was, making sure she knew that I looked exactly like her mother. Aunt Catherine and I held long phone conversations and that lady, although I didn’t know her fully, felt like family.
My sister, the woman whom my mother had birthed five years prior to me, did not. She was cold and distant and didn’t seem interested in establishing or maintaining a sisterhood. Today, we’re friends on social media, but similar to former grammar school classmates, that’s the extent of our relationship. Our genes are stronger than our connection, yet we are family.
Fast forward thirteen years later, and I’ve found my biological father by accident via DNA website. When I looked at this man’s face, I knew he was my father. The parts of my face that Aunt Catherine and I didn’t share, were seen in him. Our eyes. Our smile. Our demeanor. He is my biological father and we are family.
After our first conversation, I learned that I have another sister. We are the same age. We look like twins. Pictures reveal the same wide puppy dog eyes as youth and the same curvature of our backs in our twenty-something wedding pictures. We are family because genetics says so; however, we’ve found that we are also family because we relate similarly. Conversing with her is like talking to myself. And once again, I’m left wondering, what is family? This newfound sister certainly is. It’s like I’ve found part of me I didn’t know I needed. Our immediate love for one another is evident.
I share all of this to say that family is whomever you make it. Being adopted has taught me that family is but another societal construct, but relationship is something altogether different. Like other relationships, familial ones can be maintained simply because two people want them to be. I’ve also come to believe that being born or adopted into a family is but one component of actually being family. For me, relationship, caring, and commitment are true connectors, and consequently what makes a family.
That’s my final answer. What’s yours?
Everyone who personally knows me knows that when I’m referring to my Grannie, it’s my mother’s mother. When my other grandmother was alive, Grandma Emma, I either referred to her by name, or as “my other grandmother.” Grannie has always been Grannie.
One of the best things about our relationship is that I had her all to myself for twenty-three years. This was for two reasons. One, my aunt and mother were at least a decade apart. Secondly, my aunt delayed having children until she was in her 30s, thus giving me a Grannie advantage, so to speak, and also making me the only person to call her Grannie. Even though my cousins and I share a grandmother, because they’re in the same generation as my children, for whom she is their great-grandmother, they all call her Gi-Gi.
But I digress.
The best thing about my Grannie is that she always has some wonderful piece of advice, in the form of a saying that just seems to roll off her tongue.
Her most recent one is “The only reason you’re not president is because Obama is.” See how poignant that is? I always took that to mean that you can do whatever you want to do. It shows a positive characteristic that she possesses. For the most part, anything you tell her you want to do, she’ll encourage you and even monetarily support you in achieving that dream.
Another piece of advice that I was raised hearing is “If you make your bed hard, then get out the bed.” I always thought this was clever because it’s a twist on an older adage if you make your bed hard, then lie in it. “Oh no,” my Grannie will tell you to this day. “If your bed is hard, then go find a new bed; change the bed.” I absolutely love this saying because it’s so true. A lot of times we think we have to remain in a situation because we created the situation. But even the law of attraction and all types of new age thinking will advise you to create a new thought and manifest a new reality.
The last piece of advice she gave me was as an adult. I remember explaining to her an email I’d sent to my doctoral chair. Having little knowledge about email, she stopped me mid-story and said, “You’re giving this lady too much information. She doesn’t need to know that you have to drop the kids off and pick them up at five. All she needs to know is you can’t make the meeting.” From that day on, I rarely give excuses for why I can’t do something at work. She was right. All people need to know is the crux of the information. A lot of times we want people to know that we’re hard workers, who would never be derelict in our duties. We think we need “good excuses” to not meet job expectations. Nope. We don’t. So pare down those emails and know that everything will be okay.
Tomorrow will be Grannie’s 92nd birthday. I’m sure when I speak with her, she’ll have more quotables for me.
Do you have any favorite sayings that get you through situations? Feel free to share. My blog is called Kwoted after all 😉
Happily shared for #ForgivingFridays and Debbie’s blog.
I have 400 notes. That’s 179 more than when I first began this category, which I started as a way to delete the notes. But what’s happened is because I have the category, I keep more notes. You know…just in case I want to write about something. But as I look through them, they’re not all writing ideas. So, I’m purging.
A few of my notes are simply passwords. I’ve written about this before, but it ends today! There is no reason for me to keep password upon password both on my phone and written down somewhere. Although, keeping the password to get into my work office is handy. Maybe I’ll just keep that one.
Now, I’m down to 377.
There are fourteen notes specifically about my job dissatisfaction. The reason why has become increasingly clearer to me over the past few years. I’m overqualified and that has led to a general sense that I should be doing something else with my gifts and talents. And anyone with a job knows that it’s challenging to write about one’s employer without the fear of losing said job. While these fourteen notes have been helpful in shaping my understanding of the dilemma, they are now taking up digital space, especially if I’m not going to publicly share.
Six of my notes are action steps centered on The Unhappy Wife, a book I published two years ago. I’m not quite sure why I’ve hung on to these lists if the goals are accomplished. Similarly, seven are about how to sell Daddy: Reflections of Father-Daughter Relationships. These aren’t fleshed out marketing plans, but rather, thoughts that I might’ve used to do a soft sell, like this:
If you want closure, then go see a therapist. If you want understanding and empathy, then read this book.
I’m pretty sure I never used it because it sounded a bit harsh. Either way, I’m down to 350.
There are ten notes specifically with the word “self” in the title. These are ideas I really intended to flesh out, like 3 ways to Be Self-aware, Re-defined: On Being Selfish, One-minute Self-worth Ideas. Because I’ve already devoted February 2018 to self-love, and with the help of others successfully shared varied ideas on the topic, I’m going to consider this mission complete.
There are a fair amount of notes that are just people’s names, so I remember next time I see them, which seems borderline redonkulous because I don’t think I’m going to search my phone when we cross paths. Another part includes random places, like meeting rooms and events people have invited me to.
Deleted. Now, I’m down to 326.
For the most part, what remains are actual topics I’d planned on writing about, but as I re-read them, I’m just not. Instead, I’ll share a brief list of blog/social-media starters:
Welp, I’m down to 316 notes.
You know I’m happy to talk about any of these ideas. Let me know what you’re thinking. Until then, I’ll be working on a new Monday Note.
When someone asks you how you’re doing, what do you say? Do you give the traditional “I’m fine”? If so, why is that?
A friend once posted to social media that no one really wants to know how you’re doing when they ask. So, just say, “I’m good” and keep it moving.
I agree. But I’m done interacting in that way. Here’s why. I’ve spent a large part of my life pretending that everything was okay when it wasn’t. I’ve also learned the hard way that repressing emotions and going about life in a “business as usual” fashion is no healthier than eating junk food everyday. Ill feelings stay with you until you release them.
Now, if you ask me how I’m doing or how something is going, you will get the truth.
If I really am good, then I’ll let you know. But if I’m not? I still let you know.
For example, When people ask, how are the girls, which is a common question, I pause because they’re no longer one unit called, “the girls.” Quite honestly, they never were. But being in their late teenage years makes it more evident.
So, I pause. I provide detail. Kesi is doing this, that, and a third. Desi is doing X, Y, and Z. Sometimes it’s unicorns and rainbows. Other times, I wish either of them were making different choices and headed down a path of clarity.
Either way, if you ask, then you’ll get a real answer.
I’ve learned to answer people truthfully about every aspect of my life because there are enough of us covering up sadness and anger with fake smiles and high-pitched laughs. I don’t want to be another one.
For me, reality is what’s up.
But what I’ve found is that people can’t quite take the real answer. Uncomfortable squirms and bug eyes show me that they, like my friend, would rather hear the traditional “fine.”
Quickly changing the subject when I explain how either of my daughters is really doing signals they’d like to discuss something more chipper, like the weather. But only if the sun has shone brightly for several days in a row. If not, then a conversation about when it might return is in order, because like real discussions about our lives, people also don’t like crappy weather.
So, tell me. How are you…really? And how do you typically answer this question?