My friend wrote this:
My question is, how can family relationships move forward when you are thinking more than you are letting on and you know that others feel the same? Should we just continue on as if there are no elephants? Or is a flat out confrontation in order? I over-lean, probably, toward just keeping silent.
I want to reflect on this. I believe wisdom is in knowing - not in the fixing. There will ALWAYS be undercurrents in human communication because we are all so much deeper than we realize...and life is sometimes too fragile to just blurt out everything inside, if we did know what it all was.
I don't think this is the same thing as 'elephants.' An elephant needs to be pointed at - because it is big and it is already stepping on everyone's toes. I am talking about the more subtle parts of communication. Let me illustrate:
When we were in PEI there were conversations between my son and his mother. (She really IS his mother, not me.) In a very real way, I was not involved in the conversation. But WHAT IF ... what if my presence in the room confuses their relationship. I am, after all, a stranger. And yet SO NOT a stranger. I am more intimate than breath. And what if my son finds himself looking at his mother through what he thinks are my eyes. And what if this makes him feel defensive or scared? And then he acts badly or weirdly with his mother. Then my presence in the room is big. Even though I am sitting in a corner trying not to pay attention. Trying to be small.
Wisdom, it seems to me, has a way to deal with this. I find that if I can acknowledge that things are not always what they seem to be, then I can relax when they seem a bit off kilter. I don't have to judge... I can say ... oh, this is complicated, and give the benefit of the doubt. This is a graced way to experience things.
And I have to keep moving toward differentiation - being who I am even if it is complicated. Just aiming to be a peaceful, modifying, non-anxious presence. Not hiding myself. But not pushing against the pace of grace.
My experience is that in these situations what is important will sort itself out. And kindness goes a long way to sooth the air. And that honesty when it is appropriate can be brief and gentle. And I realize that my hopes (noble as they seem to me) can do violence to others when I make them the most important thing in the room. I can become manipulative, and coercive, and then nothing healthy will happen.
So - what have I learned? To acknowledge the mess. To own that I am part of it, even when I am not actively involved: just being me can be a problem in some situations.
This is why communication is so important. Why we need to learn to listen below the surface to others, to situations, and even to our own selves. When I don't pay attention and know what is in me, all my stuff tends to force itself out and hurt others.
And it is why we need to treat each other with dump truck loads of grace. CSLewis says we have to wake up in the morning and forgive our spouse simply for being who they are. I laugh and believe he is dead on. I need to be forgiven for being who I am sometimes. Not just when I drop eggs, but when I am just being me.
So when I can't understand I can still smile, pour some tea, give some space, join in chopping vegetables, make a joke, kiss a baby, let someone serve me. But not if I am all tied up in what I need to have happen.