Tag Archives for " Communication "

Your Sacrifices Are Our Freedoms

To the American Veteran:

Thank you.

Those two words never seem to be adequate. They do not hold enough space for the depth of gratitude I feel in my heart and deeper into my soul.  

Courtesy of Paige Kimball Photography

Courtesy of Paige Kimball Photography

I’ve learned to recognize you from a distance because I have the true honor of sitting so closely with many of your brothers and sisters. My respect and gratitude grow as I am entrusted with the dark experiences and naked truths of war, as well as the residual anguish it sloppily leaves behind.

With each autobiography bestowed to me, my heart aches to heal whatever brokenness there may be. But I know that is not what you want. Warriors go into battle expecting scars and you should be proud of your scars. Just like a little child with a band aid, you want to tell the story of your scars. As the community you protect, that’s where we have failed you. We have failed you war after war.

We like to celebrate you when you return to the Land of the Free. It makes us feel good to wave our flags and shake your hands. We readily accept this ambience of American glory.

But our actions scream: please don’t tell us the truth about what we sent you to do. We are way too fragile to hear your reality. Please keep that to yourself – our children might get frightened or think that behavior is ok!

Yet, you humbly honor this silently requested censorship of your life as a warrior. You continue to covertly carry the often awkward and heavy rucksack filled with wounds and memories—the part of the uniform that will never be eliminated. It is you and you are it.

There are many of us who do not want you to hesitate to share your story. It is important to us because we know our daily freedoms are the result of your service and your sacrifices that have shaped your story.

When you thank a veteran for their service, show sincere gratitude with intentional curiosity and listening. They likely gave you years of their lives; give them 20 minutes to tell you pieces of their service story. Let us sit with them as they recount their truths.

© Rebecca G. Townsend 2016

Love with Grace

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things ~ Bono

Year after year, I see the wounded wobbling into my office around this time.

The Expectation Train derails and causes mass casualties between December 25th and February 14th.  Most are still injured following a fall into the Disappointment Ditch of Christmas.   So the forecast of a Failure Frenzy on V-Day is pretty predictable, with a 95% chance of resentment.

Isn’t "love" a beautiful thing?

We do this to ourselves though. As a society, we allow the hype of media and advertisers to woo us into the fairy tales of candlelight dinners, sparkling gems, and imported chocolates accompanied by fine wine.

Although there is a piece of us living in reality, the fantasy can be all consuming…and quite damaging. Especially when we keep these ambitious hopes sequestered within, setting up the Failure Frenzy that much more.

Here’s the deal - when we live each day with intentional love and authentic connection, the pressure to fulfill made-for-TV dreams becomes null and void.

But what is ‘intentional love’ and ‘authentic connection’? It’s being able to state your truth – your joys, your worries and your annoyances with respect and consideration. It’s being an adult in a mutually caring relationship.

Photo by Rgt

Photo by Rgt

It’s the ability to reframe the coffee rings on the counter from a malicious act of personal contempt to a love note, letting you know your husband is home, safely sleeping beside you at night.

It’s the choice of listening with the goal of curiosity rather than the motive to be right.

It’s putting away the scoreboard and picking up the pom-poms to be the personal cheerleader of the one you have chosen as your lifelong confidante, companion, and lover.

It’s pausing to think of your own worst traits before you opt to recite the peculiar pet peeves you’ve catalogued of your spouse’s.

It’s saying, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. What can I do to make this better?”

Intentional love and authentic connection is grace in action. It’s believing the best about our partner and trusting they believe the best in us. In this world of fear and anxiety, let’s not add to the turmoil – let’s love with grace.

Believe. Create. Live.

© 2016 Rebecca G. Townsend, LLC

 

Connect Deeper by Listening

Loving couple in wheat fieldMan's inability to communicate is a result of his failure to listen effectively ~ Carl Rogers

Is the problem that we don’t communicate well or that we don’t listen well?

Listening is difficult because it is not about us...

Listening is about the person we are bearing witness to...the person who needs to be heard, validated and understood.

Our broken world is about speaking. Posting where we are, whom we are with, what we are doing - CONSTANTLY.

We have become so enmeshed in the social media there is no filter on what is being shared...

And there is no time or energy left to listen.

Instead, we rush to be heard, to be the one to reply to a hot topic before we even listen to the entire viewpoint.

My natural tendency is to talk until I’m heard...until the other party is in agreement with me. I like to win. I’ve learned that winning in conversation is a deceitful prize...what kind of payoff is it to leave another hurting?

Relationships cannot be competitions - they must be cooperative and compromising. To cooperate and compromise, both parties must truly listen, hear, and understand.

It takes a conscious and deliberate effort to listen, hear and understand a point of view different from your own. Yet, the return on that investment can be tremendous.

It can be deeply healing and uniting. Growth for both parties can begin and it strengthens the connection, the unity of a cause...you may discover you have the same goals, the same passions. And those were initially shared with uniqueness...yet there is sameness in our core.

Believe. Create. Live.

The Legend of the Step-Mom

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent ~ Eleanor Roosevelt 

I adore my 6 year-old nephew, Ben, and his sister, my 4-year-old niece, Anna. They are as close to mine as I’ll ever have.

My sister and brother-in-law invited me into the birth room for both of them. That is a gift I will always cherish. I’ve known these two since they gasped for their first breath in this world.

As much as I delight in spending time with them, they would just as soon be with my youngest step-son, who is 11. Ben and Anna idolize Connor.

If Connor isn’t with me, they want to know why he isn't with me...and what he is doing... and when they will see him.. and what will they play with him when they do see him... and when can I make that happen….

Figuring it out without a filter

Ben and Anna have always known that I am Patrick and Connor’s step-mom. They didn’t understand it at first and bombarded us with questions.

“Why do Patrick and Connor have two houses?”

“Why is Uncle Andy their daddy, but you aren’t their mommy?”

“Why do they not get to be with you all the time?”

“How come they don’t live with both their mommy and daddy?”

Ben is pretty savvy and he soon caught onto the idea that Patrick and Connor may not be with us every time we see them. He may not have understood the WHY, but he accepted it the best his developing brain could. And, he leads the way for Anna to comprehend the blended family her Aunt, Uncle and cousins have.

Step-Mom circa 1950

A few weeks ago, I spent the day with Ben and Anna. It was just the three of us, giving my sister a few hours to take off the mommy hat.

We built Lego creations, looked at photo albums, and Anna and I put a big Disney Princess puzzle together.

As Anna and I were finishing up the puzzle with six different princesses, Ben came in to supervise. One of the last princesses we pieced together was Cinderella.

Ben said, “Aunt Becca, we watched a Cinderella movie and it was scary.”

“It was scary? Cinderella isn’t scary. What did you think was scary about it?” I retorted.

Anna jumped in quickly, “She had an evil step-mother who was so mean to her.”

Ben couldn’t let Anna finish before he inserted, “The evil step mother was so bad!   She made Cinderella do everything and then made her sleep in the basement!”

Anna talked over Ben, “The mean step-mother locked her in the dark place. And when the birdies and mice made her a dress, the evil step-mother and evil step-sisters ripped it up.”

“It was so mean!” “She was so evil!” “The evil step-mother was bad!”

They went on for a few minutes and I let them rant and express their disdain for the evil step-mother.

When they finally took a breath, I said calmly and with a little giggle, “You know, I’m a step-mother, too. I’m Patrick and Connor’s step-mom.”

They became very still and quiet – for what seemed like an hour. Ben spoke up, “But Aunt Becca, you aren’t an evil step-mother. You are a nice one and you aren’t mean to Patrick and Connor.”

Anna chimed in, “Yea – Aunt Becca, you are the good step-mother – not the evil one.”

And we finished the puzzle then scurried into Ben’s room for the Lego building and an afternoon filled with fun.

Would she use her power for good or for evil?

Although the afternoon is stored as a joyful memory for all of us, it could have ended up in the pain part of our memories.

After reflecting on the conversation, I see how I could have led this discussion south - in a heartbeat.

I could have defended myself, my role, my fellow step-mommas and quickly shut down the kids.

I could have had my feelings hurt.   All of my insecurities, feelings of being a second-class parent, hurt and anger of not being a biological mom could have easily welled up inside of me and spewed out onto my innocent niece and nephew – or it could have leaked out of my eyes with heavy, painful, salty tears.

After six years as a step-mom, there are still days of hurt. Times of frustration. And, moments of jealousy.

But, in that moment with Ben and Anna, I saw it as an opportunity to slay the dragon of the evil step-mother. I jumped on the occasion to deflate the long-standing media projection of a step-mother as being selfish, immature and self-serving.

What if Ben or Anna found themselves in a position as a step-parent in 25 years and only had this negative perception of it?

Would they miss out on an opportunity to love and experience a fulfilling life?

Would they shy away from personal and interpersonal growth because of Disney’s 1950 portrayal of a now growing role in our society’s families?

What if I wouldn’t have reminded them of my role as a step-mom? What if my moments of shame about being a step-mom had overtaken my pride in the family I have been called to be a part of?

If I had chosen silence, hurt, or anger that afternoon, I would have only given more power to the historical and distorted view of step-families.

Step-Families can be amazing

Instead, I wanted to plant a seed for Ben and Anna. A seed that gives them optimistic views of hope, grace, and love in situations that may not always be viewed as promising or fruitful.

My experience has not been evil. It has not been easy, either.

I know there is no perfect family – biological, adoptive, step. There is no flawless parent. There is no impeccable child. We are all second-class compared to the Perfection of the Divine.

There is Goodness where you decide to see it. I choose to see love in our imperfect step-family. You can choose that, too.

Believe. Create. Live.

© 2015 Rebecca G. Townsend