Tag Archives for " Family "

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.

My Poppy for Papaw

This has been a long journey with some clear, well-lit time on wide paths. And there have been plenty of days in the darkness, trying to find my way out of strangling vines of kudzu that have famously overtaken abandoned spaces.

It’s been my journey of why.

Why have I felt such a strong pull in my heart and soul to work with our nation’s Warriors and their loved ones?

I can tell you about the unbelievable impact some of the first Warrior stories I witnessed had upon me. But, I think anyone with a heart and a twinge of humanness would have left feeling the same tug to help.

I can confess that I felt overwhelmed and underprepared when Warriors started to seek me out to help them and how I searched and found expert training to give me confidence in working with this unique population.

I can declare that I’ve lived the last 22 years of my life in a community that has the 2nd highest population of Veterans in the entire United States and how could I not serve this deserving group?

But not one of those – or even all of them combined – ever added up in my mind to equal the inconceivable heaviness I feel to serve our Warriors and their loved ones.

The underlying WHY remained a mystery to me for the most part.

Until a year ago…

A year ago, my dad handed me a large tattered manila envelope. He said, “Maybe this will help someone else tell their story.”

It was everything he had from his dad’s time in the Army when he served in WWII…and it wasn’t much.

There were some maps of where he served in Europe – coming into Normandy 2 to 3 days after D-Day.

There was a Red Cross letter informing my grandfather and his brother, who was serving in Africa, that their mother had died.

Papaw Townsend’s DD-214 was creased from decades of being folded.

His Honorable Discharge certificate was also sloppily stored in half ~ left marred and neglected – which was much like I began to envision how my grandfather was following the war.

Papaw Townsend died when I was 18 months old. He was 47. My Mamaw was 45. My dad was 26 years old, married and had two toddlers.

I don’t have any memories of Papaw Townsend. There are a couple of pictures of me with him and I’ve heard a couple of stories about him. Yet, none of those prompt any memories of Papaw.

So how does someone I have no memories of affect me? What does this have to do with who I am today?

My dad was a hard worker, great provider for our family, and was the disciplinarian. He had some tenderness in him – raising four girls, he was forced into the estrogen ocean more than he preferred. He didn’t really encourage us to achieve at anything in particular – but didn’t discourage us either. He didn’t voice he was proud of me until about 10 years ago.

I hadn’t really thought much about this emotional distance because I knew he loved me. I mean, he’s always told me that at least 3 times before we even hang up following a phone conversation, “Love you, baby.”

In my own emotional growth and professional development, I’ve become more aware of the impact one person can have on a system…whether it’s the angry secretary at the doctor’s office or a teenage son who’s had a disagreement with his girlfriend.

Regardless of how close or how far removed someone is from your immediate social system, there is a ripple effect.

In my quest of curiosity, I found myself asking why…why would my dad not tell me he was proud of me? Why would my dad think I would be ok with him driving through town and not catching up with me? I truly have no doubt he loves me and cares about me.

Could it be that he didn’t know how to do better because he wasn’t shown by his father?

Could it be that Papaw Townsend was disconnected at an emotional level that poisoned the waters of my emotional heritage?

It started to make sense to me.

Maybe I felt so strongly about serving our warriors because the wave of anguish from war washes over me – decades later.

 The emotional rupture my grandfather experienced in World War II has aftershocks I’ve been experiencing my entire life.

This clarity became radiantly bright in my own process of therapy. I have a mentor who stretches me and in a group process, gave us an outdoor experiential assignment. In short, we were to walk in nature, gathering a handful of things that were attractive to us. Once completed, we should name them as someone in our past, chose one and then have a conversation with them.

I’d like to share what was uncovered for me.

The smooth rock that fit nicely into the palm of my hand symbolized Papaw Townsend and I wrote a conversation with him.

Me: Papaw, Daddy looks just like you. There’s that picture of you and Mamaw – it may as well be Daddy in the picture. I wish I’d had a chance to build memories with you. I wish I could remember your voice.

Papaw: You know me, sweet Becky. You hear me every time you talk to your dad. His faults are the same faults I had. His love is the same offering I gave him. I was broken before the War and your Mamaw held me together, but I was severely fractured. Your dad often fell into those deep disconnected places.

Me: That’s what I’ve been figuring out. The more I’ve worked with Warriors and their loved ones, the more I’ve discovered about you, your wounds and your heroic try at life after the war.

Papaw: It is no coincidence you work with our Warriors. You are healing me. You are healing your dad. And you are healing yourself as you bear witness, hold the space and give love to the soul wounds of these men, women and children.

I know this calling is not easy. I know you don’t feel good enough or worthy to do this…I’m afraid that’s a wound that is generations old.

When I came home from Germany, my father was no where to be found. He left before my brother and I got home. I told myself I wasn’t enough for my dad to welcome home from the war.

Since my mom died while I was in Germany, I came home to no one. When you don’t feel good enough to be loved by your own father, how do you ensure the people you love feel good enough and deserving? I just don’t know. I didn’t master that and I’m not even sure I knew to try.

Me: Papaw, I love you. I love you for the trials and hardships you overcame. I love you for my Daddy – who you raised to be the Dad I needed for my own journey. Thank you.

Papaw: I love you too, Becky. I know you’ve heard your dad say it to you…please hear it from me now – “Keep on keeping on."

He confirmed my WHY…43 years after he left us.

Believe. Create. Live.

© 2015 Rebecca G. Townsend



The Masquerade of Perceived Bliss

Have compassion for everyone you meet, even if they don’t want it. What appears bad manners, an ill temper or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone ~ Miller Williams

Life is hard.

It doesn’t seem fair. And there are days when it’s no fun.

It makes sense that people dip into a deep blue funk (that’s what I call depression).

The Masquerade of Perceived Bliss begins early in life.

Lullabies hushing little ones to stop the tears – don’t cry – we’ll buy you something. Won’t you delight in one more snuggly stuffed animal?

We don’t want to see your tears.

Who called you a name at school? It’ll be ok, have some milk and cookies.

We can’t handle your hurt.

They made fun of your new jeans? Let’s go get the right jeans, then.

We need everyone to approve of you - you can’t be different.

The coach is being rough on you? Don’t worry about mowing the yard or getting your homework done – this is a blow to your self-esteem.

Just don’t cry. Please, don’t cry. I can’t stand to see you cry.

Stop the tears with food, clothes, money, video games, and alcohol…please, don’t be sad! You have no reason to be sad – look at everything you have!

Can we stop hot-wiring happiness?

There is no instant elation.

We are humans, created with crevices of imperfection. Sadness, anger, bitterness, jealousy, confusion, grief, anxiety, arrogance…

Yet, it is faster, easier and not only acceptable – but expected - to throw a cloak over the pain. You had better do just that, camouflage any emotion – you know you only have three bereavement days for the loss of your immediate family member, right?

Stuff all those tears. Take these pills. Read this book. Listen to this song.

We are complex beings and we regularly dismiss the intricacy of our souls for the sake of time-management.

We teach and we learn to impersonate emotional perfection. The childhood grief, adolescent pain, adult anxiety and fear begin to feel less important – maybe even imagined.

But the authentic soul aches to be seen and heard. If you don’t allow it a voice, its desire to be recognized will twist within your body. The pain is determined to be witnessed.

Not everyone has earned the privilege to bear witness to your pain. And that may be one of the most difficult steps of ending the Masquerade.

Your pain deserves to be validated, cared for, and supported and when we expose our emotional rawness to someone who doesn’t hold it sacred, the hurt is magnified.

Living in your truth is risky and takes courage…so, go slowly and remember this is a journey.

Believe. Create. Live.

© 2015 Rebecca G. Townsend

Happy Holler-Days

Like all the best families, we have our share of eccentricities, of impetuous and wayward youngsters and of family disagreements

~ Queen Elizabeth II

The sidewalks are lit with bright candy canes, sparkling snowflakes and big red bows.  You see petite red berries under the blanket of frost and there seems to be smells of the season everywhere.  Gingerbread, pine, cinnamon – all tickling your nose and prompting memories to dart through your mind.

As magical as the holidays can be, they can also feel tumultuous, chaotic and draining.  Emotionally. Physically.  Financially.

So, why we chose to remodel our kitchen and family room between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year may forever remain a mystery.

Perhaps, my core has been missing the delight of my childhood dysfunction.  I grew up in a very loving, caring, and screaming home.  One to six of us would communicate loudly – with either cheer or complaint – every day.

The yelling wasn’t abusive.  Though it probably wasn’t necessary in most scenarios.  But, it was the norm in my family…and so, it became comfortable and expected.

At the age of 22, I came home from graduate school for Christmas break. It had been the first time I had lived completely alone.  Not in a dorm and not with a roommate.  I had been surprised by how much I enjoyed the solitude.  The quiet.

However, it didn’t take me long – 15 minutes would be a generous estimate – to revert to the pattern that seemingly ran so deeply in my family of origin.

I suddenly stopped myself between deep breaths (to gather more oxygen for a more boisterous response).  The thought hit me.

“We don’t have Happy Holidays here, we celebrate Happy Holler-Days!”  I said with a chuckle that quickly turned to a veil of guilt.  There was an immediate silence, surely to be followed with the biggest holiday hollering yet.

The stillness did not become censorship.  Instead, a snicker verified the lone observation I had made.  It was my dad’s giggle and grin confirming we were probably not the only family to celebrate the Holler-Days…but we may be one of the few to embrace the Holler-Days.

Since we’ve come ‘clean’ as a family and our ‘secret’ communication style is discussed openly, it’s allowed us to become aware of the pattern we have.

Once I identified my default mode of communication during stressful times, I was able to make some conscious and deliberate changes.  I may not be successful 100% of the time…and I’ve found other – unhealthy -  means of ‘hollering’ – sarcasm, passive-aggressiveness.  However, I know my triggers and my patterns, so I have the ability to pause and reframe the situation.  When I step out of the deeply rooted habits, it encourages others to challenge their own patterns.

remodel pic - 2014Although, I’ll admit a major remodeling during the holidays has pushed me closer to a rendition of my childhood Holler-days than I’ve been in 20 years…that’s not really my core’s default anymore.  I’ve almost spent as much time mastering a new means of communicating as I had invested in the holler-days!

I’m taking in deep breaths (of construction dust) and exhaling lots of love and gratitude…and sending holiday happiness to everyone!

Believe. Create. Live.

© 2014 Rebecca G. Townsend