A New Normal – Challenges and Pitfalls
In exploring my new terrain, I am finding common, everyday pitfalls that drag me back into the rush and sweep of the tide. A major obstacle I find myself facing on a daily basis is a pull to respond authentically and with consistency to the needs, demands, and requests of others in my life. With the more thoughtful and conscious approach to each day, I am learning that this new approach to things has people in my life expecting different reactions and responses than I am now offering.
A recent exchange I had with a family member is a perfect illustration of this challenge. In what began as a casual visit with my mom and family, a discussion arose. Sitting around the table were extended family, me and two of my sons. A topic came up that was surprisingly fiery and sensitive to one individual. She was very passionate in her stance. I had a different opinion. I asked several questions to try and better understand her position on the subject. I was sincerely interested in trying to see why the topic so inflamed her. She perceived my questioning as condescension and responded with a sharp and provocative comment. In a flash, I realized that the comment was intended to drop me in my tracks. Historically, it was a tender spot that would have probably left me in tears. I was rather delighted to find that it had only a minor effect. It did clearly signal that she had had enough of my questioning so I calmly disengaged. With some minor feather un-ruffling the evening passed in an otherwise pleasant way.
Several days later however, the comment she had made was mentioned by my youngest son. He asked me why she had even made such a reference to something that was tender and sensitive and was otherwise irrelevant to the topic at the table. His question prompted me to write a letter to her to let her know that I would no longer tolerate reference to that issue. I said that I was not angry and that I was allowing that perhaps the comment had been made merely out of habit. I then restated that I would not however, sit by and ignore such a dig again. I ended the letter with a clear statement and told her that I felt no anger and no further need to talk about the matter. I concluded it with, “If you agree, then onward and upward”.
I took a stance and it was and is my firm position. In the past, that one uttered statement would have derailed me. It has not and will not again. Using shame to quiet someone or turn the tide in one’s favor is an unkind and unfair tactic. Fortunately I recognize that. I no longer feel shame or guilt.
The ground I am on now allows me to see how swept up in expectations I was. I swam in a stream without thinking and acted out of habit and instinct and instruction from others. I am thinking about my actions now with deeper deliberation. I am reading and listening now with an effort to see past biases to truths and facts. This takes time and reflection. I am allowing myself the space and time I need, but it takes a higher level of consideration and concentration.
This slower, more thoughtful reaction and response to situations, stressors, and decisions has been met with some push-back by those who have known me. I have found it necessary to stand my ground with others and to re-establish boundaries. Changes I am making for my betterment are not always welcomed by those around me. I am not only having to train myself in these new ways, but also other people who have expectations based on past history with me. It is often tempting to give up my new practice for an older way simply because it is faster and easier, but that then requires sliding back into the swell of the current. I am trying to stay resolute.
As always, I am interested in other’s experiences. What changes do you want to make or have you made that require effort to maintain? What is your new normal?