September 16, 2011 at 8:38 am Leave a comment

The smell of autumn is in the air. The mornings are cool, and in the evening it’s getting dark sooner. School started, but this year I only notice it because of my job. My children have chosen the path of working in the “real” world.

Last weekend an old friend came to visit. We had a wonderful time with lots of talking, hiking, and she met some of my new friends. On Sunday she asked me if I hadn’t thought about rearranging the apartment. The kids are gone and I was still living in one room. Yes, the idea had crossed my mind. But I didn’t know where to start.

That evening, plans swirled in my head. I drew a sketch and went to bed. The next morning I got started — and spent the next few days hard at work. Every spare moment and lunch break went towards change — and getting rid of old baggage. It feels good to take up more space, and it is helpful in the process of digesting all the changes in my life.

What a coincidence that my birthday will soon be here. The timing is quite appropriate. My father turned 77 a couple of weeks ago. We spoke on the phone and I laughed. I still love numbers. I said, “Oh, 7×7 is 49. That’s how old I will be!” He liked that — an easy way to remember how old I am. (As long as he doesn’t forget how old he is!)

Which brings me to the next issue: What to do on Sunday? There’s so much going on at the moment, I’m really not up for a party. It seemed like it would be unnecessary stress. Rather than worry about what everybody else expects, the question appeared: “What do I want?”

Thus I wrote the following email to a handful of women friends: “After careful deliberation, I have decided to bake a cake on Sunday. If there happen to be any goddesses in the vicinity, I would be happy if they stopped by. As of 2 pm I will surely be out of my pyjamas.” One friend wrote back immediately, delighted, and suggested they help me disassemble my daughter’s old loft bed so that the rearrangement could be completed. What a wonderful idea/offer!

Yesterday, during a group session at work, I introduced a formula for dealing with anger. First they wrote all the angry things that you’re not supposed to say on a poster. Then we proceeded to the next part, which is based on a model of communication by F. Schultz von Thun. There are four levels of communication, both for the sender as well as the receiver.

In yesterday’s example we had four steps:
First: What is the deal? (It’s my birthday and I don’t know what to do.)
Second: What effect does it have on me? (I feel stressed and tense, that people expect things from me. Maybe even resentful?)
Third: What does this mean for the relationship? (Some people might feel let down or disappointed if I don’t invite them.)
Fourth: What do I want? Or in case of anger at someone: “What do I want from you?”

This morning I realized that I had used that model to solve the birthday dilemma. Last night I pointed out that many of us tend to get stuck at the second step, and carry around guilt feelings and resentments, with no solution in sight. Often we don’t even realize it, but as a result might even tend to avoid people.

By moving on to the third and fourth steps, we can dissolve the discomfort. Even if we don’t declare what we want to another person, the clarity in our own minds can ease the tension and bring about change. It’s a matter of practice — whether big problems or small ones.

I asked if they remembered what it was like when they learned to drive? Gas, shift, clutch, lights, signs, one way streets, yield, in stressful moments accidentally turning on the windshield wipers. I remember doubting I would ever get the knack. But eventually I did. Sure enough, it became an automatic process.

Then it occurred to me that a couple of years ago, I was in a stressful situation (driving someone else’s car) and was in a hurry to back out of a parking lot while other people were waiting to drive in. What happened? The windshield wipers went on! I had trouble finding “reverse”. It was different than in my own car. My passenger asked: “Where is reverse?” Then I looked down and saw where it was. A moment of clarity! What helped? The question: “What’s the deal?”

I told my clients that little anecdote and said: “When in stress, breathe and ask the question. Then you can extricate yourself from the feelings (panic?) and take action.”

So that’s today’s little story. Now I have to get going, because I have a seminar today and tomorrow. If I don’t get groceries for Sunday organized today, there will be another problem to solve! 🙂


Entry filed under: daily challenges. Tags: , , , , .

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