At the end of July I turned 28. That doesn’t sound that old to me, but I most definitely feel much older than I did last July. Maybe old isn’t the right word for it, I feel more…mature. I feel like I’m learning more about my relationships with my husband and child, with my sisters and parents, with my friends and coworkers. At a younger age I wouldn’t have thought much about these relationships beyond: is the other person happy? If no, then how can I make that person happy?
Written, it seems like a wonderful thing to want to make someone else happy. It is a truly great motivation for many well meaning actions. There can be negative aspects to doing things solely to make someone else happy, and as I grow in maturity I’m learning how to balance my desires to please people/be a servant to others/show love, with a need to be honest. The two are definitely not mutually exclusive, it’s just that I’ve realized I sometimes act and speak in a very unclear way because I’m trying to make sure I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings, I want to ENSURE that the person I’m with doesn’t end up feeling bad because of something I’ve said. This can lead to a few things that are not so great, like:
- Not talking about things because of the possibility of hurt feelings/disappointing someone you care about/having to discuss things. This can be as simple as not calling one sister because I’d feel bad about not calling ALL OF MY SISTERS. That’s just silly.
- Awkwardly speaking around what you actually want because you’re trying to anticipate someone else’s needs. The flip side is also true, awkwardly NOT speaking because you think someone else (*cough*Kevin*cough*) is upset, but turns out he just shows less emotion that you do.
- Straight up being untrue. I’ve said things like, “Me too!” or “Don’t worry, I’ve totally done that.” and then though, but have you Jewel? Or, as my sisters call me out on frequently, I’ll say, “Just kidding” after making a sarcastic/jokey comment and I’m not really kidding. I just think it softens the blow, or makes it seem less offensive.
Lest my friends and family worry that I compulsively lie to spare their feelings, fear not, I try to be mostly honest. However, I know I could be MORE honest/genuine without being rude, and that has been a big eye opener for me. It’s especially helpful in my marriage, because that’s obviously the relationship I spend the most time living in. I’m learning to double-check my motives for certain questions to see if I’m asking a question that will get to what I truly want to know or whether I’m hoping the other person will reveal their needs without me upsetting them.
I think this desire to communicate more clearly is a product of a desire to be more genuine and open with the people in my life. It is hard for me to articulate, so I turned to someone else to help explain it. I found this description in Susan Monk Kidd’s book of early writings called Firstlights. While it is a bit philosophical/theological, it works for me. I hope someone else out there reads this and can relate.
Perhaps most mysterious of all is the unfolding process of ovum, fetus, baby, child, adolescent, adult. The universe is designed to move stage by stage, from incompletion to completion. Now why should we suppose that God has designed the heart any differently than the rest of creation? It, too, has its stages. We move from a false and separatist way of relating to the world, which I call being in the Collective They, to a union with our True Self, which means realizing the Authentic I, and finally to a sesne of inter-connectedness with all that is, which brings us to the birth of the Compassionate We.
That might be a very abstract way of thinking about the mindfulness I’m developing as an adult, but SMK seems to hit upon a heart/thought process that resonates with me. She continues
At various times I have lived out of narrowly prescribed identities that I accepted and internalized from the Collective: dutiful and submissive housewife, ever-sacrificing mother, armored career woman, perfectionist, pleaser, performer, good little girl who never colored outside the lines drawn for her…When I wear [the name of “They”] I am limited in my ability to relate to others in a genuinely compassionate way…Stuck in the Collective They, I am more apt to relate out of my ego needs, from the subtleties of my false selves and from mandates and demands placed on me from others, rather than love born in my own heart.
The emergence of one’s Authentic I awakens a fresh awareness that God is the life of us all and we are one in God together. Living out the Compassionate We means blending our tears with the world’s in a way that heals and creates community…When compassion wakes up in us, we find ourselves more willing to become vulnerable, to take the risk of entering the pain of others. We open our lives to them in a genuine willingness to be known. We tell them our own story of suffering as a way of offering healing and hope.
I share these quotes not because they speak perfectly to my experiences, but because they cause me to nod my head and hope that I’m in that process of becoming a more vulnerable and compassionate part of my community, be it the community I live in or the one I connect with online. It is relieving to know that while I am growing older physically, I’m also hopefully growing a little wiser, a little kinder and a little more authentic.
Are there any moments of realization in your lives, sisters or friends?