The trees are changing colors effortlessly here in the NW, a reminder of the different stages of any endeavor, or our lives if the focus is pulled out that far… The green leaves are so full of life, broad with little veins that pull life and nourishment into it. Then some of the leaves have shifted to the yellows, still bright and sunny but without the chlorophyll (and the ability to turn light energy into chemical energy), and then some turn different shades of red, brilliant or brownish, curling up and twisted until they drop leaving the bare limb, which has its own beauty against the bright blue sky, or gray overcast which is more common in the Seattle area.
Our lives have seasons, and as our family prepares to welcome the next generation in our family this December, it will be like that broad, green leaf that invites life and the nourishment of love into every relationship on our whole tree. And then there are the yellow leaves, full of sunshine color, confident and bright – the young adult years, full of promise and vigor, if our health is such to enjoy. Then the reds might be the later adult years, with the curling of age and challenges to remain part of the branch and tree so that all might gain from that brilliant deepening wisdom that can come from so much living and experiences, loving God and self and others in ways that bring meaningful connections and work into and out from our lives. Then when our time is done on earth, the individual leaf falls to the ground but their legacy is part of the nourishment of the following generations.
How about the life cycle of projects, or trips and even relationships? The beginnings are broad with potential and filled with little veins that bring in possibility and new perspective. Then the work or friendship can deepen into the yellows, impacting others with the light that it generates. Even the reds, as the project slows down or friendship starts to curl up adds so much color to our days, but letting go, being okay with letting our work or relationship drop off, falling to the ground can be painful when we have invested so much time and energy… but what if we viewed it like Autumn, a time for the old to drop off, nourish the soil around us so that next season we can see new growth in our work and friendships? What needs to fall to the ground this year for you?
There are people who observe, people who write about change, people who do the change… in the world of therapy there is an author who has observed couples over the years and written about change, AND he has also lived that change with his own marriage and relationship with his father. Terrence Real is one of my relational heroes.
“I Don’t Want to Talk About It” is a ground breaking book about relationships, depression and how it shows up in men especially in covert ways, often overlooked. Such good stuff, stepping back to take in the American world view with the limits and repression of the patriarchy that has shaped our society for so many years. Splitting off certain qualities into more worthy (doing, accomplishments: masculine) and less worthy (being, relational: feminine) has diminished us all and led to some very dissatisfying and often destructive relationships over the years. He gives theory and action steps to develop and nourish exciting, vital relationships.
He encourages the women to speak up with savvy and respect, to go toe to toe for what they need and want in the relationship, which calls the man to be who he could ultimately be. Revolutionary steps for those of us raised to be loving by not speaking up/disagreeing with others. And equally revolutionary for those who feel safe behind their tv remotes and sports chatter to step out and engage from their heart. The following quote sums up this change from safely uninvolved to growing honesty and joy filled connection:
“In twenty years of practice, I have encountered many unfortunate women who, afraid to make reasonable demands on their depressed husbands, wound up, years later, being left anyway. Most wives do not fully contain the resentment that they rightfully feel. And even if they do, the relationship itself eventually loses vitality by virtue of the lack of honest engagement. Conversely, unless the patient has already decided to leave his family, I have rarely encountered a man who was willing to set foot in my office but unwilling,with coaching and help, to pick up the challenge of increased relational skill.” “I Don’t Want to Talk About It”, pg 318
Sometimes you have to go back, touch base with your roots… experience something from your youth to get perspective…
This week I am road tripping with a dear friend, it is part sacred mission and part nostalgia that leads us into the farm country above Dallas, and then onto Baton Rouge, New Orleans and now into Oxford, Mississippi (home of Ole Miss University). First stop, burying her precious momma’s ashes in the family cemetery just off the same farm that four generations have lived, ashes to ashes and dust to dust. But what glorious dust when the Spirit has breathed life into, and the recipient is sharp and aware of returning to the Love that birthed her.
Several decades later, so much is the same – the farm house, the barn, the front porch and the beauty of the country, but so much has changed – the little kids who are grown up, some have married and have their own families, all of them sharing the legacy of this land. The cycle of life, living in different states now except for one uncle and aunt who have tended the place for this generation.
Life, travel, families, dear friends, memories… sometimes, life is a highway…
Gifts = little surprise parties in colorful paper and ribbons, and some of us like gifts more than others. It took years for me to realize… I don’t really like surprises, and often appreciate a shared experience over a wrapped present.
According to Gary Chapman’s book “The 5 Love Languages“, there are five main ways that people give and receive love.
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Quality Time
A thoughtful gift is a pleasure to receive, especially if you happen to want or need the item at that time. What about the times when your good friend is so excited to give you something he just loves but you are not into, at all? This makes gift giving a land mine of potential hurt feelings. Then there is the forgotten birthday that your sibling or spouse can’t seem to forgive, even when you try to get them something later in the month. Or the time you got something perfect but on sale (no returns) so when your friend hinted it was the wrong size/color/style you still didn’t tell them.
There is an art to gift giving, to know a person and their likes and tastes to the degree that you have a good chance at getting them something they would truly enjoy. Even then, there are timing issues. If your child is pre occupied with other Christmas gifts they may not squeal over the ‘show stopper’ bike you wheeled through the living room. Or if they had a bad day at work, the romantic gesture of flowers isn’t appreciated as planned.
There is also the art of gift receiving – “just what I didn’t know I wanted” is a light-hearted way of expressing ambivalence about what you hold in your hands. But there are times if you aren’t honest, you’ll get the same thing later, different version again and again. “You shouldn’t have” can be a very honest reaction!
To show appreciation for the gesture and still communicate that the gift (food, clothes or sports equipment) is not something that you would use is a real accomplishment. Recently, an old friend said “thanks, but I have something like this at home, why don’t you share this with someone else who would enjoy it?” And although it took me back for a few minutes, her gracious tone and touch on the arm expressed her gratitude and I respected her honesty.
A simple, “thank you for thinking of me” can cover a myriad of gift situations. And sometimes a gift receipt is the most thoughtful part of the exchange!
Have you ever noticed some of your work skills and talents aren’t rewarded at home like they are in the workplace? Part of my job as a former therapist, and now as a Life Coach is to analyze, notice patterns and offer suggestions. Our young adult kids don’t appreciate unsolicited analysis, go figure. My husband is employed with a large shipping and transportation company, and his ability to cut to the chase, and effectively get tasks done each day gives him a nice paycheck but does not develop his empathy, patience or listening skills.
A good friend of ours is well paid to find potential flaws and risks, but his family doesn’t much appreciate those same skills applied directly to their ideas and opinions. Another takes care of people, attending to their physical needs with skill and kindness, but as her kids grow up and become more independent she has found that they don’t always welcome that kind of hands on help. They can do it themselves, thank you.
So how can we remind each other that an effective work skill is not needed in the love and bond of more intimate relationships? One of the most gracious people you will ever encounter would smile sweetly when her husband directed her or the kids in a bossy voice, and would say “please don’t use your ‘Boeing tone’ at home”. What a great reminder, and even though we don’t all work for the world’s largest aerospace company, repeat as needed!
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