My father gave this gift of three monkeys when I first got married. I can’t help but wonder if he was trying to tell me something. I had just become a step-mom of three girls. Most of the advice my father has given me I have implemented and if not at the time he gave it to me, then, in retrospect. But he has consistently given me this one piece of advice that I have grappled with for years and that is, that I should refrain from expressing myself and bite my tongue as often as I can. I know he was coming from a place of love and caring, there is no doubt about that… I’m just not sure that I concur with this approach quite as much as him. At a time when I am re-learning the importance of being honest, with myself and others and expressing that in gentle ways, I find it difficult and almost painful to keep my “mouth shut”. Maybe it’s a matter of trusting myself to express my feelings in ways that are not antagonistic or defensive…and I would like to think that I am open to hearing expressions of others also, preferably in a non-attacking way. Of course, this is a learned trait, that I practice as often as possible, sometimes better than others.
I won’t get into the dynamics of my experience of being a step-mom here…(that’s a whole other blog) I will just say that it has been an amazingly delicate dance… one that I continue to learn, sometimes stepping on toes, and sometimes getting my toes stepped on. Learning when to keep quiet and when to see, hear or speak…. maybe this family dynamic is really just a microcosm for everything else… and all relationships – always weighing the ramifications of speaking up. However, I am becoming more concerned with the ramifications of stifling myself and not expressing my feelings or truth at all. I think it all comes down to intentions… and mine are always to have a relationship with more honesty and depth… though there have been times when I lost a friendship or even a family member because I expressed myself honestly, which is probably why it has taken me so long to speak up for myself again. I’ve learned though, that sometimes it might take an uncomfortable communication to make things better… deeper and more loving. I think I owe that to myself and to those I love. It’s not easy for me to confront myself and then be vulnerable with another… it never is, at least not for me… but I believe it is worth the discomfort and part of the process of growing a relationship-with myself… and with others. I think it simply comes down to self-trust and self-respect. It bothers me that the word “confrontation” has acquired such negative vibes over the years… I think confrontation, when done in love, is crucial to intimacy. In fact, I think it can actually save a relationship…actually, I ‘know’ that it can save a relationship…. because it has… mine.
Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life. Brian Tracy