Yesterday, the winds blew a gale here, tossing large branches into the roads and knocking out the electricity. This morning, it is calm. My mind has been roiling for days now, over a couple interactions that I initiated, and that didn’t – through my own clumsy handling – go over as I intended. Today, I feel more serene, and am trying to put it all in perspective.
Most – maybe all – of the good relationships I enjoy with friends and family members involve me keeping my mouth shut. I picture Archie Bunker, giving me the warning: “Stifle…just STIFLE!!!” Of course, it’s good advise that I would be wise to pay attention to.
I have a long life of strong opinions under my belt. Nothing productive can come of rehashing old disagreements in order to present yet another argument in favor of my stance. There is no sense in going over – with my grown children – my reasons for a particularly harsh discipline decision that I made more than twenty years ago. No good will come of suggesting my brother’s memories (going back even farther) – of what a mean sister I was – might be faulty. I have a good memory filled with wonders and joys, but also peppered with slights, disagreements and hurt feelings. They are better just left alone.
In the present, I am surrounded by people I love, respect and admire…but who, of course, I don’t agree with on everything. All relationships are better when the focus is on shared values and opinions. Though I am often secretly aghast at comments regarding political, social and economic viewpoints, coming from people I know to be kind and thoughtful human beings, I have learned to keep quiet. Generally, I save my voice for when it can actually make a difference or – in cases of oppression or discrimination – when it is impossible not to speak up.
There have been a couple exceptions lately. In both cases, I spoke up not to berate another person’s standpoint or to contend my “rightness,” but just to state my opinion. It felt necessary. I was sure, if I didn’t offer my perspective, for whatever it was worth, it would continue to eat away at me.
“Speaking up,” contrary to popular opinion, is not easy for me. It takes a great deal of shoring up of my confidence and my viewpoint. By the time I actually do it, I have covered the position so thoroughly in my mind, that I come across not as someone offering my “two-cents-worth,” but as a patronizing, know-it-all, higher moral ground, preaching from the pulpit, arrogant snob. I hurt feeling. I damage relationships. I leave shadows where there used to be light. Communication goes on, but it is now strained.
I explain. I try to explain, anyway. It all sounds like I’m just re-presenting my opinion. I try to apologize without reversing or rescinding the things that I felt I needed to say. It’s still there. What was a small dark area that was eating away at me has now transformed to something gnawing at someone else…and I am the center of it. For days, it has been wearing on my mind.
Yesterday, the buffeting winds matched my mood. Today, it’s better.