Learning and Growth. Those are fundamental components to the path I walk; my Journey of Discovery—which is inward as much as outward. A wonder of this journey can be from how and where my lessons manifest. The truth is that my most important lessons are often unforeseen and unexpected; because, I tell myself, they come from the parts of the Universe to which I am currently closed-off and blind. So, when I gain awareness of another portion of reality and truth, it really is a moment of “A-ha,” like a prison wall crumbling or a locked door being thrown open.
And, sometimes, it comes from the smallest of exchanges, and takes a little time to reveal itself. At least for me.
The other night, my wife and I planned to reheat a dinner she had previously prepared and frozen. Although we gave it some time to thaw, it was still pretty solid. I was attempting to cut loose a couple portions when she went at it with a bread knife (she had resorted to cutting herself a slice of bread to sustain her, during my extended struggle).
“You’ll break that!” I said. “Let me do it!”
She pulled the bread knife away and replied, “That is so your dad.”
Wham! I didn’t know what to think. I know what I felt—the first tingle of…
First, my wife has never said anything like that to me before. She never knew my dad before he was sick with Alzheimer’s Disease and had become non-verbal, so her comment came wholly from the stories I’ve told her of my relationship with my father. I’ve come to believe that my dad (like anyone) was a complicated person. I’ve contemplated what effect his behaviors and our relationship have had on me and my behaviors and beliefs. This has all been retrospective and introspective work—that is, looking personally and privately back and within. Until now.
When my wife said what she said, what I first felt, within a wave of disorientation, was a jolting tingle of shame. I wanted to go on the defensive—say something, anything! But defend against what? My wife’s supposition of what my dad was like? Her allegation that I was behaving like him? The connection she was drawing between him and me?
At least one thing I’m getting more accustomed to in my Journey is having these moments of discomfort and disorientation when I’m on the brink of New Territory. And, within these moments, I try to practice stillness in direct response to my brain telling me to flee.
So, in that moment, I froze and held still. Not saying anything. Not moving.
And my wife reiterated, quite calmly, “You’re being like your dad would be.”
And I could see it. I could see that she was right. Plus, I could see a lot more. I could see that, for all the work and consideration I had given to the effect my dad has had on my behaviors, I often don’t see it in the moment, actually happening. And, I didn’t feel it like I had assumed I would. I clearly have more work to do to become fully aware of this behavior in me so I can effectively make different choices. And, enlisting the help of others can be a powerful tool in my effort.
I could also see how my relationship with my wife has continued to grow and strengthen. Her comments proved that she has been listening to me as I’ve processed my stories and memories about my relationship with my dad. So that was gratifying.
More importantly, the fact that she said what she said to me, and how she said it, has really impacted me. I’m not sure we were there a year ago. I think she would have been frustrated by my controlling, challenging tone and probably responded by just leaving me alone. She would have been annoyed, but she would have stayed silent to avoid escalating my bad mood and behavior.
Her response this time told me many things: It told me she didn’t like my behavior; it proved that she had listened to my stories; it demonstrated that she saw something she knew I didn’t see, and she wanted to help me see it. It let me know that she didn’t blame me, and I didn’t have to be ashamed.
It showed me that we’ve come a long way, growing stronger.
Learning and Growth: A-ha!