Friday, February 27, 2009
Raining on the parade (Joanne’s response)
Harold pulled out a point from this story of which I had not thought -- that Celia can choose to respond in a way that enacts her feelings even though this is a bad time to state them. Someday, this story about how Celia realized she wanted to marry Rob while dusting, but he had this awful flu, will become family lore that they'll repeat to their children, but for now the relationship will be best served with less talking and more doing. Celia has a chance to express her inner mountaintop experience in a way that will serve Rob now, and their lives, forever, by offering the concrete care of the chicken soup variety. I like Harold's umbrella metaphor. There is room for two there, and Celia's disappointment can be voiced down the road, if ever.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Raining on the parade (Harold’s response)
I empathize with Celia. Think about what must have been going through her mind. Her excitement has been building since amidst the dust balls she realizes it is time for her to turn the corner with Rob. I'm sure she imagined the joyous response that Rob would have when she finally reached him via telephone to share her epiphany of marriage. Then she likely expected that tonight's party would be a time of revelry for the two of them as they celebrated this significant milestone in their relationship. It was all going to be so romantic. Only, it wasn't....
I know that feeling of disappointment when you have finally set your mind to something after a long, deliberate thought process only to have your hopes dashed. All of us have been there to have our parade rained on at one time or another. But, the lesson lies in what do we do with these moments? Oftentimes, when our partner disappoints us we seek to hide the disappointment. Sometimes we do this so the other person doesn't feel guilty. At other times we hide it so that our partner doesn't realize how elevated our hope had become.
I'm sure there are times when we should keep our disappointments to ourselves rather than share them with our partner. But, I think that we do this to often. In marriage, many spouses do not even realize when their partners are disappointed, dejected, depressed, etc. Many times we are pretty clueless about each other's emotional state. And, ultimately this is not what an intimate relationship is supposed to entail. We are to be each other's covering and protection. We are to be an encourager and nurturer. But, we can only do this when we share how we feel--not to spawn guilt but to be authentically transparent and vulnerable.
Celia's parade just got rained on. But, I think the lesson for us all is to just whip out the umbrella. And, in this case go to Rob, take care of him, and in time share with him how she felt in the rain.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Raining on the parade
Celia realized that she was
ready to become engaged to Rob – while cleaning the apartment for their annual
midwinter party with her still-in-college roommates. Though her process had begun last fall with the onset of
therapy together and had been enhanced by their trip to visit Celia’s mother at
Christmas, suddenly the perceived freedoms of the college lifestyle to which
she had clung lost their charm.
roommate Jordan slammed down her plastic martini glass on the kitchen
counter. “So what are we
listening to?” she asked the others:
Ann, Whitney, and Celia.
made a new playlist for tonight,” Ann said, walking into the living room,
switching on the stereo and finding it on her iPod. Jordan and Whitney whooped and slammed their glasses down with
Ann’s and followed her.
poured the rest of her drink down the drain and tossed the cup into the
recycling. She didn’t want to
reject their party; after all she had been part of it for the last two years
and had been an enthusiastic participant in the planning for this one until
five minutes ago, when mid-swoop with a dust cloth everything changed.
roommates, still dressed for cleaning and party prep, began to dance to some
bass-heavy dance music Celia didn’t recognize. This is where I would typically join them, she
thought, but now she was impatient for reasons that seemed silly – that they
were beginning the party before the work was done? That they were still students while Celia was maturing by
want to tell Rob that I want to get married, right now, she thought. She excused herself to the bedroom she
shared with Whitney and shut the door.
Sitting on the bed she picked up her phone and saw that there was a
message from Rob. When she
played it his voice sounded hoarse and weak.
he croaked. “I think I have the
flu that’s been going around the office; my head’s pounding and I’m dizzy when
I sit up. There’s no way I’m going
to make the party tonight, so have a good time. I’m gonna try to sleep this off today, so I’ll talk to you
tomorrow.” She heard him coughing
as he disconnected; he sounded as bad as he described.
told him to take some of my Emergen-Cs, Celia thought, as soon as he started to
talk about how many of his colleagues were out sick earlier in the week. She relied on the vitamin C drinks to
keep her healthy because she taught piano lessons to kids all week, positioning
their dirty hands on their germy piano keys with hers, thus exposing herself to
every cold in Columbus, all winter long.
was disappointed. This would
be a rotten time to unload her newfound attachment to their future together on
Rob, but she knew she would be a cold and very un-fun party hostess too.
should Celia do?
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Turning a corner (Harold’s response)
As humans we often struggle with timing. As Joanne inferred in her post, our society has becoming increasingly "wired" to move fast. We have come to expect our food fast and service fast. But, it doesn't stop with products and services. We expect to get fulfilling relationships fast and to make important decisions fast. Faster is better. Or is it?
Even as Christians who are somewhat sensitive to God's timing, we struggle with whether a delay of a request or need means that God has closed the door, whether God has the delay for a reason, or whether God just isn't interested in dealing with this particular issue. As such, we stress about when and how we will know the "right" time. Of course this varies by personality type. For some personalities waiting is tantamount to torture. For others waiting is accepted as one of life's pauses about which there is no point getting your blood pressure raised.
I am continually trying to be more comfortable with life's pauses. I've recently had a couple of experiences in which I was totally befuddled by the pause. I questioned whether a previous decision I made was correct because it may have averted the pause. I cried before God that I didn't understand why this was not yet a done deal. And, eventually I just waited...
In this week's episode, Celia has turned a corner in her own pause. She has wondering over the months about how she would know the right timing for her relationships with Rob to go to the next level. She has questioned when she would be ready to move on from her current life as she has known it. She has talked to Rob, to Carolyn (her therapist), and to others. But, this week in the midst of cleaning for a party it all clicked. It was time. She could feel it.
Celia's experience serves as a lesson to all of us to worry less about when this or that will happen -- especially as it pertains to our intimate relationships. For those of us subscribing to the Christian faith, Celia's experience says that we have to trust that although we never know God's time we WILL KNOW God's time. In other words when it is time God will use people and circumstances to inform the Spirit within us that it is time to turn the corner.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Turning a corner (Joanne’s response)
Our lives move too fast, thanks to technology that provides real entertainment (417 friends on Facebook!) and something like productivity at times, but may not add anything to meaning. A risk of the hyperconnected society is that we are constantly distracted from thinking about the lives we are living, which allows us to postpone indefinitely actually living those lives -- making decisions. All this is to say that I am not surprised Celia came to a significant realization about her life while performing a very old-economy task -- dusting (and without the distracting entertainment of an iPod!). Physical labor may be one of our only opportunities to be alone with our thoughts and feelings anymore, and that is a loss personally and societally. Given a moment to think and a context in which to do it (dusting, for this party), Celia turned a corner not only about what she wanted with Rob but in who she understood herself to be. Great moments in our interior lives happen in unsung times and places. Keep that in mind next time your toilet needs cleaned...
Monday, February 16, 2009
Turning a corner
Celia and Rob have been in therapy over four months now,
which they began at Celia’s insistence after Rob proposed marriage and she
declined. They have been doing
good work on being intentional about building the relationship they both
Celia was helping her three roommates clean their apartment
for their party tonight. This
annual event had started as a Valentine’s Day party three years ago when none
of them had boyfriends; now that they were paired off it was simply a late
February placeholder to liven things up during that gray and bleak Midwest
stretch up to spring break for the Ohio State crowd. As she dusted the living room (the first time in
months it had been done at all, it seemed) she had a strong sense that this was
her last party with this crowd.
In fact, she realized as she moved some CDs back onto a now-clean shelf,
she wasn’t even that interested in this one.
She could hear Ann and Jordan laughing in the kitchen as
they put bags of ice in the freezer.
Both were seniors and would graduate in June; their other roommate
Whitney, (now cleaning the bathroom), was a junior this year.
Come here,” she heard Jordan calling.
Though Celia had graduated last June, she had chosen to stay
here and remain on the lease with her friends until she decided what to do next
with her life. As she shook off
her dust rag and walked to the kitchen, it hit her that she knew the
Ann and Jordan were mixing cocktails on the counter, with
Ann pouring vodka in plastic martini glasses and Jordan pouring in fruit
juice. There were four glasses
lined up on the counter.
“Whitney!” Jordan called.
“It’s only noon,” Celia said.
“Just a little something to make cleaning tolerable,” Ann
said as she handed Celia a drink.
Over the summer and through Christmas she had enjoyed being
close to her friends, but since the holidays it had begun to wear on her; the
study-like-crazy-all-week and party-like-crazy-all-weekend lives that had at
one time seemed meaningful now felt shallow. Something had shifted within Celia recently and was
climaxing in this very moment. Any
appeal of the student lifestyle as represented by cocktails at noon on the
Saturday following midterms expired, in that moment, as she took the drink from
Ann while Whitney joined them and grabbed the final drink from the
Maybe it’s the plastic martini glass, Celia thought, as she
lifted it in toast with her friends.
“To Mid-Winter Fest 2009,” Ann said.
“Hear, hear,” they agreed. A year ago Celia would have downed the drink in one slug as
her friends now did, but as she took a polite sip, she realized it wasn’t the
plastic cup. She had outgrown
this. She was ready to move
forward and tell Rob she wanted to get engaged.
How should Celia handle this?
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Peace Offerings (Joanne’s Response)
I appreciate Celia's self-awareness. In response to Rob's angry words, to which she could easily have played the role of the wronged one, she was reflective rather than reactive. To Rob's credit he was specific in his anger, directing it at her "Is there a better time to talk about this?" question which he felt, rightly, that he had already answered. Specific anger, appropriately targeted, is more likely to evoke a thoughtful response than broad, blaming anger. So we can understand that Rob's appropriately directed anger evoked a thoughtful response from Celia, which led to her peace offering. I agree with Harold that peace offerings invite closeness and forgiveness, but they may be short-lived if the issue that sparked the confrontation is not fully resolved. I would encourage Celia to provide closure on this by introducing the subject again in a day or two, apologizing specifically for bugging him (rather than trying a more direct approach to getting what she wanted), and thanking Rob for receiving her peace offering.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Peace Offerings (Harold’s response)
In my own marriage lexicon, I think of Celia's act of refreshing Rob's beer and settling in beside him to watch the game as a peace offering. Why? It is intended to de-escalate the conflict. In turn, it preserves the relationship or at least doesn't damage it further. It could be easy to discount Celia's actions as just a guilt-ridden reaction. But, I feel like more than this is happening. Yes, she feels guilty for raining on Rob's parade. But, she also realizes the error that she made. And, without asking for it she wants two things from Rob: (1) forgiveness, and (2) closeness.
In my book, this is a major step. Intimate relationships stumble here all the time. Escalation seems to happen so fast that we don't even realize what is going on. Even issues that start off small become major catastrophes as each person tries to "one up" the other. Before you know it, the gloves come off. In these moments we say and do things that damage the fabric of the relationship--often irreparably.
The solution is to take Celia's approach. Regardless of who is "right" or "wrong", take the first step when your own conflict arises. Give your own peace offering and do it in a timely manner.
Monday, February 09, 2009
Celia felt guilty that she had ruined Rob’s evening of
basketball viewing with her absurd attempts to distract him when he had made it
clear to her that this was his evening’s priority.
Rob could feel Celia’s eyes on his back. She was probably still pouting as she
lay on the sofa, now in silence, and he was angry enough that he couldn’t even
enjoy the game, even though his team looked like they would pull it out. He even had a momentary fantasy of
covering his beer bottle with his thumb, shaking it and turning it onto Celia,
in case his point hadn’t been made; but he rolled his eyes inwardly at himself
for this and let the bottle remain still.
a moment he heard Celia get up from the sofa. Maybe she’s leaving, he half-hoped; but then this would have
to continue tomorrow which he did not relish. But she went into the kitchen. Rob could hear the opening and closing of cupboards and the
fridge and felt himself begin to relax, just to be alone in his living room for
the moment. His team scored again
and he reached for his beer, but it was no longer cold and Rob did not like
could ask Celia to get him another one since she was in the kitchen
anyway. That could be construed as
a peace offering of sorts, to begin a “normal” conversation, but she might take
offense at his asking her to wait on him right after he’d told her off. He didn’t want to go into the
kitchen while she was there, either, because then they’d have to speak, unless
he wanted to continue the cold war and ignore her while he grabbed a bottle,
which he didn’t want to do either.
So he remained on the floor in front of the television, while the game
proceeded without his full attention.
did he want to get married, again? He had more sports channels in his cable package
than he could count and he could do this every night, forever, if remained a bachelor. But he knew he didn’t really want
Celia was doing in the kitchen, she began to half-sing and half-hum
something. Celia had a pretty
voice; music was her field after all, and this half-and-half eccentricity was
something Rob had always found amusing and endearing. Rob could feel himself relax further as he listened to her,
and suddenly the basketball game was enjoyable again.
heard Celia walk back in, and suddenly a cold bottle of beer was dangling in
front of him. He took it as Celia
sat down on the floor next to him, placing a plate of nachos and taquitos, with
salsa, on the floor between them.
She reached over and grabbed her glass of water from the coffee table
and turned her own attention to the game as she took a sip and set it
a quick moment Rob braced himself for the continuance of the conversation from
earlier, but then he realized she wasn’t going to return there and
understood: This is her
peace offering. He watched her watching the game next to him, really for
him, because she didn’t care one whit about
took a swig of beer and set the bottle down. When the game went to commercial, he picked up the remote
and muted it as he turned to Celia.
What does Rob say to
Sunday, February 08, 2009
Growing Pains (Harold’s response)
I like Joanne's observation of Celia and Rob's latest "pursuit-withdrawal" interaction. And, I too admire Rob's ability to "stay out of the weeds" so the speak. I do want to make the point, however, that it is often so hard to not fall into this trap. When you feel the distance between you and a loved one, you just want to do something that you think will bridge the distance (even when that something may have negative consequences). When you feel crowded or smothered you feel like you need to do something to create space for yourself (even if you know it could create conflict). At some level we usually realize that both our pursuit and withdrawal behaviors could result in some pretty poor outcomes yet we do them anyway. Why?
I think we do them because the idea of not pursuing feels like we've lost and giving up. The idea of not withdrawing feels like we're sanctioning or agreeing with our loss of identity or space. We feel like we have to take some action. And, this is true. But, the action that we need to take is often quite counterintuitive. If we want to create closeness, we must give space. If we want to have space, we should create closeness. It really is that simple (in theory). In practice it is difficult to do because every fiber of our being longs to react intuitively rather than counterintuitively. It takes will and practice to execute. And, I applaud Rob for showing growth.
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