I just can’t… I just can’t… I just can’t…
I lay under my quilt saying this over and over to myself.
Overwhelm. Exhaustion… Even my fingertips were tired.
I lay there longer - tears slipped from my eyes.
I felt ashamed - I had just yelled at my husband. I hate it when this happens - but I was mad, and resentful, and jealous.
You see, I had woken early for a full week - trying to let my exhausted husband unwind…. The COVID shutdown had decimated his business, and he'd stayed up many nights trying to salvage it.
Today - he'd turned a corner. He decided to wake up early to do yoga and mediate. While he did his yogic breathing at the foot of my bed, our children were wreaking havoc upstairs.
And somehow I assumed, since I had woken early for days to tend to the kids, that he would pop out of his downward dog and into the kids’ room to quiet them so I could get some rest too.
But, this type of understanding does not exist in the old version of the “Book of Dad”. You know the book - the conscious and subconscious lessons society, and our families teach us about what it is to be a man. So, he stayed breathing and stretching.
I furiously exploded out of my peaceful slumber ready to shove his perfect triangle shaped body to the ground and kick his butt up the stairs.
Instead? I yelled… and then, being the martyr that I was, went up the stairs to tend to the children.
My next action? Slip into the kitchen and whip up a batch of banana chocolate chip muffins.
Sometime into my second muffin, my reality slapped me in the face. Tears started streaming down my cheeks, and I brought what was left of the muffin into bed with me.
Now you may find it odd that as a “conflict coach”, I’m not all that good at conflict sometimes. I teach it. Heck, I work solving some of the most complex bullying situations that exist.
But my own conflict? It’s still a work in progress.
As I reflect on the weeks since COVID started, I realized, in my panic, I had slipped into old habits. MY “Book of Mom” taught me to keep the home tidy, and safe, and calm. Keep the children and partner happy. Nourish, grocery shop, fold laundry.
And, my husband? Go to work, make money, support the family, plan for our futures.
Most importantly - I started communicating like a “good wife” would. Always with kindness. Choosing to see the gratitude instead of the problems. Swallowing frustration to keep things calm.
Being purely KIND doesn’t work for long-term happiness…. When we are only kind we give up our own needs and desires. Being unboundaried results in being walked all over - in this space, we lose ourselves and the lives we want to live.
Personally, I can only sustain my KIND for a little while. The resentment builds and I explode into STRONG.
STRONG resulted in rage and yelling - spewing all my carefully folded resentment at my husband like a one-sided snow-ball fight. STRONG was aggressive, and mean, and harsh. When we yell, or manipulate, or explode - it is hard for the other person to hear us. Worse than this is they do not have a chance to be heard. Without hearing both sides - no long-lasting solutions can be found.
But, as I lay there under my quilt - it hit me. The simplicity of the solution made me laugh.
Why am I not doing what I suggest to all my clients trying to get out of sticky situations???
I need to meld the two - find STRONG AND KIND together. When those come together, we stay thoughtful and compassionate to the other person without “giving in”.
For almost a decade, I have watched my clients find their STRONG AND KIND voices. In that place, they go from terrified to calm and courageous. When they use this new voice, complex bullying issues fold like a deck of cards.
So, why couldn’t it be used here too?
And I will try it out… I promise. But for now, I need to unwind, and release, and get some perspective. And perhaps I will sneak one more of those banana chocolate chip muffins into bed with me.
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Kathleen is an anti-bullying specialist, a conflict coach, a teacher, mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend...