The power of being quiet

I am a talker. I am fairly confident I have something in common with every single person on this Earth and I bet there is more than just that one thing. Everyone has a story and very few of them only have one arc. When I was working, my field of expertise was in hospitality. It can be argued (at length, by me) that no one knows Hospitality quite like a mother, so the transition has been pretty seamless, except of course for the times when nothing goes my way. I have framed my abilities with the sturdy woods of comfort, compassion, caregiving and communication, allowing that structure to contain the masterpiece. While this worked beautifully in a world class golf club setting, it stifles the people I cater to now (I mean this in the best way possible).

Often times I thought if I could just crack how to better support someone that they would be able to give me more feedback and then I would be killing it as a wife/mother/friend/fish owner. I can relate to Jerry Maguire’s “Help ME Help YOU” way more than I am comfortable admitting. If you are hurting I want nothing more than to stop it. If you are struggling I will COPS-style urge you, (inches from your face) to “QUIT RESISTING”. I want to talk-talk-talk about it. No matter what “it” is. I just know it will help you! (And me! Because then I will know what you are thinking! But mostly you! Because that is what always helps ME!) Then I met and fell completely in love with a person who is quiet. And then it took me the next 15 years to realize that wasn’t a bad thing.

My automated response to anything that is troubling you is to ask you how I can help. Please know that the question is bone-marrow deep in sincerity. I do not want you to grieve. I truly care about your happiness and we might not have ever even met each other. I feel like I can find the words for you, not because of my superpowers or wordsmithing abilities, but because I feel like during our conversation we will get there together and you will grope your way to your truth, a sentence at a time.

When our first born was teeny-tiny, she was only sleeping every other hour for about fifteen seconds (hindsight is blurry)… I was irrational, exhausted to the point of eye twitching and clearly on the last of my frayed, fraying, raw and exposed nerves, my husband put his arm around me one night and suggested I go take a shower. A normal response to this would be to agree (we won’t get into specifics as to how many days my hair had gone without shampoo, but I was due). My response – I wanted to talk about it. Right. This. Minute. Why? Why would he tell me to shower? Because he thought I couldn’t handle it right? This should be effortless shouldn’t it? Was there something wrong with me? Or the baby? I could take it, just TELLLLLLLL MEEEEEEEEE. Instead, he did the worst thing ever. He looked at me and he stayed quiet. (I KNOW!! I KNOW!!!! Right now as I type this my eyebrows are lifted and my head is jutting away from my body, chin toward the floor and mouth agape– not unlike a vulture – at the recall and it’s been eight years.)

He stayed quiet for what felt like forty-five minutes (again with the hindsight) and the weirdest thing happened (when my fleeting blind rage faded). I came to the conclusion (ON MY OWN) that he was right. I was tired and a shower would be pretty amazing. (Sorcery! Witchcraft!).I also felt loved and truly cared for by him. This was a person who was looking out for me. When I got out of the shower, I was so happy that all I could do was say thank you.

Our daughters are by nature sisters and therefore they fight. Sometimes it’s mild bickering which fades to background noise and other times it’s ratcheted up to near hysteria. Unsuccessfully I have applied my mediation services which ensures only one outcome; my regret. I thought that perhaps my husband was immune to the goings-ons. Until I draped myself over our bed, the back of my hand to my forehead (the universal sign for Oh! How I’ve suffered!). I baited him perfectly or so I had thought but he knows me better and he waited me out, knowing I’d crack. “WHAT AM I DOING WRONG”, I wailed (fully in Scarlett O’Hara mode at this point, I think I had taken to fanning myself). “You are talking”, he replied, “Go in there, make eye contact and say NOTHING”.

So I did just that and received shocked and forthcoming children. I didn’t jump in. I didn’t try to help them get out what I thought they wanted to say. I didn’t offer suggestions for what I thought they might want to hear. I was there fully and they felt supported. To this day I am not sure if he broke some sort of Dad code, or it was a Jedi-Mind trick. It was as if he had shaken a snow globe and for the first time I wasn’t thinking about where everything would settle, but how I hadn’t noticed the glitter, or the surfaces that hadn’t been exposed before. So I started getting quiet while I didn’t have the words. When I got out of the habit of talking and into really listening I was capable of being more supportive. I built safe spaces in conversations with people I love where they could talk uninterrupted, the true framework of hospitality. Hopefully, this helps, but your solutions may be found in an upcoming post. After all, to quote our girl Scarlett, “Tomorrow is another day” and I will likely have more time to talk then.

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