Life Essential: Listening

Let’s talk about the “N”  word. Neglect.

Neglect:  To pay little or no attention to; to fail to care for or attend properly; to ignore or disregard.

As a hairdresser, I knew what it looked like for a woman to neglect the care of her hair: lengthy roots, massive split ends, accompanied by faded, brassy color.  When this woman sat in my chair, she struggled to make eye contact in the mirror. It was clear that she was not comfortable facing her neglect.

Then, there was the woman who highly valued the presentation of her mane. This woman carried smooth, shiny strands regularly serviced with expensive oil treatments; she maintained her hair color religiously and owned a wide array of pricey products. This woman would sit in my chair and make direct contact with me, and herself, confident in what she wanted and occasionally adventurous to try something new.

Caring for anything becomes an art when you highly value it.

And let’s not forget the men. Men know how to care for things, too. Oh yes, they do. I’ve seen them standing in their driveways on Sunday afternoons waxing and washing that precious ride. Sweet baby girl is getting talked up, shined up and pampered where the sun don’t shine. Her needs are heard through the noises she makes when he starts her up, and he eagerly listens for any notification of pride – or concern.

So, there we have it: both men and women know how to care for things they value. And if they don’t know, they are willing to learn. And when they really care, they make caring for it an art.

The question today is: have we lost the courage to hold ourselves responsible when the things we value fall apart?

Health, marriage, family unity, career, faith – all of these things we value demand a level of responsibility to ensure sustainability and healthy development. We say what we believe, we talk about what we value, but it is in how we live that reveals how well we care for them.

As I stood with clippers in hand that day, I reflected on years of care: color, hi-lights, bleaching, haircuts, styling products – every single process that expressed the value I placed on hair. It took my 10 year daughter getting diagnosed with Cancer to help me see all that I had allowed to stand in the way of caring for the most valuable people in my life. While my hair looked professionally cared for, my own child had been suffering and I wasn’t aware enough to notice. Her voiced concerns were “noise” to my ears; whiny, the product of childish complaining. I simply hadn’t cared enough to make my mothering an art – and therefore, it had become an inconvenience.

Standing in the bathroom of room 701, at The Children’s Hospital in Denver, I shaved it all off. This became a public declaration to myself and to my daughter. Never again would I value the pursuit of something outside our family more than I value my family itself.

A baptism into unity. An emancipation proclamation. This was the ultimate throw-down. I was a letting go that which no longer served me and my family. I was making her a promise that day: to walk beside her and carry this burden with her until we ALL had safely passed through it.

Today, I watch leaders of all kinds pay more attention to the numbers and outside goals, then they do to the needs of the people they serve. I listen to volunteers and workers speak up, voicing challenges and concerns, only to be regarded as complainers and whiners.

When our greatest desire is to listen, we will make it an art. It is the art of listening that can lead us into greater understanding, greater unity, greater compassion – and ultimately, a greater expression of care for one another.

Delia Nichols_21

M

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Life Essential: Communication

Think about this: communication (social interaction through messages) is not a static thing. It is not a fixed action that produces expected results. Communication is actually a process. The process of communication requires a series of dialogue.

Within these series of dialogues, when we choose to communicate, we are stepping out into the unknown and engaging in an unpredictable process that holds uncertain results.

That is so exciting to me! I can recall instances that I worked overtime to set up the parameters of a difficult conversation. I practiced my script and laid out the bullet points in my mind. There was winning to be had and I was going for the gold.

For some of us, just thinking about a difficult conversation creates a strong sense of fear and anxiety. Where will it go? How will I respond?What will come out of it? All too often, our desire to control the situation can leave us paralyzed or walking away in fear. And when control and fear buddy up, hope becomes the third wheel; hope trails behind like the goofy little sister. You really do love her, it’s just that…well…sometimes she jeopardizes your ego.

When we step beyond our fears and choose hope for a relationship over ego, we become hands free of agenda and motives. Hands free means arms wide open. This is where relationships find strength, this is where a voice gains practice, this is where we get to trust in the process of communication – not for the outcome, but for the developmental process that occurs in spite of any outcome!

The human mind was designed to continue evolving, continue growing and developing. Our thinking was created for curiosity. It’s fear who stands at the door and says it’s too hard, it’s too risky, and it’s just too much work.

But we can do this. We were made for this. If we would only be willing to try.

Here’s a challenge: the next time you feel tempted to block, unfollow, disengage, or divide, consider the process of communication. Consider that it requires a series of dialogues. Or simply ask for the willingness to emerge in your heart that would allow hope and bravery to lead you into communication that is unpredictably and incredibly, wonderful.

 

 

Pain or Personality?

Pain.

It cannot be denied.

It will be released.

It will have its day in the sun.

You can lock it up, stuff it way down deep, try to ignore it or even temporarily pacify it. But eventually, Pain, in its relentless pursuit of freedom, will let out its voice and demand to be heard. However, Pain is also immensely creative. It is able to be released in many, many, various and differing ways.

How we release our pain, is ours to choose.

Some drink, some smoke, some eat, and some rage, while others soldier on. Some paint, some write, some sing and some strum, while others soak, wade, and wallow.

With so many options, we must remember that we get to choose the way in which we release our pain. Or do we? Does everyone really get to choose, or is the act of choosing reserved for only the sound mind? And what if we are in denial of even possessing some sort of pain, what if we see our behaviors as simply part of our personality that we feel people just need to accept?

Here’s a way to find out: Ask.

Ask your friends, ask your family, ask your children, or ask your spouse. Ask.

Inquire about how you make people feel. Request feedback on your behaviors and your expressions of love towards them. If asked in genuine sincerity, a wonderful thing happens – your people will tell you the truth. Because here’s the thing: expressing criticism is a loathsome, yet necessary, venture. But, when feedback is requested, someone has indicated that they are willing and open to hearing. 

Recently, in one of my communications classes, I had to give a survey to a few close friends and get feedback on my communication skills (aka: listening skills). I sent one to my best friend, gave one to my husband, then gave one to my three children. I carefully prefaced the survey, stating that I surely had not arrived at complete communication gold status, and really just wanted honest feedback.

And that is exactly what they gave me.

A few scores stung a bit, I have to admit, but I was more thrilled that they were truthful, and that they trusted me with their vulnerable honesty. After all, I feed them. They could have very well feared a week of sloppy sandwiches and refried beans for dinner! What a success. We had practiced the art of cultivating authentic relationship through honesty, vulnerability, and trust with one another, and it was good.

I did not say it was comfortable, I said it was good.

Asking your loved ones to evaluate you is both healthy and humbling. It took a lot for me not to react in defense and pick apart their scores (both of which are responses to pain). I had to work extra hard to remain open and soft. But that, for me, was also a practice to the art of curating authentic relationship, and it was good. Again, not comfortable, but good.

Say this: “I have not arrived”.

Congratulations! You have just acknowledged that you have more to learn. This statement is wonderfully deflating to the ego, as it brings us back down to the level of connection to humanity. Back to the ground level. Back to where our two feet are planted on the earth – smack dab next to our brothers and sisters.

To which they may reply: Welcome back.

Sometimes, the celebration of our ego’s deflation is an indication to how far we have floated above others. Rising so far above them, that we are no longer able to see their expressions to our behaviors, or hear their voiced concerns. Sometimes, the celebration of our ego’s deflation comes as a lighthouse beacon shining onto our path, preventing us from crashing into the rocks ahead.

Some relationships can be salvaged, some cannot. But when we take the time, the effort, and courageously make ourselves vulnerable today, we will see the soft blinking lights, those opportunities for development, that arise to prevent a break-down in the future.

 

Research Q’s: Cancer

Which is more cancerous to humanity?

  • Silence, and the retreating from communication

OR

  • Unauthentic words and behavior

     

They both lead to nothing. They both hinder relationship. Both are expressions of  unwillingness and both are fruitless endeavors.

We either just can’t, so we don’t, or we just can’t, so we put on the appearance that we can.

Absence or Appearance.

Is one more cancerous than the other?

And to what extreme must we go, to live wholeheartedly amidst these kind of relationships, – or is surgery, to remove them, our only hope?

XO

M

The respond-able woman

respondable

You’re pretty, you’re beautiful and I love you so much!

This is my sons daily declaration of love for me. This is his spiel. He speaks these words again and again, eyes fixed and awaiting my response.

Of course I always respond. I scoop him up and smooch him to pieces; I drop what I’m doing and run to him; I hug him, thanking him for his sweet words; and I respond with my daily spiel back at him, “you’re brave and you’re cool and I love YOU so much!

Whatever my response, there are squeals and warm smiles all around. I’m not even sure what he gets a kick out of the most, expressing his love to me or receiving a response from me.

Now, could you imagine if I didn’t respond? What if, after his daily declaration, I ignored his words and continued chopping my vegetables, clearing away dirty dishes or applying my mascara. What if I completely disregarded his words?

Breaks my heart to even think about ignoring this little man of mine. My love for him is colossal. I would call myself an irresponsible mama; irresponsible with his tender, little-man-sized heart.

But lets look at it from another angle, shall we? What about when the words exchanged between those who love one another are filled with hurt and pain – words strewn amidst a battlefield of conflict – why is it so easy to ignore and disregard one another?

Is not a bold yet distressed word that communicates pain an equal expression of love for another as an effortless word of affirmation?

I would rather my teenage daughter express an awkward and angry frustration with me than isolate herself in her room, ignoring my knock on her door and giving me the silent treatment.

I would rather my husband speak an absolutely insensitive response regarding my ridiculous behavior, than to have him hold it in, and allow it to grow into resentment.

What if, in our unconditional love, we could give permission to those we love, to express their anger, pain, or worry without fear of rejection, silent treatment or cold-shoulder from us?

In relationships, we all posses the ability to respond to one another, but its in our capability – the action of responding – that demonstrates our measure of love in that relationship.

Being responsible enough to hold someones heart means we must be trustworthy, accountable and attentive to one another not just during good times, but also in tough times.

I’m guilty of this. Minutes after a heated argument, my husband walks up behind me, wrapping his arms around my waist saying “I love you“, I mumble a quiet, “love ya too” and pull away. I’m thinking: too soon, just give me 10 more minutes of cold shoulder. 

It’s too easy to not respond at all. One small effortless restraint of engaging in communication and poof – instant power. And unlike a physical blow to the face, there is no outward evidence of wrong doing, so clearly there are no grounds for taking full responsibility for this behavior.

Unless…we choose to live as responsible people.

To be responsible means to be answerable and accountable for something under your care. With great responsibility comes great opportunity. Our longing for deep and intimate relationships must be coupled with a great sense of responsibility for the health and care of those relationships.

Think of conflict as a tennis match: when we respond to it, we are taking a ball of power – which is the ministry of reconciliation – and we are serving it into another’s court. They, in turn, respond and send it back. This ball of power needs to go back and forth, engaging in dialogue and connectivity, to allow fear and anger to be sloughed off enough so that the core, which is the truth, may finally be revealed.

Nobody likes to play with a ball hog. He’s a hoarder of power; that guy who doesn’t pass the basketball to his team mates; continually shooting from the free-throw line. He’s a one-man-show. To him its all about winning – not about playing together.

Having a healthy relationship is not about  winning, it’s about leaving the court of conflict together, with love and unity in tact.

Too often we see one another as opposition instead of someone on our team and we overlook the real enemy: division.

We say I’m not getting into the ring with you… and..take your gloves off…because we are looking at conflict as a me against you battle. But sadly, this is just a very clever illusion that we fix our eyes upon while the real battle is well underway.

Until we choose to see one another as allies to the end, we will continue to lose the fight for unity.

Until we choose to live responsibly in our relationships, until we choose to step into the ring with one another, or lace up our gloves and fight alongside one another, we will continue to remain at a disadvantage.

Here’s the treasure: we have a Great Mediator.

He loves those on all “sides” of the offense. He has given us each the grace to face any conflict without fear of condemnation. He has given us each the courage to engage and respond to one another in truth and love; and He has given us each the strength to persevere through pain and vulnerability to reach the other side…reconciliation.

I know grandma taught you…if you ‘aint got nuthin’ nice to say, don’t say nuthin’ at all…but this might just be where the whole silent treatment came from, and it simply doesn’t work. What works is responding; what works is engaging; what works is communication and collaboration.

An equipped woman is not only a responsible woman, but a respond- able woman.

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