Resist and avoid is a common response to hard topics.
When we are faced with difficult conversations (or conflicts), often our habitual response is to avoid. To move away from the conversation – maybe because of social rules (sex is not a topic of polite conversation), perhaps because we experience shame (I’m not good with money!), or fear (what if__________??).
Or, there is so just much old belief and emotion tied up in the topic, that it can seem impossible to approach.
This week my family has been getting bare.
And I really, really, really didn’t want to. At all.
Wednesday night, my husband came home from work and dropped the bomb… a year-long deployment to Afghanistan. I was stunned. We have been through this four times in the last 6 months where the Air Force has said Erick will deploy, and then, it gets called off. That could certainly happen again, but likely not. He is “hot” for a year-long visit to the Middle East.
Even if it’s not this one, it’s coming and fast. In eight weeks, he will be gone, if this one happens.
My first reaction? Resist + Avoid.
Nonononononononononono!!!!!! I don’t even want to entertain this until we’re “sure”. I’m pissed that he brought it up at dinner, in front of Clara (who is studiously looking at her lap, unsure of what just happened). I want to hone in on that – to distract from the truth: my husband is leaving for a year, going to a dangerous place.
It would be easier to start an argument about his choice of timing (and really? that is SO what I wanted to do) – but instead, I look him in the eyes and reconnect with our shared values, our shared intentions – and how much I love him. I take a deep breath and let my shoulders drop.
We have lots to talk about.
Even in my shakiness, I know it’s important for us to start the conversation… when will we update our wills to reflect our wishes, should something happen to both Erick and I – who will care for Clara? The details about power of attorney, our investing strategy, life insurance policies, and where Clara and I will live while he is gone… all the various details that need to be tended during the days between now and the time he leaves.
Inside I remind myself to stay bare, to stay open – I watch for a defended stance and if I feel it, I drop it. When Erick veers off into something that isn’t relevant that triggers me, I bring him back here – to this conversation. I remind myself, and him – that we are in this together.
I feel the tears sting my eyes.
This is so NOT the conversation I want to have, but I can feel that when I shrink away, it fuels his fear. I reach out and tell him how scared I am for him – he tells me he is scared, too.
Then, there is my sweet girl.
She is wide-eyed and unsure of what to do with herself when she hears that Erick will be gone for a whole year. She asks him who will play cards with her? Who will take me bike riding? Who will tuck me in when Mommy has a client?
I can tell Erick doesn’t want to be answering these questions, but he does. And he looks her in they eye while he does.
After she is somewhat satisfied with his answers, she draws him a picture while Erick and I continue to talk.
As I tuck Clara in, the conversation she really wants to have is revealed.
What if Daddy dies?
Now I really don’t want to have this conversation with my 7 year old. I don’t want her even THINKING about this (nor do I really want to think about it). As my stomach clenches, I breathe into and around my resistance to the question before I answer.
I know she is worried – I feel this in my little girl. And I answer as best I can. I tell her that there are no guarantees and that anything could happen, anytime, but mostly, things turn out okay and if something does happen we will face it together, at that time. I tell her that IF Daddy died, we would be okay. That it would be SO sad. That it would change our lives. But I believe he will be okay.
“But you don’t know that for sure.”
My heart aches for her. No, sweetie I don’t.
And it’s okay to be scared and to be sad that your Dad is leaving and to be mad that he’s not here. And we are going to make it through this, together – and with a lot of love and support from all the people who are in our corner.
Reminding myself, as much as I am reminding her.
A courageous, open-heart – undefended.
Nothing to hide. Holding your ground. Claiming your sovereignty.
Whether we are being asked to come face to face with death, money, taxes, religious differences, business ethics, or the state of the economy – I believe in the absolute power of taking an undefended position when confronting difficult conversations. A position that is grounded in loving truth. A position that is committed to working the common ground.
Getting – and staying bare – in our conversations is the key to connecting to others and creating what we truly desire.
What conversation do you need to have?
Get bare and see what happens.