Posts Tagged ‘misunderstandings’

Cleaning our Emotional House

January 6, 2015

With the changing of the calendar and another New Year’s demarcation behind us, many of us step forward armed with resolutions, goals, and promises to make this year better than the one before. A natural nexus to all of this is tackling various clean up projects—clearing out detritus we no longer need, organizing what we do, working hard to keep our little corner of the world swept up, nice and neat.


How good are you at cleaning up your messes?


Groan. I know. I feel the exact same way. While certain projects such as getting in shape or organizing our office are largely within our control, tangible, and clear cut, others are less so. What makes clean up far more fraught is when the messes are not of our own making. It’s a lot trickier to clear up misunderstandings or assuage hurt feelings when the offending action is something personalized by the other party. Do we apologize for something we didn’t do? What if they expect more than a, “I’m sorry your feelings are hurt” sort of statement, making it into a whole thing where a litany of additional personalized hurts gets tacked on. Who wants to hear all the ways they have fallen short of the mark?


Yuck, yuck, yuck.


It is precisely such circumstances that test the mettle of a dedicated Re-booter. It is our cultivated ability to rise above our defensive reactions and to draw upon a wellspring of compassion for this beloved other in order to find a way through such messes. This isn’t easy and we may not do it perfectly but that’s ok, because at least we’re trying. When I found myself in one such unfortunate scenario, I reminded myself of a few things: 1) this is what it feels like for the other person when you personalize things, Chrisanna; how do you like them apples? 2) this person is obviously feeling fragile, so try to see beyond their immediate accusations and communicate with their more mature and grounded self; 3) how would your Ideal Self—the person you want to be—handle this interaction in order to increase the likelihood that both parties can move forward in a constructive manner? and 4) give them time to settle down while also demonstrating that you care about them. These are the guideposts I aspire to use, especially when I’m feeling defensive or fed up or insulted.


How do you tackle such interactions? What strategies have you tried? How have they worked for you?


Re-booters recognize that kerfuffles such as these do crop up from time to time—in the spectrum of any close relationship, they’re bound to occur—so, we take it in stride. Having made the decision about how we want to handle ourselves when confronted by such unpleasantness gives us the confidence to react in a more measured manner, with compassion for the unhappy other. The good news is that tangles such as these don’t come up too often. It gives cleaning house an entirely new meaning.


Reuniting with Old Friends

November 13, 2014

A few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal published a recipe for a drink called Act of Contrition. Having just returned from my college reunion, I figure I need a bottomless glass in pursuit of the absolution I seek. Reunions are funny things, aren’t they? Filled with loads of laughs and happy memories, they also serve as a reminder of how fast time flies and how much lives have changed. I felt nervous, yes, but was excited to see old friends—plus, I looked pretty good so that made everything better.


At the reunion dinner, I noticed that just about everyone was “thicker” than they were when we graduated. The aging process has been kinder to some more than others. But, what amazed me was that, despite all these years apart, how quickly everyone fell into the same dynamics we shared before. The laughs and the chemistry were pretty much the same between us, but softened by the kindness that accompanies suffering through some of life’s disappointments.


Still, for all that was the same, much has changed. Life choices (and misunderstandings) have resulted in wildly unexpected outcomes with participants unconsciously communicating contentment, relief, resignation, or an exaggerated ambition to the point of becoming a caricature. Add in a dollop of confusion or regret, and I think we’ve covered the bases.


I think I’ll throw in a little pop culture reference to tie some of these musings together. For those of you who don’t know, The Affair is a marvelous drama on Showtime. In one exchange, the exasperated male lead says to the female, “Whatever darkness you think you’re hiding is written all over your fucking face. And you know what? I kinda like it.” I love that line. Applying it to reunions (or just about anything else), we can take much from it: 1) we can’t hide as much as we think we can and 2) much of the time that “thing” we feel so bad about in our lives isn’t sufficient to scare off the people who truly love us.


Editorial aside: Poor men, they’re so often exasperated by us. We really can drive them to distraction—and then they do stupid, stupid things.


Appearances are just appearances, yes, but they also reveal way more than we necessarily want. We can’t help it. It’s laughable to believe we’re successfully hiding something about ourselves, whatever “it” is. However, as a friend gently reminded me, the good news is to understand that what others believe is important about us may be worlds apart from what we think is important—for good or for ill. For instance, the things I am struggling with in my life these days, those things I consider paramount to proving that I’m worthwhile are of practically zero interest to my friends, who don’t care whether I have a job or not or am married or not or have life figured out. Apparently, what draws them to me has nothing to do with how I perform according to conventional standards. It’s hard to believe that I am enough as I am, as flawed and stupidly drunk as I sometimes can get, but apparently it is.


The same is true for you.


I write all this not because my reunion is so inherently interesting, but because it serves as a magnifying glass for how much we can see about one another, whether we mean for them to see us or not. Try as we might to posture or pretend, or even blithely float along utterly unaware just how much we are giving away by the way we dress or behave or hold back, the writing’s on the wall.


I hate feeling that seen, don’t you?


There’s no grand, re-booting conclusion to this post, just a lot of observations swirling about as I pull away from the mists of memory…



For those of you who feel a similar need to seek absolution for whatever it is that bothers you, I offer the following:


Act of Contrition

This swizzle, adapted from Nashville’s Pinewood Social, combines rum with herbal digestif Fernet Branca.


Make Demerara simple syrup: In a saucepan, simmer 1 cup water with 1 cup Demerara sugar until sugar dissolves. Let cool to room temperature.


In a Collins or large rocks glass half filled with crushed ice, combine 2 ounces Scarlet Ibis gold rum, ½ ounce Fernet Branca, ¼ ounce falernum, ¾ ounce orgeat, ¾ ounce fresh lime juice and ¼ ounce Demerara simple syrup. Swizzle until well blended, add crushed ice to fill and continue swizzling until glass frosts. Top with a dash of Angostura bitters and a mint sprig.


Reuniting with our Past: Dreaming of Another Life

October 9, 2014

The wistful beauty of Autumn is that it’s all about shedding the past.

It’s a breezy, sunny October afternoon here in Washington; Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, is making her presence known in a most delightful manner. Basking in the glow of the first red leaves in the still-warm sunshine, I sigh contentedly, grateful for these simple pleasures, but I recognize how easy it would be for me to disregard such things as unimportant, scowling at the breeze as a harbinger of another brutal winter.


Where do you fall on the spectrum of negativity these days?


When I fantasize about the lives of others, images of happy crowds lingering along the sidelines of children’s sporting events pop into my mind or scenes of increasing party chatter where guests mingle freely, swapping jokes and gossipy tidbits. Alas, neither of these is my reality. Even as a re-booter who knows what we see is not always aligned with reality, I still get tripped up.


I continually struggle against the impression that everyone else is living their life with zest! and oomph! and a whole lotta zaza, while I drift suspended in a translucent bubble, watching, but rarely intersecting, with the world. It’s an extremely odd feeling. On occasion, I chastise myself for framing my life in such dire terms—after all, it’s up to me to get out there and join the scrum, so maybe I’m just lazy or ill-suited to interaction. But on many occasions, I’m grateful that I have this haven of quiet that surrounds me. It’s this same refuge that enables me to watch and ponder all of you as you go about your busy and productive days. Often times, I torture myself with questions such as, “Am I wasting my time or not? What the hell do I think I’m doing with my life?”


Ring any bells?


Perhaps I am fretting more about such matters because, in a few weeks, I am going to travel 1200 miles to attend my college reunion. I loved going to college. I loved everything about it—I am lucky enough to have known some brilliant, talented, and amazing people. But all these years later, we’ve parted ways and what makes me hesitate is whether they’ll have mellowed and be welcoming of my current, deeply flawed self or if they’ll revert to the thoughtless but funny cruelties of yesteryear. To be honest, it won’t be so easy for me to witness the busy and constructive lives they’ve built for themselves (happiness, tbd) while I remain mired in this transition. It’s hard to hold your head up high when you feel laid low.


Still, my desire to revisit and reconnect is sufficiently great that I’ve opted to go. I don’t know how I’ll answer the awkward questions, ignore raised eyebrows, move past inevitable comparisons, or mourn paths not taken, but I remind myself that everyone has experienced heartache and disappointment, so chances are they’ll be somewhat sympathetic to mine. Reunions of any sort can be fraught, but they also promise great joy. That’s why people go.


What was the last reunion you had? It can be with anyone—your sibling, a former lover, a friend who dumped you and wants to reconnect, an army buddy. How did you feel when you saw them? What was it like to reconnect? Were you reminded of how happy you are to be in a different place now or do you regret the misunderstandings or circumstances that led to your parting ways? When they see you, do they recognize the person from long ago or welcome the person you’ve become? And is there room for them in your life today?

Kids in leaves


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