Monday, September 15, 2014

Connection Before Content

I said I'd blog once a week but haven't done it.  A month later, I'm ready to post.  Maybe once per month is more realistic for this time in my life?  I'm in a season of learning, of integrating new skills and information.  The current theme is communication skills and emotional intelligence.

I've always loved to learn and I've always enjoyed sharing the information I learn simply because I'm excited and fascinated by it but also because I want to be helpful.  However, sometimes my enthusiasm for sharing information coupled with my social anxiety and sometimes clumsy communication skills meant that I rubbed some people the wrong way. 

For example, when I was pregnant with my now two year old, I attended Celebrate Recovery.  One evening after the session, a fellow attendee was sharing her upset about a recent diagnosis of mental illness in a grandchild.  I wasn't there for the beginning of the conversation, but had walked up and joined the group part way through.  She said something slightly inaccurate about the diagnosis.  I just happened to have read something related to that recently and oh so helpfully, or so I thought, piped up with my correction.

Much to my surprise, she exploded at me, calling me a know it all who always had to be right.  Then she stormed out.  I quickly fled too and cried most of the way home.  I just wanted to help, why couldn't she see that?  Was I really a "know it all?"  Once my hurt was purged, I quickly realized that I owed this woman an apology, and within a few days had done so.   The apology was accepted.

A few days later, one of our mutual friends who had been there said that maybe it was good that this had happened so that I could get a more accurate picture of how well I read people and how I come across to them.  That gave me something to chew on, but that time I didn't spiral into self-pity.  I just made a note of it: "Communication skills are something I need to work on." 

Since then, God has put plenty of opportunities in my life to learn and practice communication skills!  I began going through the application process to become a La Leche League leader shortly after the above incident, and the portions of the Leader Handbook on communication skills gave me some wonderfully useful stock phrases and approaches to sharing information that I've incorporated in every aspect of my life.  Then just this August I attended a MOPS leadership training conference and the topic was communicating well with moms in times of crisis and conflict.  We watched a video of moms roleplaying various difficult conversations with immediate feedback and tips for improvement from a counselor.  Finally, this past weekend I attended a day-long LLL training focusing on listening well and responding with empathy (and sometimes information) rather than giving advice.  Most of the training was active roleplaying between all the participants.

With all I know now, I can see exactly what went wrong that day after Celebrate Recovery.  First of all, it wasn't my conversation to barge into.  Second of all, I responded with information when all she needed was empathy.  Third and worst of all, I also embarrassed her by contradicting her in front of everyone.  No wonder she lost her temper with me!

"Connection before content" is the way the communication skills trainer put it this weekend.  Or as Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

It's been a journey to incorporate this skill into my interaction with other adults, but I'm starting to feel confident in it.  What has been more challenging has been to consistently apply it in my parenting.  I reap benefits when I do, but it's still so hard and I frequently forget!  This morning I came across this post at Abundant Life Children which has some great tips.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

There is too much to 'splain, I will sum up...

This line from The Princess Bride seems appropriate.  I've taken a very long break from posting because so much has been going on in my life. 

Once this summary is out of the way, my plan is to start posting again the little musings I have about the intersection between my relationship with God as grace-giving Father and how I live as His daughter, especially in the context of parenting and homemaking. 

So, in no particular order:

In the early spring, my almost six-year-old daughter was diagnosed with ADHD, mild gross motor delays and mild sensory quirks that aren't severe enough to require professional occupational therapy.  We started her on Ritalin, 5mg once per day and it helped her tremendously with focus on her school work and helping her be a more flexible resilient participant in social situations.

On Good Friday, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy.  A week later I was readmitted to the hospital with double pneumonia and congestive heart failure.  I stayed in the hospital three days.  Recovery was slow and nearly four months later I'm only now getting to the point where my energy levels feel back to normal for me.  I was blessed to have two mother's helpers come a few times a week in May, and with amazing support from my church family and MOPS friends.  My underlying heart condition is a little more serious than I previously thought and not only am I recommended not to have more pregnancies, but I may need to have a pacemaker or defibrillator implanted eventually.

I finally started on anti-depressants.  I'm currently taking 50 mg of Zoloft which has made a world of difference.  I like my husband and children again instead of constantly feeling a low level of irritation and resentment toward them.  My brain's executive functions have returned and I have ideas and can carry them out.  I feel like writing again.  I feel comfortable at home instead of restless and wanting to escape through the internet or too many activities in the community.  I don't overanalyze every social encounter and can just relax and enjoy the company of people around me.  My spiritual life has reawakened too, no longer feeling flat and cold and distant.

In October, we moved to a new house in town and almost a year later as I heal and regain strength and energy and as my depression, anxiety and ADHD symptoms gradually lift, I've really started to enjoy and improve in my role as homemaker.  I've been able to reorganize things, start routines and set up systems that make our family life run more smoothly and keep the house at a level of tidiness and cleanliness that is comfortable for living and conducive to fun and creativity

I feel like each of these areas could spawn many detailed posts of their own, and perhaps that is a good challenge for me.  This fall, I will blog at least once per week (oftener if inspiration strikes), delving into a specific aspect or thought triggered by reading through this summary. 

When I was depressed early in my married life, one of the internal messages I had to overcome was that I had nothing to say.  I overcame that by beginning to post blogs on Myspace and eventually by starting this blog.  Then there were periods when my brain fog and exhaustion made impossible to turn the swirling grey into black and white words. 

Life has rhythms and cycles.  A pearl in an oyster is formed not all at once, but layer by layer.  One season of growth in my life is ending and another beginning.  The previous season was inward and quiet, but this one is bursting out to be shared.  Isaiah 43:18-19 seems very appropriate:

“Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
    rivers in the badlands." (The Message)

God is doing something new in me, in my family, in my community and in the world.

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