He’d send me newspaper clippings to my college mailbox. Just the article. No note. No sticky to say hello. Nothing but the article that was a not-so-subtle way of telling me what career to choose and how to live. It infuriated me.
He thought I should be a nurse. It was my grandmother’s profession. He loved her. He thought it was a good career. And it was a good career…for her. However, nursing was not for me. I faint at the sight of blood. I can’t do science. Not just don’t want to – actually throw-up-in-my-mouth can’t.
While he believed he was being helpful, instead, my grandfather created a lose-lose situation for us. The more he pushed his point of view, the more unseen and unheard I felt. He didn’t ask me questions about my talents, abilities or loves. He didn’t know that Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind moved my soul or that long conversations about Constitutional Law was a favorite way to spend a Wednesday night. He didn’t understand that I would hold an interdisciplinary degree before those were a thing because that’s how my brain is wired.
Then, I was mad. But now, he’s been gone 21 years and I’ve come to see life a little more sideways these past two decades. Today I see that, in his own broken way, he was communicating with me. Communicating that he thought about me as he read the paper. He was telling me that he cared about my future and my security. He was telling me that the career of his wife was a worthy life pursuit and that he believed it to be good. Therefore, it was good for me.
Both of us valued being right over being in relationship. If we had stopped entrenching in our respective positions and had stopped being defensive, maybe we could have talked our way through it. Instead, he sent articles with no post-it and I got mad.
Back in the 90’s it took a little effort to send those articles. It required a subscription, scissors, an envelope and a stamp. It meant sitting at a table with your address book and a pen. It meant a trip to the post office, or at the very least the mailbox. And even with all that effort, the articles that he perceived to be worthwhile, I found infuriating.
Now, we rashly like and hit “share.” We shout the memes and bait-click headlines that support our position, our outrage.
If rash words are like sword thrusts, my facebook feed feels like a thousand jabs right now. No matter how ruthlessly I hide posts and unfollow sites, the rash words won’t stop.
We all know what it feels like to be shouted at. What if we did more listening, more earnest communicating within relationship? Would we all feel more seen? more heard? Would we all be less angry?
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