the magnifying mirror

Ever heard the expression How you do one thing is how you do everything? Well, if that's true, then my hair has just gifted me with a major insight into my relationship patterns.

Let me explain. I wore my hair long and straight for many years. And then, a couple summers ago, I started feeling like that hair was no longer mine. So I got it cut off by the stylist I'd been seeing for years, surrendering myself to her capable hands. And I loved the result.

Soon after the big cut, her salon closed and she left town. I was a little freaked out. How would I find someone else that I trusted with my hair as much as her? Because I am too lazy to use products or style it, I needed someone who could give me a true wash and wear cut, which wasn't easy with my stick straight mane.

So my search began for someone who understood how to work with thick, fine, straight hair. I spent an embarrassing amount of money, which I really don't have for things like this, trying to find a new stylist. Also, I walked around with crappy haircuts for close to a year.

And then, this fall, fate led me to a new salon. I called on a Saturday morning, and wonder of wonders, a stylist had just had a cancellation and could see me right away.

I loved my new haircut. She GOT my hair! It looked exactly how I wanted it to look! She understood my hair, really understood it. She even cut it dry so she could work with its quirks.

And I liked her. She was softspoken, sweet, and kind, with such a nice smile. I gave her a big tip and left feeling sure I had found my stylist for life. I was so happy that I could stop the search and settle into a nice, stable long-term hair relationship. I thought my bad haircut days were over.

Eight weeks later, I went back for my second cut -- openhearted, happy to see her, fully expecting a repeat performance. About halfway through I realized she had forgotten what she did the first time. I watched in shock as the cut progressed, trying in vain to find the right words to express what I wanted instead. I left holding back tears. Maybe I was unclear. Maybe she just couldn't do it this time for some reason.

I returned the next day, after washing it and seeing exactly how choppy and uneven it really was. I redoubled my effort to communicate very, very clearly what I wanted. I even used my hands to show her.

She apologized profusely the second she laid eyes on me, and did her best to fix it. She even took notes in her client book, so she would remember what my hair needed next time. I was comforted by that, and resigned myself to a few more months of ugly hair while it grew out.

But still, I had faith in her. She'd given me the best cut of my life, so I knew she had it in her. I told her and myself that it would take some time to establish our relationship, and I was willing to be patient with the process. Yesterday, I sat down in her chair once again.

This time, I knew my communication was crystal clear. I had spent a lot of time figuring out how to explain what I wanted, even running the explanation by my daughter to test its clarity before I went. The stylist said she understood exactly what to do.

And I'll be darned ... I walked out of there with another crappy haircut that was not at all what I wanted!!

As I got in my car, I said to myself, "I've given her enough chances. I was as clear as I know how to be, and this is not what I asked for. I won't be coming back here again."

Yet when I woke up this morning - I swear I am not making this up - I thought, But I loved that first cut so much! Maybe I wasn't clear enough. Maybe I should give her just one more chance ...

AARGH!! This truly is the way I think, for better and for worse. I see people's innocence. I see their good intentions. I wake up every morning with a clean mental slate, and hope springs eternal in my heart.

And far too often, I do not notice that sometimes, people are unable, unwilling, or un-something of following through on their good intentions.

I give a lot of chances. I give the benefit of the doubt. I try and try to find the right words, as if communication is the magic formula that will set everything right. As if any problem in the relationship is my fault, because I was simply not clear enough.

My kids have endured this quality of mine for years. It means I stay in relationships far longer than they would prefer. It means I try too hard to make things work. It means I cut a lot of slack. It means I focus too much on people's potential and not enough on their actual. It means I endeavor to call forth that greatness I see inside people, and to be fair, I am successful at times, but it's usually not very sustainable.

So every morning when I look in the mirror and see this haircut that I did not want, I can be reminded of how well that approach is working for me. Since it's probably not likely that I will turn into a cynic any time soon, I wonder what kind of checks and balances I could put into place to bring more discernment to my relationships. It will be interesting to see what develops organically from this new awareness.

ps: Oh, look at this! right after I published this, I went to read my email and this was waiting for me:

The realization that something is not as you want it to be is an important first step, but once you have identified that, the faster you are able to turn your attention in the direction of a solution, the better, because a continuing exploration of the problem will prevent you from finding the solution. The problem is a different vibrational frequency than the solution—and all thoughts (or vibrations) are affected by (or managed by) the Law of Attraction.

--- Abraham

So, right then, what do I want instead? I want to open my eyes all the way, to see both the potential and the actual. I want to continue to see with kindness, and I want to exercise more discernment, and take more time before getting deeply involved in or committed to a relationship. That'll do for starters.

conversation encouragers and discouragers

I woke up this morning knowing with crystal clarity that I did not feel good about yesterday's post. I don't want to endorse or perpetuate the application of a label as strong as 'abuse' in regard to the failure to acknowledge and respect someone's right to feel how they feel, because it may simply stem from ignorance rather than malintent. So I took that post down and revised it significantly. Here's version 2.0:

In the process of googling something else, I stumbled upon a list of rather commonly used expressions that may come across as invalidating of someone's right to feel how they feel.

No doubt many people who say this type of thing have good intentions, while other people may be in so much pain or confusion that they do actually intend to shut people down.

Since most of us here want our children, mates, and friends talk to us about their thoughts and feelings, I thought it might be helpful to know that even well-intentioned words can shut down the flow of communication.

If you want folks to keep talking to you, try responding with statements that express your understanding of what they just said (empathy and reflection), or your willingness to hear more, rather than trying to shift their perspective or hand them a solution.

Here are some examples of conversation encouragers:

Wow, that sounds tough.
How is that for you?
What's your take on that?

I'm sorry you are hurting.
Sounds like you really didn't like that.
That felt really out of line to you.
Sounds like you wish that had never happened.

Mmm. Uh huh. I hear you. Ohhh.
Silent nod with eye contact.
Move closer and hug them or rub their shoulders.

Here are some examples of conversation discouragers:

Cheer up. Lighten up. Get over it.
Don't cry. Don't worry. Don't be sad.

Stop whining. Deal with it. Forget about it.
Stop complaining. Don't be so dramatic.
You are too sensitive. Don't take it so personally.

You've got it all wrong.
That is ridiculous.
I was only kidding.
That's not the way things are.

Well, I tried to help you.
You are making everyone else miserable.
It doesn't bother anyone else, why should it bother you?

It can't be that bad.
It's not worth getting that upset over.
You are over-reacting.

You should be excited.
You should feel thankful that ____.
You shouldn't let it bother you.
You should just forget about it.

Don't say that.
You know that isn't true.
You don't mean that.

Don't you ever think of anyone but yourself?
What about my feelings?

Time heals all wounds.
Every cloud has a silver lining.

When you are older you will understand.
You are just going through a phase.

Although I don't endorse this guy's site, I do want to give him credit for the unedited version of the second list: