All my best days begin with you in my arms.”

Jesh de Rox

 

Life can be so hard sometimes, but there’s something beautiful and magical about facing those hard moments with honesty. Somewhere in the middle of never ending laundry runs, a mountain of dishes with a life all its own and the tornado of toys left behind when my kids leave any room, I stop taking in moments to breathe. I start to shut down inside to do whatever it takes to get through the day. But if I catch myself, I realize there is something more than meets the eye — there is something extraordinary going on.

These are the best days of my life.

Last night was such a moment. My wife and I took a 10 minute break in between after the kids went to bed and before we tackled the kitchen (for the 5th time that day). We sat snuggling for a moment in each others’ arms, gently swinging on our porch watching the sun go down and let our minds wander. Surprisingly, our thoughts both rested in gratitude. For a moment we looked at each other — past the peanut butter in her hair and the bags under my eyes. The life we’ve always dreamed of is here. We’re doing it. This is it.

Soak it in and let yourself smile. Let yourself enjoy your life just as it is.

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How do you put color into words for someone who has never seen it for themselves? How would you describe red? Or blue? Or burnt amber? How would you experience a sunset without color? Watch as these colorblind folks see all of that for the very first time. It’s an incredible personal and intimate experience most of us take for granted. What a breath-taking gift!

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“Children are their parents’ guests. They come into the space that has been created for them, stay for a while–fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years–and leave again to create their own space. Although parents speak about ‘our son’ and ‘our daughter,’ their children are not their property. In many ways children are strangers. Parents have come to know them, discover their strengths and their weaknesses, and guide them to maturity, allowing them to make their own decision.

the-gift-of-parenthood

“The greatest gift parents can give their children is their love for each other. Through that love they create an anxiety-free place for their children to grow, encouraging them to develop confidence in themselves and find the freedom to choose their own ways in life.”

Henri Nouwen

Bread for the Journey

“[But] when you have kids is [the] most important [time] to be principled.

“Kids see everything.

“You can’t hide anything from them. When you buy [your child] something, he’s going to see your pride and your shame. He’s gonna to know when you traded your integrity for comfort and safety.”

Emma Pillsbury

 

“…at the deepest level all any of us really want is to be validated, is to be seen, to be met fully, to have our experience held and contained by another. It sounds so simple, but in practice is in fact a revolution.

“We long to somehow receive permission to be what we are, for another to understand how we are organizing our experience, for another to somehow be willing to enter into a burning love – field with us, without needing us to be different, to be ‘cured,’ or even to heal. when we are truly met, when our organization is fully validated by another, a very organic process of healing is initiated  one that does not come from us or from our friend who is suffering – but seemingly from some mysterious Other.

“When we allow ourselves to enter deeply into the subjective experience of another – and when they feel us with them inside the cracks and crevices of each and every cell of their heart – love takes over, grace begins to whisper its secrets, and we turn toward home, together.”

Unknown Author

 

When Communication Breaks. Communication is fundamentally about bridging differences to form a connection of understanding. But sometimes an understanding is never reached. Sometimes those differences turn into disagreements, and sometimes those disagreements come loaded with hostile threats — at least it can feel that way. Most of the time, these misfires are politely ignored or stepped over, but they always cause some form of distance we may not really want in our relationships. Have you ever experienced a pleasant conversation that took a sharp turn? Perhaps it was a complement from a friend that felt more like a slap in the face where the sting burns a littler deeper because this friend still thinks he just gave you a complement. Or perhaps you’ve been surprised by the defensive posture of a loved one in need, when you offered a solution because you sincerely wanted to help.

What’s most heartbreaking about these kind of exchanges, about stepping on these relational land mines, is the surprise. It’s never our intention to cause insult or inflict damage. In fact, it’s usually the exact opposite. Our friend thought he was giving a complement; our advice was offered as a sincere effort to help. Taking a couple steps back, I believe we are taken off guard by a widely practiced, yet subtle communication deficit… I call it negative defined value.

Negative Defined Value. By “negative defined value,” I mean defining the value of a specific idea, thought, or point of view, not by it’s own merits, but by the criticism of something else compared to it. Criticism is easy. It’s much more difficult to put intangible value into finite words — to bring a shapeless void to life, to inspire, to ignite a light that dispels darkness. But that’s exactly what genuine communication does. It’s the difference in saying “you neglect other people’s needs” when we really mean “I need a hug from you” or saying “that is nothing compared to this“ when we mean “I have something that’s been valuable to me and I want to share with you.”

For most of us, we have no intention to criticize; we fall into the trap of talking negatively about alternative viewpoints as an attempt to draw distinctions. Naturally we want to show the unique benefits of our idea, but when we go down this path, the sad reality is we actually don’t share anything positive about what we value. Instead our criticism becomes the main topic of discussion while we put our listener on the defensive (even when they have little to be defensive about). A critical startup is an attack, no matter how subtle; it frames our value as opposition rather than something with substance and worth of its own. I’m a guilty as the next guy; even with this post, I find myself at a greater loss than I hoped. It humbly teaches me there’s lots of room for growth in areas of creativity, vocabulary, specific vision, articulation, listening and understanding.  But it also galvanizes my belief the better we do this, the more distinctions will make themselves apparent by the contrast.

Practical Steps Forward. You can join me in a little personal experiment if you want.  See if you can catch yourself engaging in this “negative defined value” and count how many times a day — not for an exercise in guilt, but one in greater awareness and hope for the future. My vision for the coming year is to grow in sharing my thoughts, ideas, and perspectives in ways that do not come at the expense of something or someone else. The good news is we get better at the things we practice, right? So here’s to practice… Cheers!

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It’s ok to feel disappointed… even if it’s uncomfortable.

Of course we believe that’s true for big things; we give ourselves permission to feel disappointed for losing our job, being involved in a car accident, or finding out someone close to us has cancer. We wouldn’t purposely deny the heartache of those. But what about the small things? They may seem petty in comparison, like when we finally get to our morning coffee and it’s cold, or rip a hole in a favorite pair of pants, or a loved one subtly rolls their eyes when you try to connect with them. So we tuck them away, to unsuspectingly carry them with us all day long where they blanket us with a vague sense of gloom or evolve into an angry outburst over something insignificant.

When I get down, it’s good to remember the weight of depression can often be traced back to a series of small unacknowledged disappointments. They, like you and I, just need to be seen. If that simple request is honored, we can move on without skipping a beat. The wisdom in the old cliché “there’s no use in crying over spilt milk” is only gleaned after we can admit to ourselves the tears behind it all are very real. It’s only after we give ourselves permission to feel disappointed, that we can clearly see a bigger truth. Spills can be cleaned up.

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