In my last post, I listed my short, simple list of new year’s resolutions/intentions:
love my family better
be a better friend
teach adults instead of children
submit my chapbook for publication over and over
play competitive tennis
#1, Love my family better, is based on the idea shared by the Vietnamese Zen master and Noble Peace Prize nominee, Thich Nhat Hanh. In one of his teachings, he recommends we ask those closest to us, “How can I love you better?”
I’ll admit, the first time I heard this I thought, “Oh Hell no! I am not asking that question!” Not only because I didn’t really want to hear the answer – -thinking it would just be a list of things I was doing “wrong,” but because my husband at the time would have looked at me like I had lost my mind if I had asked him.
He wasn’t one for introspection. Or sharing.
Since then I have grown more comfortable with the question and have, from time to time, asked both my children and my new (much more open and understanding) sweetie, “How can I love you better?”
Sure, sometimes the answers are painful.
My children have told me I don’t keep my word when I say we are going to do something fun. Or that I yell too much. Ouch.
And my sweetie has shared that sometimes I am not as present as I could be. Or I’m always on my laptop.
So, although it is a challenge for me to not become defensive at times (every time?), I try to settle into what they have shared. I did ask, after all.
As I settle in I ask, Is it true? For them – sure it is. I believe if they were courageous and honest enough to answer then it must be true for them.
Is it true for me? I try to look at the situation through their eyes, despite whatever the circumstances are for me.
This is a good practice for many reasons…it slows things down so I am better able to accept what they are sharing with me. Then I can listen without being defensive (which really isn’t listening, in the truest sense of the word, is it?) and spend time really being present in their truth.
Finally, I can take action, be proactive, and become more aware of what I am doing and saying. For example, I know I yell less than I used to.
While I try to be a woman of my word, the reality is sometimes I let my kids down. #mommyguilt
This is by far the most painful realization I’ve gotten from this exercise. All I can do is try to do better and forgive myself as best I can. #againandagainandagain #lotsofpractice
As for my sweetie? Well, here I am on my laptop after a full day of writing for a client. He just made me dinner. I think I ought to end this post here for now and go be present with him. Maybe I’ll ask him tonight, “How can I love you better?”
How can you love your family better? Have you asked them?