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Forty-nine years ago, I said I do for the first time. On that Sunday afternoon, I honestly thought this was a forever marriage – although as I waited behind closed doors to walk down the aisle, I had second thoughts “it was too late” to change my mind. I was more concerned about what my parents would say and how I could explain this to anyone, even myself. So, I walked down the aisle, sobbing on my father’s arm as my future husband was waiting for me with his parents.
In Yiddish, if this is your destiny, it is said to be, beshert. Sadly, this marriage was not meant to last. We went into it caring for each other and trying to please our parents by finding a Jewish Mate. His parents never liked me, and my parents never felt a connection with him.
However, if not for that day in 1971, we would not share our son, and Steve is the icing on the cake.
We eventually found our soulmates, and despite the early years of anxiety and tension between us, we moved on, putting the past behind us and enjoying the lives we detoured and created. We both celebrated 36 years of marriage to our soulmates this year.
The reason I am sharing this story today is to let you know that even when we think we are on the right road, it is possible to take several turns that will lead you in a new direction.
The direction you choose to take may create changes for others in your path and but it should be by personal choice to live our best lives. Too often, we try to please others, hoping that it will reflect on us, creating an aurora of happiness. However, making someone happy does not always make you happy, it may happen in love songs and movies, but it does not always relate to real life!
Forty-nine years ago, today, I had no idea what my future looked like. I knew I was saying “I Do,” but I was too young and naive to understand what that would mean as time moved forward. However, today with hindsight, I can look at the years that have passed and know that I am where I should be today. I have matured in becoming an authentic version of myself.
Our topic this week is really two related topics: changing the subject and having hard conversations.
Every one of us has a story. We own that story, and part of ownership is deciding when to talk about it and when to change the subject.
You may recall that our son had a horrible motorcycle accident last year, and for some time afterward, it seemed that everywhere I went, I was greeted by, “I’m so SORRY … How’s your son?” Of course, I realized that people meant well when they asked this, but I felt I was being pitied. I was desperate to get back to talking about something else – and doing something else – instead of constantly being defined by my caregiving role.
Changing the subject in this way was hard for me, but it was also necessary. Sometimes, we just don’t want to talk about our story. And that’s our right because it’s OUR story, and we OWN it.
When people constantly focus on the negatives, it can keep those negative scenarios alive for far too long. In other words, when people do this, they interview for pain. It’s better to focus on the positives by asking uplifting questions, talking about opportunities and possibilities, creating HOPE, and painting a picture of a brighter future that could be. If you know a caregiver, here are some great questions to ask:
- What do you dream about?
- What brings you hope?
- How can I best support you?
- What do you need?
While changing the subject is hard, it can be just as hard to know when to face things head on and have hard conversations when necessary. If we avoid all of the hard conversations, we may just be kicking a can down the street. We risk the conversation blowing up even BIGGER than if we opened the can today.
So, here are some tips for tackling difficult conversations:
- Plan, and be prepared. Go in with the facts, and be specific. Remember, there are always at least two valid positions on any topic.
- Set ground rules – healthy boundaries for healthy conversations. There should be NO judging.
- Communicate directly. Be assertive (not passive or aggressive) in your communication.
- Listen – really listen. Prepare a few open-ended questions in advance to flush out the other person’s point of view.
- Regulate your emotions. Emotions can run high in hard conversations, and being prepared helps you to keep your emotions in check. If your loved one can’t keep their emotions in check, remember that it’s OK to hit pause and take a break.
It takes a lot of courage to have hard conversations as a caregiver. It also takes courage to own our story and to decide when is the right time to talk about it. As Brené Brown says, “When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending.”
Founder and Executive Director