Ambling a park during Sonoma County’s luscious spring season; trying not to sneeze myself unconscious a reoccurring epiphany pervaded my thoughts. It began after a recent conversation with my mother. Being back in California after almost two years in the east coast, where much of my family resides, has returned me to a place of familiarity, a place with echoes of myself. My mother a staunch easterner likes only to visit California but claims “I could never live there.” Why I wonder? The weather is sweeter, the wine abundant, the food fresh and local. How could she not see this is a healthier place to live than in the suburbs of Philadelphia? Simple—it does not define her.
How I define myself is essential to my understanding of how my mother, husband, daughters, friends (the list is endless) defines themselves and how then this effects our communication or lack of. It dawned on me to first view relationships with defining lenses to understand where and why communication crumbles and how to fortify it. My mother, for example, defines herself completely different than I define myself. Neither right or wrong, although her fear based rationale disturbs me, it is who she is, it is who I am. She communicates from the termonolgy within and from the experiences that reinforce them. These are her deep wells of reference. If I remain perched only on my defining vistas our communication will either collide or miss each other all together. No matter what a comment sounds like to me, I have to consider the definition from where it came before blurting a knee jerk response. Better to smile and realize it usually comes from a place of love and like flower varietals stems from soil other than my own.
This idea of viewing through defining lenses I realize is not original and I am certain psychiatry has given it an elaborate title. Really it boils down to practice and patience and I need a bit more of both. But it does bring clarity, at least for me, to understand that when my husband rattles on about motorcycles and I think it is merely to irritate me, it is not. He grew up with a cousin, Eddie Lawson, who was a world class champion racer. I grew up with a memory of a dead uncle from a motorcycle accident. Racing does not define me but it does my husband. After years of self-righteous lectures that books are better than bikes, I clamped my comments and took a peek through these newly discovered lenses realizing other perspectives do not negate my own. I can put down my picket signs and keep the gates of communication wide open.
There is an element of freedom in wearing these lenses. The freedom to wade in self and others perceptions creates improved relationships and kick frustration to the curb. Naturally relationships are not magically deemed perfect by the defining lenses, they are merely more peaceful, malleable. I listen differently now. Rather than hearing words, I hear the origin as well. Mind you this does not happen in every single conversation, not all discourse renders insight. Sometimes we speak simply to share a thought—“Great party last night!” or “What an incredible day it is.” don’t require wearing the lenses. Sometimes communication is wonderfully unassuming Yet when you feel confused or anxious or angry over a wayward banter, try the lenses out; perhaps those defining voices will become visible.
I wonder if politicians wore the lenses how different our world would look? Some argue this is naivety speaking; it seems obstinacy has failed though and antiquated systems need an update. Perhpas if a world meeting was called and every leader was allowed to wear only a single sheet (think toga) how solutions may be rendered. The rules would be that no one could put their clothes back on (there is a strange power stripping that happens when your regular garb is missing) until they came from a place of understanding—I suspect the defining lenses would help ease the glare.
As far as my mother, she remains dedicated to her soft pretzels and creamed chip beef. She fixes food she has made for years and loves that she lives two miles from the mall and minutes from the childhood town she loved. She dreams of my return and I of her riding on a surf board after eating a tofu burger or waltzing through Italy with me; none of these scenarios will come to pass in this world. The lenses have alleviated (some not all) communication blips and I hope over time, I will learn to trust motorcycles!
Causes Karen Devaney Supports
Eve Ensler and any organization that deals with issues supporting women and children and the advancement of their education.