Monday, August 27, 2012

Happy Birthday Bret

It's hard to believe you would be 17 today--my sweet middle child.

When I look at your two brothers here with me, I can't help but wonder what you would look like.
Would you have dimples like your big brother or a strong jaw like your father? 
Maybe I would have a son with blue eyes, glowing like your great grandpa's or grammies'. 

Would you have dark hair like gramps' or fiery red hair similar to your little brother's?  

Perhaps I would have an extra driver in the house to help run your little brother around.  

And what would you choose to do for fun--play baseball or hockey like the other boys?  Maybe neither--perhaps you would be a music fanatic--beating the drums or pounding the piano to the measure of your own tune!

Unfortunately, you were not meant to be here on earth with us--but as your mom I can't help but wonder...

What I know for sure is all you have taught me:

Time is precious--spend it wisely.
It's okay to cry.
Love transcends all we see.
Don't let anyone "should" on you--sometimes we need to do what feels right in order to heal and it doesn't always fit with what other people think.
You are always with me in my heart, fluttering to a different measure.
Comfort can be found in the simplest places: ivory apple blossoms, the silver sparkle of sunshine on snow; the melody of the wind playing with the leaves, the dance of a butterfly, or the easy stream of rain on my face.  

Thank you, child of mine, for these wonderful treasures you left behind. I am forever grateful.

Love you forever,

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Wish Bones and Back Bones

"We teach people how to treat us."  ~Life Law #8 by Dr. Phil McGraw

At first blush this statement seems way too simplistic.  True, Dr. Phil has a gift for getting to the heart of matters--but surely this life law ignores the complexities of relationships, especially abusive ones. I used to think this statement blamed the victim--and somehow implied one deserved mistreatment.

Over the years I've come to realize this is not at all what Dr. Phil intended.  Instead, this life law empowers people to take responsibility for the boundaries they set in their relationships.

The most common example of how this works is in parenting our children.  Our little ones learn very quickly what behavior will and will not be tolerated.  For instance, I may decide I will not allow my child to yell at me--and so if my son does this, I will work to extinguish this negative behavior by giving him a "time out" or refusing to consider his request until he speaks to me appropriately.  He will learn, by the boundaries I set, that he cannot treat me this way.

The same holds true for the teacher who sets the tone of his/her classroom.  Some teachers are okay with noisy chatter and others prefer peace and quiet.  Any experienced teacher will tell you that it's important to set out these expectations early on in the school year.

Why should our interpersonal relationships be any different?  If we turn a blind eye to lying and infidelity, to controlling behavior and name-calling, can we really expect to be treated better in the future?  One of my friends spoke of this old adage a few weeks ago, "Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me!"  It is especially true when we try to shape our personal and professional relationships.

Dr. Phil says, "You either teach people to treat you with dignity or respect, or you do not."  I think we sometimes lose sight of the power we have to shape our destinies in our relationships.  He suggests we take ownership of how people treat us and try to recognize what we are doing to reinforce negative behaviors.  It is never too late to renegotiate the boundaries we set in our relationships; and it's important to be clear and firm. As Dr. Phil so eloquently writes:
"The worst thing you could do is make a lot of noise about changing things, only to revert to the old, familiar, destructive patterns. To talk about change and not to do it is to teach that person to treat your statements and declarations lightly. You will teach him or her to be patient, confident that you will soon give in. Where your relationship standards are concerned, commit to yourself that, although it may be difficult to effect change, you must not compromise. To compromise in this area is to sell out your most precious commodity: you." 
If you find yourself putting up with undesirable behaviors, you need to ask yourself why you think you deserve this treatment.  In my work with abuse victims, I have discovered that sometimes we ignore the behavior not only because we don't realize how intrinsically valuable we are, but also because we keep hoping for change that sometimes never comes.  As such, we then make excuses for the was the alcohol talking...he's been under a lot of stress at work...I shouldn't have provoked him...I haven't been meeting her needs so she went elsewhere...

I love this empowering quote by Kansas-born writer Clementine Paddleford (1898-1967), "Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be."  It's not okay to lose ourselves and compromise our worth.  If you discover yourself in a similar situation, you need to find your backbone and draw a line in the sand with it.  If you are having trouble, there are many resources available to help you create your own destiny--look for assistance.