Communication can define a long-lasting relationship or one that ended too soon. In the 80’s Spandau Ballet had a song called Communication and the refrain was “communication let me down”. However, communication doesn’t let us down. We just stop communicating in a productive way. Whether it is that someone in the relationship stops talking or listening the result is the same. People are not heard or understood. The ability to communicate where both partners feel that they can express themselves and be heard without being interrupted can often be a fundamental pillar of good communication and a healthy relationship.
As an intern therapist I worked with couples on communication. Many of these couples struggled to just get their point across without interruption. I remember using a technique where one person would say what they were feeling about the relationship and the other partner had to be silent. Then the second person had to repeat what the first person had said verbatim. Finally, the first partner would say whether or not the second partner had repeated the statement correctly. This was a grueling exercise for me because I had to be the referee with the couple and most couples were only interested in placing blame and not in listening to their partner (or their therapist).
It was not a comfortable feeling but when each partner followed the rules of the session the couple did make progress. The point of the exercise was that it is difficult to hear what someone is saying when you are only focused on your own point of view. You really can’t hear what someone is saying if all you want to do is talk. Take off the metaphorical headphones of your life and listen to your partner, friend, or children. Have that exchange of ideas and open dialogue with your special someone.
In my relationship, I have learned to do a particular type of listening that works well for us. My partner is not someone who is big on things like expensive jewelry or high fashion. She likes small trinkets, books, and mementos. Early on in our relationship I picked up on this and I would go and buy these little items for her. She was always appreciative mostly about the fact that I listened and remembered that she had wanted this item. However, the point here isn’t about what I bought or didn’t buy for her. This is about being heard and understood. This only happens when you are willing to put aside your thoughts and needs in order to listen to someone else. Make the effort to listen to your loved one(s). It is the life blood of a healthy relationship!
I have been incredibly fortunate over the last 12 years or so in terms of the type of work that I do. I have worked as a psychology professor, a teacher mentor at a private school, and in public schools through the TEP program at UCLA.
I find myself now starting up as life coach and I’m kind of terrified because the startup is slow and I’m not sure if this will work out. I enjoy working with people and helping them find their way in life. It is the thing that makes me feel good and establishes a sense of personal meaning to my life and vocation. Of course, my family is more important than anything else, but it becomes very difficult when resources start to dry up and I am not sure where to turn. The ugly voices come along and start to feed upon my fear that I will not be able to secure financial standing to get to my calling. I know that many people suffer from this type of fear, but for me, it literally makes me freeze.
My wife has always been my greatest support and source of help. It is in these moments that I really appreciate her ungodly patience with me. I live with the specter of my parents’ fear of not having enough money, but somehow even they were able to get through. Why am I so fearful and lacking belief in myself? I know that I am allowing this and it isn’t helping me. Who do I turn to? I know the answer but I don’t really like it. The answer has to be me. I am not suggesting that I can do this alone, but it has to start at the source. I am the source of this issue. Yes, I can give my parents an assist on this but it is my life, my family, and my reality. I know it and I need to own it.
What is needed in this situation? Action. It must come from me and, possibly, “with a little help from my friends” as the Beatles told us so many years ago. I know that I can’t do this alone, but I also know that I have to go after it if I want to see a change. My fear is that I won’t be good enough. I fear that I won’t know what to do…but I fear that I have no choice. You know, the funny part of this is that I have surmounted other situations that seemed to be difficult and I made it through one way or the other. However, it seems that as I grow older I minimize the things that I was able to do when I was less nervous or doubting of myself. I had this sense of the fear, but also a sense of a kind of recklessness where I figured that I wouldn’t get anywhere unless I gave it a try. This is the hump that I am trying to get through again. I started this blog and joined the JRNI site because I believed that it fit me and would help me go where I wanted to go. It is just that now that it is getting real and more difficult, I am minimizing a life time of working and helping others. I need to go the other way. I need to rise up. Help will always be given to those that ask and need it, to paraphrase Albus Dumbledore from JK Rowling. I realize that whatever help or inspiration may come it will likely not look like what we would have expected. Most things in life usually don’t look like we think they should be. Sometimes it just looks like a bunch of puzzle pieces, and you have to put it together without any directions. I know that it is more challenging, but ultimately more rewarding as well. In the end, for anyone looking to conquer a challenge there has to be a starting point and markers or goals that you need to reach. We need to stay focused on our goals and markers and take our victories as they come. There will be no victories without taking a step. I will take that step today.
I called this picture Winnie the Pooh because my older son looks kind of like a little Pooh Bear. Even at that time I already felt wistful about how quickly time goes by. My older one was born in my first semester in grad school and at the graduation he was three. His younger brother would not be born for another year and a half but the passage of time was already making it’s mark. He is now applying to high schools and time just keeps going. Whether we stand still or we write like we are running out of time (nod to Hamilton), time keeps moving. We can put our time to good use by setting goals and going after them or we can sit around and wait for something to move us. It can be difficult. I know because I am right in this middle of a change myself. I am fighting with the sense of getting older and trying to understand the constantly evolving world of technology and, particularly, social media. The little guy in the picture is now teaching me about social media. It’s like the picture above except that my older son is holding my hand now because I have much to learn. In fact, my younger son can teach me as well. What I have learned is that my hand needs to be held whether by my children or my spouse. I often struggle with changes in technology but in the end I come round to this picture and it gives me a great sense of hope. It doesn’t matter who is holding someone’s hand but rather how we connect and help each other when we do grasp hands. It is not a one way interaction but rather a connection that helps us to get to where we are going.
I don’t know if this will be something that I write only once or something that will truly be a beginning of countless other stories. What I do know is that I am beginning again and going down a new road. We all tell stories whether it was something we saw, heard, imagined, felt, or something else. Stories are the fabric of my life. For me, stories are a fundamental part of who I am. There have been countless times where I have written something just to remind me of an event that happened, a lesson learned, something scary, or how I feel about someone. Stories are how I express myself.
The first time that I can remember writing about my thoughts and feelings was in 1980. I had a Christian Yoga class at my high school and a priest named Father Gatto required us to write in the journal every day. He would check the journals weekly. If he hadn’t checked them I might not have ever bothered with the journal. However, he did and I soon found that it was good way to vent my feelings particularly about his class and life as a teenager. I don’t know what happened to him but I am thankful for his journal exercises because they became the foundation for writing about my observations and stories.
Today is the beginning of writing a blog. It feels like an open highway.
This is my first post and I never thought I would blog. I feel lost in this world of Facebook, Instagram, and whatever else is out there. Times change. It’s interesting because I did believe in electronic messages years ago. I loved taking the time to create a message on mixed tapes. You can still create playlists but they are easily created and do not require anywhere near the time it took to make a playlist on a cassette. I’m trying not to be a dinosaur but I certainly feel the part. This is me in 1982 holding my vanity plate for my first car. It was gag gift from my brothers. The name Clofos was one that I made up. My eldest brother liked to talk about philosophy during our morning commute to the university that we both attended. He would talk to me about Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates and their beliefs at 7 in the morning. After several weeks of this I decided to make up a fictional philosopher named Clofos and when he started up with philosophy I would make up quotes from Clofos. It became a running joke to the point where I ended up with a vanity plate. I decided to name this blog CLOFOS because it take me back to the beginning of wanting to help others. I will explain further in another post. Until then, have a great day!