“No-Fail” Friday: Blended family

Closeup of flowers ice cube

If your week has been anything like mine, you’re probably not going into the weekend looking for a challenge. On the other hand, you came here on a Friday, and you know what we do on Fridays, so…

It’s definitely been “one of those weeks” that feels like at least two or three of them in one. Keeping up my regular, morning mindfulness practice has helped, though. I’ve found the best way to get through an overly-packed day is to be as present as possible in whatever moment I’m in, rather than approaching the “whole day” at once. Starting from a centered place helps make that more possible.

Not that I don’t ever get overwhelmed, because that happens all the time. It’s just, I have a place to come back to where my perspective is more grounded. It’s the coming back that is the meditation, as you’ve heard me say before. It’s all about awareness.

It’s also about perspective, though – which was really the theme of the week, if I had to put a word on it.  And so, it will also be the theme of our “no-fail” mindfulness challenge for the weekend ahead.

Perspective is a broad topic, so to be a little more specific, our journey this week honed in on the idea of how our personal perspective plays a role in shaping our opinions, and what we believe to be “true.” Someone else may be equally invested in their perspective, and their “truth,” which may be 180 degrees from yours, yet still exactly right from where they stand.

In other words, you’re both right, according to yourselves.

In situations like this, you have a choice. You are see it as an opportunity to dig your heels in exactly where you are, or you can take advantage of the opening to try to see what things look like through the other person’s lens.

You don’t have to think they’re right, or change your mind. In other words, no one’s asking you to relocate, just take a short vacation over there. Like any vacay, it’s a lot more difficult if you’re angry, indignant, frustrated or, dare I say it, self-righteous. It’s a lot harder to find your way into an uncomfortable space – even temporarily – when your guard is up, blockading you into the four walls of your own point of view. It’s a lot harder to talk when everyone’s yelling, and no one’s listening.

You’ve got to be willing to be uncomfortable, though, which takes a whole lot of courage and an extra helping of strength.

Not to mention, you have to relax. So, before you can deal with them, you have to deal with yourself.

Step one: Do your mindfulness thing. Breathe, walk, do yoga, listen to a guided meditation. This is your strength-building. These are the reps that make your ability to observe discomfort without running from it possible. Do the work when you want to, so you can use the muscle when you need to.

Step two: Live your weekend life. Encounter people, and interact with them. In a normal way, though, not like a researcher in the wild. Chances are, someone’s going to say something that rubs you the wrong way. If that doesn’t happen, then proceed to Step three. If it does, skip to Step four.

Step three: If you don’t cross paths with someone who ticks you off, then take a peek at your contacts list on your phone, and reach out to the one who does. You know who they are – the old roommate, the cousin, the aunt – the one who in 3, 2, 1….is going to say the most ridiculous thing. From your perspective, anyway. They’re just going to be “speaking the truth,” or “looking out for you,” or some such business.

Step four: Speaking of family, how that thing? I’m guessing a fair number of you are going to be working this challenge with relatives because 1) it’s the weekend, and 2) every family has irritating people in it. Ever hear that saying that if you can’t find “the one” in the room, it’s you? Well, even when you can find them, it’s still probably you, to someone.

We give family a much longer leash than others, though. When they annoy is, we’re more likely to either hold back in our response, or, to move past a blow-up after It happens. Why? Because they’re family, and that what you do. Usually, anyway. There are exceptions.

Thing is, we’re all kind of family. Yeah, I know, back to all that mindfulness stuff. Without taking up too much more of your time, I’ll just say that we all have a lot more in common than we think we do, and we’re sharing this earth space do to lots more interesting things than fight with each other. Mindfulness -> self-awareness -> self-compassion -> compassion for others. They may have different thoughts, but their feelings aren’t much different than yours. Anger, fear, loneliness, agitation…all the same, on both sides.


Step five: Notice what happens to you when they speak. Heartrate increases, mind starts racing and refuting them internally, hand gestures and body language reveal exasperation. Register that, and then, think to yourself, “That’s family.” Repeat it again, and again. At least five times. “That’s family.”

Step six: Check in with yourself again. How’s that heartrate? Where’s your head? Are you still ready to open your mouth and respond? Are you still wanting to say the same exact thing, or have your thoughts or word choices shifted?

Whatever the answers are, it’s ok. They’re just questions, and no one hears the answers but you. It’s just interesting what a little space can do to change your reaction into a response.

Listen well, and you’re much more likely to be heard.

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