Tag Archives: family

Just because I am doesn’t mean I always should be

I was taught to “know thyself”. In other words, dad and mom grilled me with questions to help me become better acquainted with, well, me. Questions like: What are you good at? What do you enjoy? Why did you choose that? Why do you think you feel that way? Why, why, why. All of this introspection at an early age was somewhat unnerving. Little did I know these dialogues were my first steps to self-awareness.

Self-awareness is a not so funny thing. Getting to know yourself does not, I have learned, excuse you to be yourself anywhere at anytime. Especially if your natural, this is the way I have been since my first breath, behavior has a negative impact on someone else. Take impulsiveness. I was born with an impulsive nature that I have learned to curb but not extinguish. There are a few times in my life in which I am quite sure my impulsive nature has saved a life. These stories come instantly to mind and because I can’t stop myself, I will share just one. During a canoe trip my 6 year old son stood at the top of a small waterfall and then slipped and started to go over. I dove across the water, grabbed hold of him and went headfirst and backwards over the waterfall, shielding his body as we went. My husband stood calmly at the top of the falls holding our two canoes and watching this spectacle. My 12 year old daughter, impulsive in nature also, dove after us to save her mommy. I grabbed her one handed and dragged her to me and then hauled them both to the side of the river (note: the adrenalin rush strength thing really does work). On the flip side, there are many more instances in my life when my impulsive nature has lead to some ridiculous social gaffes. I am sure we have all asked a woman who is not pregnant “When is your baby due?” right?

So, “know thyself” is the first step in learning to understand why you do what you do when you do it. Now the hard part of the lesson. Just because you are a certain way, doesn’t mean there is no room for improvement. Hey, but I was born this way, right? Evidently, according to dad and mom, we are human therefore we have the intelligence to work with the gifts and the not-so-gifts we are presented with when we enter this world.

Meanings are in people, not in words

When I was growing up, Dad and I had a standing appointment every Saturday. This was our special time each week to spend together. We did a variety of activities on these days, but the tasks were not the main goal; communicating, laughing and working side by side as we deepened our relationship was the primary aim. I didn’t understand this at the time and, I must admit, not even until recently as I was going through the boxes of dad’s life I inherited when he passed away this past spring.

Looking through dad’s files, I realized Dad taught me the importance of building a relationship by spending time together communicating face to face. As a doctoral student at Michigan State University in the early 1960s, dad learned that words hold superficial meaning outside the context of human interaction. To truly get an inkling about what a person is saying to you, you need to listen to their words as you think about the way these words play out in the context of the speaker’s life. Meanings are in people, not in words. Dad’s words of wisdom paired with our rich relationship and shared experiences formed a foundation of understanding that, while I didn’t always agree with him, helped me to at least be able to reason out his side.

Lessons from life are passed down generation to generation. If we are lucky enough, these relationships nurture us as we grow and form a foundation which we can stand on as we become who we were meant to be. I had such a foundation.