Thursday, August 7, 2014

“Anger always comes from frustrated expectations” *

Tonight, I spent far too much time being angry.

That it was based on frustrated expectations I was well aware. That I was choosing to be angry over a perceived slight was also clear to me. Yet I wasted some precious time and a lot of energy being angry at someone I love deeply and with whom I celebrate many things every day.

Because of assumptions about what certain phrases mean to him because they mean something clearcut to me, I let myself get angry when I felt I was being left out of his evening plans or being blown off for something else.

What was his heinous crime? Something atrocious. He made plans with me for tonight, had a slight chance in plans this morning, and didn't tell me that things were going to go a little differently than originally thought. So here I was, ready for one thing, only to find out something else entirely was going on. He meant to tell me that we were still on for the evening...that things were only temporarily delayed...but didn't know that my understanding was that this was all going to take all evening and I may as well find a good book, read, and nurse my wounded pride and hurt feelings until I felt like being civil again.

He came home, all happy to see me, ready to talk, and I was icy.

"I'm glad you're home. I'm upset and not talking to anybody. Maybe we can talk later this week."

(Put me off, will you? I will put YOU off and you can see how it feels.)

But he hadn't put me off...only run into a slight delay in our plans...and through no fault of his own did not know he hadn't communicated adequately with me.

Poor guy didn't know what he'd done.

And what he'd done was no big deal. And I was already kicking myself because I know I was being mean and stubborn about my hurt feelings and anger. I know I was choosing to disregard the thousands of ways he shows he loves me and focused on one thing that made me think I didn't matter much.


I knew it.

And I became angry then at myself. Frustrated because I was letting expectations...frustrated though they might have appeared...bring me down.

This is the second time it's happened. A miscommunication. A misunderstanding. My mind going to dark places it has no business reason to seek out.

And both times he has been concerned about my well-being. Has apologized without accepting blame for my own actions but acknowledging his part in the misunderstanding. And neither time did he get angry back.

I don't think he's incapable of getting angry, because we've had a falling out before in the distant past that we eventually worked through. But I find I have great difficulty in accepting that he can work with me through a difficulty without first getting angry back at me and demanding an accounting.

I apologize readily when I know I'm wrong. Hell, I apologize readily for things that have nothing to do with my own actions or emotions. I spent years figuring out how bad things were my fault and accepting blame for many things I had no influence or control over. I spent years trying to unlearn those ingrained behaviors and deferences.

My first husband took advantage of my willingness to believe everything was my fault. If I dared raise questions or get high emotions of hurt or anger, he always turned things around and called me neurotic for expressing emotions or concerns. I was quick to believe then that he was right...and I was right...and any discord was completely my fault.

Pat, while acknowledging where I've screwed up and not making excuses for my leaping to conclusions or making false assumptions, never blames me or tries to make me feel guilty for being a very flawed human working through a new relationship. He doesn't yell at me. He doesn't get angry with me. He doesn't make excuses for me, but he always tries to understand what happened.

It's scary being that accepted.

It's unnerving to be forgiven when I feel I should be held accountable and made to make amends somehow.

He holds nothing over my head. He lords nothing over me. His equanimity is generous and so far, boundless.

I don't get it.

But it has the aroma of grace.

And I am humbled at the manner in which he bestows it.

I only hope, when the tables are turned and I've inadvertently wounded him and he thinks to lash out, that I will be as simply loving and gracious as he has been with me.

This is a relationship in which I am learning many new things and striving to unlearn old thought patterns and behaviors.

Wish him well, for he will need patience.

And wish me well, for I will need to learn to accept...acceptance.

* Elliott Larson

“Our first gift is us…” *

For a romantic evening with my boyfriend last weekend, my friend Rhonda loaned me a beautiful cheese plate and cheese knife so I would have something prettier than a dinner plate upon which to serve baked brie. It was a lovely presentation and Pat and I thoroughly enjoyed our meal, at which the brie was the main course.

This morning, I realized that I had not yet returned the plate and mentioned that I would do so when she returns after her trip this weekend.

“Not to worry,” she said. “It’s a gift. I bought it and never used it and you two will enjoy it. It’s yours.”

I thanked her, then texted Pat a short message about the plate telling him it was a gift…”our first couple gift.”

He texted back and said, “Second. But the first from someone else.”

I started racking my brain. I couldn’t think of another gift we had been given as a couple…or that we’d bought for ourselves as a gift. I didn’t think he was considering a couple of games we’d bought for the house. Backgammon and cribbage are nice games and all, and we plan to enjoy them, but that couldn’t be it. I wondered if he meant our trip to the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma.

Feeling like the world’s worst girlfriend, for not having a clue what he was talking about, I had to ask, “What was our first gift to us as a couple?”

He rapidly replied, “Each other. Our first gift is us, from us.”

Sweet, sweet man.

But he is right. As he often is.

We chose to be in a relationship together and we made ourselves open and available one to the other in order for that to happen. We have had to talk through some serious issues which has required sometimes scary honesty and we’ve had to be willing to be completely open and trust one another.

That giving ourselves…that willingness to be important to one another…is the first gift we gave to ourselves as a couple.

And indeed, it should be for any relationship that the giving of two people is the first…best…gift.

*Patrick Wolfe