Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Meeting Myself Half Way, or My Own Law of Moses, because I am not yet ready for the higher law of Christ

Lately I have been waking up with headaches after a long night of dreams in which I am fighting, sometimes physically, with another person. I was experiencing entirely too much conflict during my days and it was spilling over into my nights, as well. I woke up basically as exhausted, emotionally, at least, as I had felt going to bed.

I tried to do something about this. I began reading more Church talks, listening to podcasts about charity. I began really focusing on my goal to just love the people around me. The only problem was that, when it came to my high-conflict, high-tension circle of loved ones (and I designate them as such not because they are high tension or high conflict, but our relationships were) I just couldn't succeed. Charity was a bridge too far. It was setting the bar hopelessly high and inviting failure.

The other day I was thinking about a wonderful family I knew growing up who treated one another with an abundance of politeness. Not to give too much of in insight into my dysfunction, but as the stupid, surly teen that I was, I looked down on this as inauthentic and even a bit cold. How could they be close when they tiptoed around each other? What I had mistaken as cold politeness, of course, was really a healthy and appropriate respectfulness of one another. (My inability (perhaps disability?) to see this explains far too much.) I decided to try it. I could not have the pure love of Christ for my high conflict circle, particularly when the conflict was turned on, but I could meet myself half way. I could be polite. I had to be.

It has only been a few days. I ordinarily would not write about this, but my high conflict people do not read my blog and I also want to hold myself accountable to continue with my Miss Manners routine. My first day of it was successful beyond my wildest imaginings.

Provoker: "I am not only totally ungrateful for your efforts at this moment, but I am going to storm around you angrily and criticize you in small, annoying ways. I hope we can fight."

Me: "I am pretending you are the lady next door, whom I really like, and you are having a terrible day. It would be really awkward to call you out so I am going to ignore you."

Provoker: "I would like you to feel that you are unwelcome and I think your kids are the worst. Scream."

Me: "In fairness, I might not like my kids if I were not their mom, either. We'll work on it. But again, since you are the neighbor lady and I know you are otherwise a really nice person, I am going to politely apologize and continue to help you."

Provoker: "You aren't doing it right and I want you to leave. Or tell me you hate me."

Me: "Awkward. I better not saying anything and hope this stops."

Provoker: "Thank you."

Me: It feels good not to feel bad. Let's talk about the weather. "Sure is rainy!"

My first realization upon successfully staving off conflict was that I played a major role in the fights. I may have felt provoked, but I certainly fed a fire that otherwise would have died out. I couldn't take refuge in blaming the other person for conflict that could only exist with my participation. And second, I began to have genuinely positive and empathetic feelings for my most high conflict person. It was startling. Brigham witnessed the interaction and praised my efforts to avert a fight, so that felt nice, too, since he is the epitome of a nice, normal, likeable person. I trust his instincts and reactions. How did I end up with someone so healthy?! Thank you, Heavenly Father!

Some people turn the other cheek, or walk two miles when constrained to walk one. I am not ready for that. But if the pleasant feelings I experienced while treating my loved ones like I barely knew them but would have to interact with them socially on a regular basis and in public is any indication, this whole charity thing must be mind blowing and soul expanding. Hopefully I will find out some day. I plan to inch my way to there by way of Emily Post.


terrah said...

I really appreciate your posts! They are always interesting to read and thought-provoking, and what is more, make me want to be better. You are amazing!

Sarah said...

Alexandra, I loved reading both this and the previous post about death. I think you are a tremendous example of charity. It is hard when those who you're around the most are the hardest to love.
I've always been uncomfortable with the idea of death too. I "know" it's supposed to be better after this, but it seems unfair that some get to hold onto this rich life longer than others. But reading that post about your Dad, it sounds like he'll have no regrets about the life he led. What a great man he is and was!