This is extraordinarily outside of my comfort zone, as the SFO designated smoking area is actually Las Vegas sort of outside. The mysterious ways of the interwebs and social media are leading me to suspect it might be important, perhaps for you, gentle reader, perhaps for me.
First there was the article about what to ask your child after school to elicit a response beyond “Fine” and/or “Nothing.” It was a list of questions, each answer requiring more reflection than would “How was your day?” They also tended to show a more genuine interest and understanding of said child. I helpfully shared this with several friends who have committed parenthood. Parents should employ the full toolbox (they issue one with every baby born, right?) to stay inside those little noggins, for whose upbringing and person-formation parents are responsible. But that’s not my circus and certainly not my monkeys (I know, I know, that expression is already over but I get a mulligan because I haven’t written in six months).
But the very next article that crossed my stream, albeit most likely because I had looked at the one about talking with your children, was about talking with other people. Grown-ups. In my life.
Communication. Feelings. Communicating about feelings. Ack. When I had a therapist, several lifetimes ago, she handed me a list. She believed I was so estranged from my own feelings that even my carefully honed linguistic skills were not enough to identify them without Cliff’s Notes. She may have been right.
This second article left me squirming, eyes darting away from the text, uncomfortable just imagining conversations like this. Granted, the author says it has taken them time, she and her partner, to get to these questions. It’s worth reading her post, which begins with the parenting ~it’s a blog called Momastery, after all~ but eventually gets into partnerships, friendships.
When did you feel loved today?
When did you feel lonely?
What did I do today that made you feel appreciated?
What did I say that made you feel unnoticed?
What can I do to help you right now?
Vulnerable stuff, makes you want to stand on the familiar ground of How was your day? Fine. But I was intrigued… in a peeking-through-your-fingers at the scary parts yet I-don’t-want-to-miss-anything-important sort of desire to see how it turns out. Since I lost the link, I googled “How was your day?” It was right there. And several more in the same vein with slightly easier questions such as
Did you have any victories today?
Are you struggling with anything? or anyone?
Did you have any nice connections with your colleagues?
What was frustrating? (Interestingly, it goes without asking that something was)
Are you with me? It’s a little scary over here. But we can stay safe behind the armor we wear, tick off the daily box for having asked, without offering or inviting anything more. Satisfied with good enough. Or we can let ourselves be vulnerable, lean into the discomfort of knowing and being known, in the belief that it will make our relationships stronger and that will allow us to be stronger individuals because we are no longer alone.