my space tracker

Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: May 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Good Old Fashioned Thank You Notes

A friend of mine told me recently that she keeps a stack of note cards on her desk and that every now and again she takes pen to card and hand writes a note to someone.  Sometimes it's a thank you note, sometimes it's to say she is thinking of them or misses them.  She recently sent such a note to her boss who had taken some extra time out to help her understand a difficult new project.

She was musing to me about how she remembers how it used to be that snail mail was the only way to send a note, and even in the tech age, the still preferred way.  Then email began to gain ground, then texting, Facebook, and other tech mediums.  And now, even in many business practices, email has become not just an acceptable way to send a thank you note, but preferred. 
Her boss was amazed.  Thrilled that my friend sent a thank you note at all, but moreover, that it arrived by mail, written in my friend's messy but intentional and thoughtful scrawl.  The idea that my friend took the time to write it out, address it, stamp and mail it, not just click, - (not that click thank you's don't count) - meant a lot to her boss.  It created a good feeling, a bridge between them.  Her boss picked up the phone to tell her this.
Her story came on the heels of her telling me something very sad that was on her mind.  She had been sitting with the sad for a while, and feeling it, but needed a little breather.  The note did the trick.  It created a little distraction from her pain, was a nice gesture toward her boss and brought a better feeling in the door for a bit, which helped her bear her sadness a little better.
It brought to mind the ideas that taking the time to say "Thank you" or "I'm thinking of you," can build a bridge, that noticing someones efforts takes us out of our own pain, even if for a moment, that a little extra effort can make a big impression. 
There are not often simple solutions to our problems, emotional pain, conflicts, but while we are working out our problems, tending to our inner life, there are little things we can do along the way to bring life in and keep us moving forward.

Monday, May 7, 2012

"Cauldrons of Contradictory Longings....."

"Modern relationships are cauldrons of contradictory longings: safety and excitement, grounding and transcendence, the comfort of love and the heat of passion.  We want it all, and we want it with one person."
~Esther Perel from Mating in Captivity

So I had the absolute fun and joy of hearing Esther Perel speak a few months ago.  (Yes, same conference as Mary Pipher).  And she too was full of interesting insights, ideas and some good humor as well. But the ideas Esther Perel was talking about are serious, the themes very relevant to all of us, whether we are in a serious committed relationship or looking for one.  They are themes that come up often in the course of therapy and tug at our deepest feelings, fears, longings, beliefs and desires.

Among them (and I will bring you more eventually) is this:  How much do we expect in our modern Western culture from marriage (from our partner)?  It used to be, many moons ago, and still is, in many cultures, that gender roles and jobs were more clearly defined.  Marriages were tilted in more task arranged ways.  Expectations were more concretely defined (providing food, shelter and companionship, sex and family building), and not necessarily as focused on emotional longings such as being deeply known and emotionally held by a partner.

I am not weighing in on what should be, but rather what seems to be so prevalent today in our culture and the effect it has on us and on our relationships, and that is this: we seem to expect (demand, burden?) relationships to have a broader purpose.  Many people look to their partners not just for love and sex, but for a more fantastical idea of love and sex.  For satisfaction of a deep romantic oneness, intuitive care giving, and focused, constant attention.  Some for fulfillment of deep and early emotional voids, self esteem and spirituality.  And often in ways that are lost on their partners.  When these ideals are not met well enough disappointment, frustration, feelings of rejection, self pity and loneliness follow in short order. 

I have seen these expectations lead to separation often in cases where it may not have been necessary.  First, because partners can (usually) be helped to step up and create more inside a relationship.  (Good dialogue itself can yield good results). And second, when partners as individuals are willing to take a look at their inner life and learn more about what is motivating them, what is reasonable, what their real notions are, where they come from and why, then love can deepen and grow in new ways that open up closeness instead of command it.