Sometimes I Surprise Myself
I talk about being kind quite a bit, whether it’s being kind to others or to yourself. I try to practice kindness every day. I don’t know if it’s an adjective that people think about first when they think of me, though. Back in high school we would buy school yearbooks and sign them. Throughout all of mine most people wrote “stay sweet”. I’m still not sure how I was thought of as ‘sweet’. “Nice” was another one I got, as well as “smart”. I usually took both to mean kind because I liked helping people whether it was doing something for them or just listening when they needed an ear without judgement. I listened a lot. For some reason, people felt they could talk to me. I kept a lot of secrets and I got to see a lot of tears. Throughout it all I just tried to be kind. It wasn’t hard and it didn’t cost anything from me other than my time or my shoulder or a hug or just a simple ear to listen with. The thing is they were all people I wanted to help and be nice to, people I wanted to be kind to and those that it wasn’t hard to be that way for.
But, sometimes we have people come into our lives that cause us to be unkind at times. We don’t mean to but they either get on our last nerve or make us so angry that we can’t help ourselves. My ex-husband is my unkindness nemesis. No matter how hard I have tried in the past to be nice or to try and think kindly of him, he has never failed to cause me to become a shrew. I don’t know why. Well, that’s not completely true. I do know why partially. What I don’t know is why I cannot control my temper and why I cannot be nice to him. I have tried and tried and failed so many times. Usually the times I am nice I feel he takes advantage of it and sees it as a weakness in me. So, most of the time, I keep a wall up when I have to deal with him, to protect myself from his emotional blackmail.
Recently he sent me a text telling me he was going to be doing something regarding our son, Sean (my eldest). Even though Sean has been living with his dad since August I still have legal custody of him and all that entitles me to. We’ve managed to work things out and keep things as stress-less as possible and there really haven’t been any major issues. So, when my ex sent me this text telling me what he was going to do without asking me if it was okay, I got a little upset. I tried to not let it bother me overly much but the more I sat on it and ruminated over it, the more it nagged at me. One of the problems we both have had are communication issues with each other. He blatantly states things to me instead of asking me or at least putting it to me as a request instead of a command, and I feel disrespected because of it. I usually get defensive because of it and I begin to dig my feet in the ground, so to speak, and I close myself off to anything he has to say. Well, this text put me on the defensive because I did feel disrespected, again, but I left it alone and tried to let it go. But I couldn’t.
Today my ex texted me again about the same subject and I tried to tell him in as tactful a way that I could how I felt about the first text he sent me. Apparently, I was not tactful enough, or it came across in a different way to him. Maybe he was just in a defensive mode himself in having to text me to begin with. I don’t know. He sent back another text in which he let me know exactly how I made him feel, rather frankly in fact. Now, the old me would have reacted with anger and hurt and would have wanted to say something back that would have been pretty mean and very unkind. I’ve been trying for a couple of months now to change my way of thinking and of reacting to situations and people. I don’t know if it’s all the positive thinking I’ve been doing or if it really is this new attitude I’ve been trying to develop, but I did not react the way I thought I would. I did feel the stirrings of anger but they dissipated so quickly that I did not even truly feel angry. Instead, I re-read what he had typed. I heard hurt and frustration and no small amount of defensiveness in the lines he had written. And I apologized to him. I apologized for not being clear and for possibly ruining his day. I told him that it was not my intention to do so, and that I was only trying to get him to take into account how his one statement seemed more like a command than a request. I apologized for not being tactful and I even made a joke about us both needing to take communication and tact classes. We ended up the conversation (text) on a fun note instead of wanting to hurt each other verbally. When it was done I looked back and realised I had done something I couldn’t believe I had done. I was kind to the man I felt had hurt me greatly, and I felt nothing bad about him at that moment. I felt grateful, which is as good a word as I can say to describe how I felt. I don’t know who I felt grateful towards, mind you, but I was grateful. I also felt as if I had done something hard yet right. Maybe the word I’m looking for is humble, too, because I was humbled by the experience.
I know I’m going to have to fight my temper around my ex. It’s how we are. I have trust issues with him, and he tries to treat me with indifference due to our history together. But now I have the knowledge that I can be kind to him and it wasn’t as hard as it would have been several months ago. It gives me hope that I am becoming a better person even though I can’t see the results of my efforts yet, if I ever actually do. I believe that every day is a new day with new opportunities to fix whatever mistakes we made if we can only just step off our pedestals and lower ourselves to the ground and remember we are all in this together. We are all connected in our humanity which makes us all kith and kin. I will try my hardest to remember this day when I have to deal with my ex again and hopefully it will help me in my efforts to be kind to those who I may unwittingly be unkind to. I hope you will do the same. It can be done.