For as long as I remember, I would tell my mother, “If anything happens to Dad, I will help you find a new someone,” and in the next breath I would say to my father, “But if anything happens to Mom, I’m not helping you”. Aside from the fact that I was a small child when I begin thinking in terms of life and death, that I made these complete opposite promises to both of my parents has caused a stirring in my spirit. I call it a stirring because I have sense had plenty of opportunity to analyze my childhood words now as an adult. My mother passed away 3 years ago. It was sudden. It was cancer. And it has been hard.
When my father begin dating again, for a while I hung onto my childhood words in a way any normal functioning person would (or so I think I think it is normal). Hey, my parents were married for 30 some odd years, for my entire life. Losing my mother meant not only 1 type of change, being mother and child and all that goes along with that BUT it was a greater change. It was a change in family constellation. I had in a sense lost my family. I know that sounds a bit overdramatic and I agree that it is however there is some truth in drama. The truth is that my grief was that of my mother and that of the family that had existed. Now if you still think I’m being dramatic then okay have your thoughts but for me the drama was my reality.
Okay so back to my father dating again and my promises…. Strange enough, I as an adult knew on the one hand that dating again was a good thing for my father in terms of his life satisfaction, his desire for an intimate partnership and how these things support a continued long life for Dad. What is strange is that in spite of knowing the facts, in my head was the little girl saying, “Dad forget about it because I’m not helping you”. I know…crazy, Krazy, crazy because really does he NEED my help? No not necessarily but what he needs is my support. Getting to the point of supporting him was not easy. SIDEBAR…..Because he needed this support no less than 2 months after the burial didn’t make things better. If you ask me, it only made things worse and for a long time I held on to that belief. IF ONLY IT WASN’T SO SOON I WOULD BE BETTER or THEN I COULD DO THIS. Thankfully I woke up one day and came to the realization that better for me did not mean better for him. I realized that what I needed to do was STOP and CHANGE. I needed to do this for myself because daddy dearest was doing him with or without my support In my STOP and CHANGE I begin to view the situation differently. I begin to own my own emotions and question myself about the type of relationship I would have with my father. As a result of my self-reflection I learned to turn things around so that they worked for me rather than cause me pain. Read what Lynn Zambrano has to say about making things work for you:
Learning how to become a neutral observer is very important. This skill will teach you how to turn a negatively charged thought/emotion/situation into a positive action plan. When we have this skill in our toolbox we can easily shift our thinking and choose a perspective that better serves us.
Understanding: What is a neutral observer?
A neutral observer is someone who is not aligned with or supporting any side in an interaction/situation. They remain detached both from the situation and the outcome. Simply observing the interaction/situation as it is, without emotion. Viewing only a set of facts, without judgment allows them to be impartial. No one can be a neutral observer all the time. We all get caught up in our stories that we create. Realizing when we need to step out of story and into neutral observer is the key.
Neutral observer territory is reached after you diffuse emotion and can be present. From here you can see all sides of the situation and each individual perspective. You can see the overview and decide if you want to continue in the role you created. Also you could review the situation and discover another point of view, or perhaps discover you are reacting not to this situation but an earlier one with someone else entirely. You will then know whether changing and shifting your own behavior benefits you. Is it time?
Wow, I could not have said it better! What I will say is that regardless of the situation, You can always do your part to make it work for you. Here is a self-reflection exercise that you can use to make life work for you.
- What is the truth regarding XYZ? In other words what is actually happening now that you are refusing to accept.
- What expectations do I need to let go of?
- What do I really want with regards to XYZ?
- How do my actions support me getting what I want?
- How do my actions stop me from getting what I want?
Once you have gone through the exercise then it’s time to start making some behavioral and mental changes. You need to write 3-5 sentences of what you will actually do to serve your main goal. For me my main goal was to continue to have a positive relationship with my Dad. Ask yourself what can I do?
The next step is writing 3-5 sentences relating to the mental changes. Your statements should be Now statements rather than Future statements. So for example you may say It’s okay rather than It will be okay. Make the mental statements short and direct.