SUMMER SHORTS: Stop The Presses.
We can change a relationship. We can change the flow between us and someone we live with, work with, or love.
We can do that by creating new responses to old stimuli. Viktor Frankl, the Australian neurologist, psychiatrist and holocaust survivor said, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
When Eric was alive and well, like any couple, we had our ups and downs, especially at the beginning of our time together. I’m glad to say I learned from those ups and downs.
One of the practices I developed to rescue myself from saying something I would later regret was one I called “stop the presses.”
If I was about to react negatively to Eric, I’d say something (usually silently to myself) along the lines of “whoa, sweet girl, stop the presses, honey.”
A side-note here: I believe in sweet-talking ourselves through change, because change isn’t the easiest thing in the world, and that spoonful-of-sugar-makes-the-medicine-go-down thing can be ever SO helpful. I called myself sweetheart, darlin’, and honey-puddin’-n-pie pretty often.
I liked “stop the presses” because it was short, but also because it carried auditory and visual impact.
Imagine a scene where newspapers are being printed. Hundreds of papers per hour are being pulled through machines by a steady heartbeat, the machines thumping along as fresh newspapers land in a crisp pile at the end of an assembly line.
Suddenly, a supervisor yells over the loudspeaker “Stop the presses!” because there’s an error, a mistake that can’t be sent out in the morning news. The printing operation is called to a halt.
“Stop the presses” reminded me to pull the giant lever in my mind to stop what I was about to do or say. This is one way I interrupted my pattern of making Eric the bad guy, or insisting he should accommodate me by changing his ways.
I used it when I felt a heavy reaction brewing inside, or when I was about to make a thoughtless, snippy comment. (And yes, noticing an oncoming reaction requires awareness, among other things, no doubt about it.) Rather than heading down the path (excuse my French) of thinking he was an a-hole, I’d reach for the lever about to announce inaccurate news.
When the machines in my head came to a stop, I’d get quiet and ask myself, “What if he’s doing something good? And what might that be?”
Or I’d ask, “What if there’s a good reason he’s doing what he’s doing?” or even “What if he’s not doing what I think he’s doing?”
To close, here’s a little more from Viktor Frankl: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. What is to give light must endure burning.“
Something to think about while you sip your sweet tea by the seashore… Oh, you’re most welcome, honey darlin’ with sugar on top …
Sweet Changes to you!