Seeing the best in life's challenges

To Whom It May Concern:

on September 9, 2012

To Whom It May Concern:

Before I begin, I want to be very, very clear to you about my perspective.  I want you to know that I totally respect you for who you are.  I have absolutely no interest in changing you, in telling you what you should do or think, or in judging your actions.  I realize that you may take what I say in that way, but that is not something I can control.  I can only express my intent – and how you interpret what I say is up to you.

I feel compelled to share my observations because the dynamics of our interactions make me extremely uncomfortable, and it is my impression that you have no idea that this is the case.  If I were in your shoes, this is something I would want to be aware of.  I don’t want you to say, someday, “why didn’t you ever tell me?”

From observation, I know that you have a very strong paradigm of how the world works, and the things people should do.  You have very clear likes and dislikes.  That is fine with me.  I just want you to know and understand that my view of the world is very different from yours.  Just because I am tolerant of your view of the world and don’t argue with you, doesn’t mean that I have the same view.  I am not interested in getting into arguments about which is “right” and which is “wrong.”  I am happy to agree to disagree.  But do understand that when one of your strong opinions condemns someone who thinks differently, well, sometimes that means you are condemning ME.  And that doesn’t feel so great.

I would just ask that you acknowledge that there are other viewpoints and offer me the same tolerance and respect that I offer you.

The truth is, when I spend time with you, I feel invisible.  You never ask me anything about me.   When I speak up and share, you don’t show much interest in listening.  Maybe you assume that I agree with you on everything.  Maybe you have no interest in understanding me.  Maybe you never even thought about it.  I don’t know.

You speak about the same topics every time I see you, and you seem to want to convince me that I should do, think and be the way you are.  You speak about what you think as if you must convert everyone else to your way of thinking.

I am not interested in competing.  It’s perfectly ok with me that you love doing certain things, that you have certain goals and priorities, that you find humor in your own way.  All of these things are cause for celebration, and I love that you are clear about who you are.

But I am not you.  My kids are not you.  I am only asking that you please allow me to be me.  And please allow my kids to be who they are and respect their right to make their own decisions, have their own life experiences, and learn their own lessons.

Last night you threatened one of my kids with never speaking to him again, if he didn’t make a certain decision in the way you would make it.  I know, the first thing you will say is, “it was only a joke, don’t be so sensitive.” You repeated your statement several times – it was not an off-hand, flippant remark.  And you habitually push your opinions of what he should do in this way.  You must realize that you are a powerful influence on him.  You are a model for his behavior. And I know from experience, that he turns around and uses this kind of strong-arm tactic on others, specifically on me and his siblings.  Then, when you hear about him doing this, you don’t understand why he does it.

It’s very hard to know how to communicate this to you.  I usually don’t speak up.  I realize that’s my own personal challenge to work on, and I’ve been thinking a lot about that.  I do have the impression that you are not interested in what I think.  So, more and more, I tend to avoid interacting with you.  I honestly don’t know if that is the best solution or not.

Last night, I did speak up.  I said that I thought my son should be able to make his own decisions.  I am not really sure how that went over.

I guess I want you to know that I am struggling with how to handle this and with how to communicate with you.  Which is why I am writing this down in this way.  I don’t know what the “solution” is.  I will continue to work on this.

I feel stuck.

Note to the Reader:  This is a very personal, very specific challenge I am working on.  I wonder if others have similar struggles, and I would be very interested in your thoughts.  This is not a situation that involves just one comment that made me uncomfortable.  This is a strong pattern of behavior that is getting increasingly difficult to watch and experience, particularly because I see the behavior showing up in my kids.   Of course, I talk to my kids about it and am clear with them about what I think.  But how much does one speak up to others about it?   Is avoidance the best tactic?  What if you can’t avoid being in the situation?  What if kind, gentle feedback doesn’t have any effect?  What if speaking up just feels like getting sucked into the drama?

What do you think?

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