I was talking to a friend on the phone the other day and we were discussing the horrible state of affairs between her house and the other house... the one with her ex-husband and his wife. I thought back to the early days between Carol and I, and could easily remember those stomach-churning moments when I would accidentally end up talking to her on the phone, or stumble through an awkward greeting at their house or ours. Elch.... It's weird to think of how far we've come. I tried to think of something encouraging to say to my friend. How DID Carol and I go from where we were to where we are now?
It sounds so simple, but honestly, I think it started with our hellos.
At some point, I made a conscious decision to try and make things better between us. But how do you signal this to the other person when how it's been before has been so consistently awful? It's not like you can suddenly say, hey, how about we try something different? (Okay, actually you can, but not many people are capable of exposing their soft, furry underbellies like this....)
Carol and I used to be like two cats with raised back-hair around each other - all it would take is minimal exposure and our reaction was instantaneous. It was both sad and hilarious to hear later that we were both suffering in the same, totally stressed-out way, but we were. (We've since regaled each other with tales of our dread and mortification and acrobatic efforts to avoid each other's presence. Has made for some good laughs.)
I think the first few times I tried to say "Hey, how's it going?" like I meant it, Carol just looked at me, startled. And then her surprise was instantly replaced with suspicion, as in What the hell is she doing? What is she trying to get from me? And probably most importantly, How can I get her out of my face???
The other piece to this is that I tried to use my much-improved relationship with David (my ex-, Carol's husband) to convey that I wanted to change things with Carol. Which meant, looking back, that I had to do some work to get to that point too, in terms of forgiveness and making amends with him.
Once Carol got the message that I was extending a little teeny olive branch, even if it was a little wilted and there weren't many leaves on it, she stuck out her branch through a crack in the door too.
There's nothing like seeing that someone is trying to make you try more.
So start with hello and see what happens. It's not like it was the solution for everything for us, because we went backwards many times too, but it was the definitely the beginning of something new.
And once we had a few successes under our belt, we felt even more inspired to extend ourselves. And it became harder to be a jerk to the other side, to be rigid and inflexible even though we were sometimes losing ground in being so damned cooperative!
And it's what led us to yesterday, sitting next to each other on the couch over here at my house, at a going-away party for our oldest daughter (she leaves for Europe tomorrow, I can't believe it!). We took a picture with both of us kissing Sophie on the cheek at the same time, with Sophie laughing.
Who would have ever thought THAT was going to happen?!
Much to be grateful for, and it started with one of the most common of words....
On a separate note, our bulletin boards should be going up over the next several days, so I hope you'll drop by and say hello. : )
Many thanks to David (computer programmer extraordinaire!) for his help (and a nice little trade of programming for standard-poodle dog-sitting)!
© 2008 Jennifer Newcomb Marine All Rights Reserved