Sunday, February 22, 2009

Good News Notes

I'm planning to write the next segment of my Saga later tonight, since Avram is at a priesthood meeting, and the girls will be asleep. But I cannot spin out the memories of my inner soul while Lydia chants in the background behind me, and Elisheva periodically visits me for nursings, so be prepared for Lots of Good News this evening.

1. Lydia has an imaginary friend. She arrived at our house at dinner today, and her name is Joey-Anna. Joey-Anna and Lydia played together all dinner long. They're still playing together now. Lydia has never made up a name before, and I'm curious whether this is a one time occurrence, or whether we have a new imaginary daughter who has moved in to stay.

2. Today I was thinking about how so often the words and thoughts that I have inside that I want to say come out completely wrong. For example, at my sister Amy's wedding 11 1/2 years ago, when I was 14, I was one of the bridesmaids. As I was standing in line next to Amy, a guest came through carrying their baby. Amy wanted to hold the baby, so she handed him her large bouquet while she took his baby, joking that she would keep the baby and he could keep the bouquet. At this moment I opened my big, maladroit mouth and said something to the effect of, "What if the baby dies, won't you want the bouquet back?"

Yep. That was embarrassing. Amy smoothed it over with some comment, and the guest moved on. But that moment is burned into my memory, for what I really meant of course was when the bouquet withered he would want his baby back. But it came out all wrong.

Often this happens to me. While my sister Mary was in labor for two days I talked to her on the phone. She had really wanted a natural labor, but was struggling with exhaustion from her prolonged labor with no sleep. What I really wanted to say to her in this situation was, "Don't worry, Mary, I love you. I know that I had a natural labor, but I also had a quick one, and I understand that you're tired and want a rest. Try eating to keep up your energy, but most of all, remember that I think you're great no matter what, and if getting an epidural will help you rest, go for it." What I actually did was stress over and over her needing to eat some food to keep up her energy, and to remember her goals, and such. I did tell her it was okay to get an epidural (not that I'm queen of labors, to dispense such advice anyway), but it was lost amidst my well intentioned but ultimately unhelpful advice. I know my sister didn't mind, but it still bothers me.

Today Avram was talking about his primary class, and attempting to work with them, and I kept throwing ideas at him for improving the class, when what I really wanted to say was that i know it's hard to have a rowdy class. No, that's not all I wanted to say. See, maybe this is why I am a bossy, non-empathic kind of person. Because I also did want to say that taking toys away is important, and that boudaries must be always kept, etc, etc. So maybe the problem is just that I am an advice-filled person, and can't wait for places to dispense it.

I could give more examples, but ultimately it boils down to this: In my head I desire and feel empathy and sympathy. I care about the situation. I understand what's proper and what's not. But then somehow when I attempt to put this into words I either sound like Dr. Laura with all the hard nosed advice, or I manage to kill off their baby, so to speak. Oh, sure, this isn't every time. But most of the time I wish I could make the empathy part of my mind manage to make it through to my mouth, instead of the "Fix it right now" part.

I think that giving lots of advice is my attempt at being a cheerleader, of trying to help people I care about, and so I think of ideas to fix it. And yet I know that well meaning ideas are not always what people are looking for. Sometimes they just want empathy. But how do I speak empathy? Especially over the phone? Just say, 'Ra Ra Sis Boom Bah, You Can Do it, Yes You Can!' The joke that comes out all wrong I can handle. With age I usually manage to assign death to the inanimate object. But for everything else?

Travis and I use to talk about how we want to be bricks. The kind of people that others really depend on - "She's a real brick" kind of person." I've realized that I'm simply not a brick. I'll never have people lining up outside my door to consult with me. In fact, others often have a hard time telling me their problems. In college one of my roommates felt that I was very un-perceptive when it came to me understanding her, and as we were talking about this (being good friends and attempting to work through it) it came up in the general conversation at large among my roommates and visiting friends. Who all basically concurred that I was un-perceptive, and that they struggled with sharing things with me! This six year old conversation still burns in my mind, because I didn't quite know what to say. They weren't being mean, they weren't making fun of me. They were just honestly stating how they felt. They were my friends, it was not that they did not like me. It's just that they didn't think I was very empathic. Since then I've often wished to be empathic, to be a brick.

Travis and I decided that instead of being bricks, that we were more of flying-buttress or gargoyle kind of people - a little showy, a little flamboyant. Sure, no one would ever depend on us, but we had our own purposes. I've realized that although I'm not naturally very empathic, that I need to develop the strengths I do have, and not worry about all the great qualities that aren't innate in my nature. However, I'd still like to be more empathic with my friends and family around me.

This train of thought has been running through my mind in the last few months (Mary's baby Joshua is 5 months old now, so at least that long), but it usually only comes up in my mind when yet once again I mean to be super supportive in a conversation, and instead come out sounding super bossy. So, I'm not proud. Anyone want to throw me a line here? Especially if people have ever said about you, "Now s/he's a real brick, a real empathic person who truly understands me when I talk to them, and says all the right things." Just tell me word for word what you do and say, and that would be very helpful. Thank you.

3.I've begun babysitting for little six week old James, and it's going well. Like with all newborns, I think that with all the naps he takes I'll be able to get a lot done, but somehow that never actually happens. Still, he's cute and as soon as I find my lost camera, I'll take some pictures.

4.Avram and I have begun a new plan of alternating desserts. So a few days ago we made a pound cake for him, and then the next dessert we make will be something that I choose (so most like Molten Chocolate cakes or Pioneer Woman's Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake). I feel good about this plan. This way we'll both get our desserts that we like.


  1. I think some people just have a knack for understanding people and letting them know that they are understood. I think I'm pretty good at understanding, but really really bad at letting people know that I understand and care. People who don't know me do not feel that I am welcoming or warm and friendly at all. But once I am close to someone, I feel like I can really make them feel better. Now, unfortunately, I think I am that close to maybe two or so people right now.

    The part I'm good at, I think is because I tend to just sit quietly and watch people constantly, and pick up on what makes them tick. Also I am a really overly-sensitive, emotional person, so I tend to think that others are too, and end up taking great measures not to offend them, probably more than necessary.

    So, I guess what I do, is be very, very mindful of the conversation I'm having, and what I'm saying or need to say.

    But um, I really like talking to you and do feel like I can share important things with you. So you're not that bad!

    And hooray for the desserts and Joey-Anna and the newborn babe and everything!

  2. That baby/bouquet story is really, really funny -- I even had to tell it to my husband, who laughed, too.

    I'm not sure where I fall on the bossy/empathetic spectrum . . . I know I've never been the person everyone confides in, but I do hope I make people feel safe, and I do try to wait to offer advice until I've just listened.

    Good call on trading off desserts. (And, yum.)

  3. "... or I manage to kill off their baby, so to speak." Oh, you had me laughing.

    I often say what I don't mean, too. I will call someone up and say, "I just realized that it probably sounded like I was saying ABC, but what I meant was DEF."

    I totally hear what you're saying here.

  4. As far as being empathetic goes, sometimes people want advice and sometimes people just want someone to listen to them. At this moment, I think you're asking for advice, so I'll give a little. Start out by just listening. Ask questions along the way to show you're interested. Sometimes they're not looking to you for a solution, and they just want to mull it over; sometimes just having someone to voice it aloud to is enough for the person to come to a conclusion on their own. Of course there are times when people outright ask for advice, but in my experience (mostly as the one going to others) most of the time they're just looking for a sounding board.

  5. Well, I've been told that I'm bossy (guess who told me that? just guess!)

    But also, people, even people I don't know very well feel compeled to poor out their hearts to me. This is a new development, and I'm not sure why. I can tell you, I rarely offer advice. Mostly I feel really ill-equipted to offer advice on the kinds of things people tell me. So, I listen. A lot. And I ask questions to clarify what they are telling me (mostly how they feel about it, since two people can feel very differently about the same situation). I allways try to affirm their right to feel the way they do. Because I think thats important. It's ok to be sad. Or hurt, or even angry. And I think the best way out of those feelings is through, feel them, acknologe them, deal with it and move on.

    So ya. THere ya go.