The priest told a more elaborate likeness of this story: “A man came to me quite distressed and told me his wife was crying and extremely upset with him. I asked him what happened this time. He said, “She asked if I knew her favorite color. I guessed blue but was wrong; purple was the correct answer. I’ve repeatedly told her I was sorry, but nothing helps.”
When the man finished his story, the priest said, “Her distress is not about the color but about you not paying attention.”
I loved the story, not just because it was funny, but because it’s true, and we all could benefit from remembering the message. Whether dealing with spouses, friends, kids, parents, pets, or the doctor, healthy relationships involve more than simultaneously being in the same room.
When it comes to buying a gift, inviting someone for dinner, or just running into a friend on the street, paying attention at the moment is vital to the quality of the encounter. If the man in the story had genuinely paid attention to his wife, he would have known her favorite color years ago and wouldn’t be in the doghouse. Instead, she would have been a happy wife, and you know the expression.
For example, I’m a weird person who eats fish but no meat. The new word for me is pescatarian. On Christmas Eve, my daughter always makes Cincinnati Chili and makes a small pan of sauce without meat just for me. That’s love. I don’t remind her, and she doesn’t make comments about what a pain it is. She knows and cares. It’s the best gift ever.
There are many ways to pay attention. Noticing what we see, smell, taste, touch, and hear is the first step, but we all have intuition that is also helpful. Body language is alive and real. We also need to shift the focus from us to them. If I’m thinking about my sore feet or where I need to be, I’m not paying attention to whoever is in my presence. My memory used to be different from what it is today, so even paying attention, I don’t always get it right, but I try. The husband in the story hadn’t tried too hard.
We often hear how important it is to be present, mindful, and kind, yet we still fall into the trap of me, me, me. Prioritizing “me” is vital to daily mental health, and the best time for that is when we are in the company of ourselves. Other times, we are called upon to share the spotlight if we don’t want to be ignored, rejected, or punished.
Until the next time: Live while you live.
Jennifer Goble, Ph.D., LPC, is the author of “My Clients…My Teachers,” and the blogger and writer of Rural Women Stories: www.ruralwomenstories.com.
Powered by WPeMatico