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EP — 20 Graciousness part 3 — Emotional Filters

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Iolite, the original sunglasses!

Iolite, the original sunglasses!

Graciousness part 3 — Filters

First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.—Matthew 5: 24b, NIV

The first known sunglasses used by man were slivers of iolite used by the Vikings to cross the sea and find the New World. The blue-violet stone can be held up in front of the sun to filter out the damaging rays. How the Vikings discovered this? I wish I knew. But for such a gorgeous stone to change the way you look at the sun changed the known world. As do some of the filters that change the way you look at the world.

What kind of filters do you use? Back up a moment and think about the different areas in your world that require filters. Air filters, furnace filters, water filters, oil filters, even vacuum filters all have common job descriptions. They filter out something to protect us. Then there are different levels of protection, from the hair catcher to the allergen trap to an air purifier that actually kills bacteria and viruses.

Sometimes those filters get clogged and must get changed or cleaned for better performance. Quite often, homeowners forget this pesky chore. Heating companies get frantic calls either at first freeze or the first sweltering day when furnaces and air conditioners no longer work.

It’s embarrassing for customers who think something is terribly wrong with their equipment to find a simple filter change would have avoided the whole expense. Left without the routine maintenance, a furnace can become so overworked trying to pull in air through a clogged filter that it will eventually break down as if the machine had emphysema.

Once the equipment no longer fires off, the serviceman has to perform a diagnostic procedure to learn the cause of the malfunction. Every diagnostic is different, but an experienced service technician has done a great deal of this type of work, which has allowed him to study different systems and increase his ability to solve the next problem.

  • Does your filter need cleaning or is it all clogged up with junk?
  • Do you need a personal diagnostic?

Angie’s Story

Mom near the end of her time on earth.

Mom near the end of her time on earth.

When my mom died, the hospice nurse confirmed the time of death. “She’s gone now.”

I stared up into the nurse’s face unable to comprehend the words, the very fear my mom had lived with for so long now a reality.

“Do you want me to start the directives?”

I felt the warmth of the palm above and the warmth below my palm. What did she mean? I looked down again at my mother’s gray face. Not gray from death. Gray because she’d been so close to death for so long.

Mom as a young lady. Quite a pretty woman.

Mom as a young lady. Quite a pretty woman.

Orange used to be her color. She wore it, painted her house and had matching pots and pans in orange. But for many months, and today, her color was gray. I’d become familiar with the pale gray of her face, the gray in her hair, and the gray hospital.

“Angela?”

I blinked.

“What would you like to do?”

“I don’t know.” Was I supposed to do something? My daughter sat beside me and held my hand. I noticed her warmth.

“You have instructions for your mom’s passing.” The nurse’s kind eyes looked right into mine. “Would you like to put them in motion?”

“I don’t know.” My heart sped up and skipped a few beats in the process. “I can’t hurt her. I’m afraid I’ll hurt her.”

“She can’t feel pain any more. She is no longer living.”

“Are you sure?” Somehow she could be wrong. I just knew it. How could she be alive one moment and not feeling the next?

“Would you like me to check for you?”

I nodded and she went. I traced bold red lines with my eyes up and down the table until she came back.

“Your mom is gone. She is really dead.” Soft and firm, “Angela, your mom has died. She can no longer feel pain. You have a plan where time counts. It’s your plan, and as next of kin, you have to say so. She is gone now.”

The nurse’s words unclogged my inaction as if she was my furnace guy who’d replaced a bad filter. As my furnace roared back to work, I had to set the plan in motion. Mom lived in fear. I wasn’t going to live that way.

Mom had a gift to give still and my job was to make sure it happened. “I do.” The same sacred words I’d spoken at the altar, yet they meant something completely different this time.

I led my family back in to say goodbye. “You need to listen to me, to what I am about to do for my mom because you will do this for me.” My voice caught as I looked at each of my children and my husband. “It’s hard and it takes courage.”

I made my wishes known right there and right then. “You will do this. When it is my time, you will help me donate my brain to this same study. They need to compare Grandma’s brain to someone in her immediate family. That leaves me.”

They all were stoic, eyes fastened on mine. My sons knew, my daughters knew, and my husband knew. “I need to know right now that if any one of you has to make this decision, that I can count on you to make it.”

They all nodded, not slow, not quick, but solemn. They nodded in strength of purpose and the power of agreement.

“Thank you. Tonight I’m going to make sure Grandma has the opportunity to leave a gift, and when it comes time, you are going to do the same for me. I want to make a difference.” The tears started then. I lifted my chin. “Now, please.”

Through the haze I saw the hospice nurse take out the written list of instructions for the brain donation. The list I’d researched, written, and provided. The list I’d made sure everyone had and could follow. At just before midnight, we woke the deputy chief medical examiner and called for transportation to the funeral home for mom’s body.

My mom and I would together participate in something much bigger than us. We are brain donors for the Brain Bank at McLean Hospital/Harvard for the on-going study of schizophrenia. We have a legacy to give for the generations to come. A legacy that could improve someone else’s physical body and/or their mental state. All excellent reasons. But what I hope to give is the chance to gain more wholesome, happy relationships. I hope Mom and I leave a legacy of love.

A legacy of love. Not something I’d thought possible even a few years earlier. I couldn’t have spoken of love and my mother in the same sentence. I only saw her through a filter of resentment. Resentment of her behavior, illness, and hurtful words. Resentment of all the loss in my life, the hardship, and the instability. Resentment of the crazy legacy.

Then God gave Mom over into my care for the last seven years of her life. As an adult, the childish filters began to open up and draw fresh air. As my mom sank deeper into dependence, I saw how fragile she was as fear-filled schizophrenia slammed her soul. I began to understand how courageous she’d been to battle those pirates. Compassion slipped in one day and cleaned out the filter of resentment.

  • Sometimes anger and resentment can clog up the ability to see another’s fragility. What would happen if you searched out that fragility in order to understand?
  • Are other emotions blocking your healthy, appropriate responses?

The problem comes when our head says one thing, but our hearts aren’t listening. It’s vital to understand how emotions take us out of rational thinking. Sure, decisions are easier to cope with ahead of time, but sometimes things happen without warning. How do you handle that?

It’s important to be aware of how our life filters affect our decisions. We filter assumptions and choices through our belief system. How we see things and what we believe about them come as much from our religious worldview as from our experience in the world and our family of origin. Our filters, or view of the world, create unwritten rules we don’t verbalize or realize exist. The easiest “hot button” to push? Breaking silent, unwritten rules.

Why are we so emotionally charged? Our emotions are preset in patterns based on past experience. The level of emotion in a household creates a filter for when emotion is good, bad, or at an acceptable level. Did family members speak with loud voices or quiet ones? Were the children allowed to join in the conversation or did they have to sit and wait? Chores, rules, and expressions of tradition influence the way each person thinks daily life happens.

All this can come together in huge clashes because unwritten rules filter how we receive input, our reactions, and subsequent behaviors. Most of the unwritten rules have no connection with the “right” way to do anything except that’s the way it’s been done before in the infamous “comfort zone”.

Unwritten rules are absorbed through observations of interaction between the people around us. These same unwritten expectations build an arsenal of misconceptions. Most people don’t even realize that they’re cemented into an immobile impasse, like the filthy furnace filter. No air is getting through to the furnace and the motor burns out, but the homeowners didn’t know to change it. They can’t figure out why the house is always cold. That “comfort zone” is a filter we need to change or our relationships will go cold.

The choices we make are based on assumptions that what is normal to us is normal to others. It isn’t. Ask any newlywed. The first argument rarely is over anything of lasting value. More often than not, the first argument is over an expectation from the family of origin. The couple needs to educate one another about their expectations, and then with both expectations out on the table, make a new decision based on new information. Change the filters to clear the air.

But what really happens? Accusations based on assumptions. Rarely does anyone ask the big why question: Why do you do that?

Resentment builds up where the vacuum of misconception lives. If one gets up the courage to ask, it tends to be in a harsh, accusatory tone that puts the other person on the defensive. The real answer is not often heard. Sometimes it’s not even known until the offender traces back to its origin. Yet we expect an immediate answer and for things to be done our way without considering another option. Taking the time to run a diagnostic, checking and testing through honest communication, saves both members of a relationship from new hurt, resentment, and anger.

Filtering out our fear, frustration, and misconceptions by getting educated helps us make informed, intelligent decisions about our lives rather than giving in to reactive emotions. Asking questions out of the desire to learn allows gentle tones and open discussion.

  • Information provides us with comfortable and confident decisions. But that choice is best made from a place of knowledge not assumption.

The intensity of our reactions comes from the weight or value we place on an interaction with others, much like the difference between the sentimental and actual value of gold and sterling silver. A beautiful heirloom passed down through your family, maybe even hundreds of years old, has significance in the stories that are part of its history. But when melted down for the financial value, these heirlooms often have much less monetary value than expected. But it isn’t the price that matters. It’s the weight of emotion stored in that collection.

We value life, relationships, material things, and sentiment and life experience at different levels. Some are more precious than others, including opinions and preconceived notions. Let’s find out how feelings create misconceptions.

  • Here’s an exercise for you to uncover unspoken rules:

Journal an intense argument you’ve experienced. What did you value in the argument? Find out by focusing only your side. What unwritten rules of yours do you think the other person broke?

Now focus on the other person’s comments only. Read through those, looking for unwritten rules you may have broken. Journal those.

You may find this difficult. You may need to trace back your own reactions to earlier in your life to discover why you reacted so strongly.

If it’s possible, find a time to share what you learned with the other party. Prepare mentally to listen for fragility and watch for unwritten rules they may not even be aware exist. Remember to be reconciled to your brother or sister as in Matthew 5:24. You can only control your part, not theirs. Release your desire to control the other person’s reaction. Reconciliation requires information to break the pattern of misconceptions.

Let’s practice recognizing old filters of preconceived notions and replacing them with beautiful new filters of an educated opinion. The more I know, the less I’ll fear.

Appreciation Moments:

Tina St. Claire Rice Thank you for your 5-star review of the upcoming release, The Lassoed by Marriage Romance Collection on Goodreads and Facebook.

Thank you, Tammy Gray, for reaching out to me on LinkedIn. I’m delighted with your invitation to write a blog post for you and will be doing that.

For the retweets and shares on Twitter and Facebook, thank you to so many friends. I’m stunned and overwhelmed.

A few listener favorite past episodes of Grace Under Pressure Radio:

Graciousness 1st episode

Teaching Confidence to our Daughters

Courage — Overcoming Specific Fears

Boundaries: No More Self-sabotage

 

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The Common Sense of Consideration (Graciousness, part 2 of 4)

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Grace Under Pressure Radio Episode 19 — The Common Sense of Consideration

Consideration allows others to be who they are and make their own mistakes even when it makes no sense. Yes, we can argue logic but…arguing, confrontation, and logic don’t solve most problems…

Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. —Proverbs 17: 14, NIV

Tip: Deflect and reflect.

It's cold in Montana winters!

It’s cold in Montana winters!

P1010099

Cool kids still have to learn to make great choices!

The football game = natural consequences…it’s cold in the winter in Montana!

  • Sometimes folks need to learn because of their experience. Don’t rob them of that! A quick story about my youngest son and my exchange son…and their choice that taught a lesson no words could have about wearing the proper winter garb to a 10 degree football game…
  • What happens when saying it nicely doesn’t work?
  • What does it take to get the point across?
  • Is it really necessary to win the argument?
  • What if most arguments camouflage the need to be right?
  • I’m right, and you’re wrong. This stiff-necked or rebellious attitude doesn’t solve any problem. It doesn’t move a stubborn Alzheimer’s patient into a different frame of mind or a rebellious teen any closer to what’s “good for them.” Black and white legalistic logic doesn’t make a schizophrenic suddenly believe your reality over what’s in his or her head. The right/wrong stance creates opponents, not team players. So why play tug of war just to be right? Pulling the other party into the mud puddle just leaves them covered in mud.
  • Love and Logic is a parenting program that teaches excellent skills. Often people repeat the same mistake until a memorable lesson sinks in. Master the art or affordability. An affordable mistake allows natural consequences to curb the desire. Similar to the boys’ experience at the football game, affordable consequences that have a little healthy pain teach good life lessons versus being life threatening or causing irreparable damage. The early affordable lesson prevents the likelihood of an expensive lesson later.
  • An expensive mistake is one that could cost life, limb, or irreplaceable damage. One example from Love and Logic is a child running out in front of a car. That’s not an affordable error. It would cause irreparable harm. You must intervene to avoid irreversible results.
  • The surprise is that this concept can work for adult decisions. Who said that all wisdom should be directed at childrearing? Ask yourself:
  • Is it an affordable mistake?
  • Is it at the expense of someone or something else?
  • Expensive or expense of?
  • Sometimes an expensive mistake is worth a later result. Think of a rough situation. Say that a young man chooses to hurt a girl’s feelings. The girl decides to break up with him but keeps the ring and other gifts he’s given her.
  • Hurting his girlfriend’s feelings is expensive, but to make that mistake with a wife could be even more expensive. Weigh the lesson you learn now against the cost of learning it later, which may have a higher price.
  • Think about expensive versus expense of. Sometimes it is a good idea for a boy to learn that mistreatment of women causes loss of relationship. What if that same young man had learned earlier in life that speaking disrespectfully to women resulted in being shunned from family activities? It would be tough on a little boy, sure, but which is a harder lesson to learn: the loss of family time or the loss of a girlfriend? Which would be even more expensive, the loss of family time, the loss of the girlfriend, or the loss of a wife?
  • Project the needed lesson into the future and acknowledge the degree of difficulty. Things get harder and consequences become more dear as you mature, not the other way around.
  • When you begin to teach affordable versus expensive natural consequences, logic floats to the surface sooner. What happens when the other person isn’t logical? When mental illness or long years of habit or rebellion block logical response to obvious consequences?
  • The alexandrite changes colors in different lighting, indoor and outdoor. Much like the precious gem there are different ways to look at the situation; but it’s very hard to nearly impossible to fabricate something as good as the natural result of a poor decision.
  • What is important — the satisfied feeling of being right or solving the problem?
  • What good does it do to argue logic against the illogical? You just get frustrated.
  • Does saying “You should” make any difference?
  • Don’t accept counsel or be a person who counsels with “you should.” Don’t accept counsel from angry people or politically correct mantras. The focus becomes appeasing their anger rather than solving the dilemma. Remember to apply this to your children, too. Do you really want them to appease your anger or to learn how to solve problems as they mature?
  • Don’t try to argue or use anger to solve a problem. It will really trip you up to argue with patients with dementia or mental illness. Logic isn’t in their realm. Why get all out of kilter right along with them? Think about it: That’s buying into the illness or rebellion rather than creative problem solving. If the only thing that matters is being correct or correcting, let it go. Save the argument for some time when it really matters.
  • Do get counseling for yourself. You have to deal with feelings and issues that exist, otherwise the lack of trust, as well as unforgiveness and anger, will overcome you.
  • Do find others who have been through a similar situation or are further ahead on the journey, and have come out the other side. They think a little more clearly and can sometimes help you get rid of the unreasonable fears and recognize problems in your logic too. The closer we are to a situation, the easier it is to blur it.
  • Admit that there are unreal and real fears and that both feel legit. Cope by getting educated. Learn as much as possible about the situation or fear.
  • Be proactive rather than reactive.
  • Pray and make intelligent decisions rather than being paralyzed and making emotional decisions.
  • Act to the best of your ability with the tools you have been given throughout your life. Work with what you know, and ask others what they know. These are excellent starting points.
  • Add to your toolbox each time. Every experience will add another tool, even if it is uncomfortable and it hurts. Learn from those, and let others learn too.
  • Use your new questions: Is it an affordable mistake? Is it too expensive? What would be the higher experience expense: pay now or pay later? What’s the worst that could happen? Can I live with that? When the worst that could happen is mere discomfort, can discomfort be the lesson?
Light purple alexandrite

   Light purple alexandrite

      • Scientists tried to create alexandrite in the lab. They found out that the cost was too high when compared with mining the real stone. But they wouldn’t have known without trying, and they learned some valuable lessons.
      • Our boys wear warm clothing to cold football games because they learned it on their own. Our experience with teens helped us to look for more creative ways to solve repetitive mistakes. If there’s a pattern, it will happen again. Plan, and then wait until it happens again to try something new.
      • Wrapping it up: I will practice putting my attention on the problem and not getting distracted by arguing logic or political correctness or semantics. I will allow others to voice their beliefs, communicating that I accept it’s not my right to force a change. It’s also my right not to be forced to change. The issue is solving the problem, not being right.
      • Appreciation Moments: I wish I could say more, but with limited time I want to at least say thank you to as many as I can for sharing Grace Under Pressure Radio and helping to promote the books I write. I’m so appreciative that you’d take your time to support me!

Janet Hewitt @yell_oohhCarol McClain @carol_mcclainKaren Whiting author @KarenHWhiting

and Sherri WilsonJohnson @swj_thewriter 

      • Thank you also to folks on Facebook for sharing the new releases on Kindle and Audible of The Debutante Queen and Eleven Pipers Piping… Sheila Traczuk, Tina Wilson, and Tristan Leder (who happened to voice the audiobooks). But also a big thank you to folks that are first reviewers like Harry Wegley and his wife who gave The Debutante Queen 5 stars after listening to the story in the car on a long drive. Thank you all!

Did you miss any of the previous shows? Here’s the first in each series…

Confidence

Courage

Candor

Boundaries

Graciousness

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EP — 17 Setting Boundaries for Family Holidays

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P1010008

Setting boundaries for family holidays

  • Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial — 1 Corin. 6: 12
  • Setting boundaries for family holidays takes pre-planning.
  • People feel they can say or do anything without ramifications.
  • People we love, the closest to us, often take advantage of that relationship to say and do anything that isn’t respectful or kind. Unfiltered meanness isn’t appropriate. There may be some exceptions like mental illness or medical reason, but it doesn’t mean you have to take that.
  • Blaming and scapegoating visual or personal issues by attacking verbally isn’t appropriate. Attacking a symptom is not okay. Because of being a family or friend doesn’t give anyone the right to attack you personally.
  • Repetitive patterns can be changed by being proactive instead of reactive. That person who always says that same thing…Be prepared for it this year.
  • The blame and shame game isn’t going to change anything. What are you going to do differently to change the equation with habitual attackers?
  • Brainstorm new responses in advance. Some general ideas:
    • Excuse me? Were you meaning to be so rude? (This is holding your boundaries, calling them on the carpet is not rude.)
    • Choose to remove yourself.
    • Choose not to go to the event.
    • Head it off before it starts: Happy to see you here. I’m expecting you’re going to be polite through the whole evening…is that right?
    • What are some other, more gracious ways?
    • I’m sure you didn’t mean that they way it sounded, what did you really mean?
    • I understand you’ve said that to me before. But since nothing has changed, I’m just going to let you rest with that.
    • When I feel ready to have that conversation, I’ll let you know. But until then, this topic is closed.
    • Turn to someone else and start a different conversation.
    • If the attacker must share their opinion: Thanks for that opinion. (And then move on to something else without saying anything else.)
    • Those words sound a little bit too heavy. At this point I’d rather enjoy my time with family, would you?
    • Wow, I didn’t come for this kind of a show, did you? Let’s have a nice conversation.
    • I don’t really want to talk about that right now. I’m here to enjoy you and the rest of the family, let’s do that now.
    • What about foods you don’t like. You just don’t have to tell them, “That is the worst casserole…” Ask yourself: who was encouraged, who was uplifted? There’s no reason to hurt feelings that way.
    • Consider taking a portion for later. Stick it in the fridge. Then you can discreetly dispose of it later or give it to someone that loves it. There’s gracious ways around it.
    • You can always say thank you, it doesn’t mean you have to eat it.
  • What about food pushers, especially with food you can’t stand? You’ll have to listen to the show for the coconut cake story 😉
  • Recognize the intent of the person. If it’s out of love or bonding or caring, honor and respect the intent. If it’s disrespect/tearing you down, superiority, power/control, attack, or abuse then call a boundary by taking yourself out of the situation or stopping the conversation.
  • What if you can’t get out of a family or social event that you know will be miserable, but you can’t get out of it without a big battle?
    • Take things with to give you the opportunity to entertain yourself and keep your mind busy. Ideas include: handicrafts, puzzles, books, games (for one or more)…
    • Use your handicraft as a conversation opener like bring along extra knitting tools, scrapbooking elements, crafts that you can teach or share for fun. You might be surprised at how people will join you. But if not, you’re still enjoying yourself and being productive.
    • Have a quiet conversation with someone you do enjoy at the event.
    • Coloring books for kids (and now there’s adult coloring books).
    • Make Christmas cards, family albums, etc.
    • Interview the elderly family members for a record. Take pictures and create family memories.
    • When all else fails, take a book and get immersed in the pages.
  • Think about relationship building ideas to use while you’re there.
  • Answer courteously and respect the intent.
  • Who are your problem people? How might you be proactive and plan ahead of time for a better experience?
  • An appreciation moment to Jenn Davis who took time out of her day to share that she put The Debutante Queen on her Amazon wish list…and then for the super fun conversation she and I ended up having on Facebook when she asked me a few questions about the stories. Thanks for making my day, Jenn!
  • Thank you to Martha Artyomenko and Carrie Fancett Pagels for connecting me to a new friend so we could talk about my book.
  • A big thank you to Tristan and Forrest Leder who recorded The Debutante Queen. It released today on Audible. I’m excited for this whole Montana Beginnings series as each book releases and then also goes to audiobook.
  • Thank you to friends like Ava Pennington, Carla Breidenbach, and quite a few volunteers who helped me with a bit of behind-the-scenes needs this last week. No one ever is a one-woman show. I couldn’t do it without you, my friends.

Please let me know if any of these ideas helped you and do share your ideas with other listeners, too, at any of these places:

Tweet me at: @AngBreidenbach

What other ideas would you like shared here on Grace Under Pressure Radio?

Did you miss any of the past episodes?

Boundaries part 1 (shining from within)

Boundaries part 2 (be proactive)

Boundaries part 3 (take care of yourself first)

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