An eleven-hour car drive from Buffalo to Hampton Roads, Virginia prompted the question I had been meaning to ask my husband. (Read previous post for context.)
“Hey David, here is what I have noticed in the last several years… You were once content about your life and now, not so much … Am I off or on track and do you care to talk about it?”
“You may be right, up to a point, Dona. I’m still mostly content and believe I have lived a ‘completed’ life and could go to the Creator without regrets. But recently some insecurities have surfaced. In fact, it is part of the reason I have asked you to blog about late middle age baby boomer insecurity. I was hoping that you could do a little research and then enlighten me to what may be going on.”
Before I did any research I wanted to hear more of what David thought might be going on. So, I continued with a communication phrase that I have instructed many couples to practice.
“Is there more about this that you can tell me about…..” (There is always more that aids in clarification).
“Is there more” and continuing to ask, “Is there more?” until you finally hear,
“No, I think I have said all that I was feeling or thinking about the matter.”
This type of persistence in dialogue is one of the kindest and most courageous self-disciplines you can practice when having meaningful communication with someone. Kindest, because there is always more that someone has to say, and you, the listener, are giving them the time, mental space, and patience to reflect and be heard. It aids in the speaker’s own self-clarification and provides insight as room and time is given for them to think out loud and even to rethink and revise what they originally thought in order to get closer to their core belief.
It is also a courageous self-discipline because you are placing yourself in a position of vulnerability – hearing more than your “thin skin-ness” is typically able to handle without getting hurt and making it about you. My experience with this grownup communication tool is that if a person can trust the process without reacting to the content with the typical self-justifying filters and insecurities then something happens that leads to emotional connection and intimacy that would have typically been buried in a sea of defending, accusation and misunderstanding.
Back to David’s narrative:
“Maybe your cancer diagnosis and treatment leaves me feeling my life is not complete because I wouldn’t want to die and leave you in a lurch. Of course I have no control of that. That is in God’s hands. Could be that as I get older I’m just feeling more irrelevant and further away from making things happen in a way that a younger generation can and does? Maybe it’s more akin to the loss of an “insider status.”
(To be honest this is not exactly how David described his unease on that 11-hour car ride. When I showed him this post he edited his quote; he rewrote the quote; he left it, came back and revised it again as he struggled to concisely define his feelings.)
More therapeutic stuff:
|Putting pen to paper brings the mental clarity that so often alludes us when we just talk.|
I have found in my mental health practice that this process of writing down thoughts and feelings is therapeutic. Putting pen to paper brings the mental clarity that so often alludes us when we just talk. When we write our thoughts down we are placing boundaries built by our language’s syntax and grammar. Writing down our thoughts forces our brain to reign in free-floating anxious thoughts. It happened that way with David; giving him more to time to get to the heart of what was bothering him and it gave me the needed content to know what to research.
By this point my digressions have likely made you forget what David wanted me to research (i.e. Baby-boomer insecurity). As it turned out, my initial research would bring me to articles that were more about our baby boomer power than about the obvious – we are old and we are feeling it in our bones, our gut, and our culture and in our soul, and we are quite self-absorbed about it. The articles I read leaned to reassurances. They encouraged us to resist self-doubt and summoned statistics that made us sound pretty darn relevant as consumers, social media connectors, political and health care industry influencers. Oh hum… who cares about all that and apparently not David after further communication. The John Mayer song, “Get Off this Train,” pointedly gets to the heart of the matter. We are getting old and no pep talk or consumer statistics are fooling us. So, where is my navel-gazing husband (his words) to go from here?
Sorry, dear readers, as it turns out I have more to say in this blog before I fulfill my original “One Journey-Two People” series. My next post “One Journey – Two People: Part III” I’ll try to get to the heart of the matter that was teased out of David’s angst.