Friday, July 27, 2007

Vortices, Boxes and Mindfulness

Ty and I had a fight last night (shh- don't tell her I told you). It wasn't a big one. It was mild as arguments go. But, I observed a few things from it that are pretty interesting.

First- some background. Kayla and Shayna had a disagreement earlier in the evening. Normally, Shayna has been sleeping with Kayla. But, last night, Shayna reported something that Kayla did and it embarrassed Kayla. (Everything embarrasses Kayla these days). Kayla, in spite, made Shayna sleep in her own room. At least that's what we assume happened because when we came up to bed, we found them in their own rooms.

Now, here's where it gets interesting. When Kayla exhibits certain behaviors, Ty gets mad at me. This has been going on for years (since Kayla could talk). Certain things that Kayla would say, like making observations about Ty that she found critical or "talking back" to Ty would trigger Ty to attack me blaming Kayla's behavior on me. Not that there is no merit to that. I am a critical person and it's very likely Kayla has picked that trait up from me. But, it would actually turn into an argument between me and Ty when Kayla would say certain things. Last night, the same pattern presented itself. This time Ty came into our room saying "Kayla is so reactive and unforgiving." (OK so far). Then, "I wonder where she gets that from." Uh-oh. Since there are only two of us and I was pretty sure she wasn't accusing herself, I could do the math. To be honest, Kayla is pretty reactive and so am I. That's a fair observation. But, Kayla is not unforgiving at all and neither am I. And, Missy Ty, Kayla's being so easily embarrassed certainly doesn't come from me. But, all of these thoughts I kept to myself. Here's where the vortices and the boxes come in. I decided to step back and not react. The mindfulness practice is beginning to pay off. I felt the emotion rise in me. I felt the violation of my honor and I felt the desire to defend myself as I have so many times in the past. I did not want to go down this vortex into the circular argument I knew we were heading for. After all, what is the point? How do I win this one? No. I decided to let it go. But, Ty had me pegged. She just knew I was going to "react". This is where the box comes in. So often we think we know people so well, we don't even give them the chance to react. We react for them. I consciously chose not to react to her taunting. But, everything I said from that moment on was taken that way. I couldn't escape the box. Now, here's where I made my mistake. I asked Ty why she had gone into Kayla's room and started talking to her. This really had nothing to do with the discussion we were having. But, it was too closely related. I should have said "How about those Reds?" (next time I will). Often when we come to bed, I'll go kiss the girls goodnight first (because I'm usually the first one up). Then, Ty will go in and I hear a conversation. My mistake is that she took this as me accusing her of doing something wrong. That was all it took and we were headed down the rat hole. She told me that Kayla had really been awake when I came in to kiss her goodnight. Possible? Yes. But, she had no way of knowing that. I had kissed Kayla goodnight a good ten minutes earlier and Kayla's door was open. During that time, Ty had yelled up the stairs for me to come down and help her with something. That is possibly (probably) what woke Kayla up. A minor point? Yes. Not worth discussing? Absolutely not. But, guess what? Now we were going to discuss this. I tried to tell her I was merely pointing out that she had no way of knowing whether Kayla had been awake when I entered her room but I was not accusing her of anything (including waking Kayla up). Remember, this is a side-trip from our original argument about how "reactive" I am and my role in passing this trait to Kayla. I was not interested in this detour, so I tried to shut it down. But, the more I tried, the more it was just and example of how reactive I am.

Finally, I realized a couple of things. Mindfulness was not going to save me. She had me in the box, we were on that winding path and no matter what I said, she was hearing something else. Finally, I decided to grab my book and go to bed. Which she took as a sign I was angry and further confirmation of my reactivity to her simple observation. So, what I have learned is that while mindfulness can help me control my behavior or reaction in a certain situation, people's expectations still rule. People will assume they know how I'm going to react and put that on me no matter what I do. So, I've just got to accept that and roll with it.

This morning Ty said she was sorry we fought last night (not that she was sorry for her role in it) and that she didn't sleep well. I told her I was sorry she didn't sleep well (and I am). But, I did not apologize for my role in the argument and I'm not going back there with her again. She is convinced I was angry last night and there is not a thing I can do to convince her otherwise. Part of wisdom is knowing the things you cannot change.

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