I was probably in college when I first realized that I have a different sense of what I put out in the world than many people. I was an English major at a not-so-great state school and in most of my Lit classes one or more people would regularly contribute golden nuggets of wisdom such as, “This story really reminds me of me and my boyfriend, because…” followed by a personal story of some sort. This kind of over-sharing struck me as unnecessary, annoying, and not at all adding to the intellectual conversation I wished we were having in class. I didn’t contribute very often, but when I had an idea I felt was worth sharing I would wait and mull it over, deciding whether it was unique and interesting enough to warrant putting myself out there. This entire scenario was guided mostly by my overwhelming social anxiety, and I still struggle with feeling like I have said too much or at the wrong time.
Even though I’ve grown into feeling more confident, my sense and love of restraint is stronger than ever. Restraint is an art and it is incredibly necessary in a marriage and as a parent. I have never regretted NOT saying something critical, snarky, judgmental, or harsh. I try to be aware of what I’m saying before I say it, but of course I still put my foot in my mouth. For me the goal is to learn how to stand my ground and express myself in healthy ways. Holding back is not the same thing as holding in or holding onto. That would be repression and resentment, which are all too easy to cultivate as a wife and mother. I continue to work on striking a balance between being real with myself and my family about my feelings, while refraining from being reactive. It’s so hard! It is a life’s work I’m sure.
The other thing I think it is important to hold back is advice. Everyone has plenty of advice. I know I do! I have great ideas about how everyone can do all sorts of things that I do, or think I should do, or think you should do. The thing is, unsolicited advice is the least helpful kind of advice. I come to certain realizations or decisions when I am ready for whatever reason, rarely because someone suggested it to me. It is hard for me to hold back my ideas when I think I know something helpful. I try to remind myself that unless someone is asking for my advice, the most generous thing I can offer is to just listen. Having someone truly listen when I am having a hard time is one of the most beautiful, satisfying experiences. I hope to find the balance in self-restraint and to continue to grow as a listener.
How do you feel about holding back, sharing, and listening?
We have been going to an awesome weekly playgroup at a community garden started in a vacant lot in the middle of midtown Miami. A lovely family lives there in a sustainable school bus and they host us every Thursday for pot luck lunch and crafts in their “living room.” I am planning to give a cooking class there on a Sunday in the next few months, so stay tuned! Here are a few photos from today: