The Power of Circling Back
"Jamie, you seem upset?”, my Dad said.
“I’m not. Just hungry,” I responded through gritted teeth.
The truth is I was pissed and hurt and exhausted. My Dad had just picked me up from the airport and between the time we left the airport and arrived home (47 long minutes) we’d somehow covered terrorism, feminism and gay marriage. Holy goodness.
My father and I do not share the same political views and so to say the ride was a little tense is generous. As I edged further away from him, giving one word answers and trying to jam myself between the car seat and door, I thought, “I can make it to the house. I can do this. JUST. MAKE. IT. TO. THE. HOUSE.”
Upon arrival I slinked out of the car, grabbed my bag and beelined for the door.
My father meandered up to the door and as he it said, rather hesitantly, “Jamie, you seem upset.”
My father and I have a history of getting into heated discussions that leave me devastated and him wondering what the hell went wrong. While debate feeds him, it utterly depletes me, a byproduct which he’s never picked up on...until that very moment.
And while I’ve been waiting my entire life for him to notice my vain attempts to shrink myself into a dime every single time these talks pop up, when he finally acknowledged my shrunken state, I knee-jerked to my protective, “Nope, I’m fine”, response.
And so I walked in the house and promptly started to make lunch, avoiding all eye contact.
He followed, sat down in front of me and fumbled with the newspaper. I continued to chop my vegetables, hoping he’d get the hint and leave me to my lunch. And then it dawned on me that 1) his “You seem upset” comment was the exact recognition I’d been waiting for for years and 2) I needed to circle back and acknowledge it.
Another f*cking growth opportunity. UGH.
And so I put my knife down, mustered a hearty dose of courage, took a deep breath and said, “Dad, I really appreciate you noticing my behavior. Yes I was/am upset. These conversations are really hard for me and I don’t know how to make them any easier.” And then I promptly burst into tears.
And his response? “Jamie, I really appreciate you saying something and thank you for the acknowledgment.”
WTF? It was like we were in a “How to talk to your teen about drugs” video where everyone’s awkward and uncomfortable then magically says the appropriate thing and you think, “BULLSHIT. No one talks like that!”
And yet, we did.
And then, it was over. No big tearful hug or fanfare. No “I’m sorry” or “Why didn’t we do this sooner”. Just simple human to human understanding and recognition.
And after that, with damp eyes and soggy cheeks I finished making lunch and my father returned to his office.
It seems small and yet what’s important is we could have easily fallen into our usual routine where he ignores my retracted, walled-off stance, I proceed to be hurt and silently resentful, we awkwardly pass the turkey and wine and then I head back home, thinking he’s emotionally bereft and him thinking I’m just another “angry female”.
But we didn’t. We did it differently this time which gives me hope that when another opportunity arises (which I’m sure will be soon) we can do it differently again.
So, is there anyone in your life you’d like to circle back with?
I believe it’s never too late to say thank you, I’m sorry, I’m hurt, can we clarify on what went wrong. I believe we have the ability to always make things better and can always, always try again. Tweet this.
Lots of love and when you do circle back, click reply to this email and let me know how it went.
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