Saturday, November 27, 2010

Feeling Understood by Sharon O'Donnell

Sometimes I like to get in my car and just drive. Leave the family behind and just drive with no particular destination. I savor the time alone to think or maybe to listen to one of my Broadway CDs that nobody else n the family seems to like. I do this sometimes when I feel overwhelmed in my house with all the schedules and all the responsibilities.-- and yes, the very real pain of feeling unappreciated.

In a house of four males, it is challenging to be a successful communicator. Did I write that politically correct enough or should I just cut to the chase and say males can't communicate worth a damn sometimes? With no other female around to talk to who would understand why some of the things my guys say hurt my feelings, I often feel completely misunderstood. So I drive. Go away for 30 minutes or so to get my perspective back. While driving, I envision what would happen if I just kept driving -- maybe go the full 2 hours to the beach and leave a message on the phone saying I'd be spending the night away by myself. Of course, I never go anywhere for the night, but the thought of being so spontaneous is appealing. But who'd go to the grocery store, do the laundry, find my middle son's basketball practice jersey (or whatever thing my 16-year-old lost most recently), replenish the toilet paper in all 3 bathrooms, and keep up with all the appointments, meetings, and practices? Maybe I should just let them try to survive for a while on their own, but my sense of responsibility won't allow me to do that.

Other times when I feel that I need to get away but can't, I go to my bedroom, close the door, get in bed with a heating pad on my neck, and watch back to back programs on HGTV -- you know, those shows where they show new home buyers various houses, and they pick one by the end of the show. Those shows are addictive for me. I'm not into real estate or home design, but I love to compare the homes and guess which one the person will buy. These are shows my husband or sons would never want to watch, which I think is also part of the appeal. I'm not reminded of any of them as I watch these shows, and it's a nice escape. I love my guys, but if ever there was proof of the Mars-Venus difference in the communications differences between the sexes, it is my household.

There’s a great bestselling book by Dr. Deborah Tannen called, “You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation”, a look at communication problems in marriage and the differences in the way men and women communicate. I remember I started reading it on the bleachers at a basketball practice while I waited for one of our sons. I was devouring the book, couldn’t turn the pages fast enough because it all sounded so familiar. His comments, her comments. The author understood exactly where I was coming from; she understood my bewilderment about some of the arguments I got into with my husband and how something transpired into an argument when I never meant for it to. As I read one paragraph that described exactly what I was feeling, I started crying tears of joy – tears of joy that someone understood and that I was not going crazy after all. Suddenly remembering I was in a gymnasium, I pretended that I was having trouble with my contacts and that’s why my eyes were tearing up. But I’ll always remember how wonderful it felt to have a Ph.D. describe in writing exactly how I felt because she herself had felt the same way.

A person can endure a lot in life if they feel that someone really understands and appreciates them. And if you have one of those times when you feel like nobody does? Well, leave 'em all behind, get in a car and just drive. (Can you tell it's been one of those times at my house lately?)


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