Time of Reflection: Gentleness

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I need to reflect on “gentleness” today, the next to the last gift of the spirit. I forgot that I hadn’t finished them because I have had too many bad-body-days since I returned to Michigan. I’ve been on edge, and my edges are pretty sharp. If you want the real scoop, just ask JB. I get no awards for gentleness this week.

I think of myself as a gentle person; I abhor war and I don’t think I’ve ever been in a physical fight. A friend told me, just this week, that I give the best hugs. JB likes the way I gently rub his back when we are settling in for a night’s rest. But I can also be so impatient, and my words can cut and sting.

This morning I woke up stiff and achy and tired and very discouraged. I had things I wanted to do, nothing urgent, fun things but my energy level has been very low. I’m also struggling through some grief because my sister and mother won’t be at our 50th anniversary party this summer. JB has been trying to help; he is so sweet about that. But sometimes he can’t help or, like this morning, helping me would take more work on my part. I got snarky, I got mean, he was hurt, his hurt turned to anger, I felt like shit – said I was sorry, he was still angry, I got hurt, I got angry, doors slammed, the silence was deafening, I cried.

I know you understand, you have danced this dance. The song may have been a little different and the steps varied, but the outcome is the same. There were opportunities for gentleness but neither one of us was big enough to stop the dance. I started it, but either of us could have stepped away from our self-righteous strut.

I don’t like the part of me that lashes out and becomes sarcastic. I can explain why and justify my actions, when I get like this, but this isn’t the way I want to be. I would never treat strangers like this. When I have been at my worst, I have felt God’s gentle love. I want to be this same kind of gentle when I am threatened or hurt by those I love; I want to use a gentle tone, gentle words, gentle understanding, gentle listening.

I could bore you with long, theoretical descriptions of the ongoing developmental tensions of forming our sense of self while being in a relationship. I have studied this – a lot. Sometime, however, knowing in our rational part doesn’t help us in our emotional part. Sometimes understanding isn’t enough when what we need to do is practice new behaviors.

As I was lying on the sofa crying tonight, JB sat next to me and very gently wiped away my tears. We talked about what we could do differently, because we know there will be a next time. We have had 50 years of next times. Our episodes have been getting gentler because we dedicated ourselves to loving the other, and love is kind and gentle. Besides, we have to make it work because this morning I mailed the invitations for our party.

Tonight, I wish you gentleness in all your interactions. Thank you, JB, for your gentleness.

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26 Comments »

    • Yes! Every night one of us will say “See you in the morning, okay?” We know our mornings are numbered so we try to make every one count. This morning we botched it, but tomorrow will be great.

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  1. Your day is a microcosm of a long marriage, I think. It strains and relaxes and it’s not always pretty in the moment but is beautiful in the long run. You describe it perfectly.

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    • Thanks, Jan. I had never thought about it in that way, but you are so right. Even our painful moments have a beauty to them because we endure and come out stronger.

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    • Thanks, Naomi. Isn’t it funny that we look at other couples who are obviously such nice people that we assume they don’t have their tense moments. Thanks for knowing and understanding.

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  2. Thank you Pat for being so transparent. Sharing your various struggles gives hope and encouragement to many of us. I’m sorry that coming back to Michigan’s cooler weather has stirred up your fibromyalgia. It definitely was a cold, painful winter in that arena this year. Congratulations on your upcoming, significant 50th milestone! I am so grateful that my own parents have celebrated 66 years. I commend you for weathering the many storms of life and your emphasis on love and gentleness. These are traits I desire in my life as well. God’s blessings to you!

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  3. Pat- It was not my intent for the above comments to be “anonymous.” Please forgive the slip of my finger on the iPad. Hope I make it work correctly this time!

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    • Thanks for letting me know it was you, Carolyn. I am always a little sad when I don’t know who I am responding to. I thought of you over the winter – wondering how you were fairing. I do feel better in Florida until the hot humid weather comes toward the end of April. Then I’m ready to come home.

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  4. Beautifully written Pat…the rational and the emotional. I too can be that impatient and sharp-tongued sarcastic person, and hate myself the instant afterwards.

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    • I hear you, Sue. It slips out so easily. I especially hate myself when I do it to JB when he is honestly and sincerely working his way through something I have already thought through – but I’m impatient with his slowness to get on board. It feels good to know I’m not the only one – but it still doesn’t make it right or good. How about if you whop me upside the head next time I do it. 😀

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    • Thanks, Judy. There is a very old song I just thought of, the words go “you always hurt the one you love, the one you shouldn’t hurt at all” or something like that.

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  5. Oh gosh – you just described an episode in my life… 😉
    Although – I think – I’m an overall – pleasant person – I can be a bit rough around the edges. Pain (in my case – migraines) doesn’t help those off moments..
    Sounds like you two go well together & understand each other as you are still together after all of these years. 🙂
    {Hugs}

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    • Today we started that dance where JB wants to help and I don’t need or want his help. This time we stopped it and laughed. I agree that pain makes it really hard to be patient, and gentle and nice.

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  6. If you live with something like you do Pat it sure grinds you down and snarky times come and go with the frustration and pain I imagine . J is understanding… you’ve been together forever 😉 and that’s wonderful. You’ve got through a lot of ups and downs which you have recounted here so honestly and I think we all know just those sorts of moments you have touched on ourselves .
    Good luck with the plans .. look forward to seeing and hearing more soon !

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