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.