I have a confession that is hard for me to admit: things are really rough for me right now. Once again, I feel I am walking the line of being a hypocrite. I write and teach about leadership, work-life balance, and how women can get along better with other women. But, at the same time my own home life has been tumultuous lately. Even though I know better, I am going against my own advice and asking myself a “Why?” question. “Why is this so difficult?”
My twenty-one year old daughter moved back home after finishing college last July. I am very proud of her for many reasons. She is an outstanding young woman; intelligent, talented, outspoken, and very beautiful. She has everything she could want right now. Yet, we are at war and we’re not communicating. I feel like I am a failure.
My daughter’s father has chosen to be absent from her life for many years now. I raised her by myself because my own family is in Europe. My daughter and I endured years of very tough circumstances and our story of how we got from that point to here is hardly a bed of roses. Like so many of you, we have a boatload of “stuff” that surfaces just when we think everything is going so well. If you are a single parent, here is an article I wrote that can help you manage your second shift.
I don’t want to get into the details of our specific issues, but the point I want to make is that nobody is exempt from “stuff”. We all have issues to work through.
Communication is a hard enough to begin with and it only becomes more difficult when strong emotions are involved. We all know that from experience. And communication becomes exponentially more complicated when deep-seated fears are triggered. These fears can stem from something in our childhoods, emotional scars left by our ex, or an inexplicable feeling that seems to come from nowhere, often when we least expect it.
This past weekend, I had an epiphany about myself. I realized some of my childhood memories trigger me to shut down emotionally. I become so overwhelmed by the magnitude of feelings that surface during a heated argument that I can’t bring myself to deal with them. I search for a way out of the situation—not a way through it.
Once the root of my emotional shut down became clear to me, I knew the next step is to deal with my disappointments and self-loathing. (Seriously, I help so many others and here I am at this low point…again. I should know better.) I am starting to work through my emotions and look at the issue from a new perspective. I even pondered aloud whether there is often an opportunity for growth hidden within a scenario that repeats itself in our lives. I already know the answer—of course there is.
Owning our part of any situation is the only thing we can do. We can’t make anyone else act, talk, or be a certain way to match what we want. We can only change ourselves and have a more productive response. That is what a good leader does.
Shutting down is my method of avoidance. Instead, we each need to address our situations ever so gently, one step at a time. Only when we change ourselves and the ways we look at our issues can we hope to resolve a situation and move past it. The deeper our fear is rooted, the more difficult and emotional the process will be.
Just as I am figuring out what my part in this scene is, I encourage you to look at your personal and professional lives. If you feel like I do, that you are stuck in a situation or a particular scenario plays itself over and over again (like Groundhog Day), is it possible you need to address something to stop the replay?
As for my part, I am glad I refrained from making that phone call to my ex-husband to read him the riot act for all the things he didn’t do. My relationship with my daughter belongs to me, and I will own up to it.