Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Gift of Silence

I’ve noticed many people are not ok with silence. They feel pressured to fill the space up, to say something. I noticed this particularly this morning, listening to the radio. The announcer was updating everyone on celebrity news and made a very stupid comment about one celebrity who is expecting. Nothing mean, just very unintelligent and clearly not something she thought out. And it occurred to me that in her job she is under pressure to fill the space between songs with words, and that probably leads to a lot of thoughtless babbling. My husband commented that sports announcers at times have the same problem and that once he heard a sports announcer say “Usually the team that scores the most points wins.” Again, not mean, just very silly. I think it’s similar to the principle that nature abhors a vacuum. Most people abhor silence and will say anything to fill it up.

In day to day life this often becomes a problem when people are suffering loss or pain. People around them are uncomfortable and don’t know what to say, and so they say things that are stupid and often hurtful. I’ve had many people relay some thoughtless comment or another to me (top candidates: You’ll look back on this and laugh. She’s in a better place now. I know just how you feel. This is really for the best.) These innocuous sounding comments are like salt in a wound or like razors to the soul. I’ve heard some suffering people threaten to break off relationships over these well-intentioned but painful comments.

For those who are suffering, I will generally offer this thought. “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” Known as Hanlon’s razor, this quote from Robert J. Hanlon is often helpful in reminding yourself that hurtful remarks by others aren’t usually meant that way. When you are already hurting, don’t inflict further pain on yourself by breaking off relationships with well intentioned people who can’t cope with pain or silence. Instead, gently tell them how to be helpful. Or just change the topic all together.

For those faced with suffering, who don’t know what to say, I offer this advice. Tell the suffering individual that you care. Ask them if there is anything you can do to help. And then say nothing. Don’t leave. Just offer the gift of your silent, supportive presence. You’ll be astonished at what a treasure you will bring.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I definitely struggle with gratitude - that is, not having it. Don't most of us? It's so easy to be caught up in the day to day stress. This has to be done, that has to be done, I feel tired, some else needs something else... And before you know it you're in a deficiency mindset. You don't have enough. Not enough time, not enough money, not enough love... and you're miserable.

Actively practicing gratitude is supposed to be the cure for this kind of misery. But it's hard to do with all of the distractions. So here are some things I'm planning to try:

1) Write down my blessings. I'm going to put them on a little card and post it where I will see it often. And when I see it, I will read it over and remind myself of all the ways I am blessed and I do have enough.

2) Give something away. Being generous to someone else helps me feel full and bounteous. Whether it's a charitable donation, a gift to a friend or just an extra large tip to your waiter at lunch, generosity reminds me that I have so much I can afford to share.

3) Say thanks. Myself, I say thanks to G-D, but not often enough. But I can also say thanks to my parents, my co-workers, my teachers from high school, my friends, the mailman, the clerk at the grocery store... all the different people whose inputs have brought me to this point in my life.

4) Be mindful of good things. When I eat a piece of chocolate, I want to really focus on it and enjoy it. When my daughter hugs me or asks me to read to her, I want to concentrate on how precious she is and how brief her childhood will be.

5) Remind myself - enough! Even when I feel like I don't have enough, I always do. My needs have always been met. I do have enough!

  Anyway, I'm going to try these things out, in an active practice of gratitude. I'll let you know how it goes!

Tips on Managing a Broken Ankle

I went ice-skating with my husband this Saturday for our date night. We thought it would be fun, active, and romantic. We've been watching couples at all the outdoor skating rinks this winter and it looked so sweet. We had tried before in college and we had done okay with it.

Unfortunately, something that you were "okay" at in college may not go so well in your mid thirties. I am now sitting at home with an ankle broken in 3 places. Yes, 3 places. The fibula, the posterior tibia, and the medial malleolus. I am in a splint and scheduled for surgery in 5 days. I can't work and won't be able to for 3 weeks after surgery, my doctor tells me. I can't help around the house. Playing with my two year old daughter is limited to reading to her on the couch or playing with toys she brings me. I am getting around on crutches but not very well. And of course, my ankle hurts quite a bit.

So, what to do? Here is my list for managing a badly broken ankle.

1) Have a sense of humor. I remind myself that really, this is pretty funny. Once I get through all the pain and inconvenience, I've got a great story to tell.

2) Ask for help. I'm putting my pride aside and asking my co-workers to cover for me at work, my husband to wash my hair, my mom to stay with my daughter during my surgery...

3) Be grateful. I have a lot to be thankful for. A supportive family. A job that offers health insurance and sick leave. Good friends who are helping keep my spirits up.

4) Get a scooter. I haven't actually accomplished this yet - I am waiting for delivery. But I am hoping it will dramatically improve my mobility with less pain than using the crutches. And it didn't cost much and I hope to be able to sell it back when I'm done with it.

5) Find something to do. All those little projects I didn't have time for? Guess what - time to get it done. So I'm writing, knitting, reading books that have been on my list for ages, emailing friends... Hopefully by the time this is all over I will at least feel accomplished.

6) Follow the doctor's orders. Don't put weight on your foot. Take your medicine. Keep your foot elevated. Guess what? It helps!