Monday, February 03, 2014

Really?! Boxes?

A few months ago, Arrty was reading a book given to him by his boss. It's called "Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box." Sounds exciting, right? Well, when he was almost finished with it, he asked me if I'd read it when he was done. He said it was really good and would be good for me to read. Uh-oh. I told him that maybe I would while secretly figuring he'd forget about it and I would escape reading a book with both "leadership" and "self-deception" in the title. But he didn't forget. And every time he saw me reading something new, he'd ask me if I'd read his book yet. No. No, I hadn't. Even though there was a really sweet pink post it on the front that said, "Jen, please read. I love you!" Really?! Leadership? Self-deception? Mysterious boxes that I should get out of? I had absolutely no desire to read it. So I didn't. Until finally I did. Arrty noticed a new book that I had begun reading and asked me again about his book. I told him I didn't want to read it. I don't like non-fiction. There were so many other things I wanted to read instead. But then he pulled out the big guns. He reminded me that I read all kinds of books that my friends give me. Why wouldn't I read the one he gave me? After briefly considering "losing" his book, I realized that he was right. Sigh. I wasn't being fair.

So later that evening, I sheepishly went into the bedroom and picked up the book. It's written like a conversation between a man and his boss. Not your typical leadershippy style of writing. And I was getting through it pretty quickly, which was helpful. But then something strange happened. I started to get it. The whole thing about the leadership and the self-deception and the boxes. I was getting it. If I tried to tell you about it, I wouldn't get it right, so I'll just give you the gist. Every person that we come in contact with just wants to be seen as the person they are. But many of us, me included, often see people as objects that are getting in our way...on the roads, in line at the store, at our workplaces. But if we thought about others as people with their own hopes and dreams and goals and not deceive ourselves into thinking that our hopes and dreams and goals are more important than theirs, we'd all be better off. The guy driving too slowly in the fast lane might have had a recent car accident and is anxious about driving and is in the fast lane to avoid having to change lanes at his exit. The lady in line at the store who is using 23 coupons and is taking forever maybe only has enough money to pay for her groceries if she uses all those coupons. And the workplace...which for me is filled with 5 year olds...can be especially challenging. Every shoe I tie. Every question I answer. Every hand I guide to perfect letter writing. Every single one represents a person. A person someone loves and cherishes like I do my own children. A person with hopes and dreams and goals...and bright futures. And more than that, a soul on his or her journey through this life. Wow! That's big!

And all of this also translates to family relationships. Do I treat those I live with as their own person or do I let my needs/desires/selfishness get in the way and allow myself to see them as a hindrance. This hit me like a ton of bricks when I thought about it. Do I? I know I love my family with every fiber of my being. I cook and clean and shop for them. I spend what seems like every ounce of my energy on them. But do I deceive myself into thinking that my actions justify my feelings. Oh. My. Goodness. It was put to the test a few days after finishing the book.

If you know me at all, you probably know that I hate homework. Hate it. I give my students very little and only that so that their parents can see what they're learning. But the school the boys go to does not share my aversion to homework. So the boys have at least math every night. If you read my post about Adam, you already know he has some trouble with focus, so for him, homework is a long, drawn out fight to the finish. Sometimes he wins. Sometimes I win. But really we both lose, because four nights a week pretty much all he does all evening is math and pretty much all I do is sit with him so that he can focus enough to get it finished. When I was thinking about the way I treat my family, this situation came to mind. Because I know, I know, that in the past I've felt very bitter about having to do homework instead of my own chores or reading or playing Bubble Shooter. And I've said so...loudly. If only he'd get more done at school. If only he could focus more. I blamed him. Or his teacher. If only she'd give them time in class to work. If only she'd give them fewer problems. If THEY would only change, MY evenings would be so much easier. Now if that isn't self-deception, I don't know what is. So that night, when I wanted to huff and puff about homework, I took a deep breath and thought about how Adam is my child, whom I love with all my heart. Not about the books or the time or the what ifs. And guess what? We finished his homework without anyone screaming or crying.

This new way of thinking has carried over into all areas of my life. Now if I begin to get frustrated or impatient, I think of my box and that whoever is standing in my way is a person, not an object. It has helped me slow down and think through my feelings and actions. It's not easy. As a matter of fact, I texted Arrty one day shortly after finishing the book, "Dang boxes! I like my boxes! I don't want to be nice!" His reply, "Crickets." As in, "I'm just going to be quiet about that." I guess he has learned a thing or two over the last 21 years, after all.

If there's one thing in this world that we have to deal with every single day of our lives, it's other people. And it's hard. But it can be easier. By getting out of my "me" box and thinking of others as people, souls, I have been more able to be patient and kind like I should be. Like I want to be.