I was having a talk with my little granddaughter the other day about effective communication. Keep in mind that this child is not even 3 months old, but she has such a forceful way of expressing herself that I thought it was time to have this conversation. She was in the bathtub, which is usually her happy place, but at that moment she happened to be fussing and fretting over nothing. “Nora, Nora,” I said, “that will get you nowhere. You need to articulate your feelings if you expect people to get you. You need to say to them, I’m here to listen. Please help me to understand you. Or, I’m here to talk. I want to help you to understand me.” She quieted down and looked at me with those big eyes and gave me a smile. I was sure that I was getting through to her. And then she was at full volume again. Oh well. I did name a cocktail after this child called Kicking and Screaming.
I reflected later on the fact that I truly believe in what I told her. I am a person who is constantly seeking clarity, and constantly trying to define what I don’t quite understand, particularly in relationships. I can never just let anything be, and it can become taxing and tiring for the other person to listen to. My kids are nodding their heads right now. Vehemently. Okay, okay, I get it, but the problem is that we all bring baggage to every conversation that we have, and I am certainly no exception to that rule. It’s hard to let go of certain things, and we often become defensive when we should be listening, and righteous when we’re supposed to be communicating. It’s like we put up walls to protect ourselves, because deep down we’re afraid of being a disappointment, we’re afraid of falling from grace, and we’re afraid of losing the other person’s love and respect. We’re afraid to be open, and real conversations require vulnerability if they are going to go anywhere good. We have to be ready to hear that we may have done something to truly upset the person sitting across from us, despite how uncomfortable it may make us feel. We have to see our actions through their eyes and attempt to feel the way they must have felt. Most importantly, we have to take responsibility for what we’ve done. On the flip side, we have to be fully honest if we were the ones who were hurt, and tell the other person why as gently and clearly as we can. We have to trust them enough to allow ourselves to be vulnerable rather than righteous. It can be scary stuff, and it’s so hard not to fall into old patterns and put up our defenses, but it’s the only way to have conversations that strengthen our bonds rather than compromise them.
Yesterday I posted a video on my personal Instagram about Suicide Awareness from the nonprofit organization To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA). Please watch it if you can. It was a reminder to me of how fragile human relationships can be and how much love and attention they really require in order to thrive and flourish. The people in the video were telling why they were here on this earth and one line in particular, said by a young girl, moved me so much: “I am here to be furiously kind and relentlessly gentle.” For a moment that thought took my breath away, and since yesterday was my birthday and I was reassessing myself anyway, I’ve decided that I’d like that to be why I’m here, especially in terms of how I communicate with the people I love. How wonderful would it be if we all understood that to be our purpose, if we all had that as our goal?
For today’s cocktail, I chose the gentlest of ingredients. I paired the delightfully herbal Sukkah Hill Spirits Etrog liqueur with the mildness of Plymouth gin. I added a simple syrup infused with lavender and figs from my garden, some lemon juice, and Dram Apothecary’s lavender lemon balm bitters. The end result was a drink that was soothing and perfect for reflection. I’m going to be furiously kind and relentlessly gentle. Come on, do it with me.
Furiously Kind and Relentlessly Gentle
Combine all the ingredients in a shaker tin with ice and shake until very cold. Pour into an old fashioned glass over ice. Garnish with a lavender blossom. Reflect. Reassess. Allow yourself to be open.