I’m wondering if we’ll need new words to identify seasons now that climate change is less abstract future prediction and more creeping reality. In the Southwest the season formerly known as winter could be: Where snow is now rain, or Watch out for rocks on the ski hill.
In our family, we’re working on noticing our judgments and seeing what needs are alive behind the blame. I tell you this because I have so much blame about the state of our world. Anger, despair, hopelessness, too. And, I believe blame binds up our inner resources and keeps us cycling through anger, despair and hopelessness, paralyzed from taking action.
Here’s an example from the world headquarters of our household. This morning, Col expressed anger towards Rose for taking “so long” to get ready in the morning, making him late for school. (Col starts school five minutes earlier than Rose, and he’s only been late a couple times, but to him it feels like he’s late often because it’s always later than he’d like to arrive).
Not to distract you, but this book is fabulous. Rose is on her 2nd reading.
When we focus on someone else’s “wrongness” we miss what we’re actually wanting, which is where we can empower change. Plus, if Col wants something different, blame is not going to create the collaboration he’s hoping for. (Sounds obvious, yet anger seems to shut down our higher brain functions like logic and problem-solving). Turns out, Col wants to arrive ten minutes early so he can “hang out with his friends before school starts.” This is easy for me to get on board with because I love the idea of him having extra time for fun and connection. (In nonviolent communication we’d call “fun” and “connection” his needs). What about Rose? Because everyone’s needs matter in the family unit, I suggested he check in with her willingness to hustle a bit to get to school early.
Rose kind of liked the idea of extra playtime in the morning, but doesn’t like hanging outside in the cold for fifteen minutes (Her need might be for comfort). “Hmmm, any ideas to make this part more appealing for your sister?” I asked Col, sending him telepathic messages to offer to make her tea, while sending her telepathic messages to not interject, letting him come up with something (…because we can miss the wonderful benefits of being generous if it’s someone else’s idea for us). Col caught the message, learned that tea kettles need water before you turn on the heat, and Rose practically sang all morning getting ready, knowing her brother was making her tea. (Having tea made for her likely met needs for appreciation and acknowledgment). We got to school 13 minutes early.
Does this all make sense? Synopsis: When Col is focused on blaming Rose for making him late, he misses the opportunity to see what he really wants: to be ten minutes early to hang with friends. When he can make a request without persuasion, judgment, implying that there’s something wrong with Rose, she can hear him!
“List for Rose’s Needs” formerly known as a “shopping list,” including, “other good things,” and “some healthy things.” Slay me.
Sometimes blame, judgment and anger are like storms that pass through my mind before I can see the pain underneath. When I can see the pain, I can care for it. When I give the pain some care, it clears space for me to see what unmet needs are driving the pain. When I feel despair about the state of the world, my needs are often 1) to celebrate this beautiful planet. 2) to contribute to nonviolence. 3) to mourn the greed and violence in this world.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes says “My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”
Greenhouse chard and kale bringing me great happiness.
This, I can do. Applying empathy where ever I’m capable feels really wonderful. So does planting 42 tomato seeds in February, and nurturing the mixed greens inching along in their cold frames. Fostering dogs is a total win-win. Hiking through the piñon and juniper behind my house feels holy. I love facilitating nonviolent communication, sometimes formally in classes, sometimes stealthily, on the streets. Funneling money to local public radio, a local pro-environmental group and Planned Parenthood supports my vision for this planet. Also, supporting local candidates who stand for renewable energy, public lands, women’s rights, LBGTQ rights, common sense gun regulation, a path to citizenship, affordable healthcare…(oh, this list is long).
I mean, things can change. People in Denmark and Finland use an average of four single-use plastic bags a year because stores began charging directly for plastic bags (unlike here where the cost is passed on surreptitiously, making plastic bags appear free). Systems can change. Siblings can change. We can change.
I leave you with this invitation. If you are noticing blame and judgment (toward yourself, others, or both), can you ask yourself what it is you’re really wanting, what could make life more wonderful for you? What could you mend that is “within your reach?” What support do you need to start the process of mending?