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it’s not about the sliced turkey

2020 April 3
by Rachel Turiel

Yesterday, out of the blue, Rose announced that she’d really like if we could put more effort into our front yard, like picking up sticks and planting grass. “It’s just so ugly!” she said. A tear rolled down her face. This wasn’t the time to explain how I feel about tending grass, nor to point out how I’ve put a prepper’s lifetime of effort into growing food, flowers and fruit trees in our backyard. 

The backyard is not ugly. Not showing you the front yard.

Next, Rose opened the fridge and stared into the well-mapped depths, hoping for new discoveries. Alas, it was our same old food and worse, there was no sliced turkey for lunch. (Nevermind that we almost never have sliced turkey for any meal). Then our furniture came under fire. Everywhere her eyes landed she found something to criticize. It was like she was giving me the underground tour of her own mind, through the dark corners of overwhelm, the jagged edges of fear.

Cheering myself up with garden photos: washing greens, 2017

When in distress, our minds look for an easy path to feeling better (sliced turkey! a tidy lawn! new furniture!), though it may come out as an attack on others. I’ve learned that this is not the time for pep-talks on emotional resilience, nor explanations on how criticism doesn’t motivate anyone’s generosity.

This is the time to get physically close. To become a first responder, creating a safe haven for all feelings. To increase my resilience and self-compassion so I can accompany Rose through her inner landscape without taking it personally. Because it’s not about me. And it’s not about the sliced turkey.

Together, Rose and I traveled through the surface layers (our neglected front yard and lack of easy lunch meat), and eventually discovered what was at the core: grief around losing a sense of normalcy, confusion and stress around how to navigate online school, fear about the unknown.

Together, we cared for those feelings, and we named what was important to her (predictability, ease, clarity) and surrounded these needs with all the tenderness we could muster. Wanting predictability, ease and clarity makes sense. And, being heard for the pain of not getting what we’re wanting makes it easier to live with those unmet needs, and to see the moments where ease might actually be available. About ten minutes later Rose jumped up to make lunch, no sliced turkey needed.

Squash in root cellar: fall harvest 2016

That same day we had a full family conflict, 3 v 1. I was the 1! Being on the receiving end of the others’ anger was painful. Working it out was prickly and hard. It required all of us staying in the messy arena of dialogue rather than deciding to “let it go” or “pick our battles and just move on.” We took our time, each family member expressing what was up for them until feeling fully heard and acknowledged. There was fresh understanding and regrets expressed. “Oh, that’s how it was for you; I regret my impatience.” “Now I see how my actions affected you, I wish I had given you more choice.” Our connection and trust increased, which comes from solving conflict  so completely there is nowhere for resentment to take hold, as it often does, already building for the next conflict.

These unpredictable times and subsequent close quarters will take their toll on us in different ways. We might nit-pick more, we might have less resilience to deal with everyday frustrations, we might think that if we only had the sliced goddamned turkey, everything would be better. 

However, when we can apply—like medical instruments—care, curiosity and empathy to the wounds of fear, uncertainty, grief, overwhelm and confusion, we can help our children regulate, self-connect and grow in their resilience and empathy towards themselves and others.
What if we could come out of quarantine with strengthened relationships?
Parents, grandparents, caregivers, please join me in a 3 week online class:
Connected Parenting through Unpredictable Times. More details here.
Tuesdays, April 14th, 21st, 28th. 1pm – 2:30 MST
Cost: sliding scale $75- $50. Scholarships available. 20% of proceeds donated towards COVID-19 related medical equipment for the Navajo Nation.

8 Responses leave one →
  1. Lynne Murison permalink
    April 3, 2020

    Omg, your empathy makes me feel like a Neanderthal club woman with my words. I need to sign up tout de suite. But I have no children or grandchildren, but people I love. Will there be something similar for my relationships?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      April 3, 2020

      Yes, there will! I am getting my feet wet facilitating online with parents, because there’s a certain level of comfort in that field for me. I will be sure to let you know when the next class for all relationships happens. :)

  2. April 3, 2020

    So powerful Rachel,
    Put me on the list for your class, I will definitely make space for that! Love Laura Golub-Matthews

  3. Chi-An permalink
    April 4, 2020

    This is so wonderful and powerful. It reminds me of the day I realized that when my teenage son was acting like a jerk, 9 times out of 10 he really just needed a hug. More important than ever these days.

  4. Brenda Marshall permalink
    April 4, 2020

    So true Rachel. Thank you for the reminder that it’s not about the goddamned turkey! I am aware of a heightened level of irritability and sensitivity in myself and many around me. Not an easy combination to navigate. Wise words as always <3

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      April 5, 2020

      I’m with you, Brenda.
      For a week my kids were like, “we’re scared to joke around with you mom because you’re so sensitive!”
      Being *aware* of heightened irritability and sensitivity can be a step towards greater connection with family. “Hey family, here’s where I’m at and here’s what I’d love to receive from you right now…”

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