Last week I came home after a long afternoon at the office. Several things happened all at once. Many clients aren’t doing well and are feeling hopeless and alone which makes the perfect recipe for afternoons like the one I had. I decided to add a few hours and now I get home a little later in the evenings. I’m so proud of myself because a few months ago I started getting much better about meal planning and prepping so that dinner is either done or almost done by the time I get home. As I was trying to finish up dinner last week after this long afternoon at the office, I began cooking our pork chops in a new clay pot that I haven’t had very long. Even though I read all of the directions on it, and thought it was safe for our one-year-old glass cooktop, it wasn’t. In fairness, the majority of the directions were in Italian (which I don’t speak) and the few English directions that came with it were sparse. For several minutes, things were going along just fine, the pork chops were cooking and looking delicious and then things suddenly took a turn and it happened so fast. Here’s how I remember things going down:
The oil in the pot started smoking. I turned on the vent, smoke started billowing off to the side rather than up into the vent. The house got very smoky quickly. At this point my husband wanders in and can’t figure out why I let things get so out of hand. He didn’t say this with his words but with his face. I turn off the heat to the stove and start opening windows and doors. Then I hear a pop and realize that the pot cracked in half with our pork chops still cooking. I wasn’t sure what to do next because the pot was still smoking so my husband scoots it off the heat and then is able to get it off the stove and outside to cool off. And he does all of this without an unkind word, even though we didn’t know if it damaged the brand-new cooktop.
Meanwhile, my son who absolutely hates the fire alarm going off in the house, and usually freaks out about it, wanders in and is like, “Is the fire alarm going to go off?” To which my husband and I reply, “If it was going to, it would have been like 5 minutes ago, but we have everything under control now.” And he said, “I’m going upstairs.” Which is obviously the safest place to be if there’s fire in the kitchen…go to your room that is directly above the kitchen. Safety first son!
After things had settled down and we were eating (the pork chops were pretty delicious), I thanked him for being kind about everything and not saying anything mean out loud. I’m pretty sure he had plenty of thoughts in his head about the situation, but he didn’t say them out loud. We have all been in situations with our spouses or significant others, when it’s stressful and things are said in haste out of anger or fear. But he didn’t do this. Instead, he just jumped in and helped and solved the problem.
As I reflected on this fairly minor event. I realized that the reason it was so meaningful for me was that by not yelling or getting upset he showed me that I am more important than things. He could have yelled because he was worried about something catching on fire. He could have yelled about how I let things get out of hand and he was scared. He could have yelled because he thought I damaged the stove. But he didn’t do any of those things. Instead, he got in the middle of it with me and helped fix the problem. And it’s such a great reminder of how to treat people and that people are more important than things.
This month, I’ve shared lessons that I’ve learned in my 40’s and this week I want to share some lessons that I’ve learned on how to treat people, especially right now, when it feels like everyone has their own opinions about everything and no one agrees with each other about anything! Here are 10 lessons that I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older:
Lesson 1: People are more important than things.
Almost everything can be replaced, people can’t.
Lesson 2: I’ve never regretted keeping my mouth shut.
Keeping my mouth shut, isn’t one of my strengths in general but I’ve never regretted not saying the things that come to my mind. I do have a lot of regrets for the things I’ve said without thinking.
Lesson 3: If I don’t know what to say it’s okay to witness another person’s pain.
Here’s a surprise, when I have a friend or loved one going through a hard time, I don’t always know what to say. It’s okay to just be there and acknowledge what they’re going through is hard and that I’m here for them to witness their pain.
Lesson 4: Even if I disagree with your choices, I want you to know that I love you.
I think people are more important than their choices, even if I don’t agree with them. People also don’t want defined by stupid things they’ve done in the past, especially if they have learned and grown from that experience.
Lesson 5: I think we’re all doing the best that we can, but we can always do better.
I got this one from Dr. Ross Greene and it’s just so applicable to life. This helps me give grace to myself and others when hard things happen, or they don’t go the way I planned.
Lesson 6: Most things in life are temporary and not that deep.
This isn’t to say that things in life aren’t difficult or hard, or even life defining. But most things don’t last forever and if you look at the whole of your life, most events are fairly small in the grand scheme of things. This just helps with perspective, not minimizing the difficult life experiences that happen.
Lesson 7: I’m not accountable to everyone.
Too often we make decisions based on what people will think about us. I think as you get older and have some maturity, you realize that most people are either not paying that much attention, and even if they are, you’re not accountable to the vast majority of them. Personally, I feel accountable to God, my family and a few very close friends. Outside of that, people can have their opinions but those don’t define me.
Lesson 8: I make time for things that refuel me rather than things that deplete me.
We all have to do things that we don’t like or that deplete our energy but for the most part I think we need to find things that energize us. Sleep, meditation, diet, exercise, self-care can all help to refuel you on a daily and weekly basis.
Lesson 9: Give back to others.
Here’s a secret about how we’re made as humans: we are made to be part of a community. Because of this, we usually feel the best when we are serving others! This can be done in big and small ways: cards, texts, phone calls, volunteering, etc.
Lesson 10: It’s okay to have boundaries.
Last week I covered this in depth, but it is definitely a good reminder. I had a tendency when I was younger to let things go on way too long and then I was left drained and grumpy. Make a boundary sooner and make it out of protection and love and not out of exasperation.
I hope this list gives you a starting point for identifying ways that you too might need to become a better human. I don’t have it all figured out, but I do know how to self-reflect and who to listen to if I’m on the wrong track.
If you need help figuring out how to self-reflect and develop some better coping skills in your life and you think counseling or life coaching could help, please feel free to contact me at 317.496.0456 or email email@example.com. I’d be happy to hear what is happening and help you find the right fit for counseling or life coaching. If you are looking for help with burn out, depression, anxiety, trauma or behavioral concerns, you can read more about how I can help at my website peacefamilycounseling.