A Garden of Conversation

How to grow a discussion

A new tradition has begun in our house, and while it was not formed from an original idea, it is nevertheless one I wish to share. It is something of a conversation starter, an insight into each other’s day and lives and, most notably for me anyway, a mechanism to ensure I dedicate a piece of my attention and time to acknowledge the good in my life.

It is ever common to hyper-focus on the understandable hardships that occur throughout our lives and default our conversations to the negative events which occur in the day to day, so much so that the thoughts can consume us and take over the ability for all of the good to seep in.  I have fallen victim to this method of thinking for most of my life; always ruminating on what went wrong or, even worse, fearing and fantasizing in my head over what could go wrong, even if there is no evidence to suggest the possibility.  It is a very difficult pattern or trend to get out of and so, in an attempt to quell this trend, at the end of each day at the dinner table, the members of our family take turns initiating discussion that aims to embrace all of the good, bad and anticipation that life has to offer, and our approach is rather simple and it starts with:

The Rose

Simply put: what was the highlight of your day?  What brought you joy and happiness, even if for only a brief moment?  It does not need to be something momentous and life-changing.  You need not to have climbed Everest, discovered a new asteroid or shattered a world-record in Wordle.  While those feats are in and of themselves worthy of a rose and impressive, to say the least, they are not everyday events and if we were to only celebrate the things that occur so infrequently or inconsistently, then, through this exercise and analogy,  our garden would be rather barren.   If we can purposefully think smaller, however, we start to recognize that there are moments in our day that are worthy of acknowledging, even if we fail to do so in the moment.  Maybe you finished a book or watched a movie you’ve had on your list for ages but never found the time to enjoy.  Perhaps you found a five dollar bill in your jacket pocket, or got and extra Timbiebs in your order.  You took a longer lunch at work to enjoy a walk, listened to a great podcast, heard a joke that legitimately caused you laugh out loud.  These are not complex and complicated events; they are moments that make up a whole and when you take the time to acknowledge them, then the more you have in bloom.

This is an admittedly difficult task for me, I really need to focus and think in order for something worthy of mentioning to materialize.  At least, it was that way in the beginning.  I have found that, since starting this tradition, I am paying closer attention throughout my day to what my rose will be when we sit down as a family and I am asked the question, which my daughters most definitely will not allow to go unanswered.  I am learning, through this exercise, to see the moments as they happen and appreciate them for they are.  Today, my rose was when a colleague sent me an email thanking me for a conversation we had shared that helped to inspire her day.  That one email, in a sea of thousands I receive for work-related  requests, demands, challenges and hurdles could have just as easily been filed away and lost but I made a point of stopping to appreciate it forwarding it to myself for future reflection, placing it into a folder I’ve created for positive thoughts, and I brought it home with me to share at the dinner table.  As otherwise seemingly simple email that made a significant difference in my day.

The Thorn  

Life is not all sunshine, rainbows and bowls of Lucky Charms for breakfast.  Bad stuff does happen.  Challenges do arise and there are difficult moments we need to face each and every day.  We can’t ignore these things, nor should we; burying them deep down can lead to a whole other layer of complex human adversities that we won’t do a deep dive into today. Suffice to say that when I talk about trying not to live and dwell in the bad stuff, I am not being naive.  I experience many days that absolutely suck and when I do, you can rest assured that my loving wife hears about it and not a day goes by that I don’t thank her for her ongoing support…and patience.

No, what I am saying is not to ignore those things, but to make room to recognize the other events that happen throughout the course of our lives.  So, in tandem with sharing our ‘rose moment’, we share our thorn.  A singular event that just didn’t go our way, pissed us off, rubbed us the wrong way or caused a level of upset that deserves to be let out.  As our oldest daughter says – “My voice lets the thoughts get out of my brain so that I can make more room for more thoughts”.

We listen to each other’s thorn, we offer our sympathy and, if requested or justified, guidance on how to address it and we do our best to understand and recognize that no one’s thorn is any more sharp or offensive than another.  We are each impacted by the events on our day in unique ways and we respect that.  It is a portion of our conversation but is not our entire conversation and we purposefully sandwich it between our rose and, finally:

The Bud  

That which we look forward to, no matter how big or small, we have a rose on the horizon that brings us joy today.  Be it a vacation, a long overdue trip to the barbershop, pay-day, Christmas, Birthdays, Halloween or the release of the new Lego Globe, which is now available…cough-cough, hint-hint.

Our family loves putting events on the calendar; a real-life, pulp and paper calendar.  We make a new one every year using photos and moments from the previous 12-months in celebration of what we accomplished, ensuring that we remember the times we shared and people in our lives.  Be it camping trips or ski lessons, jotting down an event in the calendar and crossing off the days as we countdown through a physical medium reminds us each day that, no matter the thorns, we have events and plans to look forward to and get excited for.

Buds are not always big, elaborate plans; they are more often than not small blips in time, but to us their significance is meaningful and stated with purpose.  Much like the quest for a rose, searching for a bud was challenging for me in the beginning, but the more we flex this new tradition, the easier it has become to recognize throughout my day that there are things I am exited about, and with that recognition I am once again able to work past the thorns quicker and without getting stuck or tangled.  Dinner at my parents, the chocolate bar I packed in my lunch, Friday night movie with the kiddos, checking the mail box at the end of the day to see if my new Lego Globe has arrived; there’s a whole array of great things, big and small that I look forward to and I love sharing that excitement with my family.

So there you have it; a rather straight forward exercise that yields many obvious and some not so obvious positive results, and it’s something that our kids have grown to really look forward to each day.  They initiate it themselves and, what’s truly amazing, is that they engage in real conversation through this exercise; we all do.  We aren’t just sitting around waiting for our turn to speak and share, we are listening to each other and the resulting discussion is a reminder that my day is no more or less important, challenging or exciting than anyone else’s.  My events don’t monopolize our dinner table discussion but rather they contribute to a greater narrative that is our family and I couldn’t be prouder of what that means.

 

 

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