The quality and depth of your connection with others isn’t measured by whether, or even how often conflict appears, but by how you deal with it. Do you face conflict, talk it out, demonstrate a willingness to be vulnerable and have that difficult conversation? Or do you avoid the issue and try to sweep it under the rug, only to encounter it again until it festers and becomes a deep resentment and judgment against the other? In this episode, I share a conflict I had with a loved one over Thanksgiving. A silly one, but one that could have led to a major rift, nevertheless. It happens all the time. We all have the opportunity to find the truth rather than believe the stories we create where there is conflict. Only if we’re willing to do what’s hard.
Rana Olk (Host): Hello everyone. How are you all? Guess what, I don’t have a guest today. That’s right. And the only person you’re going to be hearing from its first time I’m doing it this way. We’re 15 episodes in and it’s the week after Thanksgiving. So everyone is kind of slowing down on their commitments. And rather than be concerned about lining up guests over the holidays, I realized that I wanted to share an important experience with you that I think you all would be able to relate to. Before I get into that story, let me explain a bit more. I’ve been thinking that it’s time for me to come out of hiding a bit. Sure, there are a lot of podcasts out there that are all about the guests and always all about the guest. I listened to quite a few of them. I love them. I love listening to interviews, and I love the variety. But then there are a couple of podcasts that I adore, where it’s just the host, one person talking about something that matters that hopefully inspires or provokes some sort of change in the listener.
I’ve admired people who can do that. It’s not easy to consistently come up with interesting things to say, let alone say them in a way that engages the interest of thousands or Gosh, even millions of people, and even if you didn’t know how to be endlessly inspiring, or entertaining. I think it’s still brave to the podcast yourself talking. You know why? Because think about it.
It’s the strangest thing. I’m sitting here. I’m talking into a microphone. And there is no one here. I’m alone. I’m talking and I’m receiving exactly zero feedback. And I, I gotta admit, it feels kind of silly. I’m pretending to talk to you. And you’re not even live. It’s not like you’re out there. And this is being broadcast live. And I can think, okay, someone out there is listening right now know by the time you listen to me talking directly to you as I am right now. It’s just a recording that took place who knows how long ago. So that’s it. It’s silly, and it’s strange, but so many people do it. And I suppose you get used to it. You get used to talking to yourself, I’d like to get used to it. And the only way is for me to continue doing it right. So here we are. So what would I talk about naturally, something that matters to me over the course of the 15 episodes I’ve had I’ve always wanted to highlight what was most important to my guess what they were working to words, what mattered most of their hearts, what they wish for what touched them, what difference they wanted to make in the world, and so that’s what I’m going to do.
What matters most to me, I’ve come to realize is in case you hadn’t noticed from the title of this podcast, connection, everything I do that I am that I yearn for that I’m curious about an even what I struggle with, or and pained by is ultimately related to connection or lack thereof now, I know that could mean different things to different people, it actually also can mean different things to the same person at different times, different situations or different places. And that’s just the truth. So it seems to me that it would take me a whole book to explain what I mean when I say the connection is what matters most to me, and hey, maybe I will write a book someday, but right now I’m focusing on that. I could talk about the connection in many different ways over several episodes so I just don’t know how to do it in one episode. What I do know is that I can give some examples of how the connection is everywhere in our lives. And not just mine, but yours, too. So that’s why I’m going to tell you a little story back to that point. Now, the story that is about what happened at my house over Thanksgiving, it was just last week and I know that you could be listening to this, you know, I don’t know six months from Thanksgiving, but just think about any kind of family gathering that you have, as we know family gatherings. They are joyful but they can also include some pain or discomfort or annoyance, or irritation. Families are complicated. No one’s family is perfect and I’m actually grateful that I have some pretty awesome family gatherings I have to say, even if many of my close family members are more often than I’d like missing because we’re kind of scattered all over the world. In any case, this particular Thanksgiving, my mother, and father in law were in my home. They were staying here and so was my mom. The hubs and I, we just moved to California last month. And so we were very eager to fill the two guests rooms we have in our house. The first time we’ve had two guests rooms, so before you think I’m going to tell you a tale of woe of how my in-laws were here, and oh, gosh, that’s awful. I’ll just say to that I adore my in-laws, all of them. The husband his package, the way he came, was with both parents, his five siblings, and their spouses and their children and I adore all of them. I think that’s pretty rare. So having said that, though, you will agree that you can adore someone and still be irritated as hell with them, right? So that’s what my story is about, Thanksgiving day there was tension between my mother in law and me. And I ended up feeling very, very anxious and uncomfortable and worried.
There is a thread of connection all over the story that I’m going to tell you. But let’s start with this. First, the anxiety, the tension, the discomfort, all of these feelings mean that I was somehow disconnected. Because when we’re connected, we’re whole, we have a perfect bridge between ourselves and others. And there’s no reason for real discomfort in a relationship.
So anxiety, attention, these are signs of some sort of disconnection. I’m anxious and tense in the situation. So I’m disconnected from the experience, the moment and the enjoyment of all of us being together. I was feeling disconnected from my mother in law, and disconnected from my husband as well. I don’t know about you. But when I’m anxious or tense, I am not my best self. I’m not very pleasant and guessing that is true for you too unless you are superhuman, I’ve lived with my husband for 15 years. And he knows very well when I’m not being my best self. So he knew he knew that I was anxious. He wasn’t very eager to be pleasant either. And, you know, those kinds of feelings can be contagious sometimes. Anyways, ultimately, I was disconnected from the truth of what was happening. And when I look back, I could have changed the situation I could have reconnected, but I didn’t. The cause of the tension was my mother in law, I’ll put this in quotes, interfering with a quote, “everything I was doing.” I wasn’t cleaning my kitchen the way that she would, I would do things my way. And you know, she’s, she’s in her 80s. And in my ideal world, we don’t let our elders do any work. If they offer help, I’m supposed to decline. That’s how I was raised. Okay.
I cannot sit or not do enough or not do things while my 80 something-year-old mother in law is on her feet. Like she, she just has to sit and she wasn’t. She was refusing to, which was really irritating me and causing me to say, Oh, my gosh, what I’m doing isn’t good enough for her. And that’s why she’s interfering. That was the story that I was creating. In my head. Remember, this is my world. Okay. I am nothing that you know, I’m saying is an accusation or saying that she was or wasn’t doing something. This is my head. My story. Her truth was that she really did want to help. She wasn’t asking that I do things her way. She wasn’t criticizing when I was doing when she’s saying, Well, why are you putting the green beans in the oven? Oh, this is how I do them. Why aren’t you doing them like that? That’s not her criticizing, she’s very active. And she’s lively. And she wanted to participate and be included and didn’t feel right with me doing all the work. She doesn’t care that she’s 80 something years old in her, you know, she, she doesn’t want to sit there and watch me doing all the work. So my anxiety kept climbing. And once I was anxious, I was no longer thinking rationally or being my best self. It’s no excuse. But at one point, she suggested to me that I buy a certain product for my kitchen that she really believes in. And I said I wasn’t interested. And this is like an hour to into all the prep work. And so I was already anxious. So I wasn’t interested in this product that she was recommended. But I wasn’t nice about it. And what she doesn’t know is that she had mentioned this product to me several times in the past, and, you know, quote, suggested it to me. So I felt like she was being pushy at this point by mentioning it again, especially after I had just, you know, kind of freaked out about the way she was cleaning my kitchen, I have a particular way I can be very controlling. And I wanted her to not clean it. I wanted to clean it my way. And she wouldn’t let me in. So I was irritated. So she asked me why I wasn’t interested in this particular product. And I didn’t want to explain myself because, at the moment, I felt like it was me having to defend myself, rather than answer her curiosity. I know that someone out there listening right now knows or can picture the situation, right?
Somebody’s asking you a question. And in hindsight, you realize that maybe they were just being curious, but you feel defensive about it. So this is the kind of trick our brains and our emotions can play on us when we’re already feeling anxious, or self-conscious, or just like something’s not right. So she insisted that I explained why I wasn’t interested in this product, saying, “Listen to me, this is conflict. I want to talk about this.” She literally said those words, and instead of taking the opportunity to take a deep breath, and stop and say, Okay, you know what, you’re right, I’m feeling conflict. Let me gather my wits. And let’s talk about this. I just was still anxious. And I gave her a rest response about why I wasn’t really interested in this product. And I wanted to close the subject. And it was done.
Now, I’ve already made a long story out of this, my personal experience. So I’m not going to go into all the other details of the little things for several hours. That day, that happened, the molehills that I made into mountains, suffice it to say, I was making stories up about what my mother in law was thinking, I had her all figured out right, she was thinking that, you know, I’m, you know, boy, Rana, so controlling, which, as I said, I kind of am, I can’t believe she freaked out over, you know, the turkey juice that I was cleaning, and I can’t believe that she criticized the way I was cleaning. Gosh, Ron was leaving me, oh, it’s no fun being in her house. I’m never coming for Thanksgiving to her house again. And, you know, all these things, all these thoughts that I was putting in our head. And I was, you know, having these images of her telling our other family members that she is never coming to our house. Again, really ridiculous stuff. So I’m kind of, obviously, I’m embarrassed to say these things out loud. But I’m telling you, because I want you to know that when you have moments like this, when you’re thinking crazy thoughts, or having arguments in your head with other people, when you’re making up stories about what others are thinking, and you probably don’t realize it at the time that you’re making up stories, but you’re reacting to these stories as if they’re true, as if you know, and you really have no proof. Well, all of these things that we do, and that you do that I just did that well, that I just explained. I did you are not alone. None of us are all alone. We all do this. We just don’t talk about it very openly. So when things calm down, or you calm down, or you sleep on it, you think, Oh, my God, what the heck is wrong with me. So that’s what I did. I mean, I couldn’t seem to stop the downward spiral of anxiety and thoughts that I was in. And so I kept busy all day, you know, putting Thanksgiving dinner on the table. I wanted it to be perfect and wonderful. And truthfully, by the time I sat down, I wasn’t having fun anymore. I was so anxious, intense and worried about these thoughts that my mother in law was quote having about me that I really just didn’t have the best time I could have. I wasn’t enjoying it.
So of course, you know, the next day, I’m thinking, gosh, you know, I created my own suffering. And that’s what we often do we create our own suffering in our heads. Now, that’s not to say, you know, that I thought that she was perfect. I was still questioning why should why she had interfered, I still thought to myself, well, why can’t you just sat down and relax and not asked why I was doing things the way I was doing them, I don’t go to her house. And when she’s cooking, I don’t tell her how to do things my way. And, you know, why do I have to explain that I like to clean my kitchen a certain way, if somebody told me to drop the rag and, and you know that they were going to do it? I’d be like, okay, sure, no problem. But guess what, I could have stayed with all these assumptions about her, I could have continued having these thoughts. I just, I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to continue thinking that she was unsatisfied with what I was doing that she had a terrible time. And I didn’t want to go through another whole day with her with that tension. So I knew I had to talk to her. I knew that it was the only way and that the worst thing that could happen is that the conversation could go very badly, and I’d still have tension with her all day. But I mean, I was going to have tension feel than 10 anyways. But on the other hand, the best thing that could happen is that I could resolve the tension dissolve it and we could have a really good, Happy Friday. That’s what I chose.
And that’s my point, the price of connection. You guys, this boils down to connection, the process of connection of intimacy of being known of the love of being accepted thorns, and all are facing rather than turning away from difficult conversations. Connection requires difficult conversations all the time. Sometimes, if you are in a relationship with someone long enough, and you actually care about them, there is no way you are ever going to be able to avoid making the choice of either to confront conflict or walk away from it. Connection requires honesty, it requires vulnerability, it requires an ability to admit you’re crazy parts. It requires saying, I’m sorry, or I’m mad at you, or I don’t agree with you. Or, or even I hate you right now. Or I hate what you did.
Too many of us run from these conversations. I know I have in the past, I’m not always perfect. I don’t always face conflicts. And we run away for so many reasons. It’s hard to tell someone you know what, I see you doing this, and I think you’re wrong. It’s hard to do it. Partly, I know for me, I’m I know that I’ve been very judgmental, you know, I can be judgmental. And so when I call someone’s behavior out, I’m afraid that I’m going to be labeled and that, you know, tag of judgmental is going to be placed on me. But, you know, sometimes we need to judge a behavior. Sometimes we need to call people out and we confuse calling a behavior out with being too judgmental. It’s equally if not harder, to admit that you might be the one that was wrong, but you won’t find out unless you have that conversation with someone. And maybe you wake up to a part of yourself to some wrong that you’re creating, that you’ll be grateful for. You’ll be grateful that someone called you out. I know I am. It’s hard to look someone in the eye and say, “there’s tension between us and I don’t like it.” And here’s where I see that there was tension. Here’s what was going through my mind.
I know this isn’t rational, but it’s what I was feeling. It’s not easy to do that. When I did it on Friday morning after Thanksgiving. When I walked into my mother in law’s room, and I said, We need to talk. There’s tension between us. My heart was beating I was dreading. I was trying to rehearse it in my head for an hour beforehand, wasn’t doing a very good job. Because I was very anxious. I wish I could have put it off. I did wish that I could have put it off. But I knew that if I didn’t talk to her. If I didn’t face this, it would be one of those sore spots between us. It might make me pull away from her. It might make me anxious. The next time she comes to my house, I remember what happened this time, and I’d already been anxious. And like I said, when we’re anxious, we are not our best selves. It’s impossible.
This is what creates disconnection oftentimes in our relationships too many unspoken complex resentments. This is what creates distance. This is what creates disconnection, having the difficult conversation with someone we care about is so much easier than living with the pain of being misunderstood of repeating instances of tension. Having a difficult conversation is so much easier than me understanding someone else of missing out on their truth. It’s so much easier to have a difficult conversation than it is to miss out on saying, I love you. And I hope you love me to even though I’m flawed and imperfect because it’s only when we can say that we love someone. And when we can say and admit that we want to be loved so that’s a true connection. I know that this won’t be my last conflict with my mother in law, I know won’t because we’re close. It’s precise because we’re close that we even have the opportunity to have conflict. But I love now that we did have that tension and conflict because I know her so much better. And I love her so much more.
After that conversation. She was just trying to help. She wasn’t interfering. She was saying what was on her mind. And whatever anxiety I felt about what was going on that day was all my own. And I’m sure she was annoyed with me too. I was being annoying. But what I want you all to take away from this, my friends, speaking of connection it is just this honesty, truth, vulnerability, communication. These are what create and deepen our connections. You cannot have any of these things and not encounter some conflict. You cannot be honest, and truthful, invulnerable, and not have conflict. It’s not whether you have conflict, but how you deal with conflict when it arises. And if you’re close enough to someone or know them long enough, it evidently will arise, a conflict will arise. It’s not whether it’s how you deal with it, that determines the quality, the depth, and the satisfaction that you’re going to get out of your relationships and your connections. That’s it. above everything else.
I stand for connection, I want more of it in my life. I want true connections. I want to know someone and I really do want to be known. I want to be accepted. I don’t ever want to feel alone because I don’t feel known. But if I do feel that, I know that it’s always because I’m hiding. We all want to be known, actually being human. It’s wired into us that we yearn to be seen and heard. We want to be acknowledged and validated. We can’t live without these things. Yet, so many of us today are afraid we’re afraid more than ever, we’re surrounded and bombarded with everyone’s highlights. And the more we see others, seemingly living perfect lives are being perfect. The more alone we feel in our own imperfections in our lives. So we hide, we live in an age when people seem to be more defensive. So it’s hard to confront people, we’re all afraid of not being light of being rejected. And when you confront somebody with a wrong or with a hurt, there’s a possibility that they will say, you know, I don’t like what you’re saying, and walk away from that they’ll reject you also be it I stand for connection and for having only authentic relationships in my life. I don’t always succeed in that I just, I shared a try.
I don’t want to be a part of what we’re seeing these days, which is epidemic levels of loneliness and disconnection, it’s having devastating consequences in our society. And that’s a whole other episode or episodes with other guests. We will be talking about these things in this podcast. But for now, this is my friends, that’s all thinking about your relationships. Think about how you confront conflict, do you sweep things under the rug? Do you judge people? Do you think that they’re bad? When there’s a conflict? Do you judge them instead of the behavior? Do you avoid difficult conversations? Do you feel satisfied with your connections with the quality of them? Do you feel alone and misunderstood ever? Why or why not? What part do you play in it? Until next time, you guys.