Here is Ranger, applying the lessons he already has learned about ball handling to a new toy, the soft Frisbee.
I wish I could tell you I was able to freely transfer the learning about unconditional love to the rest of my life. Perhaps that is the nugget of truth experienced by teachers everywhere… a kid learns something on paper or in the classroom, but in real life there is nothing to which they can apply that learning. In my case, Ranger and I have talked a lot since that time about how difficult it is to transfer the unconditional love lesson to everyone else in my life.
Ranger: “Time now to have a session.” He actually pushed me onto the couch this time, impatient with something I must have been saying.
Me: “Hey, what’s going on? I have a lot to do, and now you’re insisting I lie down?”
Ranger: “Yep. That’s exactly what I want, and you do too, even though you don’t know it yet. I’ve been watching you and listening to everything you say, and while you got that lesson of unconditional love applied to your ex-husband, you’re not seeing how much you measure yourself against other people with the purpose of feeling better about yourself. I heard you this morning railing about a politically conservative colleague. You didn’t have a loving tone in your voice. You must have zero empathy for him and what his situation has been.”
Me: “That person drives me nuts. He is a complete hypocrite in terms of his morals. He’s the big church-going guy, but when you dig a bit you find he doesn’t live up to the standard he sets for others. He has had every opportunity handed to him on a silver platter, and yet whines about how much life owes him. What’s wrong with him?”
Ranger: “Don’t tell me you missed entirely what I’ve been talking about and can’t remember all the benefits unconditional love has brought you with your nuclear family. Look. Let me be clear on this: that lesson is for everyone. Today, when you go out and deal with people, just ask yourself, “Is what I’m saying reflecting of truth, empathy, and love? If you can’t check all those three off before you open your mouth, perhaps you’d be better off remaining silent. What you need to understand is that truth is pretty much relative. Depends on who is telling the story. One person telling the truth is liable to be contradicted by the next person telling the truth. Empathy? You think you have that in spades, but let me assure you that you’re no different than the rest of your friends who also consider themselves enlightened with that characteristic. You tend to get into little clumps so you can share your version of truth among yourselves. You say all the same things, nod your head knowingly at the same stories, tell the same jokes. Challenge for you, now, is to figure out what to do about yourself in relationship to the other people in your life, beyond the chosen circle. And, quite frankly, sometimes within the circle. You certainly love everyone within your circle, but love is a difficult term that is incredibly nuanced and means very little when you just say, ‘I love you,’ for it means very little. Today, work on other ways to say that to the first five people you see. Even if you don’t know them, and the message is only in your head.”
Me: “You realize, don’t you, that many of the conversations I have with my friends… and also family members… concern the behaviors of others? It’s the fodder for most talk, I believe. Just today I was on the phone with my friend in Minnesota, and it was like we went through a checklist of the rest of our mutual friends. Just the two of us, sharing our insights, many of them negative reflections of how the rest of them behave. We speculate on motives, grouse about perceived slights, just the two of us sharing feelings… felt pretty good, frankly.”
Ranger: “Then you felt smug, right? Is it possible that when two other friends or family members get together they might be speculating on your motives and grousing about how you reflect poorly or slight them?”
Me: “I know that’s true. It comes with the territory. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
Ranger: “Okay, how much nerve do you have? What if you put each person in your circle, and also your family, on notice that the only time you’ll talk about any other is when all three of you are in the same room? How would that change things?”
Me: “Pretty radical, I’d say. It would dramatically change how long our conversations are, and that’s a good thing, given how much I detest talking on the phone. But it also would turn our conversations towards ideas, I suspect. It would cause me to share more from myself, force the other person to share more from their own point of view.”
Ranger: “Well, then. You have a plaque on your kitchen wall that you’re very fond of. It says ‘Every Day Do Something That Scares You,’ and I’ve seen how, when people ask you about it, you proudly say you believe it and try to practice it. Would changing the tone of your conversations within the family be a scary thing to do? Why not try it?”