Friday, July 30, 2010

Our Precious Time - Part 3 - Expressing Appreciation

One of the first questions I ask couples when they come for counseling is what they appreciate about each other. If they can’t think of anything at the time (which sometimes happens), I ask them to think back about when they first met, what attracted them to each other, what they appreciated then. I get a sense sometimes that they think this is a waste of time and that their time would be better spent getting right to the pressing issues they have to resolve. But usually they bear with me.

It’s interesting how often a husband will say something he appreciates about his wife (or vice versa) and the other one will be very surprised, saying something like, “I didn’t know you even noticed that” or “I’m really glad to know that’s important to you. I didn’t know.” Other times their eyes will fill with tears (both husbands and wives) and they will say simply “Why don’t you ever tell me?” followed by “I thought you knew” and then a shake of the head, “No, I didn’t.”

It is tempting to think that when we are busy with “very important” things to do and problems to resolve, that we don’t have time or can’t afford to take time to express appreciation. However, when you think about it, there are few things that are a better use of our precious time than expressing appreciation. For one thing, expressing appreciation helps us to focus on what’s good in our lives, rather than dwelling on the negatives. As we share that important information with others, it helps them to know that their efforts make a difference, that they are valued. This is especially true when the appreciation is expressed in specific ways.

We all need to feel that we have worth, that we are valued; and that worth and value is best expressed in relation to another, especially one that we have chosen to share our lives with.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Our Precious Time - Part 2 - "I'm Bored"

I kind of cringe whenever I hear someone say “I’m bored”. When children say it, the implication is that as an adult I need to find something more interesting for them to do. When teenagers say it, it’s more like a judgment they’re making, often said with emphasis: “bor-ing”. Adults – we may yawn or make excuses to do something else – usually we’re not as direct as children or teenagers. However, our actions say it just as clearly.

I think what really makes me cringe when I hear people say “I’m bored”, though, is the fact that with so many amazing things to be discovered about the world, ourselves and each other, the choice to be bored is such a misguided use of our “precious” time.

The other day I found myself in a situation where I had to wait for a longer period of time than I anticipated. Not having anything to read or write or a cel-phone to text or people to visit with, I found myself beginning to have feelings of boredom (and yes, I cringed at myself). Refusing to give in to these feelings, I looked around to find something I could do to make better use of my time.

My eyes finally settled on a painting on the wall – one that I had seen at least a hundred times before. I decided to really look at it this time – to study the details – to learn something more about it. It was amazing! As I began to look more closely at this painting (that I had literally seen a hundred times before) I found a figure I had never noticed before. I saw the expression in his eyes, the yearning, the hope. I saw the details of the background – the shapes and colors - I had never noticed before. And as I studied these details, I began to think more about the artist and I felt a twinge of sadness that in the hundred times I had seen this painting, I had missed so much of what he had worked so diligently to convey. But I also felt joy that I had finally seen these important details and gained a new-found appreciation for this painting - as though I were seeing it for the first time.

In the same way, instead of choosing to be bored, we can also choose to look more carefully, to pay more attention to the important details in the lives of our loved ones. We can choose to notice what they are so diligently trying to convey to us and as we do this, we can begin to see them with new eyes as though we were seeing them for the first time.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Our Precious Time

I was helping my 7-year old granddaughter neatly print a return address on a letter we were getting ready to send. Before writing on the actual envelope, I had her practice writing it several times on another piece of paper, emphasizing how important it was that the printing was neat so the mail carrier could read it, explaining the purpose of the return address. As I complimented her on the good job she was doing and how the practicing had really helped, she exclaimed, “but it’s taking so much of my precious time when I could be playing.”

My granddaughter had a good point. Our time is precious. We all only have 24 hours in a day. How are we using our precious time? As I shared with my granddaughter, practicing and improving a skill is an excellent use of our precious time. For months or even years, I resisted learning how to use new technology. I just didn’t think I had time but finally I realized it was a really good use of my time to learn these new skills – that the benefits really outweigh the time it takes to learn them. In fact, I’ve come to realize that just having the mind-set to be willing to learn new things is a tremendous benefit in and of itself!

Improving ourselves and our skills does take a little more time initially but when you think about it, how much time do we waste just “spinning our wheels”, staying in the same old rut, making the same mistakes over and over again and not really getting anywhere? When we think we don’t have time to improve a skill, especially a relationship skill, what can we honestly say we are doing that is more important, that is more lasting, that is of more value? Yes, our time is precious and there are many good things we can be doing with our time but very few things, if any, are more important than improving and strengthening relationships.

My granddaughter was not wasting her precious time improving her printing skills. It was a good use of her time. It was also a good use of my time - supporting her, encouraging her and complimenting her. In fact, it was a magnificent use of my time!

How are you using your precious time?