Woman Overwhelmed (furious patience)
It was a magical moment, we were the only couple in a design thinking for couples workshop and we were getting a 1 x 1 session with the creator of the workshop.
As we put our problems, aspirations, and requests on colored post-it notes I could see her side of the board filling up with green issues. These were issues determined to be about herself, but still of consequence. It was a freeform brainstorm at the beginning before we started to sort them together into three different columns.
We came up with ONE actionable step I could take, to help bring down her ready-for-school stress in getting her son off to 3rd grade. I would do breakfast and drop him off at school. All she had to do was play a supporting role. And for a few weeks, the results were amazing. A calm morning routine was the result. Reduced stress. Appreciation for the help. And, at some point, a loss of control. That’s when she pulled back and decided she needed to be the one who took him to school. We never had a follow-up session with the coach, but I spoke to her from time to time, as she was a friend.
“Well, she’s got to make decisions about what she wants to let go of, what she can’t control, and what she wants.”
The bulk of “issues” from my stack of post-its were optimistic ideas about how we could continue to grow closer, rely on each other for help, and offer some relief for her obvious chaos. But it was a chaos she was comfortable generating, even after we determined it was not serving her or her son. Somewhere, the relationship between us was depreciated. It just wasn’t that important. No, that’s not accurate. There just was not that much I could do to alleviate her stress or anxiety. And I certainly could not solve a pattern of over-filled schedules and unreal expectations. In fact, even with a coach, we were unable to outline any more support I could give her. Breakfast and to-school help, that’s how I could offer her loving care.
Gradually, she started taking back the morning school routine. Either she was jealous of the closeness between her son and me, or she was uncomfortable not being in control. It was a great three weeks, for me – at least, before her morning independence was reinstated. She really didn’t want to share. The one actionable item from the workshop was something she didn’t really want to release. It was either the chaos she knew and loved, or it was the interdependence of our partnership that was too… overwhelming.
The one thing on her actionable list towards me was letting me help. “I created this chaos, it’s not like you can solve it for me,” she said in the session.
Read more Short-Short Stories from John.