Pitfalls…..The smile that does not reach the eyes

Common Scenario #3: We see, but not beyond the obvious. We judge without a pause. We move on, without giving enough time.

The house is perfect, the floor sparkling, the dinner sumptuous and welcome perfect.
The children well behaved and the hostess elegant.
The host benevolent, proudly touting his family’s many virtues…….but the smiles don’t reach the eyes.
eyes3.jpg
She’s always gets into work the earliest, often the last to leave.
She’s never says anything when they pull her leg or diss her ideas.
She takes her boss’s ribbing and her colleagues comments with the right spirit and roll of the eyes at their infantile behaviour……but the smiles don’t reach the eyes.

She’s the life of the party, the one who gets everyone on the dance floor.
She loves an adventure and doesn’t actually mind hanging out with his friends all day, every day and the weekends as well.
She missed her mum’s birthday because his sister wanted to do dinner that one day, but she’s okay with it, really……but the smiles don’t reach the eyes.

She is always busy looking after everyone, but him most of all. 
She somehow manages to make sure eyes.jpg everything works out the way he likes it, all the time.
Its been so many years, so many- but nothing has changed for him- she makes sure of it. 
She never complains, though she’s never got time for herself, she’s getting older too.
She just soldiers on…..but the smiles don’t reach the eyes.

Look behind those smiles- the one’s that don’t reach the eyes.
Look out for what the eyes want to say, without saying it out aloud.
Offer support, not judgement
Offer time, not advise
When it is the one closest to you that inflicts the wound of any kind, it’s the hardest to confront. 
For the known devil is easier to deal with than the unknown.
But if your smiles have not reached your eyes in a long time, 
It’s time to look in the mirror and see what the eyes are really trying to say.

As I prepare to deliver a leadership program for emerging community leaders on the Prevention of Violence against Women along with Dr Peter Strekker, for AMES Australia, one of the most critical things that I’d like the 30 participants to take away from the program is the ability to support unconditionally and give time unreservedly.


The Pitfalls is a series that I have been working on, based on some of the common scenarios I have seen in my work over the last many years. Some of them have left me very angry and frustrated. The line between immense frustration and intense anger is so fine, you nearly always miss it and feel terrible afterwards. With this series, if a few become more aware, it would go a long way in making me feel a bit more hopeful

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Pitfalls…..Fraying bonds

Common scenario #2: Heard something today that struck a chord…..

The bitter-sweet feeling when you think of what was…..and what is. When something reminds you of a friend, a loved one, who moved on in their lives, away from you. A shared “in joke” or a song, a food item or just a random comment.
So many of us have these bitter-sweet memories. And fair enough too, none of us stand still, we meet new people everyday and make new connections. It is but to be expected that we’d get closer to some people and maybe more distant from others.

Our shared interests may change, or distance may make the bond more porous and suddenly one day you realise you’ve grown apart and there’s that palpable sense of loss…..

Other times, a sharp comment or an unintentional cruelty pierces the heart. You first think it cannot be, surely you mean more to them.

You brush it off, paste a smile and resolve to not let it hurt. But then, familiarity does sometimes breed contempt and relationships don’t always stay even. The sharp comment between you and the other becomes a open joke for many and the occasional cruel observation, is not always unintentional….

But the shared past- joys and tears, the unstinting support in times gone by trumps the hurt and you hold on. You hold on, not  to the person they have become, but a tribute to the person they were and the memories that still make you smile.

You also know that you’ve changed somewhere too and maybe it does take two to tango. But the hurt doesn’t always go away……

Forget unrequited love or heartbreak, losing a friendship hurts much more and much longer. The knowledge that you no longer hold the same place in your friends’ life that you once did is like a knife in the gut. The trust, the affection, the familiarity and above all the intimate knowledge they have off you- to suddenly realise that your deepest vulnerabilities now in custody of someone who no longer values you is cringing.

People have been bullied, harrased and traumatised by what a “friend” knew about them and now uses that against them. A relationship dying is hard enough, knowing you can be victimised anytime is harder!
“But, it goes both ways”– You say

Actually in every relationship, friendship or otherwise- scales are rarely balanced perfectly. One party is just that little bit more assertive, aggressive or downright overbearing. Or one of the two, is more likely to go rogue after a break. Maybe this is why, as a good friend said today, “you forgive the present hurt, because you know what frayed-ropethey meant to you in the past…..and because we’re too old to start friendships all over again!”

I can so totally relate to that…..so many bitter-sweet memories and so many false smiles hiding the hurt….just because of the what the relationship was in the past!


The Pitfalls is a series that I have been working on, based on some of the common scenarios I have seen in my work over the last many years. Some of them have left me very angry and frustrated. The line between immense frustration and intense anger is so fine, you nearly always miss it and feel terrible afterwards. With this series, if a few become more aware, it would go a long way in making me feel a bit more hopeful