I am enjoying a coffee in a coffee shop when I hear Van Morrisson sing ‘Have I told you lately that I love you’. It reminds me of Bronnie Ware. For years she has been working with dying people in the final phase of their lives. On her website she writes about the top five of regrets these people have. The third regret is:
‘I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.’
It reminds me of Marshall Rosenberg and his book ‘Nonviolent Communication’. He devotes an entire chapter to expressing appreciation for others in a way that values your needs and feelings and those of the other person. Last week I spent a part of my day with a friend and his girlfriend. We walked together, made music, talked and had dinner. Instead of telling him: ‘It was a fantastic afternoon’, I now say: ‘I am grateful you spent time with me this afternoon. I get a smile on my face even now when I think about the moments we spent making music spontaneously, laughing about our own chord progressions and enjoying the steak you prepared.’ While writing I realize I need play, creativity, sharing and fresh air.
Expressing appreciation is somehow less demanding than expressing discomfort, anger and disapointment: feelings that occur because my needs are not met. It takes courage indeed. Bronnie Ware writes: ‘Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others.’ I recognize that. I prefer to avoid conflict, fighting and anger. In the past few years I have often tried to change that. I followed quite a few courses and training sessions, even a training called ‘Anger and Nonviolent Communication’. It takes time to accept that this is a time consuming process. Something I cannot just change at a pace I demand from myself.
The main reason for this is the way I am wired: my sensitivity is both a blessing and a hindrance. Besides I hardly had any mirrors during my younger years to help me express my feelings and needs. And now it takes much more time and effort to do so. Effort? Mmm, probably my perfectionism plays (too big) a role here. Can I give myself more space to learn playfully with the innocence of a child?
I keep on reading Bronnie’s story. She continues: ‘As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.’
Something insiode of me screams I do not want to settle for ‘a mediocre existence’. I want to become the person I truly am. Even if it may take longer than I expected.
I have thirteen free minutes left on the coffee shop’s wireless network. I allow myself to finish my column within that timeframe, although it is not yet finished according to the strict demands I put on myself. And I send an email to the friend I mentioned earlier to tell him that I love him…