I wrote this a while ago, but it seems potentially useful now, for anyone spending a lot more time than usual with family members.
On the first morning of a recent vacation with my Mom and two nieces, I wrote a poem and read it to them start the day. One niece listened silently. The other niece and my Mom were put off because my poems don’t rhyme.
In the past, that would have discouraged and frustrated me. Since I was a kid, when family doesn’t “get” my writing, or seems to judge it, I’ve had the feeling that they don’t get ME.
Happily, I’ve grown and evolved with age. I understood that the lukewarm responses weren’t about me even though they were affecting me. Then I came up with a creative idea, a way to keep expressing myself while getting everyone more involved.
It turned out to be a far better experience than the one I’d originally imagined, and I think there’s a good lesson here for anyone who’s struggling to feel heard.
Here’s what I did:
- I wrote a second poem that poked fun at their wanting rhymes. It was a rhyming sonnet and we all had a chuckle; I felt heard.
- The next day, I got us all together to write a collaborative poem (we each wrote one line and passed it to the next person to add to for three rounds). That led to some fun conversation and an interesting look into how each of our minds work.
- On the last day, I assigned us all the same writing prompt and we each wrote a poem to share over dinner. The poems were all so good and completely unique. Reading them and talking about them was a wonderful way to mark the end of our time together.
The highlight for me was my youngest niece (the rhyme-loving one) surprising me by reading a poem she had been writing all week. It touched on our various activities and acknowledged my role in planning the trip: “Planning was immaculate / Each day was fantastic / And even though we acted sarcastic / We appreciate the time you put in / We love Costa Rica and we love you”.
Creativity can be a key for walking through difficulties, especially interpersonal ones.
Everyone wants to be heard and feeling unheard often leads either to anger (get louder) or shutting down (stop trying). I could have pushed on and read more un-rhymed poems more loudly. I could have given up and stopped trying, gone silent.
Instead, the creative project became a shared experience like the vacation itself was. They enhanced each other. We each had opportunities to take and give space to create, speak, and listen. Our poems tended to reflect on events and sights during the trip, creating daily reflections that deepened our appreciation for the experiences and each other.
If you’re having difficulty “getting through” to someone, step back and create a new approach. Rather than aiming directly at the problem or turning away from it, think about how to use creativity to sneak around and through it.
A shared creative project may give all parties involved an opportunity to express and understand in surprising new ways.