I had the most amazing conversation with a dear client today. Beth told me that over the weekend, she’d read Dear Liza, by Sydney Banks. I also had picked up the book on the weekend and was reading it before our call. Both of us had read it before but not in a long time. It was so interesting to us that we were drawn to it at the same time! Universal connection. . . .
One of the passages that we found very moving and profound is on page 73, in a letter that Liza’s mother had left for her, after her passing. This is a partial quote:
“I would suggest to you that your own inner beauty will increase and grow as you recognize the beauty in others.”
And the next quote:
“Know that although you may not always agree with their ways and their thoughts, they are probably struggling, in their own way, to achieve happiness. Your unexpected kindness may be the light they require to guide them to their own inner peace.”
Our conversation flowed around parenting, with Beth sharing that she’d given Dear Liza to her teen son to read a section, and after he’d read it, she asked him what he thought about it. They had a wonderful conversation. This was the first time she’d done this and she was very taken with the response from her son, and her son was pleased that his Mom had asked for his thoughts, that she hadn’t tried to impose her thoughts on him. She wasn’t sure if he’d relate to it, because the time line of the book is 1834, but her son said it felt current to him. And I must say that’s how it felt to me, as well as to Beth, that the themes in the book are so relevant to now.
Beth also mentioned that she read some of the book to her younger son, before bedtime, and he loved it, drifted off to sleep, comforted by the story of the little girl, Liza, caring for a younger child, that she calls ‘sister’, whom she’d found wandering the streets, all alone.
Then Beth said, “Elsie, even though I’m finding Dear Liza so profound and helpful, I’m still struggling with my eldest daughter. I’m not able to find my way to her heart. We were arguing a great deal, about a variety of things; her not going out to find a job, loafing in her room, not helping to care for her brothers, and so on. The feeling between us is not healthy. Then I came to understand that my arguing with her wasn’t helping. She was digging in her heels even more.
“So now I don’t argue with her; I leave her alone, and we go our separate ways, even though we’re living in the same house. I don’t like this, but I don’t know what to do.”
I was very moved by Beth’s vulnerability and her honesty. Given that Beth had moved from arguing to not arguing, was a positive step, even if it wasn’t as much as Beth hoped for. I pointed this out to her, and her face screwed up. “You mean just not arguing is an improvement? It doesn’t feel like it. There’s still not a warm feeling between us.”
“Yes, not arguing is definitely an improvement, Beth. Less negativity in a relationship is always an improvement. Honor that, and you will find that your relationship will move back to love. Just as it says in Dear Liza; ‘your own inner beauty will increase and grow as you recognize the beauty in others’. And ‘kindness may be the light they require to guide them to their own inner peace.’”
Beth’s face had become calm, and I could see that the words from Dear Liza had gone deeper for her, as they had for me. It was a mystical moment that we both cherished.
Sometimes, even with the understanding of the Principles, we can get frustrated with our children. We can hang on to expectations of behavior that is acceptable within our families, and when there is consistent misbehavior, our understanding can pivot and head south.
I remember when my daughter, Lynn, was thirteen, and our family had moved from Salt Spring to Vancouver. She was very unhappy at leaving the Island, and moving from a school that had 200 children to a school with 1200 students. I wasn’t too happy myself at leaving the Island, and our close connection with Syd, so it was a rather tenuous situation for our family.
After Lynn, and Ron, our son, had been enrolled in their new schools, things seemed to settle down. Our children were in different schools but took the same bus. After about a month, we got a call from the Principal of Lynn’s school, asking whether our daughter was ill. I answered the call, and assured the Principal that Lynn was well. He informed us that although Lynn was enrolled, she wasn’t attending. . .
Ken and I were dismayed at this news, and very concerned. Where was she going? What was she doing? Why hadn’t she talked with us?
I’d like to say, that when Lynn arrived home that day, that we met her with open arms and perfect understanding. However, the real story is that her Mom met her at the door, wild eyed, and shouting profusely. No understanding whatsoever. I think we may have told her she was grounded forever.
As you might imagine, that behavior we exhibited didn’t endear us to Lynn; nor did it encourage her to open up to us. We didn’t know what to do. I called Syd. He heard me out, crying and bemoaning what Lynn had done. I was feeling like it was all her fault. In my lostness in the moment, I couldn’t see that she was lost in her unhappiness, and doing the best she could.
Syd listened, and then handed the phone to Barb. I was a bit miffed at this. I wanted Syd to talk with me. Another indication of how lost I was feeling. Barb was kindness itself. She listened for a bit, then said, “Just love your daughter, Elsie. Don’t judge her for her behavior. Listen to her, comfort her, be kind.”
My response was, “Be kind? Are you kidding me? She’s missed a month of school!”
“Oh, poor child. She must really be hurting,” Barb replied.
I found her response very annoying, but after I got off the phone, something inside me seemed to settle, because Barb had remained unruffled by my outburst.
Ken suggested we not say anything else to Lynn that night. We hugged her, and said we’d talk more the next day, which was the weekend. Ken and I didn’t discuss what to do either; we were exhausted and had no idea what to do.
The next day Ken and I woke up, still uncertain on how to handle the situation. We asked Lynn if she’d like to go out for breakfast, and she accepted. Again, we didn’t talk about what was wrong, because we didn’t know what to do. We ended up just having a quiet time together. In hindsight, it felt like Mind was guiding us to do nothing; just be with Lynn in love, as best we could.
Monday rolled around, Lynn got on the bus, and actually attended school. When she got home that afternoon, I could see she was more peaceful. She’d made a new friend, and things were looking up.
To this day, I don’t know how things shifted; they just did. We loved our daughter without conditions. In not knowing what to do, we found kindness in the quiet. And Lynn’s soul responded.