Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Stuffing a turkey

I had a good conversation with my counselor the other day, and I brought up a situation in which I was frustrated and my husband was frustrated, and in which my frustration was fueled by thinking it was a fault of mine that the whole thing happened in the first place. I'm talking about stuffing a turkey.

I've noticed I think in a number of layers. For example, when someone makes a request, I can think of several interpretations for what they asked. My difficulty is, I often pick the wrong one as the meaning of what the person said.

To give you a little background: my husband and I divided up the cooking duties for Christmas day. His job included cooking the turkey. One of my jobs was to make the stuffing. So, my husband asked me, "Are you going to stuff the turkey?" Simple enough, right?

Does that mean:

A) Literally putting the stuffing in the turkey, and only that?
B) Preparing the turkey to be stuffed, which includes washing it (gross!), and then putting the stuffing in?
C) He is asking whether I want to stuff the turkey, but I can say no, that I'm just making the stuffing?

This all hit my brain at the same moment. I grabbed meaning B, when all he meant was A, or maybe C. The real problem wasn't that I grabbed the wrong meaning as much as my reaction to it. In my mind I'm thinking, "What? I've got lots of other work I'm doing on the meal, and anyway, I HATE touching the raw turkey, doesn't he know that? That's what lead to everyone's frustration.

Next time, I'm advised to take the literal meaning and ask questions to find out whether they mean more, without being defensive. Now, I'm aware that I ask lots of questions already, but I should at least ask a few more before defaulting to frustration and self-reproach.

But on the positive side: my counselor said being able to think in layers is a gift, and that's why I'm able to teach the special needs students I work with so ably. I can see a thing or an idea and explain it in several ways, one of which will click with the student.

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