Anita Doberman: Guest Columist
I recently finished a great book by author Susan Jeffers called “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway.” I don’t usually read self-help books, but enjoyed Jeffers’ book, and found her description of “the chatter box” very applicable to my life.
The chatter box is a person’s negative and habitual voice that will not stop talking; it is the annoying, contrite, and counterproductive chatter that always finds the negative aspect of situations and people, and says “you cannot do it, you will fail, there is no way it is ever going to happen, why even try?”
Jeffers suggests starting to substitute the chatter box with positive and affirming thoughts, and practicing this new way of thinking as often as possible.
I knew immediately where I could put her advice to good use: mother-in-law.
Fact: My mother-in-law and I do not get along. Fact: This has caused terrible fights between my husband and I. Resolution: After reading Jeffers’ book, I was ready for a significant and positive change — I would get along with my mother-in-law.
I was presented with the perfect opportunity when she called a couple of weeks ago, before coming down to visit, and asked if I wanted some old cups.
Me: “No thanks. It’s very nice of you but I have a lot of cups.”
Chatter box: “She wants to give me her old stuff, and I don’t want it. This time I am not going to accept it.”
Mother-in-law: “Well these are really nice looking, gray and blue. I think they would work well if you ever entertain people.”
Me: “I am OK, but thank you anyway.”
Chatter box: “What is she implying by saying ‘ever?’ I don’t have leisure time like she does, and if I do decide to have people over I have nice cups. My style, my taste, not the things she wants to impose on me.”
MIL: “Well I should just bring them down.”
Me and Chatter Box: “Don’t.”
This went on for about 10 minutes, with the inevitable result that I saw these cups in my kitchen, as soon as she arrived.
Though our conversation did not turn out well, and I did not obtain the result I was hoping for (as usual), I tried to silence my chatter box and have a positive disposition toward her.
My husband told me, “Just let it go. Get rid of the cups once she is gone. No need for direct confrontation.” So I tried. I jotted down a couple of positive affirmations. Go with the flow, think good mother-in-law thoughts. Do not second guess her intentions. Patience is a great virtue.
We must find common ground — maybe movies, or sports (neither one of us know anything about it). But yes, there is always the weather.
After doing this for a few minutes my chatter box came back, yelling about past fights (the time she told me she could not understand how my husband fell in love with me. I am so different than her, our marriage was probably not going to last unless I made some changes), and reasons why I am right and she is wrong. I found myself listening to my chatter box again.
I got tired of all this thinking and went to check my e-mail. Ironically, she had just sent me a digital picture of her, me, and my husband, with our children, sitting at the dinner table.
This image temporarily silenced my chatter box, and allowed me to move into better and higher thoughts. I realized that despite our many differences we share a common bond stronger than any conflict. Both of us love the same man, a father, a husband, and a son, who makes the sacrifice to serve his country every day. There was the solution to my problem, and a way to silence my chatter box.
Now all I have to do is practice. And if anyone is interested, I have a few extra cups (gray and blue) I would love to donate.