Allow me to begin by acknowledging the blatant plagiarism in naming the post, taken from a book that I haven’t read, but came across in an article. Good things are meant to be reused.
It’s a new holiday in Ontario: Family Day, third Monday of every February. I am grateful for an extra holiday (work brought home notwithstanding), and the naming of it as such. In speaking of why Premier McGuinty instituted this holiday, he said “One of the things that I recognized was that never have more parents spent more time working outside the home than at any point in our history than they do today. I think the single most valuable commodity, so to speak, for our families would be time spent together, so that’s the motivation behind this.”
I have also encountered many reminders of how this so-critical institution is suffering, all over the globe. A man still hurting from the pain and abuse of a step-father, over 30-40 years ago. A woman in constant search for affirmation by her father for the last 3-4 decades, whom she’s never seen or known, and who continues to ignore her existence. Marriages breaking up within 2 months, or after 20-30 years (when the kids leave, scarred from witnessing decades of anger in the house, and thereby entering into their own severely jeopardized relationships). Two in five (38.3%) marriages end by 30th anniversary. One in 5 (19%) of Canadian children aged 0 to 14 did not live with both parents in 2001. I don’t know if other important measures (such as siblings not talking to each other) are even measured, recorded or reported.
I could go on but it hurts.
In an ever-present quest to improve myself (and boy do I have my work cut out!), I was studying improvisation to help with quick-thinking. A critical, given rule for improv to work is an attitude of “serve and support”. This means, in a scene (or real life scenario), my job and focus is to help the other person achieve their objective, trusting that this will help me achieve mine (of making the overall scene work). This is an inviolable rule, the ignoring of which will bring the scene crashing down. And it is to be practiced unconditionally, that is, irrespective of what the other person may have done right or wrong.
Service, like excellence, is not a task; it’s an attitude and habit.
One of the people I care about and respect much, she and I continuously remind each other of a Gandhi quote: “Life is one indivisible whole.” In all the successful relationships I have observed, which give me hope (despite the statistics of human relationship breakdown), I see this rule of improv being applied – they truly enjoy and focus on serving other people, without ego or selfishness, and in turn making the whole scene work out beautifully, like a masterpiece of musical composition.
Here are some other rules of improv: Trust, Commitment, Awareness, Concentration, Energy, Listening, Give and Take, Yes And… (i.e. not refuting, rather going along), Attending to (i.e. paying close attention).
What would happen to our families (and marriages), if we practiced all these, all the time. Economic chaos for one thing – what would all the lawyers, therapists, etc. do? But maybe, just maybe, our scene of life could work out better.
One indivisible whole.