This week’s season premiere was perfectly timed. I was feeling overwhelmed with three freelance jobs, two volunteer positions, a company that’s based on volunteer work, children in two different activities, five blogs, and a husband who seems more and more resentful that my time is stretched so thin. Does anyone else’s chest feel tight all of a sudden?
But then here’s this scripted drama that’s so smartly written and that covers so many of my bases. Throughout the episode, the family patriarch says over and over again to the family matriarch, “I hear you and I see you,” as they have learned in marriage counseling. It’s creepy ... until it sinks in. And suddenly the theme emerges from every story told in the hour — and every part of our personal lives.
The son-in-law who finally breaks after his wife’s father continually treats him like an ineffectual and inexperienced moron. The sister who has to fight for the credit she deserves when her idea for a new shoe product is pitched by her brother. The father who has to scramble to prove his dedication to his company under the harsh glare of a demanding boss. The daughter learning to drive as her mother screams from the passenger seat.
And the storyline closest to my heart: The child with autism who melts down in the most heart wrenching way (complete with screeching and flying limbs and screaming with eyes shut) when his carefully laid plans for a sleepover are ruined. Oh, Max. You have my heart, buddy.
For each storyline, the closure comes not from the characters suddenly getting their way. Life doesn’t work like that. The closure is a result of the person on the other end — the father-in-law, the brother, the boss, the occupational therapist — saying in loud and clear voices I hear you and I see you. You exist. Your feelings are valid. You have every right to be upset and you’re right, this sucks.
This is a life lesson for me, for all of us. Rather than act out or shut down when the world starts spinning out of control and we feel like collateral damage, how about we just stop and give ourselves or our loved ones the same verbal massage that Max gets: “I know you’re upset. You have every right to be; it’s not fair. I know you’re upset because I’m upset, too. But this isn’t going to help. Let’s make another plan.”
I know. I hear you. I see you. We’ll get through this. Together.
I don’t have to feel stressed out and alienated. Neither does my husband. Instead, we can take the time to see each other. We can step back and find compassion for each other’s individual struggles. And then we can create a plan that works better. And we can do it together.
Do you watch Parenthood? Is there another television program that works as therapy for you? What lessons have you learned about yourself or your life by watching?