During this Friday’s family night dinner, my ex and I had an altercation. He said something that I thought was demeaning to Jonah, and so I said something that he perceived was demeaning to him. It was a classic scenario of old, where we both reacted (overreacted?) to each other’s comments too quickly and interpreted them to have malicious intent. In addition, what I had said was true. It was something that I have been frustrated about, and it was true. I was right. Even my friend Tobey, who very rarely takes my side of any argument, said to me a week or so ago that I had every right to feel frustrated about this particular issue. Damn, in this case, it was so clear that I had truth and justice on my side. I bet I could have started a Facebook group about this and gotten a thousand “likes” in twenty-four hours. That’s how right I was.
Unfortunately, though, this wasn’t an argument that I was going to win. Being right was just a bitter pill. Trying to get him to see my point of view was just further polarizing the issue and leading us down an overgrown path that we both know is never, ever going to be cleared, no matter how many back hoes we run into it.
In the moment, I attempted to de-escalate the fight so that we could go back to playing our family game Apples to Apples, but he was too angry to continue. I went to bed that night still holding onto the disagreement, which is really rare for me these days. I couldn’t seem to shake my desire for him to apologize, to admit that he was wrong. The next morning, even, it was gnawing at me, yet the thing that was most frustrating of all was that I knew that there was nothing to be gained from it. I knew that the only way to deal with the situation was to drop it, yet my ego kept screaming, But you are right!!
It was a perfect lesson in the making. I tried calling my sister but she didn’t answer so I sat down to read the Yoga Journal. I really don’t like this magazine but I receive it free for having attended a workshop at Kripalu last year. The photos of the serene yogis and yoginis, the articles on meditation, the yoga-themed ads for products I would never purchase (like a large sauna for your house where you can practice hot yoga) were bland and soothing enough to get my mind off my anger and to get me breathing again.
Eventually the day took over and I got busy with the kids and felt fine again. However, it reminded me of the saying that I have heard somewhere “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” I think my therapist friend Sarah Getoff gives talks with a similar title “Do you want to be right or do you want to be married?” Either way, it is a powerful question. Usually my desire to be right is not going to bring me happiness. Especially with my ex, my arguments to demonstrate that I am right usually run counter to the peace of our relationship.
This truth was brought to my attention yesterday morning as well in my friend Jenn’s beautiful blog “Rock Star Co-Parenting” where she was interviewing a wonderful divorced couple who formed a group called Co-Parenting 101, that educates divorced parents on how to best interact for the sake of the children. Jenn asked them both if co-parenting was really as easy as they make it look and they both admitted that no, it took time. Mike said something in response that really hit home for me: ‘Most of all, the needs of my children forced perspective on me. If I wanted to achieve my goals for them, I had to set aside past hurts and give up my “right” to act on those hurts.’ That word right, here used as a noun, as a privilege that is due to us, as a principle of justice, once again stood out. Sure, we may have the “right” to be angry or hurt or even demand justice, but sometimes that right is best forfeited in the name of a higher truth, such as getting along with your kids and your former spouse so that you can have a peaceful post-divorce familial relationship.
Aah, it feels good just writing about this. I would rather be happy than be right. I would rather have our kids see us get along than argue my case in front of them. I would rather enjoy my ex’s company for family dinners and count him amongst my friends than act upon our past grievances or attempt to have justice served. Justice is nothing compared to a happy, healthy family dynamic.
So, now it’s your turn. Fess up. Are there times where you want to be right more than anything else? Does being right make you happy? And, have you ever forgone your need to be right in order to achieve a higher goal? How did it turn out?
I want to end with a beautiful quote that I heard in yoga today. It’s from a Sufi poet Hafiz and it aptly expresses the kind of love that I aspire to.
Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,
“You owe Me.”
Look what happens with
A love like that,
It lights the Whole Sky.