Please Don’t Say “But”

Christopher Robin in his Disney depiction.

Image via Wikipedia

Self-Care Tip #152 –  Please don’t say “but” to be a friend to yourself.

She wanted to explain why.  Her sons did not hear.  So she explained why to me.  I listened.  What I learned was…

…It is her choice.  Forget about explaining her “why.”  She knows that they can only hear themselves.  If she wants to be in their lives, she has to be with whom they are in this moment, trumpeting her failures, bemoaning their losses.  If she wants to be with them she’ll meet them there in the gutter and remember their value when she smells stench.

If you’re going to be with the sick, you can’t expect them to mop your brow with tender caresses.  Remember yourself.  If you want to be with your sons, than be where they are, apparently breathing fire and your name is the flame.  Still want to be with them?  Don’t explain why then.  Just be with them, like Christopher Robin when Poo was stuck in the tree trunk.  Just stand there until they can get out and be.  Being present.

If you say “but” it means you didn’t hear. “I’m sorry but,” is not saying I’m sorry. “Yes but,” is worse than many more obvious offenses. See the eyes roll? Hear the sighs?  Watch the words fall apart into letters that pile up like a wall in front of whatever it was that was said in the 1st place.

In some such scenarios it can be a first come first serve. Wait your turn to complain. Wait your turn to present your case.  If you didn’t get there first, listen.  And let the air fill up with all the things that someone wanted to say, and don’t open windows.  Just breath.  Just stay and breath and listen to them if you choose to.  If you choose to be a part of that person, where they are now, stay and be and breath.  Another time if and when they can be with you, you can explain the why.  Maybe they will never be able to give you that gift.  But are they worth it to you?

For her, she decides moment by moment.  You can’t give what you don’t have and sometimes she has what it takes to give that gift and sometimes she does not.  When she doesn’t, she isn’t standing beside their bodies stuck in a tree hole.   She’s off taking care of herself like she should be.  They’re still worth it to her.  And in her story, when she’s gone from them it doesn’t equal her abandoning them.  It means she can’t give just then.

For others, being gone may mean that it is not worth it.  That is fair.  It is a free choice to give a gift.  Gifts are free.  Listen or walk away. …But please don’t say “but.” No one will hear you.

And staying present doesn’t mean more than just that.  It doesn’t make you guilty by association.  It doesn’t give you a “go to jail” card.  If you don’t judge yourself that is.  Wow.  What a gift.  Standing present with the one you love.  Even when they are not being nice.  Even when they are not healthy-minded and say all manner of evil against you, still stand beside them, a witness to their value.

Nor does being present turn you into a noodle.  For pity’s sake, it means only what it means to you.  There is love.  And love is stronger than anything. …But please don’t say “but.”  No one will hear you no matter how much you love him.

And that is what this aching heart-mother taught me about presence.

Question:  How has avoiding the “but” in your dialogue affected the reception of what you’ve said?  Or vice-a-versa?

15 thoughts on “Please Don’t Say “But”

  1. No “ifs, ands or buts” ? Hmmmm. OK. Perhaps, maybe, well, sometimes, many times, however, it seems, there is evidence that, not unreasonable to conclude, often , possibly, what if and the all time classic “It was like that when I got here.” (Homer Simpson).

  2. I grew up with “but” parents…Your ink drawings are beautiful but why no color? Happy you are in that art show but when will you be accepted at this one? Congratualtions on being in asked to join the club but aren’t you ignoring your family? Great you’re in the club but why aren’t you president? Church is fine but why are you so involved? Sorry you are in such pain but won’t you ruin your daughter’s wedding by using the cane to get down the aisle?

    Obviously (or maybe not?) I’m angry BUT angry is not an appropriate reaction. My family and friends are proud of me because I’m out of therapy and not on medications BUT “why do you still mention the hurt?” Great blog subject, Sana, BUT now I’m starting my day off grumpy. :-}

    I do everything I can to avoid “that word” with my kids BUT sometimes it’s really hard on my tongue!

  3. i use to love this one bu bu bu bu bu use to work in a chip shop and the bloke use to say bu bu bu bu but when ever it came to money yer he has plenty so i changed it a little to p p p poker face i loved playing that song in the shop i think what he was teying to say i dont want to spend my money but he never got that far the good old days

  4. A couple of months ago, I noticed that when my daughter and I were struggling with picking up toys, I used this construction several times over a period of weeks: “I love you, BUT I want you to pick up your blocks (figures, paints, Play-Doh, books, etc).” One day, in epiphany, I finally heard myself, my own poor word choice. An English major comes in handy sometimes, I guess. Now I am reminding myself to use “and” instead of “but.” So I say, “I love you, AND I want you to sit down for lunch please.” I think many times people mean “and” and we say “but” instead. Not sure why, except maybe we’re a little too conditioned in our language to see too many experiences as opposites or either-or. “And” is all-inclusive. “And” allows for everything to exist at one time, all possibilities. “And” is so much more open to the life of things… It is validating to see that you and Nancy are noticing the same thing about “BUT.”

  5. I once learned when you say the word “but” people will automatically erase everything that was said in the sentence prior to the word. There is a lot of truth in that!

    I loved your line, “If you want to be with your sons, than be where they are…” Great reminder of a life lesson. It is easy to get caught up in our own world. My daughters will benefit from you offering this reminder. Thank you!

    • thank you so much for reading and commenting! It feels great to resonate with you on this post. it is a soft spot for me as well and something this rich that others value too is golden! i like how u slipped in the upcoming benefit to your daughters as well ;). very nice. keep on.

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