So I was going to write something to answer all the people who wonder out loud (well, in email form, mostly) why it is that I require all clients and Kitchen Table-ers to read
Nonviolent Communication

And to sleep with it under their pillows own their own copy.

But I wasn’t planning on writing about it just yet.

Until I realized that tonight is Shavuot. And this is exactly the right time.

It’s all about the Moment. And the cheesecake.

Shavuot is a big deal for all sorts of reasons. For one thing, it’s the cheesecake holiday.*

* And even if you are me and you don’t eat cake, it’s still the yogurt and cottage cheese and blintzes holiday. Yum.

Also, there is the Tikkun Leil Shavuot which involves studying all night — and having deep, complicated discussions until the sun comes up. We kind of geek out on that stuff.

And then — I mean, really, as if cheese + nerdy scholarly fabulousness were not enough — there is a Moment.

Well, there is a tradition that there is a moment. And that’s enough for me. According to tradition, at midnight on the eve of Shavuot, the skies open. Just for this moment. And you are right there.

And it is because of this Moment that I make everyone I know read this (decidedly non-religious) text.

Midnight was approaching.

I was in a park in Berlin. The late night study group at the synagogue had been decidedly uninspired and we had run away.

Jonathan was a friend of a friend. Visiting from Canada. Armed with books. We studied and talked and debated until six in the morning.

Moving from café to café as closing time approached. (Yes, it was a somewhat secular interpretation of the holiday, but our intentions were pure).

But for midnight — for the Moment — we had to be right there. Under the stars.

And what I got from that Moment was the knowledge that all the tools I needed to heal myself and my stucknesses were coming to me.

That it was time to be more watchful because maybe I was already tripping over them.

And then I received the tool I needed the most.

As we walked and walked down Prenzlauer Allee in search of the next café, we talked about books. The kind that change lives.

And he made me promise to track down Nonviolent Communication.

He described how he and his Belgian girlfriend use the method not just as a practice but as a matter of course. How when a misunderstanding or an argument breaks out, they turn to the method and it brings them back to each other.

I promised.

And I kept my promise.

And then I resisted the tool I needed the most.

I cannot even tell you how much I would have despised this book had I been introduced to it in any other way.

Luckily, I’d already been warned about the awful, awful poetry.

Yes, it is the dairy holiday, but that doesn’t mean I like cheese in my books. Seriously. If Jonathan had not guaranteed that this book would change my life, I probably would’ve tossed it out the window.

Also, it had something that suspiciously looked like “I feel” sentences. I hate that stuff.

Feelings? FEELINGS? It reminded me of that unpleasant (and extremely unsuccessful) couples therapy session with my husband in Israel.

Pompous old man Therapist: Let’s diagram some sentences!

Me (in my head): My husband cries himself to sleep every night and you want me to diagram sentences?

He gets up in the middle of the night and goes to his mother’s. What sentences? He blames me for his depression and every day he gets more controlling about what I’m allowed to say and do so that he won’t get more depressed, but you know what’s really important?

Sentences. What’s wrong with you?!

It doesn’t matter that I was wrong.

So of course now I realize that yes, our communication was shot to hell, and that learning how to speak compassionately could have helped us.

But because the person trying to teach the whole compassion thing wasn’t practicing it on us in that moment, we weren’t able to get it.

It wasn’t the right time. It wasn’t the right approach. Not the right doorway.

What I wanted for my husband was for him to receive from therapy what I had: the ability to take personal responsibility for stuff in your life not being exactly the way you want it to be.

What my husband wanted for me was for me to be an entirely different person.

The message that “communication could help us get along” was irrelevant. Now, if I could have understood that communication would help me to finally feel heard and acknowledged and safe, maybe I would have given it a chance. Maybe.

Anyway, I read the book. And it did change my life.

It cleared up the smog.

NVC got me through the trials and tribulations of living with an obsessive-compulsive drag king diva performance artist who hated me (no, not my husband — this was a roommate. I know).

It made everything better. More bearable, somehow. And it helped me get better at communicating with myself. I’d never be able to talk to walls or negotiate with monsters without it.

When I met my gentleman friend, and it seemed like he might end up being my gentleman friend, I tried to scare him off.

I told him that the only way I would be willing to consider getting involved was if he agreed to practice NVC with me.

The next thing I knew, he was immersed in the book.

When one of us is feeling tense, the other one pulls us back to the practice. No matter how upset I am, NVC helps me realize that what’s actually going on.

That his hurt and worried stuff has set off my hurt and worried stuff. And it brings us back to each other.

It brings us back to ourselves.

Consider yourself warned.

It has unbelievably cheesy poetry that will hurt your brain to read. Skip those parts.

You’ll start to wish everyone you knew had access to these tools.

You’ll be kinder to yourself. You’ll be more patient with others. You’ll find yourself drawn to a more mindful way of doing things, but not out of obligation or responsibility or anything.

More because it’s just a natural extension of what you’re doing already.

If you use Nonviolent Communication to change your language (and Dance of Shiva to change your brain), leading a grounded, intentional, relatively happy life gets way, way easier. I truly believe that. I’ve seen it happen a hundred times.

Anyway, that’s the long story version of why I have crazy prerequisites for working with me and taking my courses.

It’s not because I’m mean. It’s because my sincere wish for you is for you to be able to feel heard, acknowledged and safe whenever you need to. For you to have that kind of connection with yourself and the world around you.

And because sometimes a little cheese is appropriate. And because I want you to have a Moment under the stars too.

The Fluent Self