The Life You Want, But Can’t Have (oh, but maybe you can …)

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“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” Joseph Campbell

I doubt I’d remember my dog being hit by a car since I was only three except I heard the story dozens of times. I think Mom repeated it to prove her point about being cautious with hope. The afternoon my uncle brought the puppy home, I played with her on the front lawn until she darted into the road. I have no recollection of the scene, just that Mom said I cried for days and she told Uncle Jimmy, “I told you not to get her a dog.”

Mom didn’t mean to relay messages like, “You can’t have what you want.”

Dad didn’t either when he frequently said, “Don’t get your hopes up.”

They meant their warnings to shield me from disappointment, just like when I’ve said similar things to my children. Instead of feeling protected, I thought they were saying I shouldn’t hope for anything and, even worse, I wasn’t worthy of what I hoped for. 

Mom told me about problems she had getting pregnant when I let her know John and I were trying for our first child. She was afraid I’d have trouble conceiving also.

Dad cried when I told him we were selling our home of 18 years to buy my dream house, a fixer upper on a corner lot with hanging live oaks and more work than he thought we could handle. He asked, “Why can’t you be satisfied with this house?”

They both expressed disappointment the day I quit my job to venture into business for myself. Mom said, “I don’t understand why you’d leave teaching. It’s a good profession.”

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Thankfully, the life I somberly planned (in light of giving up hope) wasn’t the one waiting for me.

The life waiting for me included a son and a daughter who are starting their own families.

The life waiting for me included years of renovations on our nearly century-old fixer upper that led to opening a home improvement business and landing an article about the house in This Old House magazine.

The life waiting for me included a few false starts like owning a cleaning service and working as a professional organizer, but it also included my calling to write.

Oh my goodness, how difficult it’s been for someone like me (fearful, doubtful, and cautioned against hope) to accept God’s goodness, believe I’m worthy, and hope for more.

A couple of weeks ago, I set up an appointment with a real estate agent to look at a house. I let her know upfront we weren’t in the market for buying and even if we were, we’d have to sell our house first. We were looking “just for fun.” I didn’t want to get her hopes up. I wasn’t very convincing when I stepped into the living area and said, “I want this house.”

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I’m (still) a little afraid I’m not supposed to get what I hope for, but we put a For Sale sign in front of our house anyway.

What are you afraid to hope for? Can you believe along with me that it’s okay to have the life that is waiting for you?

#GettingYourOwnLife #GettingtheLifeThatisWaitingforYou

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks for the photos, Pixabay.com. What a beneficial service you’re offering to artists everywhere.

Hope For the Unheard

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“It is not distance that keeps people apart, but lack of communication.” Unknown

Here’s the post I didn’t write last week, but meant to. It’s the one about our communication that hasn’t taken place … for three years. I started not to write it this week either, except a friend commented on last week’s post, “Sometimes, even when you say it, it’s not understood.”

I understood all too well. I also knew I needed to tell the story I’d avoided telling.

Three years of communication that hasn’t taken place in our family, even during joyous occasions, convinced me to make the same daunting decision I made as a child, “I can’t keep loving my family like this. It hurts too much.”

I was eight years old when I decided the first time around to stop loving my family. Mom cried all afternoon like she did many afternoons, probably because of communication that hadn’t taken place with Dad. I was too young to figure her out, so I decided she cried because of me. I worried and asked questions, which made me a likely scapegoat. They reprimanded me instead of talking to each other.

That evening I left a dime and two nickels on their bedroom dresser. Underneath the money, I put a note with a heart in red crayon and words in blue that said, “I’m sorry. I love you.”

They never mentioned it and neither did I. I figured it’d be easier to stop feeling than try to talk.

After our grandson’s recent first birthday party, our granddaughter, Claire, tried on a dress I bought her. She slid her hands down the silk material and ran off. She came back with 32 cents, stared at me for a few seconds, and said, “This is for you, Mammy.”

I cried telling my husband and daughter the story. It was different from my story, but somehow healing.

What’s happened the last three years with our daughter?

Claire will be three in July. I wrote a blog post three years ago about being afraid to have a granddaughter, “Girls Aren’t Safe Here.”

Emotions flooded Kelly’s and my relationship with the news we were adding a girl to our family, emotions that neither of us expected or knew how to handle. Craft days intermingle with cry days. We dress up and melt down. We hug, tear up watching Claire love us, laugh hard, but don’t talk for days because something hurt. Something scared us. We talked some during the three years, but stopped when it got too complicated.

Kelly announced at Claire’s first birthday party she was pregnant with our second grandchild. Our grandson, Wyatt, arrived into a calmer world than Claire, but still too much communication hasn’t taken place.

What’s happened the last three years with our son?

Not too long after Kelly’s announcement, our son announced he’d proposed to the love of his life. They married one year ago in May. He moved her to Oklahoma (I sobbed when they pulled out of their driveway in a U-Haul truck) and then to New York. Courting, proposing, working, moving twice, and marrying took up their time.

Distance and distractions, dislike of talking on the phone, and determining how to talk these days as opposed to how he and I used to talk has built up to communication that hasn’t taken place.

What’s happened the last three years with us?

Hannah, our basset hound/terrier mix, joined our family a couple of months before Kelly found out she was pregnant with Claire. The day after we adopted Hannah, our vet told us she needed surgery to repair two fractured hips or we could return her to the shelter.

While at our daughter’s house the day after finding out we were going to be grandparents, Hannah peed on one of their dog pillows. John spanked her. He didn’t hurt her, but I panicked because it hadn’t been long since her surgery. “I hope you don’t react the same way with our grandchildren,” I said.

I apologized and tried to explain. It’d been an emotional few weeks with Hannah and, although exciting, an equally emotional weekend finding out baby news. It wasn’t my accusation, but our five-hour argument on the way home from our daughter’s that caused a three-year rift. Our disagreement escalated the more I tried to explain why I got afraid when John reacted like he did that evening with our dog.

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“I’m so disappointed we fought like that,” he said.

“I am too, but it’s evidence of how much we need to talk and be heard,” I said.

“Why’d we have to fight for five hours?” he said.

“At least we know what we need to work on, our communication,” I said.

“It’s been so long since we’ve gone at it and for that long,” he said.

Our cyclical banter went on for six months until it was evident he couldn’t hear me, so I quit talking. I set out to stay in our marriage without being part of it. For the first time, I positioned “getting my own life” above my family and not because I wanted to write more than anything, but because I hurt more than ever. All of the change, loss, and loneliness felt too big to fix, especially since no one was communicating.

It was the second time I decided, “I can’t keep loving my family like this. It hurts too much.”

Our daughter asked if everything was okay. She wanted our family healed by Claire’s arrival. We put a band-aid on the problem, but communication still hadn’t taken place.

Fifty Years Later …  

It’s been fifty years since I tried to stop loving Dad and Mom; three since I tried the same with John and our kids. I’m happy neither one took.

I mentioned in the last post, it’s the person in the most pain who has to change. It took three years, but I’m finally speaking up and with firmness instead of an attitude of “fight or flight,” which makes me easier to hear and I believe more deserving to be heard. Since I can’t afford to not be heard anymore, I don’t stop talking until the knot in my stomach untangles.

Even though John figured I’d been heard about “the dog argument” since I brought it up 1,001 times (over the course of three years, mind you), I brought it up one and two and three more times because no matter what he thought, I didn’t feel heard. John said, “Then talk about it one more time. I’ll be quiet and listen.”

He did. I went through half a box of Kleenex in an hour.

I told him how I’d had trouble sleeping for at least two years because at night I’d lay in bed and try to figure out how I could get over needing to talk so I could stay with him. I told him about my fear of God who didn’t intercede no matter how much I prayed, journaled, and begged. But I also told him why I believed God left me alone, “I think God knew if I could get a little relief from my pain, I’d never get out of the way and let y’all figure out your own lives, but it seems he could have come up with a gentler plan.”

I told John I shut down because the kids were living their lives, but he and I weren’t living ours. I told him I felt alone because they were gone and he wasn’t showing up. He asked, “What does showing up look like to you?”

“Showing up means you let me talk and you listen. It looks like you holding me and hearing me even when I say things you don’t like and things you don’t want to hear,” I said.

He held me and he listened. Interactions like these let us know communication is taking place. It happens more often when we’re willing to stop fighting, stop “flighting” (flying out of rooms and slamming doors), and begin talking about how we feel.

Our hope is this blog post encourages you toward talking and hearing. We’d love to hear from you.

#GettingYourOwnLife #whileLovingthePeopleinIt

In This Together,
Kim

Thank you for permission to use your artwork (the woman), Kelly Rae Roberts. Beautiful, as always. Thanks to Pixabay.com for the spiral stairs.

Side note: Readers have asked if John minds my blog posts. We’re grateful for your concern and I probably should have already mentioned this. I never publish a blog post that John hasn’t first read and edited. He even adds things about himself when he thinks it may be relatable and helpful. We’re wholeheartedly “in this together.”:)

 

Can You Hear Me Now?

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“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw

On our way home from church Sunday afternoon, John asked where I wanted to eat. We were close by a cafeteria we used to frequent, so I mentioned stopping by to see if the place looked clean and the food fresh.

John named a few places as we passed by, but they were closed. He asked a second time where I wanted to eat. I again mentioned the cafeteria. He tried to turn into an Italian restaurant, but he couldn’t get over in traffic. The third time he asked where I wanted to eat, I named the cafeteria … again.

“We’re going to the cafeteria. I’ve ignored you three times, but I’m not doing it a fourth time,” he said.

Fifteen years ago was our first documented (by me) case of communication that hadn’t taken place. We stayed with our children at a motel in the mountains. Neither of us remembers the name of the place, just that it had bright pink floats drifting in the pool. We planned to head to a new town the following day. When John asked where I wanted to spend the next night, I said, “I’d love to stay here and enjoy another day of the pool.”

An hour later, he asked again where I wanted to spend the next night. He didn’t want to stay at the “pink float motel” because he thought the room was pricey, but he didn’t communicate that.

“I don’t care. Wherever you want to stay is fine with me,” I said.

“I wish instead of always saying you don’t care, you’d help decide sometimes,” he said.

My head snapped and so did my voice.

“I told you where I wanted to stay tonight,” I said.

We splashed around the next day in the pool. John hearing me doesn’t mean I always get my way, but it does mean I get it sometimes.

I reflected on why I didn’t learn from our pool experience. My guess is it’s because I’ve not felt worthy of having my way unless it agrees with others.

John, on the other hand, was used to getting his way. It worked to his advantage (in a way) that confrontation made me as uncomfortable as did pushing for what I wanted.

He says he turned into a “steamroller.” We can mostly laugh about him steaming ahead and me getting steamed up. My outbursts seemed to come out of nowhere, but actually they were from communication that hadn’t taken place.

I’ve mentioned before about blaming John for this sort of thing. I thought, He could change. He could care enough to take care of me. He could be attentive and listen.

He said I could change, I could take care of myself, and I could speak up.

We were both right. We could have done those things, but we didn’t. Anyhow, we came by it honest, our communication that hadn’t taken place.

How’d I expect him to show up in shining armor when he fought hard not to hear anything that remotely sounded like criticism?

How’d I expect to show up belting out Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” when all I knew was giving into others so they’d love me?

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I wanted John to do the changing because I convinced myself (and tried to convince him) it would be easier for him to hear me than it would be for me to speak up. I waited until it was painfully obvious what a counselor said, “The person in the most pain is the one who has to change.”

As rational as it sounded, I ignored her advice and pitched big fits to be heard. The impasse, no matter how unfair or maddening, is that when something’s “working” for a person, like John getting his way, they are not likely to give it up without a fit of their own. Of course, communication that hadn’t taken place wasn’t actually working for him or our marriage, but he was in less pain, so, at least in the beginning, being heard was mine to change.

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Here are three tips John and I practice to assure communication has taken place now:

  • We make “I” statements like “I feel (insert a feeling) when you (insert what the person did that made you feel that way).” Here’s an example, “I feel frustrated when I don’t think you’ve heard me.”

If you’re rolling your eyes, I understand. I paid a lot of money early on in our marriage to practice these statements in front of a counselor, knowing that when I got home, there was no way I was telling John how I felt unless he asked. It was easier, even though not beneficial, to talk about each other and that’s what we did for a long time.

  • We stop droning on for hours about the progress we want to make (for example, “I want us to learn to get along and talk and listen and enjoy each other’s company and have fun and travel and get together with friends and … ) and we stop provoking to the point that one of us flies out of the room and slams a door (for example, “There you go again talking about how bad things are … ”). When we give into these sorts of distractions and reactions, we’re doomed to patterns like numbing out, blaming each other, nurturing resentments, and lapsing into despair.

Instead of droning and provoking, we ask, “Do you mind being quiet for a few minutes and letting me talk?” or, because fear has a big influence on poor communication, we ask, “What are you afraid of?”

  • We get in touch with how we feel. As simplistic as this sounds, I grappled with the complexity of emotions when a family member said she thought I was angry, but then recognized I was fearful. I seldom felt angry, but I acted like it. It’s challenging to identify our feelings, as well as emotional to share them with those closest to us because, although we care about each other, we also hurt each other.

I hope you “heard” something helpful in this post that will help you be heard. If you have tips of your own, we’d love for you to share them in the comments.

In This Together,
Kim

Listening to Understand

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“The biggest problem with communication is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.” Unknown

A couple of blog posts ago, I shared inside one of our arguments titled, I’m Posting on Friday Because … This week I’m sharing more about communication between John and me. I wouldn’t put much of this in writing if I thought we were just one couple in a few. We’re not. I’ve talked to enough friends to know there are a lot of us out there who have difficulty talking with our spouses.

John and I grew up in families who didn’t communicate except to yell and throw things or be quiet and fume. Families like ours also didn’t talk about feelings unless we were having a scene. Even though John and I were teetotalers raising our kids, we lived by at least two of three rules in alcoholic families:

1) Don’t talk
2) Don’t feel
3) Don’t trust.

Living by these rules didn’t mean we didn’t talk and feel. It meant we talked about others instead of ourselves. It meant we didn’t get in touch with our real feelings. We’d sulk when we wanted attention, we’d get quiet when we had a lot to say, and we would fly off the handle when we were scared. We’d eat a row of Oreos to numb out or practice some other destructive habit instead of dealing with our emotions.

John’s family yelled, so he wanted our home to be quiet. My family fumed, so I wanted us to talk. John thought being quiet would fix everything or at least it’d keep him from having to hear what he did wrong. I thought talking would heal us even though I had no idea what I was feeling or how to talk about it, so I talked about him and what I thought he should fix.

John got quieter. I got louder.

He wasn’t talking at all by the time I was yelling and it was mostly about why he wasn’t talking. He was quiet in hopes that I would be too. I talked because I didn’t know what else to do. We lived this way for a lot of years, which wasn’t as bad as it sounds because we had kids and parents to distract us from each other and our issues.

A conversation with our son served as one wakeup call about our lack of communication. He said, “Why would I want children of my own when it’s been so hard on you?”

I thought, Oh my gosh, you and your sister have been the JOY in my life, not the hard part.

I said something like that to him while trying to settle down from our exchange. John and I were three decades into our mess and at least one of our kids thought he was the problem, just like I thought with my parents. And it wasn’t true of him or of me.

My family of origin talked a lot less than John and I talked, although he and I were 30 years into the same conversation – one that we had over and over and to no avail.

“I don’t want to talk anymore about what’s wrong. I just want us to learn how to get along and have fun,” John said four million times.

“I wish you’d listen and hear what I’m really saying. That’d probably help with all the ‘getting along’ you keep talking about,” I said for the four million and oneth time.

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John’s wanted to skip through fields of daisies instead of dredge up anything unpleasant. I’ve wanted to dig to the bottom of our pain because we’re both in it. Communication’s the answer, but we didn’t know how to do it. We didn’t have examples to follow, so we’ve fought our way to it. 

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I’ve been scared and scary and I’ve screamed a lot. I’ve been depressed and quiet. I’ve faced demons of living in silence as a kid, then trying to do it again as an adult even though I’ve known I needed to talk. I’ve talked in the wrong ways and about someone else because it’s scary to talk about myself and what’s going on with me, but I’ve learned to talk anyway and, yes, about myself and what’s going on with me.

John’s faced demons of living with a mom in a lot of pain and now a wife who is also, and both of us very noisy about it. We told him what’s wrong with us and what’s wrong with him and what’s wrong with everyone around us. He’s hidden out from all of it, but if he’s going daisy skipping, he has figured out he has to show up sometimes to listen and to talk.

Fast forward to this week and keep in mind change takes time. I’ve been sick for weeks, which I believe is the result of not being heard for years. Our unattended emotions wreak havoc on our health. Writing on my blog about our lack of communication, talking honestly and free of judgment with a friend, and recognizing what it’s cost us and our family when we haven’t felt worthy of being heard have made me sick and tired and ready for change.

This week, John and I talked twice about our pain. Neither time did it have much to do with each other. We talked about things we think about and what we’re afraid of and how confused we get when we don’t talk and listen to each other. I cried a couple of hours, and then felt really relaxed – a first after one of our discussions. John went to bed exhausted (not a first), but knowing he listened the right way … to understand, not to reply.

We made headway in #GettingYourOwnLife #whileLovingthePeopleinIt.

In This Together,
Kim

An early blog post brought to you by Claire’s upcoming visit. Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com.

Next week, I’ll blog about George Bernard Shaw’s quote, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

 

What Happened That Was So Bad?

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“The real violence, the violence I realized that is unforgivable, is the violence we do to ourselves when we’re too afraid to be who we really are.” Unknown

While a friend and I talked about depression, she asked about my past and said, “What happened that was so bad?”

Although whining and blaming are unattractive, I didn’t mind a chance to tell my sad story. I launched about details I had never told her. Fortunately for you, I won’t share all of it here.

Emotional, religious, and sexual abuse contributed to what happened that was so bad. I knew better than to talk about my abuse with my parents because it wasn’t as bad as what Mom had been through, so I tried to help fix hers. The more I encouraged her to let go of her past and live happily ever after, the more strained our relationship became. She wanted sympathy, not solutions, but I needed her fixed.

My parents being unavailable and unpredictable contributed to what happened that was so bad. Dad spent nine months out of the year at the beach, running the family business. Mom either numbed out at home or couldn’t handle her emotions. I lived under threats like this one when I didn’t act like she wanted me to, “You’re lucky I didn’t do anything to hurt myself.”

Living around mental illness contributed to what happened that was so bad. Before Dad left for Vietnam, he moved Mom, my younger brother, and me in with my great aunt who raised Mom and her siblings. After Dad returned home and retired from the Air Force, we stayed put. It wasn’t long before my mom’s brother moved in with us. He walked around in stained t-shirts and with his pants unzipped, burned carpet and furniture with his cigarettes, and made sexual overtures that Mom ignored until he’d get so out of hand she’d temporarily commit him to mental institutions around the state.

I thought a sympathetic ear about my past would be comforting, but the more woes I shared, the worse I felt. What happened that was so bad was not about what someone else had done to me, but what I was still doing to myself. My family was long gone, but I still lived and talked about their crazy legacy.

Vivi, the alcoholic mother in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, describes it best in a conversation with her daughter’s fiancé. She said, “I know she blames me. Of course she does, just like I blame my mother. I didn’t screw up her life any more than my mother screwed up mine. She almost did. But all the real long-term damage … I did to myself.”

So, what really happened that was so bad?

  • I repeated my past by setting out to fix my husband and my children just like I tried to fix Mom. Even when a friend said, “Your family will get better when you get better,” I kept focusing on them. I felt overwhelmed (and still do sometimes) by focusing on/fixing myself and living my own life.
  • I doubted my decisions and myself all along. Self-doubt makes it hard to stand behind my commitments, as well as hard to enforce boundaries I’ve tried to set. Self-doubt makes taking care of myself almost impossible. I give in and give up instead of standing up for what I want.
  • I self-destructed because whining, being lazy, and blaming others come easier than practicing a healthy routine. I eat too much chocolate, stay up too late, and overlook opportunities to live a sensible and happy life. I defer to fear if things get hard. I’d rather wallow around with a problem than research a manuscript. It takes a lot of work to get well. It means #GettingYourOwnLife.

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I acknowledge the power of messy pasts and the power of destructive family patterns. I also acknowledge how powerful it is to take responsibility for what we’re doing to ourselves and to make a decision to do something different. I hope you’ll join the Conversation and the Change.

In This Together,
Kim

Thank you for the swamp photo, Joel Carter. It looks as desolate as my life felt for a while.

Thank you, Rhonda Hensley @ Inspiration Images and Media, for the photo of balloons. They represent change.

I’m Posting on Friday Because … (inside one of our arguments)

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“The aim of an argument, or of a discussion, should not be victory, but progress.” Joseph Joubert

I’ve seldom let anyone inside one of our arguments. They are too painful even if we say it’s about hair, which this one was. Of course, hair is not what escalates the argument and it’s not what causes the pain. The argument and the pain escalate because of the never-ending cycle of being unheard, which is how I feel, and misunderstood, which is how John feels.

I’ve listened to enough friends talk about arguments with their spouses to know we’re having some of the same ones and with the same undercurrents. Dissecting one of ours may help all of us improve how we deal with conflict.

Background Information

For a decade, I’ve cut my own hair. I shaved the back and sides with clippers and used scissors to style the front. In the fall, I decided I wanted a little length on my hair since it’s graying. I reconnected with my hairdresser from 10 years back. It took until two months ago to settle on a style I really love. She shaves the back and sides and blends in the longer hair on top. It grows fast, so it only takes days for it to look shaped instead of shaved.

What Happened At Home

 John and I planned to go to dinner the same evening as my perfect haircut. I showered, styled my hair, and was ready to go when he came through the backdoor. Instead of saying what I hoped for, “You look great. I love your hair,” he just stared at me, then put down his keys and wallet.

“Why aren’t you saying anything about my hair? Don’t you like it?” I said.

“Oh, I like it, but …” and here’s where it usually turns out that he’s misunderstood and I’m not heard.

Here is what he said, “Oh, I like it, but did you want it that short? I thought you were growing it out.”

I thought, All these years I’ve worn my hair much shorter and he’s calling this short? I guess he really hated it back then.

What He Said

Instead of offering reassurance that he liked my hair, which is what I wanted, he argued …

“I didn’t want to come home to this.”

“And I didn’t want to talk about your hair. I wanted to go to dinner and have a good time. I think your hair looks fine.”

“Anyhow, why are you making a big deal over your hair now? You’ve worn it a lot shorter and I didn’t care, so why would I say anything now?”

What I Heard

“I don’t care about you or your hair. I wish you’d shut up about all of it.”

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The Undercurrent

Since John prefers to ignore conversations that are unpleasant and I prefer to let him have his way, we both contributed to where we ended up this week.

Sometimes it seems less painful to halt communication. It doesn’t fix anything to ignore what’s seething below the surface, but it does keep us from having to talk about what hurts.

So, instead of healing, we’ve lived for two months with thoughts like I hope she doesn’t bring up her hair again and He hates my hair.

 

 

How To Fix It

First, let me tell you what won’t fix it. I used to tell John what he did wrong, instead of telling him how I felt. Every sentence out of my mouth started with “you.” I had no intention of telling the “enemy,” which is how I’ve labeled him when we’ve fought, anything as intimate as my emotions.

What does fix it is talking about my feelings. The more I share about how I feel, the easier it is to share and even show some emotion. That’s a lot of progress for me since I used to hate crying in front of anyone, especially John.

John concedes he wants to stop his habit since childhood of arguing and defending himself. He wants to get in touch with how he genuinely feels instead of giving into feeling sorry for himself because he thinks it’s unfair that I heard something he didn’t say. He said, “I want to learn to listen to why your feelings are hurt even if I didn’t mean to hurt them. And then I want to talk about how I feel.”

As uncomfortable as it is sometimes, when we talk about our own feelings instead of telling how the other person hurt us, we end up seeing the pain we’re causing each other. These conversations help move us toward what we pray for each night – that we are saner and softer.

What This Has To Do With A Friday Blog Post

I was in bed all day on Thursday, the day I usually post.

I got my hair cut this week. Since we had not resolved “what he said, what I heard” from two months ago, I made myself sick. Louise Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life, includes a chart of physical ailments along with their emotional counterparts. I’ve lived by this book for 15 years to keep from getting sick or to figure out why I am. I suffered for 24 hours with a fever (she says it indicates anger), chills (a desire to retreat), aches (longing to be held), and a cough (barking “listen to me”). Yep, every symptom I had fit every emotion I felt.

My day in bed was the culmination of our marriage-long pattern …

I think if John doesn’t want to hear what I have to say, I don’t have the right to say it.

This pattern has nearly ended our relationship. It’s made me sick more times than I’ve realized until now. It’s kept us from feeling emotionally safe and emotionally free. And this week, it’s ruined my Fitbit placement. In other words, this argument was a big deal. And it had nothing to do with my hair.

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I hope untangling our latest argument helps some of you since the first step to changing lifelong patterns is understanding them. The second step is sharing what’s going on with safe people who can help. (Thank you, Jenine, for being safe, loving, and supportive. Thank you to my readers for offering the same. I hope you’ll feel free to share here if you need a place to tell what’s going on.) The third is actually making the changes.

John apologized yesterday afternoon for being hard to talk to and I apologized for not talking anyway. To make up for it, he’s taking my Fitbit to work with him and racking up some steps.

 

In This Together,
Kim

On the side: Joel Carter, I can’t thank you enough for allowing me to use your photography and for brightening Facebook daily with your talent.

A Pot of Gold at the End of Envy

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“Negative emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they’re big, flashing signs that something needs to change.” Gretchen Rubin

I don’t often mess with envy since reading an article about Reverend Ike, a minister known for his controversial prosperity theory. He was a poor preacher in the city of New York when he figured out to “recognize and rejoice in prosperity.” He’d see a well-dressed person and instead of envying him, he’d say, “Isn’t it wonderful he has so much abundance?”

I don’t remember much else about Reverend Ike except his happiness for others who had more that he had. Hearing his story inspired me to practice the same because envy negates things like “getting your own life while loving the people in it.”

It’s been years now and I’ve rejoiced with a friend whose addiction blog post received tens of thousands of readers, a friend whose article landed her on a radio show, and several friends who’ve signed book deals.

What is funny about this?   

It’s funny (in that laugh-at-myself-later kind of way) how we get caught off-guard and suffer momentary amnesia.

As hard as I tried to concentrate on writing a blog post, I kept getting distracted by notifications popping up on my screen. Friends liked, commented on, and shared a blog post (about expectations in relationships) I posted earlier in the evening on my Facebook page. I stopped writing my post and reread the one I shared by Derek Harvey, “The Silent Killer of Relationships.”

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What ENVY looks like. 

I thought, I could have written that, which rings true like thinking I could have jotted down Gone With The Wind. I can’t write someone else’s story, but that evening I wished I had because of its popularity.

I left Derek’s blog and looked him up on Facebook. I didn’t mean to be searching for something I didn’t like about him, but, truth be told, I wanted to uncover an egotistical writer so I’d get over my own ego and get back to my own writing. Instead, I stumbled on a young man who loves God and his wife, who affectionately calls her “babe” and “love”, and who shows off his sweet-faced little girl reminding me of my granddaughter.

He’s hard to dislike, for sure, but I was on a roll paying homage to green while St. Patrick rolled in his grave.

What I noticed.

It wasn’t until I revisited Derek’s blog that I noticed …

Even though his other dozen or so posts were equally praiseworthy, especially the one acknowledging his dad, the only comments he had received to date were on “The Silent Killer of Relationships.” He began his blog on September 30. By January, he posted more often. The “magic” of a viral blog post happened early on for him and out of the blue (that’s what we sometimes call God’s influence). It wasn’t because he built a platform, wrote consistently, and promoted himself on others’ blogs, not that there’s anything wrong with these things. But his magic happened …

Because he wrote a well-written, genuine, and relatable story.

Because he wants to help others.

Because it’s his time.

And because he wasn’t wallowing in envy about someone else’s blog post.

That last one’s a guess. I don’t know for sure.

If I’d kept up my jaunt with jealousy and my determination to figure out something wrong with him, I likely would have disregarded Derek’s talent, as well as his humility about it, his wife’s excitement for him, and anything else good that comes from moments like these.

He wrote on Facebook the day after his post went viral, “So apparently expectations in relationships is a hot topic … who knew!”

His wife wrote, “So incredibly proud of Derek Harvey. And the world should know it!”

The day after these Facebook updates, Derek announced, “Well friends … as of today, my recent blog post has seen over ONE MILLION VISITORS … and counting! Thanks to everyone who shared! It’s being seen all over the world and my hope is that it’s making an impact and a difference in people’s lives. Thanks for being a part!”

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I let him know I was one of the people who shared. I deserved recognition for passing along his story, especially considering the envy I put myself through. He can take credit for reminding me “my hope is that it’s making an impact and a difference in people’s lives.”

I almost forgot why I shared his post. I almost forgot why I was writing my own.

What I’ve been reminded of since Saturday when I shared Derek’s blog post …

  • I’m happiest and most productive when I focus on my work and celebrate others and their accomplishments.#GettingYourOwnLife #LovingThePeopleInIt
  • Something good, like a viral blog post, could be around the corner, but I lose sight of good and significant things when I’m comparing.
  • The worst way to take care of myself is by searching for what is wrong with someone else.
  • Envy distracts me from getting my own life, which includes writing blog posts.
  • What feels like God overlooking me is more likely Him overseeing my spirituality.
  • I write not for likes and comments and shares (although I appreciate each one), but to make an impact and a difference like Derek mentioned, and because I love you.
  • I don’t look good in Green. #IwantaMillionVisitors

When Derek committed to helping others by way of his blog, this kind of list probably wasn’t on his radar. Sometimes we help each other in the weirdest ways. I hope this somehow helps you … weird or otherwise.

Happy Green Day! Keep it envy-free.

In this Together,
Kim

Images by Pixabay.com and Derek Harvey

Isolated or Insulated (living safe with people)

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“I feel safer keeping a space, a gentle breeze between me and people, a buffer I like to think of as God.” S. Kim Henson

When John accused me of isolating, he mixed up his words and instead said, “It concerns me how much you’re insulating yourself from others.”

“I know you don’t mean that as a good thing, but insulating to me sounds like a safe haven,” I said.

Ever since that evening, when I catch myself staying at home more often and staying away from people a little more, I say, “Here I go insulating again.”

And it’s okay. I’ve accepted and figured out ways to deal with being afraid of people, especially ones who know how I should live.

We all judge, but there are variations of judgment. Some are good judgments and some are bad. Some are accurate and some inaccurate. Some seem fairer and more reasonable than others.

Some friends judge in negative ways and know they shouldn’t. I’ve done it myself and way too many times. We know we don’t really know how others should live.

Some judge and know they’re right. These friends scare me.

When I detached from my family of origin, a friend confronted me in a restaurant about my decision. One of my mom’s friends confronted me from behind the register at a gift shop. I put my purchase back on the glass shelf and walked out. A local reader of my blog sent an email warning me I should visit my mom or I’d regret it. None of these townspeople knew much, if anything, about my family’s dysfunction, disorders, and secrets, yet they judged.

When I couldn’t be there for a friend who lost her son, I wrote a blog post about doing the best I could, which meant showing up at a distance. The post, Compassion, aroused a judgmental response that said I should have been there for her. I chose not to share it in the comment section.

I could write on and on about how afraid I’ve been of people this election year. Their fierceness behind knowing they are right scares me and stirs up feelings of being judged, feelings that my choice of a candidate couldn’t possibly be right if it’s not the same as their choice.

While writing this and thinking about how I’ve vacillated between isolating and insulating, I looked up the two words. They showed up as synonyms in a couple of online resources, but I have no idea why. They feel very different when I’m living them.

Here are definitions that resonated and made the most sense for this post.

Isolate – having minimal contact or little in common with others.
Synonyms: solitary, lonely, companionless, friendless; secluded, cloistered, segregated, unsociable, reclusive, hermitic, lonesome, cutoff

Insulate – protect by interposing material that prevents the loss of heat or the intrusion of sound.
Synonyms: wrap, sheathe, cover, coat, encase, enclose, envelop; heatproof, soundproof; pad, cushion

I’ve isolated so people wouldn’t find out how afraid I was of them and how afraid I’ve been of just about everything. I figured I didn’t have anything to lose by putting up walls and a façade.

I was wrong because I lost myself.

By never letting anyone know me, I shut myself off from everyone including John and our two adult children. I remember our son’s bewildered face the evening at our mountain house when he questioned some of my choices, like no longer exercising and staying on Facebook for hours at a time. I admitted I was depressed. He had no idea and neither did our daughter.

John helped me distinguish between isolation and insulation, even if by accident.

blog empty roomI no longer want to isolate and keep people at a far off distance. It’s depressing to be solitary and secretive.

Insulation, on the other hand, has turned out to be the gift of learning to live among people and letting them know who I am. It’s the gift of blogging again.

 At the same time that I’m showing up, I also keep a space between us – a gentle breeze, a buffer I like to think of as God – so I can make my own judgments, as well as accepting others’ conclusions whether I agree with them or not.

It’d be helpful to hear ways you’ve taken care of yourself while living among and loving family, friends, and the not so friendly.

In this Together,
Kim

On the side: I’m learning from Summer Turner’s pilot program, Move Forward from INSIDE Your Comfort Zone, about how introversion has influenced my life, which in turn influenced this blog post. I’ll share more information and links when she launches her online course.

From Our Knees (coming around to prayer)

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“When the stakes are high bow down low.” Beth Moore

It’s been two years since John and I bent down at the end of our bed and said our first prayer together. I mean, we prayed at church and sometimes before meals, but this was our first joint appeal to God.

We couldn’t be more different in so many ways.

He’s an early bird and I’m a night owl, so we pray before he goes to bed and before I get on Facebook. He appreciates ritualistic prayers from his Catholic upbringing. I’m used to long prayers that end in a Baptist altar call. He likes high church. I like dancing and clapping with the church band.

One thing we have agreed on, though, is our prayer lives are personal and praying together is not our thing. We justified our commitment with Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

I guess opening the door and praying together was our “reward” as much as it didn’t feel like one in the beginning. However, we were both desperate to find a way to stop our cyclical arguments.

Prayer worked. We stopped arguing about resentment and hurt feelings and started arguing about prayer. At least from our knees, the scenery changed.

We argued because I thought John should approach me when it was time for our nightly prayers. He thought I should remind him.

The Bible and I said he should act as the spiritual head of our prayer time. He said he didn’t know what to pray.

I decided we should pray on our knees. He said praying anywhere suited God.

Then came the night when John prayed a long prayer and I finally said “Amen” –something he’d done years ago to one of my longwinded friends. We buried our faces into the bed we were laughing so hard. He did the same thing to me the evening I prayed a long list of things about which I felt anxious. I did it back to him when he said, “Thank you, God, …” for the hundredth time. I said, “Thank you, God, he’s finished.”

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We started holding hands during our prayer time except the night after an argument when I closed my eyes fast and acted like I didn’t see him reach out. Next time I tried that, he prayed, “God, please help Kim hold my hand.”

When I acted like a nut, he prayed, “Please make her saner.”

When he acted like a jerk (his choice of the word, not mine), I prayed, “Please make him softer.”

Those two prayers stuck, so every night he says, “Make her saner” and I say, “Make him softer.”

I am saner.
I’ve cried less in the last two years than the rest of our marriage.
I talk less.
I list fewer things that bother me.

John is softer.
He’s cried more in the last two years than during the rest of our marriage.
He talks more.
He tells me things that bother him.

I told you we are different. The opposite of what made me saner is what made him softer. No wonder we can’t make sense of life, but God does when we’re a little willing to do our part. And we were only “a little willing.”

We’re healing and I like to think God is amused and pleased.

We would enjoy hearing your prayer stories whether you’re praying alone or with someone.

I’ll be away from my blog until Monday. I’m babysitting grandkids. I hope to talk more about prayer after the weekend and after a nap.

In this Together,
Kim

Extra reading: “When Two Pray” from Focus on the Family

Photos from Pixabay.

 

 

You Complete Me (or maybe not …)

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“Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction.” Antoine De Saint-Exupery

For a man to complete me, he’d have to weigh a ton, which reminds me of Sawyer Brown’s song, 800 Pound Jesus. Prince Charming couldn’t come close. Neither could a knight on his white horse. My husband, John, hasn’t stood a chance either.

My stomach knots up when I hear, “He completes me.” I’ve joked about it, but the reality is I hated that John didn’t complete me and I hated that I wanted him to. I hated groveling for my parents’ approval and the admiration of my kids. I didn’t want it to matter how many friends I had, but it did. And while friends were a number to rack up, I didn’t have many. I felt incomplete when I’d scan a room to see if men besides my husband noticed me.

I thought, I wouldn’t be like this if John would …

I didn’t give up, either. I worked more than 30 years to straighten out him and our marriage – to help him be who I thought I needed. All of this trying came with some screaming and lots of tears.

I suggested self-help books, counselors, and marriage retreats.

I emailed him quotes about attitude and growing up and taking responsibility. I forwarded articles with helpful husband tips.

I pointed out examples of couples (with a focus on the man) who I thought we should emulate. Most of these couples are no longer together.

Instead of helping, I hurt us by insisting John do something impossible … complete me.

I haven’t been easy to handle since feeling incomplete manifested as anxiety, dissatisfaction, and depression. I made marriage messier the more I insisted holy matrimony had something to do with filling the hole in my spirit. I mixed up my husband’s purpose with that of the Holy Spirit. I’d throw fits because God felt far away and John was standing right in front of me, so why didn’t he hold me and make me feel saner and loved.

I acknowledge now how impossible that is for someone to do when they’re just as broken and trying to nurture the same kind of hole in their spirit.

Sawyer Brown’s video 800 Pound Jesus is a beautiful visual of how God shows up in those places that people can’t fill. I’ve always skipped the song on my CD because it wasn’t a favorite, but now I listen because it reminds me of the ever-present presence of Jesus.

I didn’t mention grandchildren filling me (which seems an obvious choice as much as I love mine) because of what happened about eight months before our granddaughter’s birth. Claire is two and a half so you don’t have to wonder how long ago it’s been … not long. My husband and I fought our final battle over whether he was up for the job of completing me.

The story is too long for this post and maybe too personal for my blog, but I’ll tell you it was a six-month stalemate and the most painful time for me of our marriage. Pain is sometimes the only way God gets through to me.

As a result, when I held Claire for the first time, the love I felt for her overwhelmed me, but it never crossed my mind she’d complete me. In fact, I knew she wouldn’t. It was bittersweet because she’s so loved and lovable, it almost seemed like she should. However, for the realization that she wouldn’t, I would have fought with John for six months plus sixty years. No one needs the burden of completing someone else. I’m sorry to those I tried to make carry it for too long.

So, where’s that leave our marriage besides incomplete?

I heard my answer in the movie Shall We Dance with Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere. After Beverly Clark (played by Sarandon) finds out her husband’s not having an affair, but taking dance lessons without her, she meets the private investigator at a bar to let him know she no longer needs his services. She said about marriage, “We need a witness to our lives. There are a billion people on the planet … I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things … all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”

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If there’s anything you’d like to share, I hope you’ll consider leaving a comment. It helps all of us to hear from each other.

In This Together,
Kim

Artwork by me.