I could see our story on the Six O’Clock News. Woman arrested for beating husband with a plastic food cover. While police dragged wife from the scene, she screamed over and over, “Spaghetti sauce stains.” Police are looking for clues into the crime.
And maybe you understand if you live with someone who
- Has a propensity to downplay every issue,
- Is afraid to confront the smallest problem because it might get bigger (and it does because of being ignored),
- And who insists on having head conversations instead of talking about feelings, even if they’re only about spaghetti sauce stains.
This scene played out in my thoughts while I stood at the sink washing the plastic cover you put over food to keep it from splattering in the microwave. It was newly purchased the day before we heated leftover spaghetti.
“I just bought this cover. I hate that it’s already discolored,” I said.
“Well, it’s better than having sauce all over the microwave, right?” said my husband John.
Thankfully, I was turned away from him. If looks could kill, but come to think of it, instead of acknowledging my glare, he’d probably comment on the radiance of my eyes.
Which brings to mind how we “suffer from feelings,” a phrase I mentioned in The Cure (depression, part 4 of 5).
I wanted to screech, “Let me whine and have my frustrated feelings without you turning into Johnnyanna.”
He would’ve snapped back, “Why do you have to make such a big deal over a stain?”
We’ve had hurtful arguments over even less, and that’s because we’re not fighting about spaghetti sauce stains.
We’re fighting to have our feelings heard and to be okay.
We’re fighting about whether we matter to each other.
We’re fighting about wanting respect and cherishment.
What I’m trying to say, minus the sarcasm, is, “I want to whine, and I want you to care I’m upset.”
What he’s saying, minus the mean tone, is, “I’m the one who warmed the spaghetti and messed up the cover. I hate when I disappoint you.”
My husband and I grew up in homes where pouting, sarcasm and screaming were acceptable, but talking about feelings was not.
So, when he was afraid, angry or frustrated, he climbed a tree and numbed out by smoking cigarettes as early as age 12, then climbed down and acted out by shooting out streetlights with his BB gun.
When I was afraid, angry or frustrated, I cried. Or, rather, I did until the day Mom told me if I kept being weepy and looking miserable, she’d send me away to boarding school where maybe I’d be happier. Instead of acting out, I acted happy, all the while feeling hopeless.
What’s crazy is, we identified these patterns years ago, but knowledge alone can’t stop self-deprecating ways like smoking and depression. Maybe that’s why it was a bad idea in the Garden of Eden to eat from the Tree of Knowledge (Genesis 2:17).
We can’t “smart” our way out of our messes. We have to “heart” our way out. In other words, we have to feel to heal.
These days, because I’m blogging through this series on depression, and because my husband is my editor, and he’s weeping while reading my posts, I’d like to think we’ll suffer less as a result of slowing down to feel more.
And suffer less because we’re talking about our feelings instead of trying to talk each other and ourselves out of them.
As we feel our way out, we may determine our feelings, as well as the feelings of others, to be acceptable, possibly inspirational, maybe even downright delightful.
However, to arrive there, we’ll likely have to also feel the feelings that are not acceptable (to us or them), not inspirational, maybe even downright dreadful.
Here’s a charge for us all to find the freedom to feel.
- Get comfortable with our feelings. It takes practice.
- Give others permission to feel by listening, not fighting or fixing.
- Feel good even when we feel bad because we’re feeling at all.
What feelings do you need to let out?
WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Feel. Do it again. Never, ever stop, any more than you’d stop breathing. It’s that necessary.
On the side: The story about Harriet Dieson, a 65-year-old pastor’s wife, mom and grandmother who killed herself four days after Christmas 2012, kept me awake for nights. Although I don’t know Harriet’s story, I think this sort of thing happens when we are a witness to the feelings of others, but no one witnesses ours. May we learn from others’ pain to get in touch with our own and to find someone who will listen.
Click here to read a blog post about suicide by Donna Pyle.
Visit Bob Doster’s Backstreet Studio Facebook page to see more of his metal sculpting.