Category Archives: emotions

Are You So Nice that You’re Unkind?

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“In the world where you can be anything, be kind.” Unknown

My husband John and I came into our marriage with very different ways to solve a problem, and we both thought our way was the kind one.

I’m honest. I say whatever comes to mind that I think might help him understand why I’m upset. I figured he wanted to hear what I had to say because I wanted him to speak up about his upset moments – share the problem, tell me what I did to contribute to it, and spend another 30 minutes analyzing the pain and coming up with a solution. Then hug and live like Cinderella.

My way seemed sensible, as well as kind. I never understood the saying “brutally honest” because I wanted to hear the truth. I didn’t like someone hinting at what was wrong, skirting issues instead of being straightforward, or convincing us they weren’t angry or hurt until their surprise attack. I may not have liked or agreed with what they said, but I valued candor.

John, on the other hand, preferred niceness in hopes of avoiding any kind of confrontation. He’d rather offer to take me out for dessert than discuss why he checked his cell phone at dinner. He equated being nice with being kind. His favors were fine until I realized they were meant to replace talking about problems.

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My honesty and his niceness often clashed, escalating our discussions to arguments. He couldn’t figure out why I didn’t appreciate him being nice. I couldn’t explain why I thought he was uncaring. All I knew was that when I tried talking to him about an issue and, instead of listening, he offered to wash dishes, my stomach knotted up and I wanted to whack him with a dirty plate.

We ended up arguing off topic. We’d debate why I didn’t thank him for helping in the kitchen instead of why he wouldn’t leave his phone alone for 30 minutes. Our arguments reminded me of interactions with Mom. One time that stands out was the day she broke a white figurine I made in art class. She glued it back together, which was fine, but then she drew along the cracks with a black permanent marker. The more I cried, the more nice things she offered to do for me. She wanted me to invite a friend over to bake cookies. I wondered why she thought socializing and sugar would be an adequate substitute for sympathy and an apology, which is what I wanted even as young as eight.

Keeping It Going …

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The way Mom tried to fix problems made no sense to me, so I married someone like her. I know, that doesn’t make sense either. John married someone like his mom (me) who wanted to tell him what he did wrong. I hoped my suggestions would help fix our marriage and family. Just so you know, we’re one of many odd couples. A lot of us marry someone similar to one of our parents because recreating “home” is comfortable even if it’s crazy. Like a friend said, “If you can’t heal your relationship with your mom and dad, you pick people like them and try to get it right for the rest of your life. That is, unless you fix yourself.”

Like John’s mom, I valued dialogue and directness.

Like my mom, John valued silence and discretion.

For decades, we had no idea we repeated family patterns or even that there were patterns. We didn’t know to honor each other’s differences or to knock off being so hard on each other. John could have listened when I talked about what bothered me. I could have been less blunt when discussing those things.

Instead, we kept doing the same things again and again until repetition and insanity, which is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results, nearly cost us our relationship.

I called him mean because his niceness felt manipulative – a way to get me to shut up. The nicer he was, the less I thought he cared about me.

He thought I was unkind because I criticized him and critiqued the nice things he did – my way of trying to explain issues he didn’t want me to feel about or talk about.

It came to a head when he said, “I have no idea why being nice is never good enough for you. Why won’t you just accept me being nice?”

I screamed, “I can’t stand you being nice. You know what’d be nice? If for a change, you tried kindness.”

Kindness

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The word caused both of us to catch our breath, …

and hold it a moment.

I wondered if the difference in wording really mattered as much as it seemed to in the car that day. I looked up both words in the dictionary and the thesaurus, googled quotes for each one, and even plugged them into Pixabay.com to see what photos popped up for “kind” versus “nice.”

Merriam-Webster.com defined the adjective “kind” as sympathetic and helpful; of a forbearing nature; affectionate and loving.

Synonym’s for kind included benevolent, compassionate, good-hearted, humane, kindhearted, kindly, softhearted, tender, warmhearted.

The same site described “nice” as pleasing and agreeable; appropriate; socially acceptable; virtuous and respectable; polite.

Compared to kind, the list of synonyms for nice included worldly words like agreeable, congenial, darling, delectable, delicious, delightful, enjoyable, gratifying, and pleasing, although it also had a couple of spiritual words on it like grateful and blessed.

Quotes about kindness conveyed intensity and insight like these two by unknown writers:

“If we all do one act of random kindnessdaily, we just might set the world in the right direction.”

“Use your voice for kindness, your ears for compassion, your hands for charity, your mind for truth, and your heart for love.”

The only quote I found that used the word “nice” in the context we’re talking about here, well, it had the depth of a puddle:

“Let’s face it, a nicecreamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me.” Audrey Hepburn

On Pixabay.com, photos for the word “kind” showed an old man’s gentle face, a baby’s wrinkled feet, and aged hands folded like in prayer.

The pictures that represented “nice” included a rabbit, some kittens, and a few hunky guys, but mostly suggestive images of women, the kind a man would look at and say, “Nice.”

The Spirit of the Word

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

Throughout our 40-year marriage until more recently, we showed little compassion for each other because that would have left one or both of us defenseless. We shared the sin of self-protection by being faux kind and constructively critical. Genuine kindness would have meant being vulnerable. We would have had to put our hurt aside and connect and care about each other.

A gentler relationship is one of the benefits of living by the fruits of Spirit, which are the nine attributes in the quote above. Applying them with the help of the Holy Spirit means we shelve our egos and focus on being godly. We find ourselves being gracious instead of trying to get back at the other person. We go first instead of waiting on the other person to behave like we want. The end result is a kind marriage, not one where we talk like Elaine on Seinfeld, “Oh, that’s nice.”

“You will never look into the eyes of someone God does not love. Always be kind.” Unknown

 My awakening about kindness reached far beyond my marriage.

  • We’re acting niiice (said with a Southern drawl and a self-indulgent attitude) when our relationships are about what we can get from the other person. We’re kind when we expect nothing.
  • We’re acting nice when we only care about getting our way. We’re kindwhen we serve.
  • We’re acting nice when we’re looking good, but our motives are selfish. We’re kindwhen we’re true to ourselves.
  • We’re acting nice when we’re scheming to assure others like us. We’re kindwhen we accept that their opinion of us is none of our business. We get on with our lives.
  • We’re acting nice when we pretend to be easygoing even though we’re control freaks. We’re kindwhen we concede and consider others. We can’t love and control at the same time.
  • We’re acting nice when we overlook stuff we don’t like, but never ever forget it. We’re kindwhen we talk it over and forgive.
  • We’re acting nice when we rally an army of friends to take our side and gossip. We’re kindwhen we talk to the person we have a problem with and share how we feel gracefully.
  • We’re acting nice when we ask questions to be nosey, but pretend we’re interested. We’re kindwhen we genuinely care about the answers.
  • We’re acting nice when we tradeoff gifts, money, or time for attention and accolades. We’re kind when we give freely.
  • We’re acting nice when we justify our unacceptable behavior even though we know better. We’re kind when we do the right thing especially when no one’s watching.

I didn’t intend for “nice” to end up with a bad reputation, but it fell far short of being kind. When we practice kindness, its transformative power in our lives is immeasurable. I’ve since looked at relationships where I may have substituted niceness for what I really want to be, which is kind.

Am I a nice friend or a kind one? A nice mother or a kind one? A nice writer or a kind one? A nice Christian or a kind one?

It’s made all the difference to consider the difference. #whilelovingthepeopleinit #nice #kind

In This Together,
Kim

On the side: An interesting blog post about brutal honesty. Click below to read it.

Why brutal honesty is a mistake — and the one time it’s not

 

 

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Freedom to Feel Freely

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“…you live with two calendars. One that keeps track of time, while the other stores emotional experiences.” Deborah Serani

Today marks the 8thanniversary of my blog. I posted my first post, a funny story about the common sense of getting exercise titled “The Sense of Walking,” on July 4, 2010.

My friend celebrates the anniversary of her birth every year on Independence Day. We joke that she’s “free” not to count the year as she ages closer to 60.

Another friend’s July 4thanniversary breaks my heart. Her young grandson died five years ago today from an allergic reaction to shellfish.

We remember anniversaries of births, marriages, and occasions like beginning my blog, and also deaths, divorces, and losses that haunt us.

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Survivors share about getting past the “firsts” –the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, the first birthday of a loved one after they’ve left – all anniversaries, of sorts. Dread escalates the closer we get to the first anniversary of whatever we’re grieving. We’re not sure how we’ll handle emotions we’ve hidden and hoarded for 12 months. We post on Facebook something like, “Once a year, I let myself stay in bed and eat cake and grieve.”

We remember where we were and how we felt when planes crashed into the twin towers on September 11, 2001. We feel it all over again every September 11th because we said, “We will never forget.” We need to know it’s okay to feel it all over again in the spring and in June too, but we seldom mention 9-11 other than on its anniversary.

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An anniversary doesn’t have to be a specific date. It may end up being a month or a season when an event took place. The first bin of pumpkins I spot in the produce section reminds me of my daughter’s wedding. It still catches me off guard even though, for the past six years, reminiscing in the grocery store happens around the same time every fall. I forget what I’m shopping for while I remember how I felt helping her choose her dress. How I felt shopping with friends for my mother-of-the-bride outfit. How I felt picking through pumpkins and sunflowers we used to trim the tables for her reception. Why not feel happy like that in February and in the middle of summer?

Christmas and Easter are anniversaries in the church. Throughout the year we’re taught remembrance when we take communion, but there’s something more palpable about worship during anniversary services of Jesus’s birth, death, and resurrection. I want to always worship with that intensity.

Today, July 4th, is the anniversary on which we celebrate our country’s freedom. We show off our patriotism by flying flags high and shooting off fireworks into the night. The other 364 days, though, we’re accustomed to containing our patriotism, but why? We could boast like my friend, Kathy, who posts weekly about how much she loves our country. Her dad moved here from Greece, so gratitude for their American citizenship runs deep.

Today, I’m grateful for this anniversary and others. There’s just something about anniversaries and feeling our feelings. They go together like hot dogs and the 4th. Deborah Serani, Psy.D., writer of the quote at the beginning of this post, named that “something” in an article in Psychology Today. She said, “’Anniversary Effect’, sometimes called Anniversary Reaction, is defined as a unique set of unsettling feelings, thoughts or memories that occur on the anniversary of a significant experience.”

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Having a “date” with our emotions gives us permission to feel. Otherwise, we think no one wants to hear much about our delight, our sadness, our love, our loss, our success, our fear, our memories, our pain, or our patriotism.

The more manuscript I write about feeling our feelings, the more I want it to be okay to share my emotions beyond once a year. I hope my writing extends permission to you too.

In This Together,
Kim

 

 

 

 

The Benefit of an Emotional Meltdown

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“Sometimes it takes a meltdown to cool down.” Evinda Lepins

A recent meltdown I had wasn’t a public scene or even a really big deal around our house. It was significant enough, though, that I realized how important something was to me that I’ve been ignoring. I try to be preventative about these sorts of things, but sometimes prevention doesn’t work because of others’ reactions. My solution sounds something like this until I calm down, “I can’t believe I’ve let this go on,” “Never again,” and “I’m done.”

By my final fit, I’m left with what I used to think was an unusual outcome, but now I’ve come to expect it – an emotional hangover and a spiritual awakening. Like what Terrell Owens said, “Instead of me having a breakdown, I’m focusing on me having a breakthrough.”

Since I grew up in a silent family who shut up about their emotions and shut down everyone else’s, meltdowns ended up being the only way to figure out how I felt. It shouldn’t come as a surprise I married into a family that did the same thing because we’re attracted to what we know. They’re screamers, so I hoped they’d scream about their emotions so I could finally talk about mine. As it turned out, their screaming was also about shutting up and shutting down.

Shy on role models, I eventually learned to appreciate emotional meltdowns for what they were – a gateway to my emotions. Even though I’m still shaken by their messiness and hung-over feelings, and I fear I’ve made things messier instead of mending them, meltdowns haven’t let me down as long as I handle them constructively. I stop looking at what everyone else needs to do and, instead, I look at my part in the meltdown. I get in touch with how I feel and I decide what changes I want to make.

So, what’s actually melting away?

I used to hate to cry in front of people. I still do, but it helped when a friend said, “I love when you cry. You’re melting.”

I knew what she meant. I relaxed a little each time I cried around her. She could see me softening and I could feel it. For years I tried keeping up a happy pretense and a façade of being distant from my emotions by laughing off how I felt and saying, “I’m fine. Really, I am.”

I’m like Elf, “Smiling’s my favorite.” However, weightiness surfaced when I recognized emotions have a life of their own if we ignore them. Instead of being happy like Elf, we numb out with food, zone out on Facebook, and distract ourselves with problems we can’t fix, disturbing news reports, and our own bad habits. Sometimes we want to die when we already feel emotionally dead or our emotions (the ones we think we’re not supposed to feel) feel too out of control. I dislike being called “too sensitive” and hearing I overreact, but I dislike even more not being true to who I am and what’s going on inside of me.

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So, I melt.

I ask myself things like: What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What do I need? What do I want to change?

When I ignored the answers to these questions or didn’t bother to ask them at all, I ended up in a depression I almost didn’t survive. It’s like the anonymous quote, “I froze because frozen hearts don’t feel pain.”

I tried to give up feeling pain so I wouldn’t inconvenience others with my emotions. The result of freezing my pain was freezing almost all of my feelings. I was robotic. I went through the motions of life without emotion, or tried to. I felt like one of the walking dead and wondered what the point was of getting up each day.

This is when I had the meltdown of all meltdowns.

“On the other hand, I believe there’s hope, because the breakdown and the repair are happening simultaneously.” Kathryn Bigelow

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I cried for two years, or so it seemed. I broke my silence and told a couple of trusted friends about my depression and not feeling anything except hopelessness. I let my family know I felt desperate even though they didn’t want to hear it, not because they didn’t care, but because it was scary to listen to. I contained my meltdowns to our living room and limited the best I could my accusations, name calling, and cuss words. The more I talked, the more I was able to share my emotions constructively by talking about myself and how I felt and my plan for feeling better.

I stopped trying to get a thicker skin and focused on being kind to myself and talking about my pain. I got in touch with what my heart longed for instead of the chaos in my head. I had less severe emotional hangovers and more startling spiritual awakenings. I started healing from my meltdowns because I saw their value and handled them right.

When you melt down, do you know why it’s happening? Do you see its value? Do you ask the right questions? Our emotions and handling them right are key to melting well.

In This Together,
Kim

On the Side: My manuscript is about emotions and the value of getting in touch with how we feel. I’d love feedback from you about what to include and about what you’d like to read more about.

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com.

Pain Turns Us Into Runners

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“When life is stressful, do something to lift your spirits. Go for a drive. Go two or three thousand miles away. Maybe change your name.” Unknown

“There’s a big difference between running toward something and running away from something,” was my daughter’s take on our family’s tendency to shut down, escape, ignore, diminish, hide, or numb out when faced with uncomfortable emotions.

We’re inclined to run away from what we don’t want to face instead of running toward it and healing. After all, didn’t God create us to always be comfortable and happy? If you notice how I’ve lived until now, you’d be convinced I’m convinced that’s exactly God’s plan.

Instead, here’s the truth from Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, “God is more interested in your character than your comfort. God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy.”

Running away is how I handle my uncomfortable emotions when I feel overwhelmed, misunderstood, or when I think I’m too emotional, although I’m not sure why I quantify my feelings with words like “too.” Because of quantifying, though, I can’t count the number of times I’ve said, “I’d like to pack my bags and drive to California.”

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I live on the opposite coast, so I’m talking about running like Forrest Gump.

It’s mostly a joke, except for the time I packed my bags and drove six hours to our mountain house a couple of weeks before Christmas. I couldn’t stay here to hear one more carol, one more “Merry Christmas,” or one more happy couple out to eat. While away and shopping, a salesclerk asked if I was ready for Sunday. I looked confused. He said, “It’s Christmas.”

Pain turns us into runners, even from cherished moments we’ve looked forward to.

I felt deceived when I drove away only to run head-on into the things I planned to run away from – fear and shame and silence. At some level, I knew this before I left. I wanted to face them, but I didn’t think I could.

A couple of years ago, I stumbled onto Amanda Blackburn’s story. She was a young minister’s wife murdered by intruders in her and her husband’s suburbia home outside of Indianapolis. I’ve followed Davey’s blog about Amanda, their son who was in his crib during the attack, and the baby she was carrying.

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Davey based one of his posts, “Run Toward the Roar,” on church founder and pastor Levi Lusko’s Through the Eyes of a Lion. Levi wrote the book after his five-year-old daughter died in his arms. In Davey’s blog post, he tells about facing his emotions and running toward, instead of away from, his hardest fear to face – going back to his and Amanda’s house and laying in the spot where he found her dying. He wanted to stop running from remembering her.

Pain turns us into runners, even from memories of favorite people.

Davey’s post was embedded in another blog I’ve followed since reading it on a Facebook friend’s page. The blog “Bittersweet” is about Jenna Saadati, a gifted fourteen-year-old who wrote stories, played in the school band, and trained for track in the same town where my grown children used to live. That was, until Jenna took her own life in 2013 as a result of bullying.

Pain turns us into runners, even from the family who cares about us and the life we’ve cared about.

Beth, Jenna’s English teacher mom, blogs about her daughter’s death and her life. In Beth’s post, “The 4-Word Motto I’m Choosing To Follow,” she referred to Davey’s blog post about running toward the roar. She wrote with faith that four years after Jenna’s death, she’ll tend their garden for the first time without Jenna, and she’ll hopefully sow Hope. She tells about the “roars” she’s run toward to restore her own life since losing Jenna. #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit

As much as I want to run in the opposite direction from everything that hurts (like these three stories about loss), running away is how I ended up scarily depressed. My story’s not filled with their kind of pain, but like a friend said when she straightened out my comparison, “Pain is pain.”

If we have any chance of not being consumed by it, running toward it is necessary.

The same as Davey asked at the end of his post, “What roar do you need to run toward today?” #feeltoheal #faceourpain #stoprunningaway #runtowardtheroar

In This Together,
Kim

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My friend Jenny sells shirts with this saying on them, “Run towards your battles.” Jenny’s design is based on 1 Samuel 17 about young David defeating the giant Goliath. You can order one by clicking From the Stand Store. (The link is not working, so, for now, if you’d like a shirt, please let me know and I’ll forward Jenny Abbott’s contact info.)

I Can Throw A Tantrum Too (a long political post my daughter said I had to write if we want to sell our house)

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“If you don’t do politics, politics will do you.” Unknown

Although I’ve objected to adding additional political rhetoric to the pile, I also don’t want to die. I sound theatrical, I know, but almost dying is intense, painful, and terrifying. I came too close when I shut up and shut down a few years ago. I’m not going back there. #selfcaringin2017

While I admire friends who seem not to notice the turmoil while posting puppies and pansies, I don’t want to imitate other friends who post flowers I suspect have root rot. I’m sensitive, so I can almost feel through the screen their misery of having to keep up a pleasant image and people pleasing while pretty much hating half their friends. I especially don’t want the latter. I’d rather pile on the rhetoric.

So, I took some time and decided how to throw my own tantrum, convincing myself it’s okay since Jesus turned over tables in the temple. If He can get angry, so can I. As well, I tried making my tantrums as harmless as possible, not attacking individuals, and meaningful. I want to make a difference, not just a bunch of noise. My daughter heard a missionary say the opposite of cynicism is not what we’d think, which is being positive.

The opposite of cynicism is taking action.

I contacted Nordstrom’s to remove my name from their email list, to let them know to keep their reward points, and to count on me to participate in the “grab your wallet” campaign at their competitors’ stores since the movement swings both ways. I sent a second email with a link to an article about Target’s faltering sales the company blames on online shopping. I, on the other hand, credit Target’s decline to getting involved unnecessarily in politics.

I left three messages on Belk’s Facebook page telling them they’d made a mistake joining the political movement, cancelled my Belk credit card, and searched for stores that carry lines like Clinique and department stores that steer clear of offending shoppers who’d prefer not to hear about their politics. I didn’t like that I got snippy with the fellow who cancelled my card, but he kept on (a little) reasoning why I should stay signed up. I overly thanked him at the end to make up for it.

I continue to limit my trips to Target, down from my usual three to four a week to a couple of times a month. I spend a quarter of what I used to in their stores, and not because they’re attentive to transgender people, but because they’re not attentive to conservative customers as well. Target had their chance to be sensitive without being offensive. The company had an opportunity to set an example, to offer a solution as simple as adding unisex restrooms to their stores that don’t already have them. My cousin recently took a corporate job with Wal-Mart, so I’m considering ditching Target altogether.

I left a message thanking Steinmart for staying out of politics, which shows respect for us all.

For me, this isn’t about a brand of clothing I’ve never tried on or where the clothes were manufactured. My issue is with respect and showing it for the silent majority that voted in a drastically different administration for the next four to eight years. At least half of our country either agreed enough with policies to vote Republican, opposed the opponent enough to throw up a roadblock, or felt disregarded, scared, or angry enough to allow into the White House what some see as a bizarre choice. However it came about, I, for one, breathed a sigh of relief for the first time in at least four years – I’d been given back the right to be conservative. The next day, though, I got scared again because of raging and riots. I wondered for a second, “Can I change my vote, please? You know, so they’ll be nice again.”

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I’m not naïve about tantrums. I’ve wanted to throw my own, but, like I said, I’m conservative, so I’ve kept how I felt under wraps. I, and others too, pandered to loose beliefs so we wouldn’t be called judgmental, racist, and uncaring. However, when you blatantly fly in the face of what I believe strongly enough and ignore me long enough, I’ll either get so afraid, so angry, or both, that I’ll finally throw my own version of a tantrum … quietly.

On my blog.

At the polls.

At the register.

It dazes crowds when quiet people start grunting and groaning. It’s like, “Where’s that noise coming from?” And then it’s, “Wait a minute. You have no right because you’re supposed to be quiet.” Finally it’s, “I’ll shame you back into being quiet.”

This explains, in part, why November’s election results were shocking. Half the country busied themselves either with complacency, talking up one person and talking down another, or shaming the group that planned to vote differently while the other half waited our turn to speak up … at the polls. Not that we weren’t bashing too, but we just couldn’t gain enough momentum to be heard until there was a hush over the country when the unexpected candidate won. A hush, and then a hedonistic uprising that looks destructive instead of purposeful. I hate being divided like this. I’ve read friends’ posts, some of the same ones posting pansies, who say let’s not talk about our country this way, but I can’t deny it and die.

I had a friend say, “I like you, we get along well, and I think you’re smart, so it’s hard to believe how you vote.” We no longer get together, and it’s not because of how either of us votes. Her arrogance is loud, and it permeates everything. It flies in the face of everything I believe in and everything I like. I’m not wholly humble, but I want to be more that way. I also want to sit across from someone who agrees that neither one of us has the right answers, but we know how we feel, so we talk about that.

Since my emotions are all over the place, I’ve taken drastic-for-me actions and cancelled a credit card, left messages with businesses that have stepped into the political arena, and written about it here because that’s what I do to heal and move on. I’ve put aside wanting to rise above talking about politics. I’m talking about it.

That way, I’m less scared and now maybe we’ll sell our house. I’ve convinced my grown kids that if you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing, you stay stuck. We’re showing the house tomorrow, which is why I’m posting back-to-back blog posts. I think this is what I’m supposed to be writing, and so does my daughter, so maybe we’ll get an offer. #unstuck #lecturedbymychild

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It’s unfortunate retailers like Belk (ranked the number one department store where conservatives shop), that claimed to be listening to customers, can’t discern that they’re only hearing the screamers. This is unfortunate everywhere. I’d like people to understand that not everyone who has an opinion is talking about it. The election proved that.

Too, it’s trending these days to be liberal and loose. I’ve had short jaunts in it myself. The candidate I said I believed in, spoke up because of, and spent hours campaigning for landed in federal prison even though he was a dynamic force while running for office in the 70’s. Then there was Jimmy Carter in 1977, and Obama, who I didn’t vote for, but I believed once he was in office would ease tension and set an optimistic example. I talked him up for a little while until I felt let down.

Again, it’s about how I feel, and emotions can kill us when we won’t talk, or think we can’t. #selfcaringin2017

I care about blogging through this political mess until I get to the creative place I want to be, and I hope it’s helping some of you to get there too. Feel free to share here constructively about how you feel unless, of course, you want to tell me you feel nauseous. A reader did that to be disdainful, and it’s really not cool. Also, feeling nauseous is not an emotion. #keepitkind #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit #inthistogether

In This Together,
Kim

Love the pix, Pixabay.com. And thanks to my daughter for the most interesting couple of days. I appreciate your wisdom, guidance, and friendship.

Loving People Through the Election (we can do it)

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“We all have inside of us a Mother Teresa and a Hitler.” Unknown

Almost daily I wonder if our country, my family and friendships, and I are going to make it until Election Day. These final four weeks are bringing out the worst in a lot of us. It’s telling when I’m relieved to read about Hurricane Matthew instead of politics. Even though I unfollowed most of my big political posters (people who post on Facebook), my newsfeed is filling up again with politics as the election nears.

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There are diehards who know they’re right, and those of us struggling not to be wrong when we don’t agree with them. And when I do hang out with friends who agree, I want to be respectful instead of rebellious towards those who don’t, but that’s not easy sometimes if they’re rebellious first. #WhileLovingthePeopleinIt

I typically stay far from political discussions even though I have near-to-my-heart opinions about politics, and that’s what I’ve figured out is the “problem.” Since working on my manuscript about getting in touch with my feelings, I no longer can stay solely in my head like I used to. However, sojourning to my heart is scary, especially now. It feels safer, in a sick sort of way, to practice judgment and anger rather than understanding and compassion.

It came to a head the other night when I unfriended a friend because I couldn’t stay away from her page, even though I never commented when I was there. I unfollowed her a while back, but I’d still check in every few days even though I promised myself I wouldn’t … just like she promised to stop posting about politics. It seemed she couldn’t help herself anymore than I could.

She and I only know each other through mutual friends, so this isn’t a lifelong and special bond I’m breaking. She never comments on my page either. We’re distant, so I wondered if my unfriending was even worth blogging about until it dawned on me the struggle isn’t about our relationship with each other. It’s about our relationship with ourselves.

This is about getting my own life while loving the people in it.

I visited her page hoping she’d stop posting about politics because she said she would, and I wanted her to. I wanted us both to stop letting ourselves down, and I wanted her to go first.

I wanted her to stop reacting to friends with arrogance and show some LOVE like her cover photo says. That way, I could show some love also.

I wanted to like her again like I did before this election season got ugly and she did too. She’s not my only friend who’s gone off the deep end about politics, but she’s the most verbal and vicious. That is, unless you come behind my closed doors. I’ve said some pretty ugly things about her to my husband.

He reminded me that she’s afraid just like I am. He also clarified that I’ll never understand how she’s handling her fear because it’s not how I handle mine. She is confrontational. I run. She knows she’s right. I doubt myself. She is unapologetic. I say “I’m sorry” before I figure out if I actually am.

Going to her page triggered all sorts of uncomfortable emotions and unpleasant thoughts. I’d read her comments and make up ones in my head to put her in her place. I wanted to straighten out her thinking with the same kind of sarcasm she was writing to others. I unfriended her the night I felt unambiguously (which means really, really, really) justified in meeting her unkind comments with some of my own. I didn’t write them, but I wanted to.

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That’s when I thought, I am her.

I believe we all have some of her in us. And just like the quote at the beginning said about Mother Teresa and Hitler, we all have inside of us some Trump and some Hillary. I can hear it already, “There’s no way I’m like him/her.” Grumble, deny, grumble, grumble, deny. Yeah, we are. In fact, I’ve watched friends act just like the candidate they’re criticizing.

Unpleasant news, I know, because if we’re hating one of the candidates, we’re likely hating ourselves. We “sort of” know how much we’re alike whether we accept it or not … whether we accept our immorality, our crudeness, our dishonesty, our scorn, our bratty fits, and on and on. We say, “I would never … ,” but we do.

Author Carla Laureano posted similar ideas on Facebook. She said, “The reason why we are so horrified by the candidates and the way they’ve been running their campaigns is because they represent us perfectly as a nation, down to every last hidden sin and evil thought: greed, lust, hatred, fear, pride … There is no longer a veneer of civility behind which we as a country can hide and pretend any sort of respectability or character. In order to deserve better, we need to BE better.”

We’re all capable of mudslinging madness, and we’re also capable of Love that overcomes it. My unfriended friend’s page is a jumble of conflicting emotions that aren’t usually so visual, but it’s right there on her page and in writing, which is why she and her page are so bothersome. On there, the clash of love and hate is palpable and problematic and politically incorrect … and it’s you and me. It’s all of us.

It’s like the story I doubt is true since I can’t find a reputable source, but I appreciate it anyway. Mother Teresa was asked when she began her ministry and she answered, “On the day I discovered I had a Hitler inside me.” Fact or not, I’m buying it because it makes her human and relatable, and it makes me feel better that she’s flawed too.

I was still a little crazy about my friend’s page until I read what another friend suggested about our days leading up to the election. He said something like this, “Shut up and vote, and find something creative to do besides obsess about November 8th.”

Thanks, Jason. I think I’ll do just that. #GettingYourOwnLife

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And to think, I almost canceled three days of art classes beginning next Thursday, and I suspect it was because I only have time to be crazy, not creative. Maybe that’s why last night I ran into a fellow painter. Seeing her reminded me to stay out of my head and lean heartward.

What about you? Obsess about politics or pursue a real passion during the next four weeks? Let’s encourage each other in ways that are creative, not crazy.

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks for the first three pix, Pixabay.com.

When I’m Not Bouncing, I’m Yo-Yoing (a post about emotions)

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“When you’re happy, you enjoy the music. But when you’re sad, you understand the lyrics.” Frank Ocean

My husband John and I rode for what seemed like a long time, even though probably only 15 minutes, in the opposite direction of Claire’s mom while Claire (our almost three-year-old granddaughter) cried, kicked the back of the driver’s seat, and begged us, “Go in that direction.”

She pointed back toward the park where we’d picked her up. She’d been with friends and missed her afternoon nap, on top of waiting to eat dinner with us. Between the two, being tired and hungry, she melted down when her mom drove away from our meeting spot halfway between our houses. We’d met to pick up Claire and keep her for a couple of days.

We finally pulled over. I hugged her and walked her around. By now, she gasped for breath and kept asking to go in that direction, while pointing the right way even though we’d made two turns. Nothing calmed her. Not talking to her mom on the phone. Not her favorite snack.

And especially not John telling her, “Stop it.”

She wore herself out, but not before she’d also worn out John. He’d become as frazzled as her.

At the house, Claire’s mood turned around after three bites of pizza. She talked about playing in the park and asked where we bought the fish that was new on our wall.

“I’m so happy you feel better,” I said.

She placed her hand on her chest, tilted her head, and said, “Oh, Mammy, I sorry, but I was so sad. I just missed my mommy so much.”

John and I laughed through our tears at her sweet voice and sincere apology. Both times she said “so,” she accentuated the word. I looked at John to see him calming down also.

“You can’t have the highs without the lows,” I said. 

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It wasn’t like he didn’t know that from experience. I’m a yo-yo, but he’s never appreciated it and neither have I. If I had tried to talk him into it, we both would have questioned, “What’s there to appreciate?”

Before we ever had kids, I was diagnosed with something, probably manic-depressive disorder. I was eligible for free counseling sessions through our health insurance if my therapist assigned a label. This was years prior to half our population being branded with diagnoses, so the therapist squirmed telling me I had to have one. He didn’t volunteer what it was and I never asked.

I’m not convinced my emotional overload needs to be labeled a disorder, but I do want to find order in it.

I, as well as everyone around me, tried to eliminate my emotions, bury my emotions, or ignore my emotions to the point that for years I’ve had trouble breathing, as well as living. I’d prefer John and I team up like we often talk about and accept, appreciate, and work together to understand my emotions, and his too.

My dad, who had the same overload, asked me anytime I’d run to my room, close the door, and cry uncontrollably, “Who do you think you are acting like that?”

Instead of asking about “acting like that,” I wish he’d asked about my feelings since they drove everyone a little crazy, including me.

After he asked, I wish Dad had cared about my answers. My responses may have helped us both.

I’m a little girl who’s scared you and Mom are going to divorce.

I’m a little girl who’s afraid you’re not okay, which means I’m not okay because we’re a lot alike.

I’m a little girl who loves you no matter what. I wish that’d make a difference in how angry you get and how scared you look.

If we are to get our own lives, we have to come to terms with all of who we are.
If we are to love the people in it, we have to do the same for them. 

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My high mood is when I shop for an hour at Target to find the swirly dress and collared shirts, the princess wand, and a Little Tike’s basketball goal.

It’s when my husband and I talk for hours about the house we’ve looked at to buy in “Mitchfield” (Litchfield Beach), as Claire calls it.

It’s when I can’t get enough of Claire and her little brother, and laugh loud on FaceTime because they’ve gotten down from eating dinner to dance to Fight Song … again.

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The flipside, not synonymous with the bad side, is my low mood when I’m focused on what’s wrong with you and me. I cry over spilt milk, literally. I curl up in bed and stay there all day because a child is missing in Disney.

I’m not sure these are because of a diagnosis or if we’re all plagued at times with life. What I am sure of is it’s helping to accept the lows right along with my highs.

Everyone welcomes laughter, but Claire’s teaching me to embrace it all – her high-spirited personality, as well as her fits of emotion and her soggy face. And mine, and yours. I mean, I would never dismiss her feelings or label them, so why do it to myself?

What’s up with this blog post about emotions and what’s it got to do with getting our own lives? #GettingYourOwnLife

It’s inconvenient, frustrating, and sometimes scary to feel bad, but it’s as necessary as feeling good so we know what’s going on with ourselves and each other,  and so we have direction (what to do and what not to do). One purpose of emotions (both the positive and the ones we consider to be negative) is guidance.

We label and try to eradicate or medicate our God-given emotions given to us to guide our next step towards #GettingYourOwnLife and our God-given emotions given to us so we’ll relate and have compassion #WhileLovingthePeopleinIt.

But, like I told John about Claire, we can’t have the highs without the lows. 

While researching “the purpose of our emotions,” I found an article on PsychologyToday.com (see link below) where the author talks about having too much emotion and not enough outlets like when we lived in the wilderness and fled from tigers. She said, “Perhaps emotions get out of whack today because they bubble without an effective outlet.”

Let’s choose #GettingYourOwnLife #WhileLovingthePeopleinIt to be our effective outlet. What do you think? I think it’ll keep me on my own yo-yo string and maybe even appreciating it.

In This Together,
Kim

Click here to read “Why Do We Have Emotions?” by Ilana Simons Ph.D. @ PsychologyToday.com.

 

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.”

 

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.