Category Archives: feelings

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.

Why Get Angry?

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“Usually when people are sad, they don't do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.”  James Russell Lowell

“Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.”
James Russell Lowell

Our granddaughter, Claire, turns a bright shade of red, the same as her parent’s living room sofa, when she is crying for her next feeding or a diaper change.

I think she’s adorable when she gets angry, probably because I like feisty girls. And probably because I wish I was one of them. Instead, when thing aren’t going my way, I weep and whine.

My daughter and I got tickled several times when Claire balled up her fists and held her breath until her lips turned bluish because she was so mad about her wet diaper.

When Claire hit her mom’s chest with a clinched fist during feeding time, we guessed she was annoyed about not getting her milk fast enough.

Too soon, though, she’ll grow up. And too soon, we’ll tell her anger is unacceptable even though, for now, it’s keeping her fed and changed.

We’ll talk to her about her tone of voice, not getting an attitude, and the expression on her face. She’ll raise her hip and put her hand on it. We’ll tell her to stop. If she speaks her mind, chances are she’ll be labeled.

As a result of messages like these, for years I denied my anger. It wasn’t until I talked timidly to a friend about being furious with God that I was able to get in touch with the feeling. She said, “God gave you that emotion. I’m sure he can handle it.”

I felt freer each time I told God all the things that angered me about how he ran the universe and my life. I wrote my grievances down and blamed most of them on him. I spewed on paper what I would never say out loud. I even cursed a little. Okay, a lot.

Instead of God’s punishment for my anger, I experienced relief.

Instead of his rage in response to my anger, I experienced our restored relationship.

Observing Claire’s anger makes me think it is time to weep less and wail more. Not that I think allowing her to be disrespectful is a good parenting practice, or that I think it’s okay for me to go around screeching at people to get my way, but I do believe there is purpose in anger.

After all, Jesus turned over tables in the temple, God’s wrath is recorded, and the newborn he recently placed in our family is getting nourishment and care because of her angry outbursts.

I’m exploring anger, and I would appreciate hearing what you have to say.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – This post brings to mind what I heard a speaker say in her talk about emotions, “Our anger lets us know it is time to set boundaries for others, that it’s time to stand up for ourselves.” Maybe it is.

On the side: The number of negative quotes about anger surprised me. It unquestionably has a bad reputation.

Don’t Become A Monster

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“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” Friedrich Nietzsche

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” Friedrich Nietzsche (Image from iStock)

My lifelong habit of keeping company with at least one unlikable person is dying a slow death. I mentioned it as one of my monstrous habits in the last blog post, Where the Wild Things Are.

Even though remnants of the behavior still remain, I’ve taken steps to change it since I confronted the habit’s origin – my relationship with my mom. As much as I loved her, I seldom liked Mom because she took little responsibility for her actions, blamed others for whatever was wrong in her life, and felt sorry for herself most of the time.

The more I tried to be okay with her behavior and like her anyway, the more our relationship became anything but okay. She felt sorrier for herself and I felt more uneasy with guilt. As a result, I chose friends who were similar to her, I guess to try to fix what she and I couldn’t get right.

It’s a strange plan, I know, but I think more of us do this than not.

Marriage counselors often ask, “Who did you marry, (someone like) your mom or your dad?”

Addiction programs talk about repeating family patterns.

The Bible even tells us in Romans 7:19, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

I’ve almost always had a “mom” in my life – someone I’ve felt guilty about not liking. I’ve tried to change each one of them, even though they didn’t ask for my modifications. They did, however, take little responsibility for their actions, blamed others for whatever was wrong in their lives, and felt sorry for themselves most of the time, so I guessed they needed my guidance to break these habits.

I thought if I could help them become more likable, I’d relieve my guilt at the same time.

When neither one happened, I did what the quote warned against – I turned into a monster fighting monsters. I gave unsolicited (and unappreciated) advice. I told stories to make a point about relationships that I thought were better than ours. I made subtle comments with not so subtle intentions. Sometimes, when I felt desperate, I resorted to sarcastic comments and unkind accusations.

What I wish I’d done, and what I’m trying to do these days, is to let others own their unlikableness and for me to own mine when I’m feeling guilty for not liking them.

When you’re feeling guilty, has your behavior ever turned from mild-mannered to monstrous?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Dear God, as much as I hate not liking other people, I hate myself more when I join them. Help me to steer clear of my own monstrous habits and leave others’ monstrous habits for you to oversee.

“You Shouldn’t Feel That Way” (the many ways we say this and why and how to stop)

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“She goes from one addiction to another. All are ways for her to not feel her feelings.” Ellen Burstyn

“She goes from one addiction to another. All are ways for her to not feel her feelings.”
Ellen Burstyn (Image from iStock)

Claudia Black, a leading author and theorist regarding adult children of alcoholics, has identified three dysfunctional rules of an alcoholic family.

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

I’m pretty sure these rules don’t only apply to people dealing with alcoholism. They also apply to those of us dealing with life, which means we’re probably dealing with an addiction of some sort, which I define as whatever we put in the place of God – things like eating to fill our emptiness, exercising to forget our emptiness, shopping for the perfect life, expecting our marriages to be as loving as God, or being a good person.

The latter is one I never considered addiction-like until I heard it mentioned in church yesterday. “Is being a good person where your treasure lies?”

Well, maybe. It hit home.

I’ve even seen God turned into an addiction. Oh, not him per se (he’s too big for that), but by quoting scripture and preaching at people and judging them according to our righteous ways. Sometimes we think being religious makes us better than others.

In fact, we can turn anything positive into a negative when we’re revering it and counting on it to fill the place made only for God.

One of the dangerous parts of this lifestyle is when we browbeat others or are being browbeaten with the three dysfunctional rules, which happens more often when we’re not focusing on ourselves and when we’re toying with our addictions. In other words, we can be dangerous when we’re not talking, feeling and trusting.

While meeting with a customer this week, she mentioned being unable to get along with (for the first time in her long career as a nurse) a relatively new supervisor who sounded like she bosses by the dysfunctional rules.

“It’s lethal,” said my customer.

I agree.

I believe living by the don’t talk, don’t feel, don’t trust rules is why most times people make themselves sick, why we have aches and pain, and why some go so far as to kill themselves. I’m convinced it’s why I’ve come down with fever blisters and a sore throat hundreds of times, and why I’ve wrestled with suicidal thoughts. Those of us who seek others’ approval (I think this includes most everyone in the world) usually have a low tolerance for being bullied into not talking, not feeling and  not trusting what we’re pretty sure is true, yet we turn around and sometimes do the same thing to others. Living by the dysfunctional rules lands us in a dangerous place of being out of touch with who we are.

Most times the rules come as a package deal – “Don’t trust your feelings and certainly don’t talk about your feelings. In fact, why don’t you just not feel at all?”

Why are some of us so opposed to feeling? Because emotions are messy, and who wants to deal with that? So, we try hard to avoid them. This explains at least some of why we overeat, over shop, over whatever-it-is-we-use-to-escape.

But, here’s the thing, emotions get messier when they’re ignored.

A lot messier.

A whole lot messier. 

Telltale signs that we’re living by dysfunctional rules show up in statements like …

  • You’re making a big deal out of nothing.
  • Do you like keeping things going?
  • Are you looking for something to argue about?
  • Why can’t you be satisfied?
  • You’re always bringing up things that bother you. Is there anything that doesn’t bother you?
  • Funny you mention ______  (whatever the behavior is), because I think you do the same thing.
  • There you go again, blowing things out of proportion.
  • You’re overreacting.
  • Really? You’re kidding me? You really think that’s what’s happening? (in a tone of disbelief when you’ve explained a believable family problem that needs addressing)
  • What did you do to antagonize him/her? (when there is an out-of-control family member, but others in the family want to ignore the problem)
  • It’s your fault I act this way. If you didn’t do such and such, then I’d show respect, act differently, do my part, fill in the blank.

Oh, sure, evaluate if there’s any truth to what others are telling you. And if you’re the one making these statements, even if you’re convinced you’re right, evaluate why you’re saying them. Most likely, if you’re honest, each one is said to shut up the person and to shut down their feelings.

When we’re relationshipping with someone who’s saying “Don’t feel, don’t talk, don’t trust,” the hard-for-some-of-us-to-do solution/rule is to feel anyway and talk anyway (letting go of secrets) and trust ourselves and trustworthy others anyway, even though my typical response is to shut down, pout or rage.

On the other hand, talking, feeling and trusting work – “work” meaning I get to feel what I’m feeling and talk about what’s bothering me and honor my feelings whether anyone else does or not.

I say something like “I feel ______ (and I really think about how I’m feeling, which is usually afraid)” instead of “You did this and that.”

What rule(s) are you living by – the dysfunctional ones that keep you trapped or the one that gives permission to talk and feel and trust?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – It’s taken 55 years, but I’m feeling my feelings and talking about my feelings and trusting my feelings. I feel better about relationships, especially the one with myself. I think there’s something to all this feeling stuff.