Tag Archives: getting your own life while loving the people in it

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

 

 

 

 

Anxiety Eats Creativity and Spits It Out Unless …

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“Once you know the emotional building blocks of anxiety, you can influence them.” Chip Conley from his article, Mastering The Anxiety Equation: A Remedy for Fearful Times (link included at the end of this blog post)

I googled “anxiety” and up popped a funny meme. A girl in a cape captioned,
“Anxiety Girl … able to jump to the worst conclusion in a single bound.”

Some days, anxiety is my super power. If I’m not mindful, I make it worse by babbling to the wrong people – ones who are also anxious, but instead of admitting it and relating, they focus on and try to fix me.

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They say not-so-wise things like …

  • Let go and let God.
  • Look on the bright side.
  • You have a lot to be grateful for.
  • Things could be worse.
  • Have a positive attitude.
  • Cheer up.
  • It’s all in your head.

I get it because I’ve said the same sorts of things to keep from looking at how anxious I am.

We minimize others’ anxiety when we’re out of touch with our own. If we weren’t fearful too, we’d listen instead of being impatient, annoyed, and fixated on fixing each other. Like the saying “Hurt people hurt people,” so it is with anxious people. We make each other anxious unless we take a break from fixing, feel what’s going on with us, and relate.

I believe relating, not relaying advice, is how we help each other.

We weren’t put here as projects, but for a purpose. Anxiety keeps us from it. On the other hand, relating gives us a chance at living it.

It’s not that the sayings are wrong; they just aren’t helpful. “Things could be worse.” Yes, always. They could be worse and someone always has it worse, which I was telling my friend Betty when she reminded me, “Pain is pain and yours deserves your attention.”

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Turning fear over to God works when we figure out how to do it. Until then, the saying wreaks guilt.

Not being able to cheer up, have a positive attitude and gratitude, and see the brighter side of life are reasons we feel anxious to begin with, so suggesting these as solutions heaps on more anxiety.

“It’s all in your head” isn’t helpful unless someone can tell us how to get it out of our heads. Otherwise, anxiety stifles our minds and hearts, wrecks our bodies, and derails our purposes. This explains why we end up with fibromyalgia instead of final projects, depression instead of creative designs, and anxiety disorders instead of art.

When I stumbled onto T.S. Eliot’s quote, “Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity,” I also found a quote by David Duchovny that expanded on it. Duchovny said, “Anxiety is part of creativity, the need to get something out, the need to be rid of something or to get in touch with something within.”

After thinking about both quotes, I determined this suggestion should top the list, “Get back to work.”

Writing gets me in touch with what I need to get out, what I need to get rid of and what I need to get in touch with. I’d wager your purpose does the same for you. In the opening quote of this blog post, Conley mentions emotional building blocks of anxiety and our influence over them. In a world filled with unknowns, my purpose is a known – a thing I can influence and a thing that helps influence (and diminish) my anxiety.

This reminds me of my artist friend who paints bright and fun folk art. However, during her divorce that I didn’t know she was going through, I walked into her studio and knew instantly something was wrong. Her paintings were intense with dark colors. She painted her pain, which brought her through it and to the other side.

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As often as I resist writing, I recognize it as a best friend. More than once, it’s pulled me from the depths of anxiety and helped me face it and overcome it.

When we’re feeling anxious, a safe place to take cover is in our purpose. Do you take refuge in yours?

In This Together,
Kim

Mastering The Anxiety Equation: A Remedy for Fearful Times

 

Your Purpose, Your Burden

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“What’s your purpose? The answer comes from what you’re willing to be burdened by.” Reverend Bruce Cote

Early Sunday morning, this quote from the sermon sounded heavy. That was, until I jotted down, “It is an honor to be given a purpose.”

I used to want my family to be happy, but now I want more for all of us. I want us burdened with a purpose, which will likely make us happy while living it. If not, I still choose the burden.

In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield says nothing will make us more miserable than not doing what we were put here to do. He writes about resistance and how it will make you want to die.

I say, nothing will make you more miserable than living your purpose, at least in the beginning, but it won’t make you want to die. Not for long, anyway.

It’s frightening to give up the known (writing articles about daytrips, scrolling Facebook for hours, shopping and cleaning and redecorating a third time) for the unknown (sharing how I feel on my blog and in a manuscript) even when we suspect the latter holds a gift. Change is full of frustration, like having one foot in manure and the other on a thin sheet of ice. We want to move on, but the warmth is familiar even if it’s nasty. We’re comfortable.

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It’s disorienting to move beyond what a friend explained about her life, “I’m in a prison cell with the door wide open, but I’m still sitting here.”

Our cell is where the world will keep us stuck if we let it. We have kneejerk reactions to others, but not to God. We ask, “What in the world will the world think of me if I (fill in the blank)?”

So, we don’t.

The blank is our heart’s desire, and not because we thought it up. God put the desire there by design. It’s the thing He placed us on this earth to do.

For me, it’s to live out loud. I cried the first and second and third times I read Emile Zola’s quote, “If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.”

I still cry.

I wanted to tell my story, to let an audience in on my pain that reaped plenty of lessons, and to have courage to say whatever I wanted like telling who I voted for in the most controversial election of all times, but I didn’t want criticism or push back or eye rolls. I especially didn’t want to feel scared.

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It’s similar to the time my husband booked us into Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. He knew I was afraid of heights, so he said, “You know, you don’t have to do this. You can relax and wait for us at the hotel.”

“Yeah, right. You know I have to hike it,” I snapped.

He looked confused. He actually didn’t know I had to hike it, but I knew it and I was terrified.

That’s often how it is when I speak up and when I write. It’s easy for some people, but it’s my burden because …

  • I’m a people pleaser who likes to say what I think others want to hear.
  • I’m an introvert who would like nothing more than to have the super power of being invisible.
  • I want to be known as funny even though I value integrity far more than humor.

Sharing anything on FB other than humorous memes reminds me of The Church Lady on Saturday Night Live, “I’m uncomfortable with that.”

I’m afraid friends will think I’m drumming up drama instead of living my purpose.

I’m afraid I’ll be judged because everyone who is visible is judged by someone.

I’m afraid posting will come across as wanting attention for myself instead of concern for them, and sometimes I do want attention.

Like hiking the canyon, though, I don’t have a choice. I mean, I do, but I don’t. It’s odd to stare at an empty laptop screen and struggle between a story that’s emotionally safe to write and one with passion. I’ve tried to force myself to write less controversial pieces or less emotional ones or less sad stories. I’ve tried writing funny stories during enraged times. I’ve wished I could stir others without feeling stirred myself.

I can’t do it. When I take the easy way out and tell an easy story, the writing is so bad, I can’t publish it. It’s like a story I handed into one of my favorite editors. “Favorite” because she wouldn’t publish an article only to fill space. It had to have substance. I liked that about her until she wouldn’t publish one of mine. She said, “This story’s got no heart.”

That used to be my blog and my life. I saved old posts on here to remind me. I began with stories about Mr. Potato Head and walking, how Zumba motivated me to get out of bed early, and big toe hairs. Don’t believe me? Scroll way back to 2010 and you can read for yourself my unburdened writing about exercise and alarm clocks.

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My writing changed significantly around the time I began praying the line from the song “Hosanna,” the line about God breaking my heart for what breaks His. I’m burdened to tell stories about my damaged marriage, estranged parents, and depression and suicide, stories I would rather not tell because what will people think? It wasn’t until I asked a more important question that I started living out loud, “If I don’t tell my stories, what will God think?

What are you burdened to do? Is it worth the risk of stepping onto thin ice? Maybe a better way to ask the same question is, do you want to stay in that other stuff?

In This Together,
Kim

Fall On Your Knees

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“Until your knees finally hit the floor you’re just playing at life, and on some level you’re scared because you know you’re just playing. The moment of surrender is not when life is over. It’s when it begins.” Marianne Williamson in her book, A Return To Love

For a long time, I joked about being a control freak when it came to relationships, especially with my husband and children. Humor was a coverup. I was terrified to let them go, afraid of what may happen even when I couldn’t pinpoint a problem.

I lectured my kids about grades and college and jobs. Called them when I saw a speed trap. Left articles for them to read. Asked too many questions about friends, nosied in their rooms, and eavesdropped on phone calls. Even for a control freak, the latter was over the top.

If my husband had an early morning meeting, I made sure he was up. I reminded him about appointments. I kept up with his spending and his eating and his hygiene.

The illusion of control made me feel safer. It convinced me I could make things happen, fix things, and bring about positive outcomes, which is true sometimes … just not the way I wanted it to be true.

I wanted to make things happen for them, fix things for them, and bring about positive outcomes in their lives. I didn’t think much about getting my own life.

My friend Betty reminded me, “Love means being who you are and letting them be who they are.” I agreed and said, “You’re right. I can’t control them and love them at the same time.” Still, I hung on like my life depended on how their lives turned out.

A friend suggested maybe I wasn’t able to let go because of my fear, which seemed like just another impossible thing to surrender. Ironically, most of my fear was the result of not surrendering my relationships.

After exhausting myself, as well as exhausting every possibility except surrender, I asked God to help me let go… my way.

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I prayed dozens of prayers that he’d minimize my relationships – make them less important.

I prayed he would replace people with a distraction like work or a calling unrelated to them. After all, I had friends living out their purposes by painting, planting community gardens, and rescuing animals – very little to do with people. I wanted the same.

The first time I watched Elsa in the Disney movie “Frozen,” I thought about how often I wanted to run away from people like she had run because, in comparison to surrender, running looked easy.

I prayed it’d be okay to leave my family if holding onto them became too painful and if letting go seemed too hard.

So, what’d I hear from God after all this negotiating? Write about relationships.

I was back to surrender.

I didn’t know what else to do, so I wrote. I blogged about disappointments and arguments, not wanting to have a granddaughter, my messy marriage, and more. I’m not sure how or when it happened, but I traded control for surrender in my writing and then in my relationships.

I teared up while singing the line in “O Holy Night” that tells us to fall on our knees and hear the angels.

I cried at Disney on Ice Frozen while watching my four-year-old granddaughter sing along with Elsa to the song “Let It Go,” in part because being there with her was so special; in part because I’m letting go of her like I’m letting go of everyone.

I bawled telling my husband I never wanted to run his life in the first place, but how scary it was to stop.

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So much is different this Christmas, and better. I’ve said for years, “He’s better,” “She’s better,” “The family’s better.” This season, I’m better. Surrender gave me permission to give my people to God and get my own life.

Gordan B. Hinckley says it well, “Get on your knees and ask for the blessings of the Lord; then stand on your feet and do what you are asked to do.”

What relationships in your life need surrendering? Fall on your knees, then get back up.

In This Together,
Kim

Thank you for the inspiration, Dr. Jeannie Killian, and for the images, Pixabay.

 

 

Show, Don’t Tell in Writing and Relationships

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“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov

Show, don’t tell. It’s how every writer wants to write and what every editor wants to read. Showing is the magic in Chekhov’s description of the moon.

I’m figuring out that “show, don’t tell” also works magic in relationships. I wish I’d practiced living by example years ago instead of reacting and saying way too often, “Let me tell you one thing … ”

I should have told my family very little and lived my lectures. I can tell you from decades of experience, it’s harder to do than it sounds. It’s why I’ve blogged for a year about getting your own life while loving the people in it. It’s why plenty of famous writers are known for quotes about living by example.

“A good example is the best sermon.” Benjamin Franklin

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” Albert Schweitzer

“What you do has far greater impact than what you say. “ Stephen Covey

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My friend’s story drove the message deeper. She said her husband drank to get drunk every evening, so she went to a counselor for help. She let him know she’d given her husband plenty of talks, usually ending in threats to leave him.

Here’s what he told her, “If you were my wife, you’d give me a reason to drink every single night.”

The counselor’s point was not to shame her or place blame, but to give her insight. He wanted my friend to understand how telling (and reacting, which typically go hand-in-hand) contributed to the drinking. Her enabling, in the form of threats instead of action, was what I related to, except I gave my family and friends a reason to be irresponsible and disrespectful every single day.

Instead of saying “no” to my children about borrowing personal items they didn’t take care of, I threw fits and said, “This is the last time you borrow anything unless you take care of it.”

This time I lecture, but you’ll be sorry next time because I’ll show instead of tell.

Always next time.

Like my friend who kept talking about politics, I wasn’t going out with her … next time.

Like another friend who refused to get help except to call me in the wee hours of the morning to say she was afraid of her husband, I wasn’t answering my phone … next time.

Like my family’s unpleasant tones of voice, I planned to take a walk or hang up the phone instead of argue … next time.

Some people honor boundaries, but there are just as many who ignore what we ask of them no matter how reasonable or right or easy it is to do. That is, until we follow through, which is when they honor it or they go away or we go away.

Whichever of the three happens, showing works.

I don’t know if everyone else was relieved, but I calmed down when I finally shut up and did what I said I was going to do. I had exhausted myself with threats, so following through was a pleasant (even though uncomfortable) change.

“Show, don’t tell” is still awkward sometimes because I prefer dialogue – lots and lots of dialogue. Telling is a 40-year habit for me. Acting on my behalf isn’t and sometimes it’s easier to be lazy. I’d rather explain what I want and give you a chance to do it even when I don’t think you will.

There’s a price to pay for taking the easy way out, though. Telling, instead of showing, has cost me time and energy. Like I said, I’ve exhausted myself making threats. My sanity’s been on the line when I’ve said the same things over and over and expected something different to happen. Telling has caused health problems like the morning I couldn’t get out of bed to keep an appointment with a negative colleague who’d asked me out several times. I finally said “yes” and made myself sick about going. I was afraid saying “no” again may show her how unlikable she was, which may have been a lesson she needed.

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Show, don’t tell.

Like Albert Schweitzer said in the quote above, showing is the only thing that works.

Showing happens when I set
boundaries.

Showing happens when I honor what is good for me and stay away from who and what is not.

Showing happens when self-care is as important as other-care.

Showing happens when I act on my own behalf instead of waiting for others to do it.

Showing happens when I get my own life while loving the people in it.

Showing happened when I stopped socializing with friends who insisted on talking politics, when I stopped answering my phone before 8 in the mornings, and when I started walking out and hanging up on disrespect.

“The life you live is the lesson you teach.”

I started teaching people how to treat me by showing them how I wanted to be treated. It feels magic, but it’s really a matter of showing instead of telling.

What do you need to stop telling and start showing by your actions?

In This Together,
Kim

This Simple Principle Will Solve Your Show, Don’t Tell Problems” is an article by Tom Farr who gave helpful writing tips, and I got some relationship tips too. Tom is a storyteller, blogger, freelance writer, and high school English teacher.

 

Thanks for the perfect images, Pixabay.com. Your free pictures make blogging easier and more professional looking.

My Word for 2018 – Simplicity

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“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” Hans Hofmann

Simplicity is my word for 2018. The term showed up in a private Facebook message from a friend asking about my blog. Agnes and I talked about growing our readership, then she added, “… while keeping it simple.”

The word “simple” stood out, which is typically how finding my word for the year happens. It simply shows up and I know it. I wasn’t totally convinced it was the word, though, until I was sick a couple of days later.

When I didn’t feel well, I kept things simple. I slept when I was tired. I ate when I was hungry. I gave myself permission to only do what was necessary, like the quote at the beginning says. I set out to accomplish one or two things on my to-do list instead of 10.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Confucius

My day felt manageable even though I felt bad. I didn’t have enough energy to complicate it. Looking back, I completed more tasks on my sick day than on the days leading up to it. Looking back makes me wonder what I could accomplish if I practiced simplicity on the days I felt good.

Since 2012, I’ve chosen a word for the year in place of making resolutions. It dawned on me how simple a practice this has been, taking one word to work on for 365 days. Here’s my list since I began in 2012.

2012 Incremental
2013 Ponder
2014 Content
2015 Revise, Momentum
2016 Love
2017 Self-care

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When I looked up simplicity, it had more to offer than I anticipated and probably more than I can imagine for 2018.

Simplicity @ Merriam-Webster

  • The state of being simple, uncomplicated, or uncompounded
  • Innocence and sincerity
  • Freedom from pretense; candor
  • Directness of expression; clarity
  • Restraint in ornamentation; austerity

Synonyms @ Thesaurus.com: ease, straightforwardness, naturalness, openness, effortlessness, easiness, minimalism, cleanness, and clean lines.

Antonyms @ Thesaurus.com: complexity, complication, and difficulty.

Keeping life simple means in the place of telling my husband I don’t want to hear a family member tell the same story, one I don’t agree with, a dozen times, I directly say to them, “I don’t want to listen to this anymore.”

Simplicity.

Rather than discussing with family and friends the quandary of getting our own lives, I’m candid about a self-imposed deadline I didn’t meet. I reset it and finish my book proposal this month.

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Simplicity.

Instead of agonizing about buying fewer presents for our family at Christmas and rallying for a consensus, I restrain myself (except with our grandbabies, of course) and simply buy fewer presents.

Simplicity.

I minimize confusion in my head by focusing on one thing to accomplish today. I worry less if others disagree with what I say and write. I set boundaries about how long I’m online and honor them. When I don’t want to participate, I say “no thanks.” When I do, I show up.

These things sound as simple as sleeping when I’m tired, like on my sick day, if only I lived so simply.

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I keep work simple. I do what my husband suggests when he’s editing my blog posts. He asks about a sentence or paragraph that’s unclear, “What were you trying to say here?” I explain it simpler and he says, “Then why don’t you just write that?”

And painting too – I paint in grays because gray is my favorite color.

Simplicity.

Simplicity.

Simplicity.

“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.” Frederic Chopin

I believe God meant our lives to be simple (humble is its synonym). My dear friend Betty used to say, “Your first thought is from God and then you mess it up.” She sounded negative until I noticed how right she was.

I write down my next day’s plan before I go to bed, but then I mess it up. I intend to start my morning with an inspirational reading instead of Facebook. I mean to shower before answering emails. I promise myself I’ll walk before sitting down to work …

But then I mess it up.

That is, unless I keep my day simple and listen to what Betty suggested – do the first thing I think about before I mess it up.

It’s simple when we don’t get in our own way.

I’m practicing “simplicity” starting now and into 2018, so I’ll keep you blog posted. Feel free to choose simplicity as your word too and we’ll share our progress. Or let me know your word so we can work towards making next year simply the best it can be.

Do you need to simplify life by choosing one word for the upcoming year? What word makes the most sense to work towards during 2018?

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.

The Legacy I Live and Leave Matters

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“Today I shall behave as if this is the day I will be remembered.” Dr. Seuss

In the wake of his dad’s death in April, my husband John reminded me a legacy can just as easily be negative as positive. He said, “I’m my dad. I’m overweight, I have a bad attitude, and I blame others and feel sorry for myself when things don’t go my way.”

He was being especially hard on himself and his dad that evening. However, what he was experiencing and expressing is exactly what happens when we face death. After our goodbyes and burying the people we love, we’re left with whatever they left us – an inheritance or debt; the work of cleaning out their stuff; what they willed us or didn’t will us; what they gave to others that we didn’t get; what we got that someone else thinks they should have; the pain of family turning against one another; the fear we’ll turn too.

Mostly, we’re left with their legacy – the one we inherit even if they didn’t leave us money or goods.

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I thought about Dad’s legacy this past Sunday, August 13th on the twelfth anniversary of his death. Dad and I were estranged the final three years of his life. If I’d had a Fitbit back then, I would have exceeded every step goal walking back and forth to my upstairs bathroom window that overlooked our driveway, looking for his truck to pull in one more time.

I recognize now that Dad loved hard, took things hard when he was hurt by people, and acted hard towards them afterwards. I understand more about his response when I wished him a happy 70th birthday and he said, “I hope the next 70 are better.” I figured out some about why driving eight blocks to my house was too difficult for him and why him saying “I’m sorry” seemed impossible.

In light of his legacy and the one left by John’s dad too, I’ve pondered a question I heard at a women’s conference. The speaker talked about working with survivors of sexual abuse. I wrote about it here, “Whose Legacy Are You Living?” She said it helped to ask the women something like, “Whose legacy are you living, your abuser’s or yours?”

I was pretty sure I could answer for John and me. We’re living the legacies of our fathers.

Dad struggled with family relationships and with having friends. He struggled with self-esteem and self-doubt. He struggled to get over being hurt and sad.

Dad also painted, made pottery, and wrote love letters to us. One he wrote to me a couple of months after I was born is taped in my baby book. He played board games with me when I begged. He collected oriental figurines, he added to my doll collection, and he accumulated unusual postage stamps. Dad oversaw building a house for his mom, remodeled the house we lived in, and talked about buying and fixing up a beach house.

He bought a motel and opened an ice cream parlor after he returned from Vietnam that marked his retirement from the Air Force. He walked, rode his bike, and jumped rope in our backyard. A couple of times a week, he’d put on boots with metal hooks on the toes and, to improve his blood flow, he’d hang upside down from a bar he mounted between two trees. I’d watch him from the kitchen window. Dad read the Bible cover-to-cover at least twice. He crafted lanterns and planters to give away and built a toy box for each of his four grandchildren.

 

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I didn’t have to go on and on here, listing every memory of Dad that’s good and fun and quirky, but I wanted to. It reminds me how much our daily choices matter, just like my friend told her dad when he was dying alone and lonely. On his deathbed, he asked her, “How’d I get here?”

“Thousands of bad choices, Dad,” she said. It was all she could think to tell him. Their conversation haunts me, but hopefully it saved him like the thief who hung by Jesus on the cross. In the last minutes, his legacy changed.

So, here’s the thing about a legacy – we leave one, good or bad, whether we intend to or not. There are qualities from both of our dads we hope to keep alive, and ones we don’t.

Here’s another thing about legacy – it matters. John and I gave voice to this when we recognized how much our dads’ legacies shaped us, even our body shape, our weight.

The final thing about legacy – we decide.

Each one of us has been influenced by someone, but we’re not destined to live how they lived. We decide whose legacy we’re living – a parent, an abuser, a mentor. We decide whether we’ll live out their difficult ways or their productive and creative ones. We decide if we want to ditch everything they modeled and live differently. We decide whether to be sloppy about our own legacies or intentional.

I knew I’d inherited my dad’s creative spirit even though I hadn’t given him credit for my painting and writing until just now. He definitely passed on his appreciation for homes and remodeling them. I’ve enjoyed collecting things most of my life like artwork and shoes (a justifiable collection, I think). I started walking daily when I was pregnant with our son and kept it up for nearly three decades. It never crossed my mind until writing this, though, that I’d taken on Dad’s melancholy mood.

Legacy. We leave one. It matters. We decide on our own.

Whose legacy are you living? Is it one you want to keep going?

#gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit

In This Together,
Kim

The Drama Triangle (replace your role with your purpose)

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“We all have family dysfunction. It’s why we’re successful, to fill that hole.” Eli Attie

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My husband John and I kept a distance from our families of origin for years, even while one or both parents were alive. It wasn’t an ideal choice, but I didn’t think our marriage would survive otherwise, so I pushed for detachment. We’d leave family get-togethers and I’d exhaust him by scrutinizing how everyone acted. A family member filled me in later about bets they placed on how long our marriage would last. I didn’t have energy to fight John and confront that kind of judgment I suspected was happening.

By the time I heard the story, it was because of the irony of it – we were the only couple in the family still married to our original partner. Maybe I was right about having a better chance of staying together if we detached from family even though I didn’t understand why.

It wasn’t until I attended a daylong workshop for counselors to earn CEUs and do personal work that I heard about the Drama Triangle. I preferred a miracle, but instead I got a lesson. There are plenty of theories about family dynamics, but this one had our families’ names written all over it.

Understanding my role (and theirs) in both families, the one I grew up in and the one I married into, helped me grasp why I detached from them, and it’s helped me get my own life while loving the people in it even if from afar. I hope this explanation of the Drama Triangle helps you also – to identify what’s happening in your family, to identify your role, and to gain momentum toward changing it if necessary so you can get your own life.

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The Drama Triangle
(persecutor, rescuer designated to the top two angles, victim at the bottom)

Dysfunction usually happens when we react instead of intentionally act. Unless we work at relating to each other as adult to adult, we typically react based on whatever role we’re stuck in from our families of origin. Acting as adults is our true role and the goal for when we leave behind the drama of the triangle.

In Psychology Today’s article “The Relationship Triangle,” the author tells how marriage partners run amuck around the triangle and how they trade off their parts although each one has a primary destructive role. The triangle can just as easily exist in a big family, a friendship, a school (I saw it happen at the elementary school where I taught), a small business, or a large corporation.

The Drama Triangle includes a persecutor, a rescuer, and a victim. I’m using the pronoun “he” to keep the portrayals easy to read.

The Persecutor says, “What’s your problem?” He accuses, attacks, and acts out because of his anger and frustration. Sometimes he’s simply pointing out to the family that there is a problem, one they don’t want to talk about, and then becomes the problem himself. The persecutor needs a victim to take out his emotions on and a rescuer to absorb more of his negativity.

The Rescuer says, “I’ll save you.” He controls by doing good works for the victim, which turns out okay as long as the victim follows the rescuer’s instructions and the rescuer doesn’t tire of enabling – doing for the victim what he can and should do for himself. The rescuer needs a victim to save, as well as a persecutor from whom to save the victim.

The Victim says, “Poor me.” He is anxious, hurt, and helpless. He needs a persecutor to keep piling on the pain. That way, a rescuer can continue protecting and taking care of him.

I say, “Get off.” 

I recently read the article “The Three Faces of Victim – An Overview of the Drama Triangle” that stated no matter where you start on the triangle, you end up a victim. A friend pointed out how damaging it is to end up there when she said, “Victims never heal.”

No one gets better on the triangle. This explains why, at the counseling workshop, our lead counselor said, “Get off the triangle even though you’ll likely have to leave as a persecutor. People will condemn you for leaving – for being selfish, for not caring, and for not staying to help the victim. Leave anyway.”

I got off my family of origin’s triangle several times before I stayed off for good. The final time happened the evening a family member confronted me about dropping by my mom’s house to leave her a gift – a dragonfly necklace she had admired. He said, “Why’d you give her the necklace? What are you up to?”

He had a history of accusations, but that one was ridiculous enough that it gave me gumption to get off the triangle and stay off.

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This image reminds me of how hard I tried to fit a square peg (me) into a round hole (my family). It reminds me how often I made my family my god and the Drama Triangle my life. I wanted off the triangle, to get my own life, and for God to shape it.

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Getting off the triangle doesn’t have to mean estrangement from those who are still on it. Getting off could mean getting your own life while loving the people in it.

What shape are you in as far as your family role? Are you reacting to your role on the triangle or acting out your purpose?

In This Together,
Kim

On the side: I did a video the other day on this same topic. I showed the triangle upside down from how it should appear and I didn’t offer clarity about each role. I hope this blog post straightens out some of that.