The War Of Words

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Recently, I have been thinking back to the days when the boys were young. Those were the days and many of them I would never like to repeat. They were stressful with meltdowns and words that took a cruel aim to the heart.

“I hate you” “I wish you were not my mom” “You’re a whiney little jerk” “Mom, he called me a butt.” Those kinds of things. Normal, yes, but the frequency at our house was 100 times what was normal. It was exhausting.

I remember at one point trying to get the boys to think before they said something. Hard to do when you are seven and in the heat of the moment. Hard for me to do now at 55+ and if I am honest; I have never been a model for saying quiet well-thought-out words.

During these early days of chaotic boyhood, a friend once  told me what she asked her kids when the War of Words was going on. I thought it was genius and wished I had done more of it as they grew up. She would ask her kids:

Is what you said kind?

Is what you said helpful?

Is what you said loving?

Often times just by asking these questions I found I could bring a temporary respite to all the chaos. It was a blessing. It taught my kids that words have meaning and repercussions too.

Recently, I was thinking back to those times and I decided that those questions of yesteryear were valuable not just for kids but for me too and I have been trying to be mindful before I speak by asking myself these questions before spouting off. I have also added two other questions to ask myself before responding to others:

Is what I am about to say true?

What is my motivation (honest) for saying what is on my mind?

Admittedly, it is hard for me to remember to ask myself these questions before talking. Often, I fall far short of where I would like to be. But usually, if I just pause before speaking, I can do a quick inventory in my head of the answers to these questions and decide whether my response is:

True

Honest

Loving

Kind

Helpful

 

If what I am about to say is not any of the above; I am trying to learn to shut my mouth and keep it that way. As a person who has shot from the hip most of her life this is a real learning experience for me. A challenge akin to climbing Mt. Everest. It is not easy. It takes a little bit of awareness and planning. But every time I succeed in being mindful I know I am getting to be one step closer to the person I want to be which gives me hope that maybe one day before I die I will master this ability to speak mindfully and to shut my mouth when needed. But somehow I suspect that it might take my deathbed to figure it all out if even then. Yet, I keep trying because I know for the sanity of all involved that when I am kind, loving, honest, helpful, and true I give the best of myself to those who deserve only the best of me.

Amen (so be it)

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Leaving On A Jet Plane

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Today B left on a 5 day business trip. Now to most, this would sound mundane. Five days. Big deal. But for me that is exactly what it is…a big deal.

Almost two years ago B came home while the rest of us vacationed for an additional 10 days. A few days after I arrived home is when he said he was wanting a divorce. Fast forward marriage therapy, individual therapy, meditation, Marriage Encounter…you name it we tried it. It was a merry-go-round of great successes followed by some major failures.

This past January, after coming back from a business trip to China, once again B stated he wanted to separate. Then I went away and realized I did too. I was done with all this back and forth. Either you want to be together or you don’t. I wrote a five page note putting my feelings into words and the actions I wanted to take, out there, in plain site, for him to read…only now he didn’t want to separate. So we made a deal. No more talking about divorce for 6 months and things seem to be better.

Now three months later B is alone on another business trip and, frankly, it made me a little nervous. So as we were walking to the other night I decided to be honest and spill my guts. I said to him:

“You know you are leaving and the last two times you have gone away on your own you have come home wanting a divorce/separation. Obviously, I have some concerns because being alone seems to take you to a place of not wanting to be together. So I wanted you to know if you are even thinking this again don’t bother to come home because I don’t want to deal with it and your indecision. This is a scary thing for me to say this but I am dreading your time away because I don’t want to be hurt again.”

“It sounds like you are scared,” he says using a phrase that he has learned at the therapists office.

He keeps walking. I do too but immediately feel my stomach clench.

“Really! That is all you are going to say!” my brain almost exploding with these type of thoughts.

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And so I stopped walking.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” B says to me.

“Honey, this is the point where you are suppose to offer reassurance. I appreciate you recognizing my feelings but you need to go further. Just recognizing what I have said isn’t enough. Sometimes you have to react, reassure, or explore a little more. This is a pattern in our relationship. I express myself and you barely react to what I say. You could say more but you choose to withhold words that could be helpful, kind, or could bolster our relationship. You have gone away twice for periods of a week or more and both times have returned wanting to be single. I need honesty and reassurance from you that this isn’t going to happen again.”

B looks perplexed. He stares at me like I am a alien from Mars. But then he pulls me close and gives me a kiss.

“You don’t need to worry. I will be excited to come back to you.”

Okay, he’s not the best with words but it is a start.

This morning B left. When I went downstairs I found a note by my computer which read:

HONEY,

HAVE A GOOD WEEK AND EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE WHEN I RETURN. THANKS FOR GETTING THE KIDS AROUND WHILE I AM GONE. LOVE YOU, B

Maybe he is starting to “get it” after all.

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A Good Book

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I am reading the book Perfume River by Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler. His words flow like a river during the spring rains…rushing and so powerful that they threaten to pull you under. Yet, Butler also knows how to write as if the river is also drying and receding into itself … the author’s words trickling from the pages in a sparse kind of way like the character who finds himself parched and unable to continue his journey.

As a writer I find it amazing when an author can match the flow of his words with the flow of the story. It’s a rarity, that. Most people can write of feelings and place but show me an author who has the gift of using words to match the tempo of the story, like a composer who pens his first notes for each instrument; well, it is a gift to the reader.

I wish I had the ability to match my words and actions with the tempo of storyline that is running throughout my life. Often I feel that my passion is too intense for the scene or that I fall behind not realizing the importance of the moment until it has passed. Sometimes I find  myself experiencing a momentary loss of words as I traverse this life that is mine. Having my emotions and words match what is going on in life often presents a bit of a challenge and I find that sometimes I am missing the perfect words that would complete the chapter in a satisfying sort of way for all the characters in my life.

But if the truth is told,  seldom is the time that we get to write our own life story as we envision it. Often plots are pushed upon us through no fault of our own and characters we never imagined magically appear. We expect a monsoon but get a drought instead. And as we journey through life we often forget that our words set the pace for what happens next, who we become, and the quality of our relationships that we are in.

So today, let us be mindful of the words we are saying and where they might be taking us. Let us craft our words and deeds like the chapter of a good book. And by thinking before speaking, let us be like that author who knows what to edit out to make the story flow. After all, it is our own personal story so its up to us to make it interesting and something we would be proud to let others read.  We may not get a Pulitzer Prize but we will get immense satisfaction in taking the time to craft a life that becomes our own bestseller.

 

 

 

 

“Perfect” Words

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I have been working hard to use the “perfect” words and phrases in my everyday interactions in order to minimize conflict and optimize understanding. Our therapists say to try to increase our usage of them everyday. Here they are:

  1. I love it when______
  2. Help me understand
  3. What would make it easier for you?
  4. I just got triggered and I feel ______
  5. Can I have a re-do? (Meaning you screwed up and would like to try again)
  6. I am not comfortable with______. Perhaps we can try ______ instead. How do you feel about that?
  7. I have a concern about_____
  8. I heard you say _____ and I am wondering what you mean by that.
  9. I am trying to understand please tell me more.

 

I have to say some of them work better than others. It seems like the “I like it when…” phrase often brings about the desired results and by saying “What would make it easier for you?” I get to know exactly what would be the most beneficial thing I could for B at that moment in time.

Last night I tried the “I have a concern about…” and it bombed…BIG TIME. Not only did  I feel like my words had exploded in my face and I had been cut by shrapnel; I ended up feeling like a fire work that just wanted to explode…light the fuse…I dare you. Let me explain.

The kids started school two weeks ago and it has been absolute chaos. Between each kid being at a different school,  two carpools, and one kid also taking a college class in addition to normal high school work; the hectic threshold has increased 20 fold in his house. Already I have gotten two phone calls and two emails from Andre’s school, one from Gracie’s and have had to contact Paul’s school three times for various things in addition to talking to the counselor. Add to that book marking each kids classes(12 total) so we can check on homework every night finding/loading emails for teachers and two IEP teams…well let’s just say that it has been a challenge.

So last night when I got home late after being voted in as secretary of a school organization (more about that some other time) I found B watching the Olympics which then proceeded to his playing of the bagpipes. Meanwhile, I went upstairs to ensure that Andre was doing his homework and spent 30 minutes going through all his class websites with him after getting a call from school earlier in the day. I spent another 20 minutes re-organizing his notebooks for what I hope is greater understanding of where papers/homework are and where handouts should go. I did the same  last night with Paul who seems to not be getting any homework… hmmm. Had to check on that too.

As I climbed into bed, after thinking long and hard about how I wanted to approach the issue, I said to B:

“I have a concern about ______ (“using “perfect” word phrase) how we are going to get the boys through school this year.(Two boys who have autism and face many challenges when in school) So far I have received several emails and phone calls from the schools and since the boys are both in high school now, where even more is expected of them; I think we need to come up with a plan on how we are going to handle this because I can’t do it all. If you have any ideas about this I would be glad to hear them. This is what I was thinking. I was thinking that perhaps I could be responsible for Andre and checking his classes and that you could do the same for Paul. If there was math homework that help was needed on you could do that (I don’t do math) and English would be my responsibility. What do you think? Or do you have something else in mind?”

“I work from 7 am to 6 pm. I can’t do it.”

CANCEL CANCEL CANCEL  (To find out what this means ) Read Sitting In the Silence

“Well, honey, I work too. I drive two carpools, answer calls and emails from the school, pay bills, clean house. I work too. I’m sorry, you don’t get to just hang up all the responsibilities of this household when you walk in the door.”

And so it went.

Later I told him, “You know I worked very hard thinking about how to say what needed to be said in a way that was non-confrontational using the words/phrases our therapists taught us and I feel like you just shot me down. I am very disappointed about how this went.”

“You are entitled to your feelings. Feelings are neither right nor wrong,” which is B’s new catch phrase.

Yeah, well, buddy… my feelings are now ones of being pissed and angry at your feelings of entitlement and your lack of sensitivity that I am trying my best to have a calm discussion with you to get what we both want/need for our boys. I am also thinking that if we had divorced you would be getting half of these calls, doing half these carpools and that you would need to hire and pay for wife that you now have for free. An expensive proposition to say the least. Frankly, I would like to kick you in the ass for being such a blockhead.

And so I went downstairs and listened to THREE meditation podcasts in an effort to bring myself back down to earth and re-locate my place of serenity. Afterwards, as I reflected on the day I wondered it there really is such a thing as “perfect words.”

I guess the answer is no…but I will keep trying to use them anyway.

And now I will:

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Comfort

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The other night B hurt my deeply. He didn’t mean to but he did.  We were dialoging and I got to choose the question. It was: How do I see our future together?

His response, ” Is this tomorrow’s future? Like how do I see tomorrow?”

“No it would be in ten years.” I replied.

“So how about in one year,” he shot back.

And so it went until I told him that whenever there was talk about a long time future together he avoided it and it hurt me deeply.

Perhaps I push too hard.

Perhaps I want answers that aren’t ready to be given.

Perhaps I demand too much.

But with tears in my eyes I said to him,”It hurts when you don’t talk about a long term future together. It makes me feel very insecure and sad. And it makes me wonder about why we are doing this at all. For when you love someone you talk about the future. Remember how you felt before we got married? All we wanted to do was talk about our future together.”

He replied,”I am trying to just take one day at a time. My therapist wants me to be in today’s moments not projecting out into the future and I have found I am more peaceful living that way.”

And with tears in my eyes I explained, “I understand that and it is a good way to live. I am trying harder to live in the moment too. However, when this happens, when you refuse to talk about a future ,it takes me back to when I was a 9 year old child who didn’t know where she would be sleeping or who she would be staying with. It puts me in a scary place. So for me the future is very important. It reduces my anxiety about our relationship and talk of it makes me feel secure. It makes me feel like I know where my head will be resting and that is really important to me and that scared little kid who still lives inside of me.”

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B looked at me. Hard. Tears coming to his eyes.

“Come here,” he said with open arms. “Let me  just hold you,” he said as he wrapped his arms around me moving me closer towards his heart.

And so he held me. He stroked my hair. Then, quietly, he began sharing his thoughts of what the future with me looked like. And it was then that I knew he really heard me and understood why “knowing” the future was so important to me. He opened himself up and shared because it was what I needed.

Comfort means different things to different people. It may be provided in different ways and at one time it may be meaningful, at another, not so much. But providing comfort because you have heard a need and you wish to answer it is probably the greatest thing that we can give to one another. It promotes good will. It promotes understanding and healing between two people.

So today, instead of asking what we can do for our partner, perhaps, we would be better off asking how we can comfort them. For when we do a strange thing begins to happen. Love awakens. Love strengthens. Love endures. Because by stepping outside of our own comfort zone to comfort another, we ultimately get provided with a kind of comfort we didn’t even know was needed.And as it turns out, we end up giving and getting a gift more precious than gold.

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Trying to Maintain Dignity & Grace

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Its hard. No doubt about it. When you feel so wounded and so hurt not to lash out. Not to want to say “Stop being an asshole!” over and over again. To not to want to destroy or implode the last vestiges of your relationship or something that is meaningful to the two of you.

It would be very easy for me to get in a “bad” place very quickly right now. A place I would not be proud of in the future. But I know that it would only serve to heap more shame, guilt and sadness on a plate that is already filled to the brim with it. So instead, I am trying to focus on acting with intentional dignity and grace. I am trying to use words that embody dignity and grace. I am trying to act in ways that show my love for myself, my family and B being mindful to incorporate these ideas into my actions. For instance, a small petty way was when B gave me a chocolate bunny for Easter yesterday and instead of taking a hammer to that damn 5,000 calorie creature I thanked him. So while my thoughts may not always be inline with my thinking regarding dignity and grace I am trying to  be mindful and change them too. Thanking instead of hammering. Acting elegant instead of spiteful.

I am trying desperately to remember that no matter what happens with this relationship, the truth is that ugliness, bitterness and anger will do nothing for anyone. And it won’t make me a better person. More importantly it will not make me feel better about who I am and will certainly steer me away from the person I have been trying to become. A more peaceful person. A happier person. A person who loves what is in front of her and not wishing for something more.

So even though B may not see a future together and even if there is no future to see I have to believe if I act with dignity and grace then it will allow the good stuff to come to me and to be seen by me. And that is what I need right now and in the future. I want to be mindful and happy with myself and I want to minimize regrets. I want to see the beauty that is all around me. I want to feel the softness of soft feelings and actions even though things feel angular and hard right now. I want my heart to be open to possibilities so that I can make decisions out of love for myself and not out of anger and confusion.

Dignity and Grace. In fact, I like them so much that I might just go get a tat. I have never had one and could never find anything that I would like enough to permanently place on my body. But maybe these are the most important things for me to remember especially now. Dignity and Grace.  They are my new mantras and just maybe my new ink.

 

A No Negativity Day

urlPema Chodron

One of the things that Pema Chodron talks about on her Udemy lecture is exceedingly difficult but excitingly profound.

Chodron says that once a week we should strive to not talk or act out of a place of negativity and that by refusing to act out of negativity it creates a sense of heightened awareness. This is especially true to observe in regards to ourselves. None of that negative self-talk (I should have know, I should have done better, I am so stupid…or whatever it is you say to yourself that is done in a negative state of mind) is helpful; its only destructive. Chodron states that when we engage in negative self talk we are just throwing kerosine on the fire of our soul.

When you are going through an “almost divorce” it is difficult to not engage in self-talk that is defeating and detrimental. The “what-if’s” and accusations of all that is wrong with the relationship and YOU are difficult to not take on when a monsoon of sadness and negativity is swirling around you. But in order to see things with a new perspective and to gain our grounding we must.

So let’s challenge each other to each live tomorrow (Friday) within the positive instead of the negative. Then on Saturday we can go back to being as negative as we desire LOL!

The Doctor Is In…316 Odd Days Or So To Fix This!

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According to my Grandmother, in order for a relationship survive there must be a lot of give and take. I admit, I do more than my fair share of giving…advice that is.

Sometimes my advice is golden:

“Learn to adapt”

“Invest in quality pieces, they never go out of style.”

“Just go ahead and do your own thing. It won’t matter after you’re dead. Just don’t hurt anyone else while you are doing it.”

“Don’t compare or else the grass will always look greener from where you stand.”

But more often than not I find my advice sounds somewhat like this:

“If you do X then X will happen,” (da-da…insert evil music)

“Don’t have sex with her unless you can see yourself waking up to her for the rest of your life”…which is valid but not always helpful at the time.

“If you would only take out the trash we wouldn’t have ants”

“You should have listened to me and this never would have happened.”

Recently, I had noticed that my commentary was full of If’s and Don’ts and Should’s. In other words, I often used these if’s and should’s unintentionally as word grenades; words which when said warn the unfortunate listener that something more is coming and it usually isn’t good. They are just “pull the pin and toss” words that can have near lethal effects on a person’s soul. Words which imply that the person is lacking in some way or has failed in some sort of duty owed. While I have used these grenades on others recently I have realized I have used them consistently on myself during negative self-commentaries that came to prance through my mind from time to time. Usually the word should figures predominantly in those head games I play with myself.

“You should have…”

Frankly, I think the word should be banned because it is a word that sets a person up for a lifetime of regret and self-flagellation.

“You should have…”

Lately, I have been working on decreasing the amount of should’s, if’s and don’ts in my vocabulary. Instead, I have tried to replace them with “feel good words” like… please, could you, and it may be better if…

And it is working.  As I use gentler words my family does too infusing a sense of calm in the atmosphere of my mind and in our home.  Best of all, I find I am turning into a kinder gentler woman … a Glenda the Good type of person who helps to remind me that “There’s No Place Like Home, There’s No Place Like Home, There’s No Place Like Home!” and I finally believes it.