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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YELLING AT MY TOMBSTONE

As you know when I started this blog it was because my husband came to me and stated he might want a divorce. One of his main issues with me and my relationship with my family is that I was YELLING…a lot.

If the truth be told I had just gotten into a habit of relating to my family members that way. It was a bad habit and a habit that was destructive to everyone’s psyches in this family. So I vowed to change.

I am pleased to say that being mindful, meditating, doing personal self care and personal work on my own inner being has helped me tremendously. Since the end of July I have yelled just 5 times and out of those times  twice I caught and stopped myself after only a few words. It has not been easy. Yet, the rewards are huge. Not only do I feel better about myself and my life, I see a softness in my family that was not there before. Paul is less depressed….can I say that not yelling has helped him. Absolutely. There is a much calmer atmostphere here and the kids no longer feel like they are walking on eggshells around me.

I regret that I didn’t take this path a long time ago. The damage my yelling has caused (no, I never did the “you are stupid” calling names type of yelling but the “why do I have to tell you a 100 times to pick up your shoes” kind) is immense. And for that I am sorry. For I don’t want to have an epitaph that reads “SHE WAS THE WORLD’S GREATEST YELLER” written across my tombstone. What I want is “SHE WAS A HAPPY PERSON” engraved on it equipped with a built-in motion detector laser so when anyone walks by, the song DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY automatically plays. And I think I am finally on my way to living up to those things I do want memorialized about myself when I pass on.

P.S. Yesterday I saw this on Facebook and thought it was just perfect. So the explanation says whenever my mother was asked for her special Christmas cookie recipe she would say “Over My Dead Body”

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Choose Something Different …323 Days To Fix This

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I have recently been listening to a lecture by Pema Chodron On Udemy called The Freedom to Choose Something Different. It is fabulous.

One of the things Pema talks about is how we get “hooked”…that is how we react over and over again in the same ways even though it is hurting our health, our relationships and our ability to be at peace because we just can’t let things go. She talks about how even before we process “the hook” we can feel it in our gut…that unconscouis tightening that occurs when we are starting to be hooked and react in ways that are not beneficial for us or others. And Pema is right.

Many times when I was yelling I would feel that anger start in the pit of my stomach and move upward and then out of my mouth in the form of a very LOUD yell. Pema says that the trick to eliminate this unwanted behavior is to choose to do something different to break that pattern of reaction.

There are several things that I have put into place when I feel that irritation or anger first start. They are:

I take 10 deep breaths (one breath doesn’t work for me because I can hyperventilate and  breath so fast, so that I am still angry when I am done…sigh)

I removed myself to my closet where I listen to a 10 minute Chel Hamilton Podcast which teaches new approaches to try when things are bothering me. Bonus this totally relaxes me and I am a new person when I emerge.

I envision myself reacting the way I would like someone to act towards me

I pull on my ear to break my irritation pattern and amazingly it calms me right down.

In this vein, I once listened to a NPR program that talked about the huge issue of heroin addiction that the Army was facing prior to the Vietnam Vets arriving back in the States after the war. The soldiers were shooting up in large numbers in Viet Nam and the Armed Forces were worried about the tidal wave of soldiers returning home addicted. Turns out that while some addicts did continue with their habit, many more did not. Why? It seems that changing location made a huge difference. Not due to access but just due to the fact that when you change a pattern you can change behavior.

Breaking the pattern is the first step towards change whether it is yelling, eating, sleeping or many other issues that we find annoying or that damage relationships. It takes recognition, hard work, mindfulness and wanting something different in order to incorporate things into our lives to stop “the hook” from taking over.

So if you are driving along and you see a woman frantically tugging on her ear, it is probably me, and you probably just cut me off but it no longer irritates me because I have chosen to do something different. Have you?

32 Days And I Drank The Kool-Aid…332 Days To Fix This

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So it had been 32 days of no yelling. Not one single loud voice, one yelp or one shiver me timbers shout. Not one shrill sentence, not one whoop, nor one holler. My lips have remained soft and my mind has remained focused on being the best new me I can be. I have gone where I have never gone before. Until this morning when I went to the well and drank the Kool-Aid.

I was getting the kids off to school. Paul is still in the hospital but Andre and Gracie were at home when Andre The Master Manipulator started “poking” at me looking for every hidden button that would possibly set me off. Everything I said was met with a total ignore or a “NO.”  Sometimes autism just sucks.We were 2 minutes from heading out the door when I realized Andre had purposely neglected to do something that needed to be done. And that’s when I lost it.

“I told you to _______” And as I said the last word I realized I was yelling. It scared the crap out of me because I didn’t even comprehend that the decibel level of my voice had risen to the sound of a fighter jet during a fly-by until the 5th word. At that point I caught myself and abruptly stopped, then whispered quietly to the universe and my kids, “Oh darn, I just yelled for the first time in over 30 days. I am so disappointed in myself.” I had just received my 30 day chip only to have it fall out of my hand.

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And so, like an AA member who has slipped, I start the process over. More meditation tapes, more quiet time, more bubble baths, more positive thinking and more contemplating what it means to try to incorporate this “new” me into the old. I worry about what this one act will do to my relationship with my husband whose tolerance for failure, while usually decent, is still tenuous towards me at this point. I am glad he is away as I couldn’t bear to see the disappointment in his eyes.

Yet, as I hang my head in shame, I realize that this “no yelling” business is a process that calls for diligence and patience with myself.. I am trying… trying harder than I have tried to do anything in my life and it is not a time for self-lashing. For tomorrow is another day…DAY 1.2 (the improved version) OF NO YELLING!

A Seven…342 Days To Fix This

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So last night when we were taking our nightly walk I made the mistake of asking B how was I doing on the changes he had asked that I make. I figured I was at a 9.5 at the least. After all I have:

  • Not yelled in like 25 days
  • My house is practically ready for a photo shoot in House Beautiful minus the sink where a pile of dishes is stacked because B needs to put in a new garbage disposal.
  • We had explosive sex 5 times this week (confession, it was only explosive 4 out of 5 times but hey I’m 55 so I count that as a blessing) Unfortunately, it appears that “Bat Ears” radar picked up on the fact that we were “going at it” which may explain why he is walking around the house repeating the number “69” over and over again. Sigh. How will I explain this one to his teacher?
  • I am smiling and dancing like a Pharrell Williams Happy extra when my heart is really breaking.
  • I’ve lost ten pounds

Yes, I have worked myself into a brand new me and frankly I have been pretty impressed with her. For in the midst of heartbreak I am also feeling strong and optimistic about who I can be as middle age creeps up on me (at least a couple of hours a day anyway)

So after all this change and angst which I am working so hard at I was devastated when B replied, “Well, I would say a 7.” And that is when I realized we really may not stay together because, frankly, I am doing the best I can do. The best I will ever be able to do. I can do no more and I wouldn’t want to even if I could. And if that is worth only a 7 in B’s book then we are doomed. Because I am working so hard at making others happy that I am losing myself even further in the process. And losing myself is not something I am willing to do anymore. Not even for B, or my kids, or my church community. Because I know that in losing myself it only makes my relationships stay in a state of limbo and that in the end the relationship will never make up for what I have given up in order to keep things going. All I am doing is creating an illusion and building a house out of sand that will be swept away during the first big storm. And as luck would have it, this year is suppose to be a hell of an El Nino.

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Who I Really Want To Yell At…Upcoming IEP…Shoot Me Now

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So we have an IEP coming up. Any parent who has ever participated in an IEP meeting knows the special kind of hell that is reserved just for us.  It is a game for adults while the pawns are the kids. These are children whose lives can be changed for a lifetime if they only get the help that they so desperately need. Parents wrangle to get what their children are entitled to under the law while school districts try to keep their budgets in line or just disagree for purely reasons of precedence. And with an unfunded federal mandate to provide these services to those in need…well, it truly is a no win situation except in the simplest of cases.

This time when I walk into that room with principals, teachers, school district big-wigs, and lawyers I want to say something meaningful, poignant and straight to the heart. What I want to say is this:

“Every year parents of special needs children divorce. In fact, according to statistics provided by various sources it is estimated that 80-90% of couples whose children are considered special needs divorce; thereby disrupting the most vulnerable of families. These are families in need of two adults in a household to co-parent and provide support to one another while they manage hour-long tantrums, disruptive behaviors, and the close supervision that is often required of children with autism and other neurological conditions. Divorce is ugly. It changes the hearts of both children and adults. It makes kids feel unsafe and unsure about their future.

So why am I telling you this?

Unfortunately, our family may soon become one of these statistics. Although we are fighting to stay together I don’t know if we will win this battle. It is ironic because we have stayed together for 29 years with ABA therapists in our home 5 days a week. We have made it through home safety issues, seizures, special diets and numerous calls from the school. And we are tired. Worn out. And haven’t had time for one another for so long.

So what does this have to do with you and how can you help?

Do what is right by our children. Honor our requests instead of just setting them aside and ignoring them. We know our kids and often we know exactly what they need. Think in terms of the far off future and outcomes that will ensure that my child will one day be a tax paying American instead of someone who needs assistance their entire life.  Provide those things you would expect for your own children or grandchildren. Think beyond and outside of the box. Do what is moral, courageous and honorable. And do it now. Stop being intentionally adversarial and work from the belief that if we cooperate, children with special needs can and will reach their full potential; thereby benefitting this community and nation.

Finally, I am letting you know that while I do not blame you for our marital issues, I do want you to be mindful that the constant extra challenges such as IEP meetings add extra layers of stress on top a marriage that can cause it to eventually sink. Remember these IEP meetings are not a game and our family is not something to be manipulated and discarded without regard. We are people trying to do our best in situations that most of you cannot truly comprehend.

In conclusion I ask you to take to heart the words of James Rachel who said:

“Principles of justice are principles that rational, self-interested people would choose to govern the society in which they were going to live, provided that they did not know, at the time they chose the principles, exactly what their own place in society would be” “– James Rachel’s forward  to John Rawl’s  book, Two Concepts of Rules.

Consider This A Yell…344 Days To Fix This

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So consider this a yell. I know, according to internet etiquette I should use caps if I am yelling but somehow, as an English major, that just seems to look like I am using bigger letters rather than saying anything profound. Nix the caps.

So I was talking to my husband about going back to school to get into a profession that would pay well even though I am 55. And he said, “I think you are rushing into things.”

“Why,” I replied. “I need to be able to take care of myself if we divorce.”

“I misspoke,” B says. “I didn’t want a divorce, I just wanted things to change.”

(here come the caps) WHATTTTTTTTTT  THE HELLLLLLLLL !

“What do you mean you just wanted things to change. You told your brother you wanted a divorce.”

And so it went.

So I leave this conversation. And I am pissed. I’m sorry but be a man…say what you mean and mean what you say. You said D.I.V.O.R.C.E. You don’t just throw out that word because you want things to change.  If you want things to change you go to your spouse and talk about it. First. Before you mention divorce.

You have forever altered so many things about our relationship by just flinging that seven letter word about. My trust in our relationship is tattered. My belief in us is in shreds. I am fearful, vulnerable, and having to envision a life that is so different from what we have now. You have rocked my world and my trust. I am sorry that you are afraid of confrontation but that is not my problem. It is yours. Own it. And own the fact that you said D.I.V.O.R.C.E and don’t try to back pedal and make it seem more innocent than it was. Don’t try to sugar coat your words. You said them and you need to own them. And in the mean time I will live with them floating through my mind and over analyzing everything that is said as I try to piece together who and what I am and we are now post the mention of a D.I.V.O.R.C.E.

Yep you got my attention but in doing so in the manner that you did, you set into motion something bigger than the two of us. I hope that we will both be satisfied with the outcome.

20 Days Yell Free…345 Days To Fix This

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So I have been trying to think of ways to incorporate little reminders of the changes I want to see happen in my life. I had considered a tattoo but having worked in healthcare for so many years with the geriatric set I have seen what age does to an ink job. What once looked like a bombshell of a woman now 64 years later looks like a crone. Even worse, the boobs on many tats that I have seen have fallen significantly lower than my own which is quite a feat. So for me, tats are out…or were out until yesterday.

While waiting to go to my therapists office, I was pleasantly surprised when I found a henna shop. Bingo! I had found the answer to my problem. So I walked into… Bollywood…and I loved it!  A rich, sultry incense filled the air, Ganesha looked down from a bubblegum pink wall and pictures of dark haired women in shimmering sari’s filled every inch of the place. Frankly, I was in East Asian heaven. Since I knew little about henna I was thrilled to be directed to a book of henna design. When I saw the interlocking hearts I knew immediately that I was destined to wear it. I saw it as a positive reminder that we did love each other and would survive this crisis in our marriage.

After much oohing and ahhing about my choice by the shop’s owner, I was directed to a seat and the henna was squirted on. Unfortunately, I do mean squirted because I think the woman applied too much pressure to the tube and all this henna came flying out thick and mud-like producing a look of astonishment on the woman’s face. Since I had no experience in these matters I kept quiet thinking that perhaps the lines would shrink and become the delicate artwork that I had always imagined it to be. WRONG.

After waiting three hours to remove this huge poop looking mess I was elegantly sporting on my arm, the design looked even worse than I imagined. It looks like something a kindergartener would draw. I suspect these next 10 days are going to be a bit warm as I wear shirts that cover this hideous gaff which now graces my skin.

Yet, I will not let this ‘ink gone wrong’ experience deter me. I am already planning my next visit to the henna shop but this time I think I will look at a peace sign to help me remember to keep a peaceful household and engage in gentle, calm thoughts even if the henna artist messes up! For I truly believe that these little temporary reminders are easy visuals that will help me blossom and become what I am envisioning for myself in the 345 days to come.

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