So, when are words not enough, and why am I thinking about this now? Well, the sweetie students in my Marriage and Family classes (shutty the mouthies 🙄) had to write their own original definitions of family and marriage, and what I got was great: some students insisted that blood defined a family while others agreed it was love/support/understanding that made a person family to you. In terms of defining marriage, I got a lot of people talking about commitment, loyalty, etc. and the word ‘unconditionally’ was used a lot. Then, one of my sweetie students wrote this: “What couples have is indescribable to me…it’s so much.”
As always, I was gobsmacked by this insight and she is absolutely right. How do you find words that encompass all that a couple has? How could words ever truly be enough? Our textbook (and I also saw this on spruce.com) states that: “…marriage is a formal union and social and legal contract between 2 individuals that unites their lives legally, economically, and emotionally.” Is this really ‘all’ that marriage is? A contract that unites people on these 3 levels? I don’t know about y’all, but there were times in my marriages (😳) where there was a lot ‘more’ to that definition.
I remember when O’s dad and I were married and how we faced a lot in our first few years together: O having severe asthma that led to hospitalizations, living away from all of our family at all and knowing just a handful of people in a strange state, ma being diagnosed with breast cancer, me going to graduate school, B working overtime so we could save up a nest egg since we were living paycheck to paycheck, and the list goes on. And this is nothing different…and much much less than other couples face…in that we ALL have sicknesses, financial issues, family trauma (and drama too), etc. that we have to deal with. It’s true that B and I were legally a couple, economically tied to one another, and had an emotional connection, but there was just ‘more’ to this time in our lives than what was seen on the surface.
We went deeper than just ’emotions’ and acted as anchors for one another…support. We sacrificed for each other and made decisions that put both of our interests out there. We worried and cried over O more times than I can count and held hands or hugged while we did…we knew we couldn’t live without him. We went ‘deeper’ than just the mental state we call ’emotion’. But what other word is there?
Then, I think about my sonshine. There is no way I could ever completely express the love I have for him…as John Candy says about his wife in the movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” (my ALL time favorite film EVER 😎), “Words just aren’t big enough for what I feel” and he was referring to his wife. Hmmm…think about that: words aren’t big enough. You know, I wasn’t a mama yet when I first watched this movie in 1987 (I was 5 at the time 🙄) and when John said this, I teared up. But when I watched it again after O was born, I got it. I truly got it. There’s not words that encompass all I feel for my boy. And there never will be.
I also think about my ma. The other day I told her that I forbade (my favorite word to use with her…she hates it 😐) her to ever die. Period. Yes, she’s 75 but she’s going to live to be 150…I won’t have it any other way. Anyhoot, how do I put into words what she means to me? What she’s done for me? How she supports me every single day of my life?
Being mentally ill is a challenge for me, but it’s just as big of a challenge for the people around me. Ma has been there through my ups and downs, and I wouldn’t be here today if she hadn’t nurtured me through the breakdown I had. I don’t say that lightly either. I don’t throw around the words: “Oh…you saved my life!” when someone brings me a sandwich. No. I mean…she SAVED my life. Literally. So how do I put all of that in a word? How do I define that dynamic? That support? That love? That commitment? Well…I can’t.
Today Bill and I are both getting COVID tests…he was exposed at work and we both have some symptoms, so he was home for the day. We were fixing lunch (I found out he finished off our chocolate chip cookies…I had words for that…🤨) and I asked him if he loved me. He stopped what he was doing and looked at me and said: “Why are you asking me that? You don’t know?” Well, yes…I guess I ‘know’ he loves me, but I need to ‘know more’ that he loves me. Does that make sense?
One bad thing about having bipolar is that my brain is never fucking (sorry, ma 🙄) off. It’s always on. And I don’t mean just ‘on’…it’s always on at full-blast 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s constantly imagining, ruminating, wondering, fretting, deciding, etc. and so I told him this: “Yes, I know you love me…but what does that really mean to you?” Isn’t that a tough one to answer?
I don’t know if I can answer that myself. I know what love isn’t…it’s not manipulation, retaliation, distrust, disloyalty, etc. but what IS it? I guess that’s what I was after. You know, after you’ve been in an abusive relationship, you question so much in other ones. J said he loved me all of the time…everyday (except for the days he was cheating on me and sometimes, even then) so was what we had love? I look back and know I loved him, but have also accepted that he couldn’t have loved me. You don’t purposefully hurt those you love. You just don’t do it. I can’t imagine laying a hand on my son or dog…I can’t imagine ever saying something cruel to ma…I can’t imagine ever PURPOSEFULLY hurting anyone I love. So…maybe that’s why we say actions are louder than words…they simply ‘show more’.
When you think about it, words are finite…they have some definitions to them and then the entry in the dictionary ends. Maybe what’s important is to figure out what words mean to you, and then try to express that in any way you can…sort of like the Love Languages. What says love to me might be different than what says it to you.
Sometimes I think we get too caught up in words. We give words way too much weight. We give them way too much power. After contemplating all of this, I realized that words are something that we need to sometimes throw away. If Bill got mad at me today and said something hurtful, I’d still know he loves me. He’s human…he’s going to say unloving things just like I will. Maybe instead of getting bitter about this and racking up all of his ‘mistakes’, I could instead look at his actions all of the other time…his behavior…his loyalty…his support. Maybe we all need to work on ‘showing’ than on ‘saying’. Words can hurt and sting and destroy…no argument there. But actions and future behavior can heal that…if we let it.