“Just stop! Cause I really love you.” ~ Captain and Tennille

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.

Kristi xoxo

“Pity those who don’t feel anything at all.” ― Sarah J. Maas

So, in my sociology classes I lecture a lot about socialization and how men have such a small ’emotional’ box in terms of what feelings they’re allowed to show as opposed to women. For example, we talk about how women can show vulnerability, sadness, humility, nurturance, etc. in a way that men really can’t. When men feel these things, they often have pressure to suppress them…and that suppression can shift these normal human feelings into what men are allowed to show which is anger. There are countless resources about this and my male students talk about how they have been ‘forced’ in their lives to wear that ‘Mad Mask’ as well. In their papers, they write about fathers telling them to ‘toughen up’ and ‘don’t be so girly’ while validating the same feelings in their daughters. They talk about messages from their peer groups about ‘growing a set’ and ‘not being a pussy’ (no ma, I’m not talking about a cat 🙄). I’ve even had some come to my office and cry about how hard it is to maintain this tough exterior and it breaks my heart how they are deprived by society in expressing what they truly feel.

But, I’ve been thinking about this lately in regard to women and after doing some reading and contemplating my own behavior, I’m now convinced that women are in an emotional ‘cage’ too…however, it has to do with not showing negative emotions instead.

For some reason (perhaps having always wanting to be an FBI agent 😎), I love true crime shows and watched a great documentary on the JonBenet Ramsey case this past weekend. JonBenet was the 6 year old little girl who was murdered on Christmas night, 1996 in her home in Boulder, Colorado. When she was first reported missing, and then later found in the basement of the huge family home by her dad, the police immediately started to suspect her parents were guilty of the crime. They were very rich…she was a pageant girl (which apparently means her mom was a horrible person which she wasn’t from all accounts)…they called friends over for support after the discovery…etc. And because the police had this suspicion so early in the game, nothing could sway them until a man named Lou Smit worked day and night proving that an intruder was actually responsible for her murder and was able to prove it to a grand jury. Anyhoot, as the investigation was in it’s early stages, police officers talked about how ‘weird’ the parents were acting…how out of control Patsy seemed…how angry both parents were.

Heh? Are you fucking (sorry, ma 😳) kidding me? Tell me…how the hell are you supposed to ‘act’ after you find your murdered daughter and the police are focusing on the 2 people, for YEARS, who had nothing to do with it? Hmmm. When you figure out that nugget my sweetie peeps, let me know. In one interview, Patsy yells to the detectives questioning her: “I DIDN’T DO IT…FIND THE DAMN PEOPLE WHO DID!” Guess what, grasshoppers? I would have yelled a lot worse.

Anyhoot, why is it that when women talk about their anger, hate, jealousy, being offended, being distrustful etc. they are demeaned? Seen as being ‘bad’? Seen as being ‘wrong’? Even in the above, where Patsy had every single right in the world to act out, she was still seen as ‘guilty’ simply because of these normal reactions. If a man says he wants to kill whoever hurt his family…OK…damn straight. If a women does? Hey! Hold on there!

And then in everyday situations? I don’t know how many times I’ve repressed my anger at something said or done…just so I wouldn’t look ‘ugly’. You know, like a party pooper. Like a trouble-maker. I’ve had things said to me that I had every right to be offended by…but I have ‘gone along’ to get along. How sad is that?

Some studies show women are even hesitant to say NO in situations that are potentially dangerous so they won’t be seen as troublesome. I’ve seen that myself! I teach about sexual assault in some of my classes and talk about steps women (and men who get raped as well…we can never forget that 😥) can take to possibly lessen the chance of being raped. For example, I tell my students that if someone is following them while out walking, face them and say: “Hey! What are you doing?” in a loud, strong voice. A lot of my sweetie peeps titter…some even saying how embarrassed they would be doing that. When I ask why, they say it would make them look paranoid. My response: So?

As much as many men want to fit into the ‘manly man’ stereotype, women want to fit into the ‘nice gal’ one: Don’t rock the boat…Don’t show anger…Don’t yell…Don’t confront.

A few years ago, a man stalked me and then threatened to rape and kill me in a series of drunken texts. I went for an emergency order of protection which is, in the state of IL, supposed to run like this: The judge will hear the case for the Emergency Order without the abuser present. If an Emergency Order is necessary, a temporary one will be enacted while a date is set in which both the victim and abuser can be present, with legal representation, to then state their cases to see if a long term order can be obtained. (Illinois Department of Legal Aid).

When I went to my Emergency hearing, my stalker showed up…with his lawyer no less…and the judge actually allowed them to go ahead and present their side. Meanwhile, I had no one there…no representation…no idea what was going on. The lawyer (a previous student who must have hated me big time…go figure 🙄) attacked me verbally, threw papers down on the defense table where I was told to sit, and because of the breakdown I was in the middle of experiencing, I couldn’t take anymore even though I did call out 2 lies the stalker said which I proved. So bawling, I walked out and never went back.

I told others about what happened and they said it was terribly unlawful…I should get a lawyer and go after the judge who did that to me…talk to the State’s Attorney…blah blah blah. I did nothing because I didn’t want to look ‘angry’…unhinged…out of control. So, I did what countless women have done for ages…buried it and went on with my life while pushing those feelings down and taking them out on myself. Thank you legal system.

I also did this a lot with ma’s abusive ex (the fucking bastard 😠)…I learned VERY early on in their relationship that I had to be the nice, appeasing girl in order to not rock the boat. The consequence if I did? Ma could get hurt.

I experienced this with J as well: after his abuse and infidelity I was angry as hell, and justifiably so! But when I showed it, I was in the wrong. I just needed to ‘get over it’ and go back to my sweet self. 🙄 If I would have been allowed to express what I needed too and had it validated, the anger would have went away much sooner than it did. If you aren’t allowed to release something…you have to hold on to it. That, my sweetie peeps, isn’t healthy.

You know, I truly believe men and women both have emotional boxes they are forced to live in that greatly stunt them: men having to suppress the sweeter side, and women having to do the same for their tougher side. How sad is that? That both sides have to cover up these perfectly normal human emotions. That both sides have to ignore 1/2 of all they could be and then suffer the consequences: depression, anxiety, etc. Isn’t it sad how we are so freaking ‘gendered’ in our society still? How we have to follow in the footsteps of one path or the other? Yes, we’re getting better in terms of accepting those who are transgendered, but we are failing in releasing some of these gender stereotypes that guide so much of our behavior. I wonder when that will happen?

Kristi xoxo

“Perception is strong and sight weak.” ~ Miyamoto Musashi

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“Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion.  Life is like a train of moods like a string of beads, and, as we pass through them, they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue…” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, one of my pet peeves is when people say “It is what it is.”  Because even if you’re talking about a tangible object, nothing ever is what it is (rhubarb pie to you might be a great thing…to me, it’s a trip to the toilet).  Here’s why:  every word we speak, thought that we have, suspicions that might haunt us, how we see a gift, how we react to a particular person or animal or food, etc. are filtered through our own perceptions.  Period.  Our minds are like onions with things being processed through various layers that are unique only to us (and that can also make us cry).

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Think about it.  When you were a baby, nothing ‘was what it was.’  You had to learn about everything through your own innate abilities and then from others.  If a baby pulls a dogs tail (and O did this many times with Scooter who would sigh and look at me for rescue) and the dog snaps at them, guess what?  That baby is going to perceive dogs as being mean and will most likely be afraid of them.  I remember a cat hissing and making that horrible snarling type noise at me when I was at a neighbors house in the 2nd grade…ever since then, I do not like cats, have absolutely no desire to interact with them, and avoid them like a plague.  P.S.  Please don’t try to change my mind:  me not liking cats is what it is.  🙄

I remember walking home from a friends house when I was around 10 or so, and our neighbor had a HUGE Great Dane (yes, that’s an oxymoron but I had to emphasize this beasts massiveness) who was getting old and cranky.  As I walked around the corner of our block, he came at me fast, hard, and snarling.  I peed myself covered my face and finally his owner heard me screaming and got the dog under control.  After that, I perceived all big dogs to be a threat and only lost that years later when Hubby 2 had a white German Shepherd I had to be a mama too.  She was able to change my mind, but I’ll tell you what, I was terrified of her at first but cried like a baby when she died.

everything-we-hear-is-an-opinion-not-a-fact-everything-we-see-is-a-perspective-not-the-truGet my point?  Instead of saying “It is what it is”, we need to change that to “It is what we interpret it is based on our own thoughts, viewpoints, experiences, memories, values, belief systems (including political and religious ideologies), socialization, cultural norms, verbal and non-verbal language used, etc.”  However, that just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, huh?

I think perception really comes into play with communication and can cause a lot of conflict when the perceptions differ and effort isn’t made to understand what thought processes are being used.  Take flirting.  I’m an extrovert.  A HUGE extrovert who loves loves loves to chitchat and interact with people anywhere and everywhere.  Besides my lucky family, I talk to my neighbors, postman, garbage men, random people in stores or when I’m out walking, on airplanes, on social media…pretty much where ever someone happens to be.  When I write anywhere but here (I’m trying very hard to make sure this blog is taken seriously), I use a ton of exclamation points!  In fact, I feel guilty when I don’t because to me, periods look like you are ending a sentence with kind of a ‘meh’, instead of with excitement! 😄

So anyhoot, when I talk to people on social media, I use exclamation points, lots of emojis, etc. and a friend of mine said I was much too flirty.  Heh?  I’m not talking to men any differently than I talk to women.  I see (perceive) my interactions to be funny or sweet or jokey.  But, my friends perception is different.  I think a lot of it is because he’s far more quiet and introverted, and as a guy he just doesn’t use emojis and exclamation points quite as much as women might.  I also wonder if he’s had issues where flirting led to much more, so he perceives any ‘excited and fun’  communication as the start of something more serious.

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I can understand this, but my perception doesn’t agree with it.  Should I change my perception and start to see that I’m ‘flirty’ when I feel I’m just being fun and nice?  Should I change myself to fit his perceptions?  Should I stop using emojis when I respond to men’s comments?  Would it be disrespectful if I didn’t?  If we were in a relationship, would it be ‘fair’ for him to expect me too?  Why does my perception have to be his…and vice versa?

However, I know my perceptions have colored so much of how I see things in my life.  After being sexually abused by my psychologist for 2 years, I am very leary when a new man comes into my life because a part of me still assumes they only want me for their own satisfaction.  Rationally, I know that’s probably not true, but my perception stands.

When I start getting close to someone, I want to know who they are messaging or texting regularly since this is how J communicated with the woman he was planning a rendezvous with.  Because of my experiences, it makes me nervous that any texts to another woman could be fodder for an affair.  So, should a man have to hand his phone over to me based on MY perceptions?  No.  But should he try to understand why I have that perception?  Yes.

Early on when I was growing up, I always felt I wasn’t enough. Obviously, so many of these sensitive, self-critical feelings/perceptions were stemming from early indications of mental illness, but even now, I still have the same perceptions.  Regardless of how much I try to give or do, in my eyes it’s never enough.  So, when someone says “This is your fault, you didn’t do enough”, it doesn’t matter if it’s objectively true or not.  My perception is that of having failed them…and myself.

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I learned in my family that work is very important (which isn’t a bad thing) and being idle can be seen as laziness.  To this day, I try to ‘keep busy’ and if I watch a movie in the middle of the day or take a nap, I still feel a sense of guilt and make up for the lost time when I get up.

When I was suffering that fucking breakdown, so many things had piled up on me:  the senseless death of my nephew, the passing of my mentor, finalizing the divorce with Hubby 3, the crash of my relationship with J, a troubled student who threatened me at school, as well as surgery I was scared to have.  And here’s the thing (which actually breaks my heart), I used to see the world as sunshine and rainbows…or at least I tried too.  I really did.  I was a modern day Pollyanna who had a tough time seeing bad in things.  But now I do…and I hate it.  These things that happened changed my half-glass full perception to seeing a half-empty one instead.  I understood that the world can change in a heartbeat and there’s a lot of bad out there that can hurt you anytime it wants (I’m trying to mitigate this view and understand there’s both good and bad…).

Once I ‘came out’ as being bipolar, so many people rallied around and supported me.  But so many also faded away…their perception of me and mental illness was one they just couldn’t ‘see’ in their minds.  I was no longer Kristi.  I was mentally ill Kristi that made them uncomfortable and unsure how to act around me.

I think it’s a good idea to examine our perceptions to get a better understanding of where they came from and how they are affecting our lives…our relationships…our communication.  If we don’t understand what lenses we’re using to see the world, how can we pass those glasses to anyone else?  And, if can’t explore the basis for our own feelings and behavior, how can we begin to work on what we want or need too?

You know, my perceptions aren’t right or wrong, and neither are yours.  Our perceptions are ‘ours’ and need to be respected.  Obviously, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be open to other viewpoints and change, but by the same token, it’s not fair that others demand you to see things through only their eyes.  It’s not right to HAVE to change who you are and what you believe to be accepted.  What’s right is to explain WHY you hold these perceptions to be true, because that’s the only way understanding will take place.

Kristi xoxo