“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” C.S. Lewis

So, tomorrow is Thanksgiving and as much as Terri and I are missing ma and trying to figure out how to navigate the holidays without her for the first time, I also know how many blessings I have in my life too. My son, my family, my friends, my career, my home, my comfort, and the list goes on. I don’t ever want to lose sight of these things regardless of how much I’m grieving. 🙂

One of my colleagues and I were talking yesterday and she shared that she lost her dad 3 years ago. She asked how I was doing and I said my pat response: “Ok.” She said that she completely understood and even after the years that have passed since her loss, she’s often just ‘ok’ too. We talked about the pain losing a parent triggers and she said that she still cries over her dad…misses him daily…and feels the pain of his loss as something that she just carries inside of her now. I feel so bad for her since she and her dad were so close and thank her for being so open with me. To know that the struggle is real…and is going to be inside of me since ma will always be a missed part of my world…validates what both Terri and I are going through.

I think that all women feel what I know I do: that we ought to be the self-less ones…the ones who don’t take the last piece of cake, or demand what restaurant we eat at, or let our own desires come before those of our families. Maybe it’s in our DNA…maybe it’s the way ma raised T and I…or maybe it’s what we’ve chosen to spend our lives doing.

I’ve been teaching since I was 19 years old…preschool, jr. high teaching assistant, elementary, high school and college…basically the entire gamut of ages and grades and no matter what the level, students need so much from you. And, since I teach psych and socio and talk about some pretty difficult issues and struggles, so many students come to me for advice…comfort…direction. And honestly, it helps me as much as them. I want to the be the one to be leaned on. To be needed. To give to others because it makes me feel so good. T is the exact same way…her work as a private nurse and then the kind of grandma she is to my amazing nieces and nephews shows the size of her heart and her willingness to give all she has of herself.

I think all of this is why I’m finding it so hard to reach out to people who have offered support. When friends or family inquire about how I’m coping and handling things, more often than not I say “I’m fine!” to them. I want to recognize their pain first…their issues first…their needs first. I don’t want to burden them with mine…put anymore on their own shoulders…admit I need help.

I guess I don’t ever want to be seen as selfish and for me, asking for help puts me in that position. I jump on my own roof to clean out my gutters…move tons of rock by myself…teeter on ladders to paint my ceilings…put drops in Edward’s ears alone since it can be messy, and honestly, just doing this one task truly does show my inner strength. I think O and my next door neighbor would agree. 🙄

I’m also self-conscious about always being down. As I think all of us who experience depression can attest too, we soon learn that there’s often not a lot of compassion for us; or if there is, it dwindles as we continue to be down. If I asked how many of you have heard “Just cheer up!” “You’re so lucky for what you’ve got!” “Don’t you realize how bad off others are?” all of your hands would probably go up. We often feel guilty for suffering from something that’s inside of us…not something we’ve created. Likewise, those of us with bipolar who cycle through manic states hear similar sentiments: “Slow down!” “Just stop!” And my personal favorite: “Just calm down!” GRRRRRR!

So, we learn to mask our emotions the best we can so we don’t hear the frustration, weariness, and even at times contempt, in other’s voices. Maybe I’ve been doing this so long I simply can’t stop. I don’t want to seem needy or weak or lost. But just between you and me my sweetie peeps, I feel needy and weak and lost. And what is so so hard to realize as well is that ma is the one who made me feel needed…and strong…and anchored. She was the one I could be all these things too and have total, always unconditional, acceptance. Isn’t it ironic that the one I need most in my world is the one who’s no longer in it?

I know that I need to open myself up to the support being offered but genuinely don’t know how. “Can you come over and keep me company?” How can I ask that when they have their own lives to live? “Will you sit down with me and look at a photo album I made while I talk about all the memories that are between the covers?” How can I take up their time hearing my stories and seeing me cry? “Would you mind running some errands with me because being alone 90% of my time just gets to be too much and having company would feel so fucking (sorry, ma) good?” How can I force someone to spend time with me when I can always handle things myself? “Can I call and chat for a while?” How can I make myself be a pest to someone who’s so busy themselves?

I understand that this is a ‘me’ problem. An “I don’t know how to do this” problem. And I also know it’s keeping me from starting the work I know I need to be doing…not just getting through each day so busy that I don’t have time to think. That’s beginning to not work for me now and with Thanksgiving, my birthday and Christmas all within the next month, those triggers are going to be mighty hard to ignore.

Terri and I both need to cut ourselves some slack…be kinder to ourselves. We need to stop feeling guilty for asking for help and for feeling selfish when we do. We also need to be able to start saying ‘no’ to things that will take away from what we are personally able to handle right now. Reversing decades of feeling bad about ourselves when we were depressed or struggling has made it’s imprint…it may be a while before we can let some of that go.

Every night I thank God that he gave me a ma that I miss so fucking much. She was such an amazing mother and the love I have for her is undefinable. It’s a blessing to have experienced what a lot of others haven’t been able too. And I’ll be thankful for that forever.

Happy Thanksgiving, peeps…thank you for your kind messages and sweet words. They are truly appreciated more than you’ll ever know. 💘💘💘

Love you ma. Love you more.

Kristi xoxo

I will keep the tie that binds us ~ Johnny and June Carter Cash (‘Cause I Love You)

So, I’ve struggled with losing ma and am beginning to cognitively realize the finality of her being gone…but it’s something that I simply can’t emotionally accept yet. It’s been a bit over 3 months and I know I should be facing things better yet I feel like I haven’t really even started the actual grieving process yet.

As always I decided to research all of this and after digging through mountains of material have come to understand that navigating grief when you have bipolar is a bit more difficult and can often lead to complicated grief…something I didn’t know anything about.

Honestly, I really hadn’t thought about bipolar affecting how one grieves and once I came across some articles I saw myself in them more and more…it actually makes me feel better just in the sense that what I’m going through is normal for my abnormal brain (hmmmm…confusing statement, huh?😳).

A wonderful article helped me understand that those with mental illness (or anyone!) often experience delayed grief which is basically when people postpone coping with the loss and not being able to grieve or actively suppress any emotion that begins to rise. (Repression and suppression are often used synonymously but repression is unconscious and suppression is conscious). Bipolar itself can force this delay simply because there is little space in our emotional world – it’s already filled. I never thought about this but I relate.

Depression is a huge part of complicated grieving anyway but exacerbated in those of us who deal with it regularly. Verywellmind.com lists signs that indicate complicated grief and although I have these now, actually diagnosing this states that the loss has to have been at least 6 months ago…so maybe I won’t experience this seriously since it’s only been 3:

  • Excessively avoiding reminders of the loss – definitely…although I have a lot of pics of ma around, it’s hard for me to actually look at them. O gave me a digital frame for Christmas last year and it’s on my kitchen table. I always used to have it on all day to see my fam, but now I just leave it off since ma is in so many of the stored images.
  • Obsessively thinking about the person – Hmmm…I don’t have this since I’m repressing every attempt to think about it…
  • Intense longing for the person – yep.
  • Feeling a loss of purpose in life – you know, this is a toughie. School has been amazing this semester and has given me a routine and a reason to get up everyday. But honestly, I’ve been teaching for a total of 32 years (including elementary) and had been thinking seriously about retiring. Now I’m not so sure…teaching is so much of my purpose and even though I love it so so so so much, I’m getting tired of the bureaucracy that’s inherent in any public institution. Decisions are made and edicts fall from the top when us faculty actually know how to do our jobs pretty durn well. I don’t need yet another meeting talking about syllabi or calendars…after 3 decades, I think I have it down pat. When ma was here, retiring was more enticing since I had her as a social support/best friend/travel buddy, etc. Now I feel like I’m just floating and if I don’t continue to teach, I don’t know what my life would look like.
  • Seeing proximity and reminders of things from the person – ma’s living room furniture fills my house now and it really does make me feel closer to her.
  • Suicidal thoughts – no.
  • Unable to accept the loss – yep.
  • Experiencing instrusive/persistent thoughts about the person – yep…when I’m least expecting to, I often find myself just thunderstruck by her…I never know when it’s going to happen.

The causes resound with me (and Terri as well) –

  • Unexpected death – ma was fine in June, hospitalized in July, and gone Aug. 2nd
  • History of mental disorders 🙄
  • Experience of more than 1 death within a short period – in fact, Terri lost the boy she was a private nurse for and who she considered a son while our aunt died 18 days before ma. Then, Terri’s mother in law died just a few weeks ago and is grieving that loss as well. She’s been through so much.
  • Not being present when the death occurred or being a witness to it – Terri was there when ma died and even though she’s a nurse, it was so traumatic for her. I wasn’t at the hospital that early morning (we took shifts) and although I didn’t want to see her actually pass, it’s almost unreal that she did. Yes, I saw her in the funeral home, but that was more surreal…doesn’t really make sense, does it?
  • Older females – well hell, that’s us. 🙄

Anyhoot, reading about all of this actually helped me a lot since it gave me some answers regarding this process and helped me understand how my mind is processing all of this. I totally understand that there is no ‘normal’ way to grieve and I also understand that everyone grieves at times in their lives. Terri and I talked about that the other day and said that we wouldn’t be able to stand this if it were one of our sons. And although we know we’re lucky that ma was very happy her last 12 years and didn’t suffer for an extended time, it doesn’t take the pain away from our own hearts. Yes, it could be worse. Yes, we were lucky to have her 76 years. But in the end, she was still our ma.

I’ve been wanting to post for a while but it’s so hard to motivate myself to just do it. It’s the same with running or getting some painting done around the house. Four months ago I was zipping around…so excited about all there was to do…and now I just dread having yet another task to complete.

I know this won’t last forever. I know that I’ll eventually work through this. I know I shouldn’t feel guilty when talking about this to others simply because I assume people are getting tired of my sadness. That’s actually a tough one for me. I have a couple of people I chat with outside of Terri and O, but I always feel like I’m burdening them if I’m down and need to talk…I hate feeling like that…I want to be the one to relieve others of their burdens.

And Terri and I also know this: we were so fucking (sorry, ma 🌞) lucky to have the mom we did. She was so so good to us and her love, support, care, kindness, unconditional acceptance, and the list could go on and on, is something we know not everyone has. We truly were blessed.

Love you ma. Love you more.

Kristi xoxo

“…or I might find out what it’s like to ride a drop of rain…” ~ Brad Paisley

Dear Ma,

So, where do I start? The hole that’s in my heart grows more and more as I come to understand that you are truly gone. Honestly, it takes my breath away and as much as I try to push down those feelings, I’m finding I simply can’t do that much longer. Ulcers, stomach pains, and headaches are telling me that I need to start what others call the ‘healing’ process. But to me, it’s not healing at all – it’s actually scarring which will be with me always and will still cause me pain when I bump against it. And you know, the funny thing about all of this is that the one person in the world who could comfort me best is you. You.

I feel so selfish though because I’m crying so much for me…for losing my support, my rock, my best friend, the person who loved me more than anyone else in the world ever has. Ma, I’m scared to be without you…so scared of what my life will be without you. I miss our Sunday lunches…our card playing…our trips…our eating Mexican and then getting too stuffed…our jokes…our conversations…our laughs. You always made me happy. Always.

Something else I’m struggling with is guilt. So much fucking guilt, ma…and it’s eating me up. What you went through with Richard is making me vomit whenever I think about it. I should have helped you more. Tried harder to get you away from him. Drug you to the police. Forced you to go to the DV shelter for help. There are so many ‘shoulds’ that I have running through my brain and they torment me. You always protected me and did everything you could for me and in turn, I feel like I failed you. Remember when I apologized to you in the hospital for this? I’ll never ever forget what you said to me: “Kristi, you did all you could.” I heard that ma…but just can’t believe it yet.

I also didn’t know how much you were drinking because you hid it so well. Sometimes I’d call you at night and knew you were drunk just because of your slurred words. But I truly thought those were one-offs…not a nightly thing. I’ve been going through tons of old photos and can now see the signs in your face during that time. And you know, I also see the difference in your eyes over time: I have a pic of you when you were with Richard (don’t worry, ma…he’s going to a very different place than where you are) and drinking, and your eyes are empty. Glazed. Vacant. After you left and settled in to what you call the best years of your life, they brightened and sparkled. What an awesome transition that is to see!

You know, I think a lot about your strength and class. I know you and pop divorcing was devastating for you. I saw your pain…your tears…and then your strength when you pulled yourself out and started to live again. Fighting back against Richard was horrifying; I remember you at the shelter as we were getting your OP and then going in front of the judge. You were shaking so hard beside me and grasping my hand to where I had indentations from your nails. But you persevered even with the fear of retaliation from him. And then you grew. And grew. And grew.

Your quilting business blew me away. Who knew you had such a keen business sense? What you built in the span of just a couple of years, and then worked at for over 15, was amazing. So many of your customers came to pay their respects to you, and Terri and I were so proud to hear them talk about your kindness…sweetness…talent…helpfulness. We were gobsmacked. You made such an impression on everyone you met and everything they said was true. Completely true.

So Terri told me what you said to her before you lost your ability to talk – “I want Kristi to be OK and I don’t want you to worry in your life.” Terri has been wonderful with me and has taken over the role of older sister seriously. We talk multiple times a day and are always checking up on one another. We’ve worked together on your house and haven’t had any sort of disagreement at all. We know you’d be proud. And when she came over the other day, she said “I’m going to hug you now!” Then we looked at each other and laughed. We both know Terri isn’t a hugger…but she knows how much I need that and is comforting me so much…I hope I’m doing the same for her. Little does she know she’ll be a champion hugger in a few months.

And ma, I know you wanted me to have your house but honestly, I just can’t do that. You are too much there and I don’t think I’d ever be able to move on to the degree I should in those surroundings. I would also feel like I was taking your place in a way…something no one could ever ever do. I do have your living room furniture though, and when I look at the chair you always sat in to read and sew and watch TV, I see you. In your jammies from Kohl’s with a scrubbed face and damp hair. I love that picture of you so much.

I talk to you everyday, ma and I hope you can hear my words…I know I can hear you. Understand that I’m never going to stop having you in my whole heart…never let go of your hand…never ever say goodbye. And when I see you again, I’d better get a damn big hug.

Thanks, ma. You were truly the best mom I could ever have. There are a lot of things that haven’t gone right in my life, but you were always there. Always. And having had that for all of these years makes up for anything else.

Love you ma. Love you more.

Kristi xoxo

“But there never seems to be enough time…” ~ Jim Croce

So, one day O’s dad came home from work when I was 8 months preggy and found me sitting on the living room floor shoveling Oreo’s down my gullet, watching All My Children, and bawling with umpteen parenting books spread all around and all open to different chapters. He sighed, stomped into my pity bubble, scooped up all of these tomes and proceeded to chuck them in our dumpster. And yes son, this is before us old folks regularly recycled.

Trust me, this was an act of mercy. I don’t know about you all but when anything happens to me, I turn to books to try to figure things out. The only problem with this is that every book has conflicting advice, ideas, and tips to use for such a task. For example, EVERY parenting book I was reading on that day of infamy said something different about ‘how’ to raise my baby. Every one. I was so befuddled I thought about calling my OB/GYN (who had the bedside manner of a turnip 😳) and telling him I was calling off this ‘birth thing’ that was ultimately B’s fault. But know what I figured out after being a new ma for a few months? That they were all right. And all wrong. And my job was to do the best I could with the personality of the little guy I had and hope for the best. Luckily, it worked. Very well.

And now? I find myself doing the exact same thing with books on grief. I’ve read tons of info on ‘how to grieve in the right way’ and if I put into practice all of these, I’d be once again bawling, watching soaps throughout my day (which I actually wish I could🤔 ) and gaining 10 pounds a week. Hmmm.

However, I have come across advice that does help me and while searching I found this from Everyday Health (paraphrased):

“Saying goodbye to a parent is a life-changing experience, marking the end of a bond we’ve known for our entire lives (Heidi Horsley, PsyD). Until it happens, we don’t know what our lives are like without our parents and to have them gone can be traumatic, whether it’s sudden or expected.”

“Our biological parents give us life, and the parents who raise us (whether biological or not) shape our lives in really big ways. They’re with us from day one, forming the foundation of our identity.” (Alexandra Kennedy).

Research show that people continue to report trouble sleeping, concentrating at work, getting along with people, and a strong emotional response one to five years after losing a parent. Other research suggests losing a parent puts someone at a higher risk of numerous negative mental and physical health outcomes, including higher likelihood of binge drinking, self-esteem issues, and overall decline in happiness. This evidence also reinforces that parents often play critical roles in our self-confidence and sense of purpose throughout our lives.

Carmen Chai

Honestly, reading this comforted me in a way nothing else has because it helps me to understand the gut-punchy feeling I’m walking around with and why I have such a hard time accepting ma’s death itself.

Ma really did play such a role in my self-confidence…no matter what else might be happening around me, ma ALWAYS supported me and believed in my abilities to handle whatever it might be. I did feel a sense of purpose being ma’s daughter…that was (and I guess still is) a HUGE status for me and at night, when I’m used to talking to her and reviewing our days together, brings that home to me. I know how much I needed her attention and love and how ‘less than’ I feel by not having it now. She made me feel like I was so important in her life too, and never passed up an opportunity to show her appreciation for me.

Crystal Raypole wrote a great article in Healthline and gave 10 ideas for how to navigate through grief which is a great compilation of advice I’ve read elsewhere. Some of these are easier than others…and some are going to take me a lloonngg time to either begin or traverse through.

The first couple are to both validate your feelings and then allow yourself to fully experience the grief. OK. These are the toughies. I keep apologizing to people for being in such a ‘sleep walky’ type of existence right now and when others ask me how I’m doing, I always say OK which is actually not the truth. I know saying fine isn’t true at all and saying horrible probably is a bit harsh to put on someone else, so OK is my go-to right now. However, a friend of ma’s, T’s and mine said this yesterday: “Fine simply means fucked, insecure, neurotic and emotional.” I guess with this definition, fine really does sum up my day to day right now. (Love you, Teeeny 💘)

And fully experience the grief? I think this is different for everyone and right now, I can only take it in dribs and drabs. I find myself vacuuming yet again when I feel these waves come upon me and I know that if I open that door, I’ll drown right now. I eventually will…but right that that tsunami would be way too much.

At a walk for cancer research.

Caring for myself is one I’m working on and I definitely have support from the fam but what’s ironic is this: I get to crying over ma and start to call her so I can talk to her about it…after all, that’s what I always did when I was upset. What a tough habit to break.

Sharing and honoring memories is another idea and T and I are doing just that in a lot of ways. Ma made so many beautiful quilts and we have given a quilt to all of our family, ma’s friends and neighbors, and are going to have the rest professionally cleaned and then donated to the local Cancer Care center for them to give to those getting treatment. This is the same place where we asked for memorials and it honors ma’s 25 years of having been a cancer survivor. We know she’d love knowing others getting comfort from what she made. Every time we talk, T and I (and O and I too) share memories and some make us cry…some make us laugh. And you know, having T is a gift. Only she knows what I’m feeling since she’s struggling with it too…we are truly a team in this loss.

Finally, a suggestion I’ve seen in various places as well says to forgive the person for past wrongs, unresolved issues, etc. Here’s a true testament to ma: I don’t have any. I know people make the dead into saints when in fact, no one deserves that title. However, ma was an amazingly, perfectly imperfect parent and she was there for T and I no matter what. We were lucky that we got to talk to her so much up until a couple of days before she died, and at one point she tried to apologize to me for having married her ex husband (yes, he’s a fucking bastard and had he shown up at her funeral, my nephews and O were going to ‘escort’ him out 😠) and putting T and I through these horrible years of domestic violence and the abuse he heaped on us as well. I stopped her. I told her she didn’t need to apologize…she needed to absolve herself of any guilt she had towards us because he was the abuser…not her. And I know that she was the one that had to ultimately understand when she could get away from him with her life. How can we blame her for going through hell? I blame him.

Maybe I’m reading too much about this grief thing and maybe I think that by doing so, I’ll glean quick fixes to this shattered life. The best thing I’ve learned is this: it’s going to take a LONG time to grieve ma…I’m going to feel things in my own time and way…I’m going to have to re-learn life with having a ma in it…and I have to make sure that the life I have is lived to it’s fullest and the people who are in it simply know how much I love them. If T and I can both do this, I think ma would be proud.

Love you ma. Love you more.

Kristi xoxo

“Some people care too much. I think it’s called love.”  ~ Winnie the Pooh

So, I’ve been reading through the 2 years of blog posts I’ve written and it’s funny to see how much my life has changed. What was such a big deal at one time is nothing now and I know that in terms of relationships and break-ups, time truly does heal all wounds. How weird to see people I thought were so important to me be nothing more than a blip now. It’s nice to know the heart really does have the power to mend in these cases.

Almost every one of my posts has ma in it somewhere…even if it’s just apologizing for saying fuck. But wanna be in on a secret? Ma used to say it too every once in a while…probably 3 times in her life in front of me and always laughed and turned red when she did. So many of my posts talk about the fun we had together, conversations we trudged through, trips we took, and the list goes on.

Even though I am still in shock and a bit of denial (T and I both share these feelings), I am starting to see her everywhere…metaphorically. I did dishes today and she was there…standing over my shoulder at holidays with pursed lips telling me I didn’t rinse a cup well enough. On my way to school I realized that EVERY single place I pass is somewhere ma and I went: restaurants, stores, thrift shops, etc. I ordered a couple of African Violets just now (my new obsession…gramma and ma both loved them and I’m feeling it too 🙂) and it made me think of when I was a little girl and she had yellow shelving pop put together for her with violets covering them. I know I got my green thumb from her. I put a book on reserve at our library and thought about how ma went there every single week for all of her adult life. Every week. She was a voracious reader and T and I share that trait. Her favorite thing was to soak in a warm bubble bath with a little bowl of chocolate covered anything and read and snack. When T and I are doing things in her house I see her at her quilting machine…cross stitching on the couch…making the best chili in the world.

I think about our inside jokes…how we used to sign greeting cards with funny names or things we’d say while playing cards. She had such a great sense of humor and ‘got’ me more than anyone else ever has.

How can you describe someone who was your world? What words can possibly illustrate the scope of her in my life? The place in my heart? The memories in my head? It’s such an indescribable feeling to not only lose someone you loved more than life itself but to have your world so shaken up. Turned around. Changed forever.

Being Prof K helps a lot during the day…it gives me purpose and direction during this time of numbness. My students are absolutely freaking amazing and are so sweet in how they’ll ask how I am. But when I’m at home? It’s like I’m sleepwalking through life outside of campus. I can’t sew. I don’t know if I ever will again…T can’t either and ma’s bestie said the same thing to me yesterday. I’ve been doing huge jigsaw puzzles while listening to audiobooks for something to focus on but I hear her voice in my head telling me to work on the border first. Even writing this is hard…not because of the content and the fact I’m crying, but because ma always read my posts. Always praised them. Always told me how proud she was of me.

T and I are taking things one day at a time and I’m focusing on being there for O…he loved his gramma so much. Even Edward and Mally run to the door when someone pops over and I can see sadness in Ed’s eyes when it’s not ma. There was nothing he liked better than trying to lick her ears when she was on the couch.

So many people at school who have lost a parent have sought me out and talking to them helps. One friend said that I’ll never ever get over the grief completely…never have my world the same way again…but that you learn to live with it. That it’s going to take me a while. I know that my heart won’t mend this time…it will scab over but the hurt will be there. Always.

Today, a friend told me a quote by Winnie the Pooh:  “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” I was gobsmacked by this because it made me realize that ma was such an amazing person who I got to have for 55 years. But unlike Pooh, I’m never going to say goodbye. I’ll always talk to her. Always love her. Always miss her. And always work to make her proud.

I keep greeting cards I get and ma used to give me a lot of them. One of them I found said this: “You are loved and adored and I’m proud to be your ma.” What a great feeling to know she felt this way. What a gift. What a wonderful message that I can hold onto for the rest of my life.

Love you ma. Love you more.

Kristi xoxo

“Lean on Me” ~ Bill Withers

Dear Terri,

So, I know you don’t get quite as mushy as I do, but bear with me because I promise to make this as painless as possible! Anyhoot, I don’t know if you realize this but you are a great sister to me and always have been…right from the start.

Remember when I couldn’t talk at first before I spent a few years with the Speech Pathologist and no one could understand me well…including ma and pop? The thing is that you always could; so from the very beginning you had to help me by being my translator and my voice. I wonder why you could get my words when others couldn’t? Maybe because it’s just a ‘sister’ thing? Or maybe because as much as we’re different, we’re so similar too (except in the ‘chest’ department where you were blessed more than me 🤨)?

There’s that arm!

Almost every single picture I have of us as kids, you have your arm around me. Not just casual like, but grippy…possessive…like you were broadcasting to everyone that not only were you my big sis (remember, you are significantly older than me 😐) but my protector too. And you had a job with that, huh? Both of us were bullied in elementary school…especially by that kid ‘B’ who would not only taunt us at school but also follow us home while making our lives hellish for that 2 block walk. But honestly, you remember that better than I do because you shielded me from so much of it. You took the majority of the bullying and pushed me aside. That was such a selfless thing to do, particularly for a kid whose instinct is often to protect themselves first.

I loved it when we would go to gramma and grampas. Getting on the floor with gramma while playing triple solitaire and squawking when we beat her. Running errands with her in the VW bug and arguing over who got to sit in front. I know…I won most of the time since I got carsick so easily. It was either win or have you see me puke. I honestly think you dodged a bullet in that case. And then we’d spend the night and grampa would make us something special and always had teen magazines for us to read. I think we both felt so cozy and loved and sharing those memories of all 4 of us together makes me smile every time. They both would be so so proud of you for the grandma you are today and your grandkids are just as lucky to have you as we were to have our own.

Thanks for the fashionable dresses, ma.

Did you know I started getting jealous of you when you hit Jr. High? You got to go to a HUGE school and have a locker and have more than 1 teacher and ride the bus (which come to find out sucked balls😬 ) and then the best part: go to dances and get calls from boys and have secrets behind closed doors with your best friends. I wanted to be a part of that so badly! And, you were beautiful too! I know you’re shaking your head or rolling your eyes or retching right now, but I’m being honest. You were…and still are! Being the first to try make-up made me long to be older and acting as the guinea pig for your hair styling skills was fun…but to a point. That damn nozzle on your hairdryer would whack me in the nose everytime…and I know it wasn’t YOUR fault…it was the dryer itself…right (🙄)? You know, I just realized that may have been the cause of my deviated septum, and not the broken nose I had years ago. Hmmmmm…

(Did you know I saved all of the letters you wrote to me when I was at summer camp those 2 summers? I saved every one!) 🧡

I loved talking to your boyfriends and even keeping them company while you finished getting ready for dates. I remember when Ben and you were an item and had an argument: he called and I was so pissed he was fighting with you that I yelled at him and called him a ‘hoodlum’…the worst word I could think of at the time. You were gobsmacked I’d do this but here’s why: it was my turn to stand up for you! And a secret? I always had a HUGE crush on Jack. HUGE! I pictured you dumping him and then him looking at me, scooping me up, and carrying me off into the sunset like a prince. A prince in a cowboy hat no less. Did it matter that I was 12 and he was 16? Nope. I figured that would work itself out in time.

And for a couple of years, I was your voice too! Calling into the high school, pretending to be ma, and telling the secretary you were too sick for classes that day. How I wanted to play hooky with you and your friends! When I’d be sitting through yet another lesson on biology which I had absolutely no chance of understanding, I’d wonder what you guys were doing. Make overs? Talking about boys? Sneaking a smoke? Exciting stuff to a younger sister!

You and your cute boys!

When you got married and left home, I missed you so much. The house seemed so empty. It was just ma and me and the vibe changed…the energy. That’s because you had brought it in. But it was exciting when A was born and I was an aunt. I could finally drive and loved visiting you in the country and playing with him. I can still see him on the walkway to your front door, riding his trike with his curly blonde curls bobbing up and down. Then when D was born and I was a bit older, I finally was comfortable changing his diapers and taking more care of him…that was so much fun for me and gave me the even bigger desire I had to be a mom myself. You are a great one.

Does this all sound too Pollyanna-ish up to this point? Like we never fought? Of course but these good memories stick out much better than the bad.

Showoff!

We fought like cats and dogs sometimes…we said things we didn’t mean…we did things we shouldn’t have to one another…and we sometimes couldn’t stand each other and made that clear. In other words, we were sisters. And yes, this sometimes still happens. But we always work through whatever it is and come out stronger on the other side. It makes these fights worth it just for that. BTW, the maddest I’ve ever been at you in my life was when you won the twisted balloons at the Mueller Christmas Party and you REFUSED to let me wear them. It still gets me going. 😬

I know you hear a lot about me being bipolar, especially since you read this and hear me talk about it with others. But I also know you battle so much with your own disorders too…after all, mental illness runs in our family and were both blessed to continue the tradition. Charmed, I’m sure.

The anxiety and depression you experience is horrible and I know your life has been affected by it in so many ways. We didn’t know much about mental illness when we were kids/teens…it just wasn’t talked about or recognized in younger kids. But our struggles were real…even if not always validated. I know these issues can cripple you at times and when they do and you reach out, I often don’t know what to say…because there’s no words that can truly help. It makes me feel powerless to protect you from this like you used to protect me from things. So we both listen to each other…commiserate with one another…and know that no matter what or when, we’re both there to listen. No matter what.

I know you’re hard on yourself for having anxiety and depression…in fact, we were talking about it this week. You said how you feel guilty for letting your grandkids see it…that you want to be ‘perfect’ like gramma and grampa were to us. But the thing is, you are. Your sweeties love you like no other and here’s what you’re teaching them by being who you are: that it’s ok to struggle…ok to express feelings…ok to say you need help. In other words, you are providing the example that being perfect isn’t possible, but being honest and true to yourself is. Think about how valuable of a lesson that truly is.

And today? You are still protecting me. Still keeping me in your grip. Still standing up for me and believing in me and loving me. In other words, you are still the sister I’m so blessed to have and my life would have been so lonely without you. I know this is getting long…and starting to get mushy…so I’ll stop here. But, just know that I love you. YOU. Imperfect, mentally ill, emotional YOU. Because just like you see the real me…I see the real you. And the vision that I see is wonderful.

Kristi xoxo

“I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters…” ~ Trini Lopez

So, there’s a controversy swirling about our town and it’s almost like the division between people, which is already great in our current political climate, is worsened because of it. I’m actually going to use the name of the university and the Reverend simply because it’s all over the media here as well as the rest state, including Chicago news stations. Here’s what happened:

Millikin University (a well respected private institution…I taught there adjunct for a few years in the 2000’s) had their Fall graduation on Dec. 12th and Rev. Wally Carlson from a local Methodist church gave the invocation. Sounds good so far, right? But instead of simply invoking the blessing of God (which is what ‘invocation’ is), Wally pretended to take a phone call from God and apparently, God said this while chatting on his Samsung Galaxy:

“First of all, let’s take care of the gender issue. He understands and he’s sharing with you that there’s no theological justification for it but he’s choosing he and him today, doesn’t like them and they and just because this is probably irritating enough people that it’s coming out this way we’re gonna stay away from she and her…” 

Wally Carlson

Now, before I unload all of this (which is a shit load), MU officials were quite upset with this holy proclamation (🙄) and  immediately issued an apology to all who attended the commencement and said Carlson’s comments “neither reflect nor represent the values of our university.” And I believe that whole-heartedly.

Anyhoot, when I first heard about this, I was of course gobsmacked by these words but it also pissed me off when the Rev said GOD was calling HIM and telling him this. I’m sorry, but I think it’s blasphemy to pretend to take a call from God during a commencement and maintain that what you’re saying is a directive straight from the Lord’s mouth. I don’t know about you, but I would like to believe that God is too busy to interject in a graduation when there are wars, famine, abuse…you get the point…that might be of more concern to him.

You know, I’ve been a Christian all my life and have never shied away from proclaiming it. My favorite verses are from 1 John 4:7-8 which says: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (NKJV).

That’s a pretty clear, isn’t it? And for the Rev to say that God is ‘choosing’ the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘him’ and doesn’t like ‘them’ and ‘they’ and is also shying away from ‘she’ and ‘her’ is, to me, saying that transgender individuals are not accepted by him. Not loved by him. Not recognized by him. I just can’t believe this to be true.

So, why in the world would the Rev think that promoting his obvious platform in terms of transgender (and I’m wondering if homosexuals are also included in his catalog of sinners) was appropriate for a graduation? What the hell? Really…you have to bring up something that has absolutely nothing to do with the commencement? Was it supposed to be ‘funny’? Lord I hope not, particularly since there were transgender individuals in the audience who were stunned and hurt by this message on a day that was to be a celebration of their accomplishments.

Obviously this Rev doesn’t abide by the good ole “Judge not lest he be judged” from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:1-3). Unless of course he’s perfect…which I guess he must be since God calls him personally. I have yet to receive one.

Yes, Wally needed to be called out for this and apparently he made a Facebook apology (does God do social media too? 🤔) which was later taken down. Why would you take down an apology? I don’t get that unless the apology wasn’t sincere.

But, let’s all be honest here: we judge. Period. We all do. According to Dr. Elizabeth Dorrance Hall: “Our brains are wired to make automatic judgments about others’ behaviors so that we can move through the world without spending too much time or energy on understanding everything we see.” So it’s prewired in us to make these calls.

Then there’s the issue of situational attributes vs. personality attributes. Situational ones are when we believe a person’s behavior is due to something going on in their environment where personality attributes are about the person’s character like traits, abilities and feelings. And, like you might guess, we tend to judge more on a personal level since it’s easier. Right? Looking at situations takes more time and understanding…something that our fast paced, social media driven, everyone just write whatever they want while in front of the anonymity of a screen culture seems to promote.

And I do it too. And, I’m ashamed that I have. I’m the first one to say “HEY! Don’t judge me! You have no idea what it’s like to live in my world of mental illness!” yet I’ve judged others while ignoring their situation…circumstances…environment, etc. I’ve popped off to people that are being rude without thinking that maybe they have a sick relative or a child that kept them up all night. I’ve judged the decisions of others without taking into account what was going on around the person when they made them. It’s easy to do, isn’t it? And isn’t it easy to judge this other person so you don’t have to look at yourself more closely? Hmmm…

As I’m writing this, I’m crying. In fact, Eddie just ate the Kleenex I threw on the floor. I know I’ve hurt people because of these quick judgements…just like I’ve been hurt. So why do we do it? Understand how much judgement hurts, but do it ourselves? There’s no easy answer to that but we do know that humans are programmed with both a negativity bias as well as a need to feel inflated. Both of these helped our ancestors who had to see things negatively since so many life or death threats were posed to them. And of course we know that that bias still exists now: that’s why ‘bads’ are so much more powerful than ‘goods.’ Likewise, we also have the need to feel superior since our ancestors quickly learned that it’s the strong that survive…not the weak.

I guess this speech just made me think of the judgement that swirls around all of us. We each have imperfect things about us…decisions we’ve made…behavior we’ve carried out…words we’ve said…that cause others to judge us. All of us. And we have all judged others for their decisions, behavior, words. All of us.

There’s no way this will ever be ‘fixed’…it’s something primitive inside of us that’s almost a knee-jerk reaction. But we can all stop heeding these reactions and look at the whole picture instead. We can consciously work to look at the circumstances surrounding the person and honestly try to put ourselves in their shoes. We can slow down and think about these reactions and use our higher level of cognition to negate them. And, we can all look in the mirror and admit something a friend and I were just talking about the other day: we are all imperfect. And we truly do need to treat and love others like we want for ourselves.

Kristi xoxo

“I am thankful for laughter except when milk comes out my nose.” ~ Woody Allen

So, tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I have so much to be thankful for in my life. It’s also the season of buying gifts and I’ve been working my little fingers to the bone making stuff as well! However, my son has told me he doesn’t want another quilt from me even though he loves the ones I’ve made him over the years: it’s a storage issue and I understand!

Anyhoot, I was putting the idea of thankfulness and gifts together in my mind (🙄) and realized that the people and things I’m thankful for have given me lifelong gifts I cherish.

Ma has given me so much over the years that it’s hard to sort them all out. I think the biggest gift she’s given me is that of support. I actually call her my bra because no matter what, it’s there holding things up. Yes, sometimes there’s chafing, but that’s to be expected. If I said “Ma, I want to fly to the moon and plant a quilt I’ve made on a pole by the American flag” she would say “That’s a great idea…how can I help?” I’m not kidding…her support is unconditional and always there. I have taken that gift and tried to pay it forward with my son. When he wanted to quit his job at Verizon and start a photography business, he needed to live with me to save on bills in order to buy equipment he needed. I was happy to do this for him…even though there was some ‘chafing’ there too! He had lived on his own for a few years prior to this and for both of us to live together again was sometimes a challenge. (The best part was when he’d make me supper…he’s a great cook! The worst part was me seeing my basement full of dirty clothes…he’s not OCD’ish like I am 😐).

I also supported him in his move to Texas…just like ma supported me when O’s dad and I moved to Kansas for his job (O was born in Kansas). Ma visited a lot even though it was 8 hours away and we yacked everyday on the phone. Back then our phones were ‘on the wall’ so I’d sit with O sleeping in my arms while talking to her on her work line so I wouldn’t have a humungous long distance bill. Thank goodness for that…I don’t think B would have appreciated that.

My first visit to Texas!

I went to Texas as much as I could…at least every 12 weeks or so and I know O appreciated it (since I cleaned up the apartment and bought food) and I always loved seeing his face looking for me as I exited the airport! One day he came home and said that another guy was in the store that had moved and he hadn’t seen his parents for a couple of years. He told me how much he appreciated my effort in seeing him so much and that just made my heart sing.

And what has O taught me? Love. It’s that simple. Yes, I loved people very much before having him but the love of your child is just a another thing entirely. The minute he was put in my arms I thought: “I would kill for you, kid…I already adore you that much” and it grows everyday. Literally. It’s hard to explain how much space he takes up in my heart…but I know that no matter what ever happens in this world, the love I have for my boy lights me up from the inside out.

And my pop? He’s given me so much as well but a couple of things really stand out. First is the love of running he instilled in me. I began running in the 4th grade when pop started our local running club and have pretty much run since then. Pop has gone to EVERY single race I’ve ever run in…whether they are in town or miles away and whether they are a 5k or a marathon. I love running…it’s not a chore to me but a pleasure and I know that comes from him. When I train for marathons, pop rides his bike next to me and those are the best times I’ve spent with him. We talk and reminiscence and say things to each other we probably never would have in another situation.

But he also gave me the gift of being a good neighbor. Pop has always helped neighbors and made sure they are taken care of. He mows, scoops snow, helps unload trucks, takes food to those who can’t get out, and the list goes on. I’ve done the same in my neighborhood. I raked my leaves last Sunday and then raked 2 more neighbor’s yards. One of the old men came home while I was working on his lawn and asked why I was doing it (we’re friends…he was being sweet) since he was able too himself and I said this: “Norm, you are always helping out neighbors and I wanted you to do the same for you!” He was so thankful and it made me happy. I guess pop has shown me that helping and doing for others is a gift of enjoyment for yourself.

My sissy has given me so many gifts too but I think the most important one is that of being authentic. My sissy is who she is…she doesn’t wear masks and has the attitude of ‘take me or leave me’ like I am. I love this! She is so strong and when we were little, she was my protector. Every pic of us when we were kiddos shows her with her arm around me and even now she wants to look after me. For example, she has offered to punch various guys in the face and tell them exactly what she thinks of them…which I know would include some VERY colorful language! If I need to vent or cry or bitch or anything, she’s there to listen and do what she can for me.

Me, sissy and ma!

She also has the biggest heart…especially when it comes to kids. She adores kids and is Gramma T to the dozens that have come into her life. Kids adore her too and she knows how to spoil any kid rotten. I don’t know if I’ve ever told her this but I love this about her…it’s her ‘soft’ side and it’s a beautiful thing to see.

I’m really thankful for my pets too…Edward and Mally (they don’t mind me using their full names 😉). All of my pets, past and present, have taught me patience, joy, affection, loyalty, enthusiasm, and most importantly: unconditional love. It doesn’t matter if I’m down, grumpy, manic, sick, or stressed, I get snuggles, cuddles, wagging tails, licks and life is just better because of that. Wouldn’t it be nice if people could do the same (especially the licks 🤭)?

And my students? Wow. I’ve had thousands of students over the 25 years I’ve been teaching at my college and they have all had an impact on me. They have taught me strength, motivation, compassion, understanding, kindness and have given me the huge family I always wanted. They are the recipients of my passion and I’m the recipient of them…each individual ‘them’ that put just one more spark in my heart. They are the best.

I could add so many other people I’m thankful for like my extended family (my nieces and nephews rock), colleagues (especially you Grand Poobah, who can be quite the ass at times which means we get along great), neighbors, friends, and the list could go on and on.

But I’m also thankful for the things in my life that I tend to take for granted: my cozy house, my Jeep, my job, the fact I always have enough food and clean water, etc. How do you even begin to count all of these blessings?

Finally, I’m thankful to all of you, my sweetie readers! You’ve supported this blog for the last couple of years and I’ve made wonderful connections with you…as well as a super great friend (Hi Susan!). Writing is an outlet for me and for you to appreciate it makes it all the more special.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you…eat a lot of turkey, stuff yourself, fall asleep on the couch while you digest, and then wake up and have just one more piece of pie. K? 🦃

Kristi xoxo

“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.” ~ Sylvia Plath

So, my sweetie students and I were discussing Fritz Perls today (father of Gestalt Therapy 😳) and it reminded me so much of what else I’ve been studying: mindfulness. The whole idea behind Gestalt (‘configuration’) psychology is to be more aware of yourself, to stay present, and to process things in the here and now. Further, it’s also based on the idea that our overall perception depends on the interaction between many factors, including our past experiences, current environment, thoughts, feelings, and needs. Whew. Nice lecture, huh?

Anyhoot, as we were talking about our perceptions of ourselves and how much it affects the ‘whole’ of our being, one of my students who knows me well said this to me: “Professor K, you are always so dismissive of yourself. You always put yourself down and act like less than who you really are.” Wow. This really hit me because I know what I think about myself on the inside, but had no idea that it was seeping into the outside as well. However, as I’ve been contemplating it (in the new meditation area I made in my house…complete with chakra stones and all!😲 ), I started to understand where this has come from and why it’s such a big part of the ‘whole’ that I am.

I’m talking about rejection. None of us likes rejection…right? However, some of us handle it better than others. My sissy is wonderful…truly! She is never scared to speak her mind is one of the most authentic people I know in my life. If someone doesn’t like her, she says: “Fuck them! What the hell does that mean in my life?” I love that and wish I was that strong! Instead I say: “Why the hell don’t you like me and how can I act so you will?”

You know, I’ve talked a lot on this blawg about wearing masks and taking off the mask that covered up my bipolar was so hard. Having to confront the part of me that has a mental illness was terrifying…both in terms of myself but also in terms of how others would see me. But that’s my big ‘mask’ accomplishment…that bipolar one. But what about the others?

As we all know, I’ve experienced rejection in my life, like so many of you have as well. Do I take it harder because my emotional make-up is screwed up by my bipolar brain? Am I just more sensitive? Hmmmmm.

I think this rejection started in grade school when both T and I were bullied…we both had buck teeth and mousy hair and didn’t have the coolest clothes. And this continued through high school with me. I had 2 bullies that were particularly brutal and as many secrets as I’ve shared with ma, sissy, partners, and friends, I’ve never ever told anyone what one of the bullies would call me. It still hurts that much after 35 (cough cough) years. 😔

Then we have my relationships. O’s dad was terrific and I thought our marriage was a good one and would last forever. After we divorced, I was convinced we would co-parent O and be friendly and cordial…hells bells, we’d known each other since the 3rd grade and that’s a lot of history. This didn’t happen though. In his family, after you get divorced, you get cut out of pics and the ex-spouse simply pretends like you never existed. Charming. 🙄

So, when we see each other at graduations, weddings, etc. he nods at me. Yes, I said NOD. I gave birth to his only child (who by the way is amazing beyond anything) and we were married for 13 years. And he nods at me. Hmmmm. That may be his families mode of operandi, but it sucks balls because it feels like such a rejection. Not even a ‘hello’? Jeez.

Fast forward to Hubby 3. I’ve been thinking a lot about him lately and I’ve always said how we were still besties and talked just about everyday. But I did something last week I didn’t think I’d ever do: I told him ‘goodbye’ and that I couldn’t be his friend anymore. He’s with another woman…the one who was in his life while we were still together. He says he loves me…wishes he’d never divorced me…that I made him happier than anyone…but he’s with her. Period. He made his choice and can’t have it both ways. The straw that broke my proverbial camel’s back was this: a couple of weeks ago, the ‘club’ went down to Daytona for a bike thing and he took her with them. They had a vacation while down there and he got in the ocean for the first time in his life…something I had always wanted to do with him. Throughout all of our marriage, I’d ask to go on these trips with him and he’d say no every time. But then he took her. And that opened my eyes to the fact he’s hanging on to something that’s no longer there and I don’t deserve, nor need to listen to the ‘fun’ he has with his (I want to put another word in here but I’m going to be nice 😐) girlfriend when he never did the same with me. I realized, like a curtain opening, that he doesn’t love me…he just wants me in the wings and I’m not going to do that anymore.

Then J came into my life and started cheating on me months into the relationship and continued throughout the entire 3 years we were together. If that’s not a rejection, I don’t know what is. Basically it said: “You aren’t enough for me. I don’t love you enough to be faithful. I love this woman more.” Yikes. How can you feel good about yourself in terms of how men see you when this is thrown at you again and again? Then when we ‘broke up’, he never spoke to me again…and still never has. Yes, I loved him for 3 years through some pretty bad crap not many women would have, adored and parented the heck out of his precious kids, and helped him go from a jobless vet living in his grandma’s basement to someone with his own home, money, etc. He always used to say I ‘saved him’ but he treated me like shit and then walked away without another word. Rejection to the max.

Finally, my last relationship. Yep…I thought this was it. We had so many great times and I traveled all the time to see him in another state and then had him live with me while he found a house here. He has a self-proclaimed ‘anger issue’ and when he lashed out at me a couple of times, I let it go. I wanted to make it work! Then we got Covid and Dottie died and I had 3 surgeries and he was moving and my mania was out of control due to meds and the list goes on. So, we get into an argument where he said some pretty nasty things…and I said something back that I know hurt him. He walked out and I’ve literally never seen him or talked to him again…even though he lives 1 door down from me! He completely ghosted me after knowing each other 35 years. Once again, rejection.

By Bianca Xunise – there’s an entire comic about this on The Lily. It’s GREAT!

Being dismissed like this by these men has created a ‘habit’ of demeaning my own self…even though I really do love who I am. It’s almost like a knee-jerk reaction. I’ve been made to feel I’m expendable. Extraneous. So…bored with me? Have sex with other women. Tired of being with me? Move in with the (cough cough) woman (🤢) you were seeing before you walked out the door. Angry at me for losing my temper? Ghost me and never acknowledge I even existed in the first place.

Am I that easily forgotten? That easy to get over? That easy to pretend like ‘we’ never happened?

See, I don’t do that. It’s beyond me how B and I could have gone through the birth and raising of our son and spent 13 years of our lives together every day…often working side by side…and then nothing. I don’t understand how you can say you’re in love with someone while making plans to hook up with another woman at the same time. I don’t get how you say you are committed to a relationship, say some pretty terrible things, but when something is said back, it’s over. By the way, I’ve e-mailed this guy 2 times…I’m obviously blocked so I used another address. It was actually an apology about my role in the argument and I’ve never heard a thing back. It hurts but as T says, ‘fuck him!’ She’s the best!

I don’t know why I still find the need to do this, but I depend on others for much of my validation. See, I feel really good about me in terms of me. But in terms of men and relationships, I’m starting to think I’m one of these women who will be used and thrown away. It makes me wonder if any of these men ‘really’ loved me. Their words said they did…but their actions? Nope.

So back to my student: I need to quit being so dismissive of myself. Quit thinking I am ‘rubble’ that can be tossed away. That I’m not worth working for…trying for…apologizing too…or even talking too. Is it a game guys play? Hmmm. I don’t think so. I know my son doesn’t do this…I know my dad didn’t do this with ma…I know sissy’s hubby is there through good and bad. So is it me? How can I not think that? But even more frustrating, why am I convinced it’s all about ‘me’ and my short-comings? Why can’t I see outside of myself at their short-comings too?

I always call ma on my way home from school and we were talking about this. She said: “Kristi, this is their lack. Not yours. You wouldn’t do this to someone…but they would. That shows you who they are.”

And she’s right. I’ve had a couple of relationships that I ended and we’re friends. I would never ghost somebody. Ignore them. Act like they never existed. It’s cruel and simply not in me to do.

Here’s what I told ma today as we were finishing up our daily cluck fest: “You know, I don’t think I want someone else in my life. It’s too hard knowing that what they say and what they might do may not match up. It’s just too damn hard to take that risk again.” And I meant it. But that’s sad to me. To think that these men just didn’t take away themselves but took something inside of me too. The openness to believe in people and the ability to trust them when they say forever. They’ve taken away my ability to look at myself and not be so judgemental…so brutal about ‘what could I have done different?’…so willing to think it’s all me. Thanks, guys. 🙄

You know, it makes me sad to think I might be alone for the rest of my life…but you know what? It makes me even more sad to know how people can deceive you and lie to you and hurt you…and they don’t really care.

Kristi xoxo

“But there is love and love is warm.” ~ Time to Wander

So, I left my Theories of Personality class crying yesterday and when I was traipsing through the library to get to my office, my friend asked me if I was OK and here’s what I said: “I’ve been teaching college for 28 years at 3 institutions and this was the best class in my life!” And I meant it. It gave me chills and the warmest feeling in my heart. Damn I love my students! 😃

Anyhoot, we are talking about Erich Fromm and discussed the “Art of Loving” and while doing so, we reviewed the 4 elements Dr. Fromm said were necessary for true love:

  • Care – the active concern for the life and the growth of that which we love.
  • Responsibility – the voluntary act (not obligation) to be ready to respond to the psychic needs of the other person.
  • Respect – (literally means ‘to look at’) ability to see a person as they are and to be aware and accepting of their growth.  Seeing the person as a unique person who is NOT an object for use.
  • Knowledge – the knowing of a person on a deep, intimate level in which you can ‘see’ when they are hurt, angry, upset, etc. even in the face of their denial. 

Each of these is difficult to define and can differ depending on the people involved and their circumstances. Seen in these terms, love is hard work, but it is also the most rewarding kind of work. Do you agree? I sure as fuck (ma? Are you there? 😬) do!

Dr. Fromm also goes on to state: Love is an art and has to be practiced like any other art; it requires discipline, concentration, patience, and a supreme concern to master the art. Those are some pretty hard things to do, aren’t they?

Well, my students started discussing this and they had such insight and examples from their own lives and relationships. And of course, I had a few tidbits to share as well.

Why is it we work so so hard at other ‘love’ relationships in our lives, but when intimate, partner relationships get tough, we walk away? It’s almost like relationships are expendable nowadays. Not ‘happy’? Go find someone else. Not ‘getting along right now?’ Go find someone else. ‘Arguing?’ Go find someone else. I mean really…isn’t it easier just to jump on an app and find another person to be with? It’s a hell of a lot easier than working…trying…being patient. Right?

Heh? SO…when O was a little guy and he was sick and cranky and I was ‘unhappy’, I should have walked away? When he was a teenager and we argued about various things, I should have walked away? When he comes over and starts yapping about religion where his views are different than mine (vastly different 🙄) I should walk away?

Of course not! Duh! I love my son. Unconditionally. I have always cared for him (and it’s hard for him to understand why I still have the need to care for him even at 28). I feel a responsibility towards him and respect the amazing man he has grown into. Finally, I’ve learned to understand him…know him. And I reap those rewards everyday.

But, if these things happen in an intimate relationship, we don’t feel the need to put in the work to solve them. What does walking away do? It changes the situation, but not the people. And it’s the people who are important.

My students and I went on to talking about whether or not you need to love yourself to love others, or to have others love you. Our consensus: Oh yea!

Look, I don’t always like me…in fact, there have been times that I’ve hated what I’ve said or done. But I still love me. We all have too. We come into this world alone…with our own little souls. And we’ll leave alone…with our own little souls. When it gets right down to it, we ultimately have to depend on ourselves. People come and go. Ma and Pop will leave this earth someday (even though I have forbade them both to NOT too 😳) and it will crush me to pieces. I know it will. My son has forged a new life and I’m a part of it, but not the central piece of it that I used to be. My sissy has her own life and beautiful grandbabies to be with and take care of. In other words, people in our lives change roles…leave us…pass away…and fundamentally speaking, we have ourselves in the end.

If love is an art…a discipline…a concept to be learned and practiced like Fromm says, then can’t we do that in terms of loving ourselves even more? Can’t we learn to care for ourselves more? Carve out more time to do what makes us happy? Allow ourselves to try things that will help us grow? Take the time to explore the creative side we all have?

And what about responsibility? Don’t I need to face what is happening in my life at any given time…with kindness? Don’t I have a responsibility to myself to be the best person I can be…to myself and to others?

Respect? I think this is the piece that really grew in myself after the breakdown I experienced. I was this ‘thing’. This object. This ‘something’ that I felt had no value…no purpose…no hope. So I attempted suicide. So I cut myself. So I didn’t eat. So I didn’t shower. So I just ‘didn’t.’ Why wasn’t I still seeing ME in the midst of all that was happening? Luckily, I started too. I’m ME. Kristi. A person that deserves to be seen and loved. By others…and by me.

Further, I’m learning more and more about myself as I purposely focus on that. I’m learning I’m not a bad person because I have fucking (sorry, ma 😐) bipolar. I’m not a failure because I’ve been married 3 times (shutty 🙄). And, I’m not a horrible person because I make mistakes.

In other words? I’ve learned to treat myself like I treat others. It’s a process. A journey. It’s not selfish or narcissistic or boastful. It’s loving yet another person in my life who happens to be me.

You know, being dumped as many freaking times as I’ve been has always made me feel less than. That happened yet again a few weeks ago…being ghosted after a year of being together and after 35 years of knowing each other. That hurt. Bad. But are the dumps all my fault? Have they happened because I’m just a bad person? Nope. I’ve come to realize that the blame doesn’t rest solely on me. It rests on both people…in the context they are living in…with the baggage they carry…with the issues they have.

I do believe what Dr. Fromm says: Love is an art and has to be practiced and nurtured in order to grow. I know I can do this…I have for all of the people I love in my life, including me. If I ever find someone (🤨 ) that will see things the same, then that will be fucking fabulous (sorry again, ma). But, after class yesterday I also learned this: if I don’t, that’s ok too. Because love is in my life so much with my family and friends and students and neighbors. And…maybe most importantly of all…because it’s in me.

Kristi xoxo

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