The War Of Words

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

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

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

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

Is what you said kind?

Is what you said helpful?

Is what you said loving?

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

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

Is what I am about to say true?

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

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

True

Honest

Loving

Kind

Helpful

 

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

Amen (so be it)

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Leaving On A Jet Plane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And so I stopped walking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

HONEY,

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

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

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How You Handle Discord May Predict Future Illness

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A new study has just come out from UC Berkley  and Northwestern University that followed married couples for 20 years. This study looked at how couples behaved during conflict and the illness that they developed. What they found was this:

  • People who rage with frustration tend to develop high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems.
  • Those who keep “a stiff upper lip,” shutting down, or “stonewalling” tend to develop musculoskeletal problems such as back problems or muscle stiffness.

 

The authors of the study believe that their research shows how emotions effect health and how long-term behaviors can negatively affect health. By looking at marital conflict conversations for just 15 minutes researchers could predict with amazing accuracy the development of health issues which would occur 20 years later.

 

What I would like to know is this: what about the couples who had deep meaningful respectful conversations when they fought? Or what about the people who for some reason or another changed their behaviors through meditation later in the study. Did this change of behavior result in a decreased risk of developing health problems?

As a person who has been a yeller most of her adult life but has now stopped, I would love to know if my change in behaviors will have a positive outcome for my health in the future. Will my daily meditation change the course of my life? Of course, we have no way of knowing that but I would like to think that by creating meaningful change in my life I am making a difference in my health and the health of my loved ones. I can already see changes…Paul is calmer and does not react our of anger like he used to. He is modeling his behavior after my new behaviors and I am thankful for that.

Studies like these are important. By connecting negative (and positive) emotions to positive or negative changes in our health it gives individuals a reason to change their behaviors. I would like to think that had I realized the damage I was doing to my health by yelling that I might have changed my ways of interacting much sooner than I did and I might have saved my family from a lot of unnecessary grief.

YELLING AT MY TOMBSTONE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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