Sticks and stones may break bones, but words can kill.

Relationships

I had an epiphany today.  I have my doubts about whether I’ll be able to express my profound thought in a way that sounds profound…but I guess I’m willing to take the risk.  What may be a common sense thought to me may be a ground-breaking realization to you and vice versa.  I know that’s certainly how things tend to be with J and me, anyway.

So, before I tell you my realization, let me give a bit of background information:  I’m very reactionary, and by that I mean I tend to have big reactions to things.  I won’t go so far as to say I’m bipolar, but I do have high highs and low lows.  I feel a wide spectrum of feelings, and it’s downright impossible for me to hide those feelings.  Even if I don’t blurt them out in a flurry of words as I am apt to do, my face tells all.  J says it’s a good thing to be so transparent, but I find it very vulnerable for everyone to know what I feel about something.  For better or for worse — mostly worse — that’s my personality.

And then there’s J who is just about the exact opposite.  He is a man of few words.  He thinks about things before he reacts.  He’s calculating, he’s careful, he’s reserved.  He’s steady and strong and all the things I tend to wish I was.

…but here’s the problem…  In our disagreements, we hurt each other.  A lot.  He takes a risk and expresses a (generally valid) complaint, and I react with my big personality.  My voice gets louder and squeakier with emotion, and he retreats into the safety of his head.  The more I react, the less he communicates, and the less he communicates, the more I try to pull him out…which, of course, causes him to pull back even more.  He hurts me by his failure to engage, and I hurt him by my aggressive approach.

Our counselor urged me to try to not react when he expresses a complaint, but to try to merely say something like “Thank you for telling me how you feel.”  (SHOOT.  I don’t know if I can do it.  I’m going to try, but it’s going to take every ounce of my willpower.)  After the session, I was mulling over the things we had talked about and I arrived at my epiphany.

Both J and I need to learn the same important lesson, but we’ll have to apply it VERY differently.  The lesson?  That our words are powerful.  We must be accountable for the weight of our words.  It’s so very simple, and yet so profound.

I need to recognize how much my reactionary words tear J down on a regular basis.  I need to work on wielding my words with extreme caution so as to not hurt the man I love more than any person on this planet.  And J needs to recognize the power of his words too…  He has the power to encourage and affirm me with his words, but his silence has done tremendous damage to me.  My hope is that he will recognize the weight of his words and use them.  I need to stop speaking death into his life, and my hope is that he will start speaking life into mine.

Words.  Weighty, powerful words.

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Nighttime Musings

Dream Journal

The dream:
J and CJ were at a thrift store. I was to join them after having collected a few items to purge from our home. I brought the small box of donations into the shop for the go-ahead from J as I didn’t want to accidentally donate something he wanted to keep. He didn’t really look at what I was trying to show him, and I was vying for his attention in vain.

Me: Oh, I think I grabbed some of your Lego by mistake.
J: *silence*
Me: Wait, no, it’s just a Lego-themed game for your old Game Boy.”

I finally got his attention, and he indicated that he didn’t want anything that I had brought. But then he pulled out some essential oil that I had accidentally put in the box, and began putting it on CJ’s back. I was concerned about the potency of the oil (oregano); I didn’t want CJ to have some sort of skin reaction.

My thoughts on the dream:
The predominant feeling was that of frustration. J would not pay attention to me, even though I had his best interests at heart – I didn’t want to get rid of something he wanted to keep. I think CJ’s appearance in my dream was just because J was at his house last night watching the game. Why was J putting the oils on his back? Not sure. It wasn’t a sexual type thing, although my waking mind feels uncomfortable at the thought. It was more of a goofing off type thing, like he was taking something that I was trying to show him – something valuable to me (I didn’t want to donate it) – and then sharing it with someone else rather than interacting with me.

Themes/Analysis:
Feelings of neglect and frustration in my marriage
A desire to simplify my life
Looking out for the well-being of others, but not being appreciated

100 Life Goals

Goals

J and I both love to read, and sometimes we’ll discuss the books we’re discovering.  Not long ago, J read a book called 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam.  Truth be told, I haven’t read it and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get around to it, but one thing J mentioned to me while he was reading it was that the author recommended writing a list of 100 dreams or goals.  I thought it was a great idea, so I decided to make my own list.

And now, for your reading pleasure, my dreams (in no particular order):

  1. Take a picture of myself every day (for age progression purposes).
  2. Attend at least 2 roller derby bouts every season.
  3. Go someplace new once every other month.
  4. Feel confident in a bathing suit.
  5. Have a wardrobe I love.
  6. Read 5 nonfiction and 10 fiction books every year.
  7. Give a million dollars to charity during my lifetime.
  8. Become an activist who fights against human trafficking.
  9. See the pyramids.
  10. Buy lingerie in Paris.
  11. Tithe a full 10% to the general fund at church in addition to the other various good causes I support. 2013 and ongoing
  12. Do a humanitarian trip at least once a decade.
  13. Learn to sew beautiful clothing and crafts.
  14. Send anonymous gifts to people twice a year.
  15. Visit my ancestral roots in Germany.
  16. Learn to make my own cleaning/beauty products (for the sake of reducing my carbon footprint and household chemical consumption).
  17. Visit all 50 states.
  18. Pray at the Wailing Wall at least one more time. Bring J.
  19. Call Sister and Oma once a week.
  20. See college friend G again before I turn 35. 2014
  21. Take college friend M out to dinner before the end of 2013.
  22. Take a Caribbean cruise.
  23. Find my place in ministry.
  24. Create a comfortable and beautiful home that is neat, organized, and decorated.
  25. Become “mostly vegetarian.”  Seafood excluded.
  26. Invest in T’s life.  Become her confidante and outside support system.
  27. Become a prayer warrior.
  28. Buy roller skates and skate once a month.
  29. Learn to believe in true love again.
  30. See Oma at least one more time before she dies. 2014
  31. Write R & R (sponsored children) once every other month.
  32. Find a best friend in my region.
  33. Volunteer once a month. 2014 and ongoing
  34. Eat more pizza and sushi.
  35. See Eddie Izzard, Jim Gaffigan, and Brian Regan (again) [2014] live.
  36. Have $0 of debt.
  37. Win employee of the year.
  38. See a live theater production once a year.
  39. Keep a dream journal.
  40. Take a vacation with Sister.
  41. At least once in my life, leave a $100 bill for my restaurant meal at Christmas time.
  42. Get my picture taken with Johnny Depp.
  43. Watch a documentary once a month.
  44. Take belly dancing lessons.
  45. See Petra – the buildings carved into stone.
  46. Ride a camel.
  47. Choose and wear a signature scent.
  48. Take J on a surprise vacation.
  49. Save enough to retire comfortably at the age of 60.
  50. Own something from Tiffany’s.
  51. Take a ceramics and/or stained glass course.
  52. Learn Sign Language.
  53. Keep a daily “I’m Thankful For” journal.
  54. Win a trophy that I get to keep indefinitely (not the Iron Skee Ball trophy).
  55. Beat J at least once more time at one of our annual Iron Skee Ball competitions.
  56. Do the “27 Days of J” for J’s birthday one year.
  57. Finish a half-marathon.
  58. Learn to swing dance, stunts included.  Or salsa dancing.
  59. Stay up late and watch shooting stars in a cemetery (again).
  60. Watch the sunrise from somewhere where an ocean is to the east.
  61. See Ground Zero.
  62. Kiss J on the top of the Empire State Building.
  63. Look out the window from the top of the Columbia Tower.
  64. See the view from the top of the Smith Tower.
  65. Start celebrating “Treat Yourself” day annually.
  66. Skydive.
  67. Every presidential election, take off from work the day after the election so that I can stay up late to hear the results as they happen.  Have a celebratory or commiseration beverage when the results are announced.
  68. Take off from work and celebrate Cinco de July-o annually.
  69. Perform my civic duty and serve as a juror.
  70. Feed a giraffe.
  71. Hold a baby hedgehog.
  72. Decorate my house with 1000 white candles for a special date night.
  73. Stay at the Albuquerque Holiday Inn.
  74. Visit New Orleans.
  75. Get a dog.
  76. Make and use fabric napkins so that we don’t have to use paper towels.
  77. Figure out a convenient way to compost.
  78. Send a care package to a solder (again).
  79. Make a rag quilt.
  80. Attend a masquerade.
  81. Cuddle and play with the little ones at the “Hogar San Francisco de Asis” Center for Destitute and Sick Children in Lima, Peru.
  82. Accomplish or be part of something truly great.
  83. Help at a homeless soup kitchen.
  84. Buy a decent car entirely with $20 bills from my savings account – no financing.
  85. See the Northern (or Southern) lights one more time.
  86. See a phosphorescent red tide at night (again).
  87. Take a long-exposure photograph of the twirling night sky.
  88. Get a mattress that doesn’t give me back/headaches. 2013
  89. Save the equivalent of three month’s income in case of emergency.
  90. Acquire enough emergency supplies in my home to survive one week without outside help.
  91. Grow my hair long enough to donate (again). 2014
  92. Shake hands with a current or former American president.
  93. Get to know my brother better.
  94. Pet a penguin.
  95. Have a vow-renewal ceremony with friends for my 25th wedding anniversary.
  96. Look sexy in the Wonder Woman t-shirt in my closet.
  97. Go on a helicopter tour of a pretty place.
  98. Ride in a limousine.
  99. Go on a safari.
  100. Develop my vocabulary to include uncommon words (not to impress anyone, but rather simply for the sake of my love for the English language).

I know it’s unreasonable to expect that I’ll accomplish all of these, but I’ll do as many as I can!

If you’d like, shoot me a comment with some of your life goals.  I’d love to hear them.

A Half-Full Glass Kind of Evening

The Happiness Project

Tonight was a good night. I mean, a really good night.

I find that I often linger on the negative and somehow miss the positive. I’m not sure if this mentality is part of the human condition, or if I’m naturally pessimistic. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve been so overwhelmed with my own disappointment with my life lately that it takes more effort to push the happy moments through my own mental/emotional filter.

In any case, tonight was good, and since this is the year of my Happiness Project, I’m making a point to pay attention. J and I tried a new restaurant tonight, and we enjoyed not only the ambiance and food, but also each other. We laughed at each other’s jokes. We sampled each other’s entrees. We smiled at each other.

This shouldn’t be all that earth shattering, but for us it is. When we have good nights like this, it makes me think that there is hope for us yet. (And yet, my analytical self wonders whether it was the fact that we were in unfamiliar territory that made all the difference. Perhaps when we’re in familiar settings, it’s easier to fall into old bad habits. Regardless, I’m thankful for tonight. …and if I’m being honest, I’m also thankful for those potatoes because they were bomb!)

If wishes were horses, I’d have a whole herd.

Relationships

I’m so tired.

I feel like most of the time that J and I spend together is strained.  Counselor has been telling us that we need to learn to ask for our wants and needs, and so I have been making an effort to do so rather than resent him when he doesn’t read my mind.  It should be simple, right?  It can’t be that hard, can it?  Yep. Very hard.  If the thing I want is an emotionally charged request (“Will you please hold me? I’m lonely”), it’s hard to be vulnerable enough to ask for it, especially knowing that he is allowed to say no.  Counselor says it’s important to say no sometimes.  When someone says yes to every single request, it begins to feel inauthentic.  (I think, in general, this is a female way of thinking.  “I want him to choose to stay home with me because he WANTS to be with me, not because I TELL him.”  Ladies, does that sound familiar to you?)  Well, if every time I ask J for something he says yes then it doesn’t feel like he’s actually choosing to do whatever it is I am asking for.  It feels like he’s going through the motions but doesn’t actually mean the sentiment behind the request.  Theoretically, if he says no from time to time, then when he does say yes, I can trust that he actually wants it…or means it…or whatever.  (Shoot, I have no idea if this makes sense to anyone other than me.  Okay, back to the topic at hand…)

It’s hard for me to ask J for what I need from him.  Because it’s a vulnerable place, right?  And what if he does say no?  And, even worse, what if he says no in one of the nasty, sneaky, confusing ways?  What if he says no by getting defensive, simultaneously making me feel like I’m being unreasonable AND distracting me from my original request by raising a new complaint of his own?  Or what if he says no by verbally saying yes, but not following through on whatever he’s agreeing to?  (*Ahem!* Sex.)  Or what if he says no by saying yes and sort of following through, but not being fully present in the gesture.  (Like I’ll ask him for more physical affection and he’ll put his hand on my knee while browsing on his phone with the other hand.)  All of these ways of effectively saying no without actually saying the word “no” are so much harder to take than a real no.  If he said something like “I’m sorry, Sophie, but <insert reason>,” at least then I’d feel like my request hasn’t been belittled.  At least then I would have a chance to offer an alternative that would meet the need behind the requested gesture.  (“You don’t want to kiss me because you don’t feel close to me?  Okay, well, what if we just held hands for now and see if we can start to feel closer?”)

I’m making J out to be this terrible, villainous character.  He’s not.  He’s a really good man, and I respect him a lot…  He’s not trying to be a jerk.  I don’t think he realizes what he’s doing.

I wish we could unload all the…  All the BADNESS of the past decade and just start fresh.  There’s so much crap between us that we end up defaulting to bad reactions (both of us).  We hear accusation in a tone of voice, even when it’s not there.  I wish it wasn’t like this.  I wish I could ask for my emotional needs to be met, without shame or guilt or fear.  And I wish that he could do the same.

I wish a lot for my marriage.

There has to be away to get past this ugliness in our relationship.  There has to be a future for us.

The Man in My Dreams

Relationships

A few years ago I had a sucker punch of a dream.  I was in my kitchen with C having a conversation while I stirred something on the stove.  J was in the adjacent room with C’s wife having a dialogue of their own.  When I turned back from tending the food I was cooking, C was just inches away, looking down at me with a very vulnerable expression of desire.  Very slowly, he leaned down and kissed me gently, slowly, tenderly, sweetly.  And yet it was a kiss promising something more.  And in my dream, I kissed him back as J stood 20 feet away.

I woke up with a start.  I had just dreamed about a married man, and me, a married woman!  I had never thought of C that way until that moment.  And I was left with my own yearning.  For C, yes, but mostly for the feeling of being wanted.  I don’t remember the last time that J expressed that kind of desire.  It’s humiliating to admit it, but I can’t recall the last time J made love to me.  Not since 2011, that’s for sure.  It’s almost surreal to realize that for the entirety of 2012, my husband didn’t reach for me.

I have a lot of jumbled feelings.  C really does move something in me that I don’t feel for J.  J doesn’t want me.  I must be undesirable.  What man would want me, much less C.  Besides, he’s married.  And oh yes, so am I.  I recognized that the feelings I was experiencing for the man in my dreams could become a real problem.  I had to tell J about it.  And I did.

“Babe, I need you to understand that I am having some very real temptations.  Please.  I need you to have sex with me.  Soon.  And with some regularity, because I desperately don’t want to betray you.”

No dice.  No passion.

“Babe?  I have something to ask you, and I want you to know that whatever your answer is, we’re in this together.  We’ll work through this.  Okay?  Ready?  Alright, here goes: Are you gay?  *pause*  No?  Not gay?  Are you SURE?”

Oh.  Then it must be me.  It’s true.  I’m undesirable as a woman.  My own husband doesn’t want to bed me.

And what about my confusing feelings for C?  I knew it was a bigger problem than I had realized before when I asked myself what I would do if he really did express sexual desire for me.  Would I say no to save my marriage?  Possibly not.  Would I say no to protect his children from the pain I felt when my own dad had an affair?  Oh dear, probably not even then.  Would I say no because I love my God and want to honor the moral code He gave His people?  To my shame, I couldn’t conclusively decide either way.  The only thing, at that moment, that would keep me from giving myself to him (aside from the fact that he probably has no desire for me and would almost assuredly never ask such a thing), is that that he is a pastor of my church – the church I love – and I simply could not be the one to cause such a scandal.

Oh dear, this IS a problem, I realized.

I came clean (again) to J.  Luckily, the event that caused me to spend a lot of time with C passed, and I found that the less time I spent with him, the less sexual tension I felt around him.

Now that I’m not in the middle of a mind/body tug-of-war, I can better analyze how I felt and why.  I realize now, that the sex bit really is only part of it.  I mean, he’s not smashingly handsome, though he does have his own charm.  He’s not very tall (so he wouldn’t have to lean down to kiss me – funny how dreams aren’t so very accurate in some things).  He’s got rather large canines.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s not ugly.  No.  He is attractive in his own way…  His grin is infectious.  And the tattoos that peek out from under his shirt sleeves drive me a little crazy because I want to see what other mysteries his body holds hidden underneath those clothes…  But really, it’s his mind that does me in.  His charisma.  His intelligence.  The way he laughs so very frequently.  The way he makes ME laugh so frequently.  The way he uses big words that I understand and J doesn’t.  The way his face seems to light up when I say “Hey C?”  The way he makes me feel important.

That man is poison to me.  As horrible as it is that my dad betrayed mom and me….  In a way, I’m thankful.  Because I know that the danger is there.  No one is immune.  Anyone can fall.  And because I am able to recognize – in advance – that C is dangerous to me…  Because of THAT, I am able to guard my thoughts, my actions.

There is power in secrets.  By telling J of the dangers C poses to me (to us) without even being aware of his magnetism, there is a degree of safety.  There is a freedom in telling the truth.

Alas, I wish there was a “getting laid” in telling the truth.

The Fallen Hero

Relationships

J and I talked about she-who-must-not-be-named today.  I asked him why it was so easy for him to talk to her…  How he could so easily share the real parts of him that he is so reluctant to reveal to me and to other people in his life.  Why was she different, I wanted to know.  He’s told me multiple times that it’s not just me.  “I have a hard time being authentic with everyone, Sophie, not just you.”  Well, why was it different with her?  How could he let it happen?  And how can I know that it won’t happen again?  In answer, he said that it’s easier to be authentic through the written word.  Something about not being face-to-face with someone makes it easier for him to feel safe, so he feels freer to be authentic.  As to my other questions, he didn’t have a good answer.

I feel like something is irreparably broken in us now.  It’s not bad like it was right after her, but I also know that things will never be how they used to be.  The broken part – the part that I worry will always be with us – is that I can’t look up to him with the same doe-eyed trust.  Regardless of the forgiveness I have given him (and must continue to grant him on a daily basis), the betrayal happened.  It will always be there between us.  I will never be the same, and I expect that he’ll never be the same person to me.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at him like he’s my hero, my protector, my champion, the one upon whom I can depend when everyone else fails…  Not anymore.  Back before the betrayal, it wasn’t a great marriage relationship, but regardless of what the world threw at us, we had each other.  Now?  Now I feel like I have to face the world alone.  J may be there near me, but I can’t rely on him the same way as before.  Now I have to learn to be my own hero.  I wonder if that broken part can be healed.  I think maybe not.  …kind of like when someone you love dies…  Life is never the same again, but you learn to live with a new normal.  Maybe I just have to mourn the loss of that blind adoration and trust, and learn how to live in our new, fractured normal.

It feels a lot like when dad abandoned mom and me.  I became a different person at that moment.  For better or for worse, I’ll never be the same.  Neither will he.  I guess that’s how it is with J and me, too.