Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Did someone say hormones?

If you are a woman or have ever been around a woman the presence of hormones has made itself known. My first memory of associating hormone changes with behavior was as a boy staying with my grandmother. She would be like a roller coaster, happy and giggling one minute grumpy and crying the next. 

Usually when you know someone well you can anticipate what they need from verbal and physical ques. For example when I am with a friend and they frown I know that they are concerned or unhappy. When someone is living with unbalanced hormones racing through their body a frown can be leading up to happiness and a smile could be a trap.

I wanted to point out some common times when hormones are more evident than normal. Pregnancy, WOW here is a walking meltdown. During a pregnancy a woman is flooded with extra chemicals that are so powerful that many women seem to lose themselves for a while. Their bodies become a laboratory for chemical change. They struggle with weight, hot flashes, emotional upheaval, self esteem, diet, and changing mood. 

After they navigate a pregnancy many women suffer through postpartum depression. Their feelings are so intense that they stay in a sense of sadness and loneliness that is like a storm. They get pulled into it and tossed around so hard that they can lose part of themselves for a while.
Menopause, this is a time when a woman’s body stops it’s reproductive cycle. I don’t think I have seen anyone as mean as my grandmother was during that time. She would chase my grandfather around with a knife threatening to kill him. In his wisdom he ran.
       These very obvious hormonal effects sometimes make us overlook some simple things. Teenagers punish us all as they begin to change. Physically they grow hair, get boobs, talk with a deeper voice get taller. Emotionally they feel every feeling as if it is the only one they have ever or will ever experience.

So are women and teenagers the only ones to deal with hormones? No! If you have spent any time with a man you are well aware that he can be moody and go between happy and unhappy as easily as any woman. Sadly in our society we have resisted and denied the importance of hormones on people as part of the cycle of life. "Oh is it that time of the month?". Very seldom do you hear people talking about the changes they are going through with fondness. Most certainly there is rarely a conversation about how happy we are that our teenage son won’t get out of bed and we never know when he will throw a tantrum.
How many times during a woman’s period has she been dismissed for having PMS or being out of control? Don’t we  pity the pregnant woman or new mother and their lack of control.
These changes are natural (although sometimes extreme). If your wife or husband is off the deep end (again) don’t fix them, don’t pity them, don’t blame them. Take time to just be with them. As a culture we are swift to toss out discomfort in others. I believe that is because we don't know how, or don't like dealing with others. When it's me I can cope because "that's just who I am". To all men, women, and teenagers out there, "that is just who we are". None of us escape life's challenges and none of us are so special that we are immune.
Doctors have some nice experiments that they can put people through to try and balance things, but really all that confusion and emotion will find it’s way out. America is on Prozac. We are chemically altered. Depression is at an all time high. We have learned to make a diagnosis and fit into the right category. Who teaches us how to navigate and get through it. We take our medicine and feel bad for not being good boys and girls. People survived without medicine, therapy or a TV doctor's advice since the dawn of man.

Don’t put yourself or your loved one in a box even though you may have ample proof that they are doing it again. Open the box and give them something different to count on. When they are lost and crazy pull them in and remind them and yourself that you will bear with them and that they will bear with you. If it’s time to stay out of their way do that, if it’s time to listen do that, if it’s time for consideration do that. Don't think that you aren't crazy and unmanageable sometimes it just isn't true.

I am a firm believer that what we keep hidden will surface somehow. When our hormones rage we can do a full dump. We abandon our inhibitions and let er rip. The trick when you are the one dumped on is to look for the need. Allow that you are being hit with too much force and go beneath it, let the wave pass over. Wait a few days and then ask questions. Use the discomfort of the outburst as a map to look for real issues. We have a tendency to completely dismiss or completely take blame. Search for the balance for the chance to learn about yourself and them.

Turn an unstable uncomfortable experience into the springboard for a stronger relationship. As much as possible embrace and be compassionate to each other, it builds trust and longevity. Remember that dismissing someone, however you do it, is a wedge between you. Remove the wedge.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What if they only read my "mistakes"?

If someone read about me 200 years from now...and it was through either certain "recovered" letters or documents I wrote, or maybe I was even researched and written about by friends or associates (not that I'd ever be that important). I wonder if those in future generations would truly get or understand who I was or what I believed...if they would defend voraciously their assumptions of my intentions without truly knowing the various thoughts and feelings that went through my head at any given moment in time.

So many things I know and understand have changed over the years as I've learned more...I would hate to think that they would get access to the writings that were my mistakes...and not my epiphonies. This makes me wonder how many other's mistakes I have taken as "truth" over the years. Hmm...food for thought.

Learning to Recover

     I have talked before about making the first step towards reconciliation. Now we take one step deeper. Andrea and I started off on some pretty rocky footing. We both were trying to find our way, figure out what marriage was all about, and make sure we didn't lose ourselves in the process. I was very angry at the world and Andrea was very much a wide eyed girl. She had her issues to be sure but she was not ready for the way I handled problems. I immediately became dominant and for many years crushed her voice. We lived half way across the country from her family and she was isolated and stuck with my family. She learned to stuff things in and pretend that what she thought was wrong, not worth arguing about.
     Skip to now. We have been through some MAJOR life changing times. Friends dying, losing a job after 20 years, moving across country and more that I am sure I left out. I have spent the last couple of years getting up after taking a few blows to the chin. During this time I have gone through a depression. The kind where I just didn't want to do anything, and didn't. She wound up carrying most of the burden of having a family and bringing in income. In the past several months I have made quite a bit of improvement and am climbing out of my depression.
     What's the point you ask. As I become clearer headed and less fragile, Andrea is feeling all the stuffed emotions from the last 18 years. Ironically I am more understanding and helpful than I have been most of our marriage. She is now almost safe enough to let it all out. As I have said many times, I am deeply in love with my wife. I am faced with a choice. I can defend and claim how right I have been, how wrong she has been or how if she would have done better I wouldn't have been all the things I was, or I can listen to her grief and anger with understanding. I happen to be able to listen. Where it came from I don't know. When she relives the hurt or feels new hurt from me, it gets to me. I just don't like it. Not because it is harsh or has some bad timing. I don't like seeing her in pain and know that I played a large part in it. It does get to me listening to how I did something that caused pain I never knew was there.
     I have started to do some simple things that sometimes are nearly impossible. When she is upset I try to get close and touch her (I will talk about touch in another post). I ask her what is wrong instead of making her work up the courage to say something. I listen (mostly) to what she is saying. Some of the things she brings up I never knew about. I get hurt feelings but I try not to lay blame that is a downhill tactic. I have tried to stop saying "I understand, but". I haven't given up my opinions, desires, tantrums, or feelings. I have stopped being such a dick about things. 
     The truth is that we have both had bad behavior in our marriage. I don't think that this is the time for me to take over and be more hurt than she is. It is my turn to be as supportive as I can and give her someplace in our marriage to vent her pain and frustration. Many marriages don't survive under the same circumstances. Too often we drive our spouse elsewhere to deal with their pain. Sometimes we need friends to talk too. It gets sticky if our friends aren't on the same page. Most of our friends hate seeing us hurt and hate the inequity they see. Sometimes they hate it alot and offer advise about distancing from each other.
     I really don't want that. I may well deserve it, but I don't want it. If I cannot be there for her then I am pushing her away. Pride is a dangerous thing and after being together so long I really have no good reason to withhold love and affection from her. Except fear. She hasn't expressed any desire to be away or out, but I know that these challenges are worth overcoming. Memories are long, and you don't brush them away with a wish or a few good deeds. I am in for the long haul for however long it takes. In the back of my head I still battle fear. Have I made too many mistakes, have I broken her spirit. Time will answer those questions.
     My advise..... When they are hurt, be that friend they turn to for support and healing. It may sting but it is well worth it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

When will I grow up

     Every now and then I look in the mirror and remember I am an adult. It really escapes me sometimes. I wonder when did this happen. I have made my own way and my own decisions for over half my life. Granted I share a home and life with my family, but I sit pretty high on the food chain. For the most part my wife and kids look to me for guidance. In my wife's case she is looking into a blank and confused face. 

     I wonder did the generations before me know what they were doing? They weren't very good at it if they did. I know that sounds mean, but I don't think the method used on me was developed by adults. Some people have parents that held jobs and did normal stuff. Did those parents know they were grown up? Did I miss a meeting? If I am not the only person who has this realization, my question is When? When do we qualify to be grown up adults. The legal age doesn't seem to fit. I had to act like an adult when I was five but it didn't mean I was one. At 19 I knew everything but was stupid and reckless.  My kids seem to have old souls and I remember saying 3 going on 30. 

     Perhaps it is wisdom showing me that I don't know everything.  I like that definition... Being an adult is being wise enough to make good choices and not act stupid. 

     Maybe I am not entirely and adult but I am getting close. :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Big Scary Sky

     We enjoyed a wonderful lightning storm with forks and booms and everything I love about them. Sometimes me and my daughter open the front room blinds and watch the storms do their dance. There was a problem tonight that we haven't encountered in Texas storms. The power went out. We all grabbed our smart phones with flashlight apps and lit up candles. As Andrea and I got ready for bed our daughter comes in and asks to spend the night in our room cause she is scared. The logical parent says grow up and get over it nothing is going to hurt you. The emotional parents asks what is the big deal, how will it ruin her. Is she going to be 30 trying to sleep in my bed. The emotional wins and she is at the foot of our bed on a little pallet feeling safe. I am glad she is here because it won't be long til i miss her terribly.

Have a good night

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Money Has Power

     I took the kids out to get a hair cut today, and they look good. Went to the car ready to go to the grocery store. The car wouldn't start. I crawled underneath hit some stuff with a hammer and it wouldn't start. Finally got a jump and made it home without shopping. Now.... Where the hell are we going to get the money to fix it? I have already started to withdraw and be snippy while I gather my thoughts. The truth is that we don't have the money to get it diagnosed. Thanks to some friends from years past, I have the skills to troubleshoot and replace parts if I need to. Parts cost money. No matter what I do, I don't have the money. Unstoppable force meet immovable object. Need and desire are the unstoppable force and lack of resources the immovable object. I remind myself, and I must, that Andrea will get home from work and have her own set of worries about this. She may even ask questions that feel like attacks. "did you try this", "did you do that". When I think about it logically she is trying to deal with her own sense of helplessness. There were times however, when I would take my grumpiness out on her full force. I would somehow believe that it was only my problem and she had no business interrupting my process with her questions. Being where I am, I can extend it to being our process. I can't tell you when it changed for me or why, but I know that we will face this problem together. Yes we need the resources, but how little worth they have if I damage my family. I am confident that the money will come, it always does. We have the luxury of a spare car and really we can wait. That waiting has a painful lack of control over our environment.

Keep you updated

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chicken Soup

Share, Give, Change, Compromise, Love. Blah Blah Blah

Cuddle up and have some chicken soup.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Someone Has to Go First

     So you are pissed, they are pissed. A colossal argument that tapped the core for both of you. How do you get back. Well......   Remember that someone has to move first and ask yourself why it's not you. Then ask yourself if one of your friends said what you are thinking to you about their relationship would you believe it. Pride that kills is not good for a relationship and you can only control what you do. Do Something.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Grandma used to say that you can catch more flies with honey. She was talking about being nice and polite with people. It’s a good quality to have and especially good in a marriage. A quirky thing happens in a relationship. As we become closer together we also begin to feel let down in certain areas. The classic argument is between a man and woman regarding the toilet seat. She wants it down and he really doesn’t notice or care so he generally leaves it up and doesn’t want to take the energy to remember to put it down. .

When we are feeling that our partner doesn’t understand or care about a situation we feel that they don't car about us. When we don’t understand them we can begin to focus on what is wrong. When we are given commands we tend to resist being treated like a child. The toilet seat argument can quickly become a struggle over who is going to give in and possibly turn into a serious issue about respect. The toilet seat can be anything ... who takes the kids to school, who makes dinner and who cleans up, whether or not there is good communication about decisions that affect both people. Take some time and think about how you are presenting your desires and frustrations. Are you tending to offer a list of what is wrong and what you don’t like or want? Do your requests come off as an order?

Inside each of us there is this feeling that our partner should know what we want (we have told them over and over again how much we hate it when they don't live up to our expectations). It is easy to have the feeling that you will never be able to do enough, and the motives of the other are selfish.

It is amazing, but true, that it is easier to talk about what you aren't getting than it is to ask for what you want. Try changing your description of family responsibilities from "I don't like it when", "I hate that you do this", or "you don't help me with and you know I don't like that". The descriptions about what you don’t want can result in your spouse digging in their feet and lead towards an unwanted argument.

By engaging your partner with a new message you can change the way you both feel about success and failure. Try some new approaches like “I know you have been under a lot of stress, or "I know it gets hard to get things done but I love you and we will get through this.” Imagine your words to be like a water faucet. When you complain, avoid, argue and are never happy with each other, you are turning off the water. The flow just stops or slows down to a trickle. When you offer praise, support and realistic ideas for success "I think you would be really good at...", " I would feel so happy if you would", or “it would help me if”, the faucet starts to open and the water begins to flow freely.

It’s not just what you say but how you say it. Don’t put each other into a no-win situation. Push through, put yourself out there and take a chance.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Building your case

Our friend calls us from New York to tell us that her boss of several years has abruptly fired her. We are shocked as she had been doing so well in that job and loved it so much. As I talk with her, I remember little things that she said about the job over the years. As I comfort her, I begin to remind her of the time when she couldn’t get time off to see her brother in the hospital, or the time she was a few minutes late and they wrote her up. As we continue talking, I remember that they passed her over for a promotion more than once and they hired another person at a higher pay rate. As I console, my friend I help her “build a case” that her boss didn’t appreciate her. We put together all the actions over the years that were unfair, inappropriate or just unpleasant. At the end of the conversation, she is not happy but she is comforted by the fact that they had been unfair to her and she might just be better off without them.
A week or two later we get a call from another friend who has just broken up with his fiance. As we talk, he gives a long list of the things she did that made it impossible for him to continue in the relationship. He “built his case” against her over time so that when he had enough evidence he felt better about breaking it off with her.
Relationships all have a measure of “building a case”. It often has more to do with compatibility, connection and comfort level than actual objective decision making. In my youth, I was passionate, driven, and loyal. That is one of the ways I would describe it. I have friends that have known me for over 30 years who would use that same description, however, another description was also true that I was arrogant, selfish, and manipulative. Those who have known me best will agree on that as well. The interesting thing is that they have stuck it out for our friendship over all these years and seen me leave off some of the more negative traits in favor of more desirable ones. They will still call me arrogant, but often with a smile and a wink. I have many who I have called “friend” in my past who I no longer associate with because of my selfish, arrogant side and the friendship died along the way.
My wife is one of those people who has stuck it out with me. She has a laundry list of things about me that are bad traits that she has “put up” with. Interestingly enough, she also has a list of qualities that she appreciates about me and continues to foster. She has helped me with my selfishness so that I am more likely to extend my selfish “circle of one” to include those closest to me. For example, if I want a new car, I will think about how it will best suit the family as opposed to only what I want. I still get the satisfaction of getting something I want (selfish), but I get the benefit of sharing it with others (generous).
I offer you this. In your life and relationships you will make choices about who to be close with and who not to be. The people in your life will also have those choices. As relationships mature, you “build a case” for those friendships. Lifetime friends will keep a running list of the qualities you have that make you special to them. Perhaps you are “fiercely loyal”, “generous”, “honest”, or “non-judgmental of mistakes”, they can provide you “criticism” without you getting mad, etc.  They may well see other parts of your personality, like you are “oversensitive”, “pushy”, or are “always right” in every conversation. In the end, however,  they will weigh what they see in you and compare that list against what it means for them to have you as a friend. In their minds, you are valuable and important to them.  Your weak areas do not threaten the relationship. Similarly, there will be those in your life that will look for the things about you that they don’t like and they will “build their case” until they can end the relationship without feeling they have been unreasonable or unfair in their assessment of their friendship with you.
The fact remains that there is plenty of evidence “for” and “against” us all when put under a microscope. When we can see how we ourselves build our cases for and against others, we can begin to understand how and why they build them about us. Make no mistake this is often a subconscious process and can take years. At first, it is usually just listing the obvious traits, such as those mentioned above; arrogance, selfishness, intolerance, religiosity, anger, lack of empathy, kindness, caring, active listening, honesty, frankness and forgiveness. After recognizing these traits, it often leads to some thoughtfulness on accepting yourself and others for what it is that you all bring to the table. There are always going to be people that we don’t “gel” with along the way. Sometimes it takes years to realize this and sometimes minutes.
When you find yourself building your cases, take some of the pressure off and consider letting some relationships just be shallow. Recognize them for what they are and don’t set yourself up to be let down or expect more from that friendship than what is reasonable. Remember there will always be losses, and they are usually a surprise, but you can own your own feelings and attitudes which will help you be more honest with yourself and make better choices when looking to “build your case” for a relationship.