People

People ask me why I sleep outside in the tent instead of inside.

***

I step in the front door, and already I hear — the fridge in the gym, the fan in the basement, the computer in the gym running, the hum of a house that never really shuts down. And also, someone in the kitchen. Making noise, yes, but more importantly, will this person be grumpy, angry, sullen, sad — or even just try to talk to me in the middle of my waking up thoughts?

It’s Dad.

***

I hate talking about “negative energy.” It sounds so floo-floo. When they post those random, “You know you’re an empath when. . . . you walk into a room and you can instantly tell if the group of people is tense or relaxed.” Can’t everyone? Seriously, can’t everyone? Doesn’t everyone? Constantly monitor the emotional electricity in every situation? Doesn’t it wear you out? Don’t you ever wish you could be around No Energy so you could rest?

***

I get people, but not people’s rules. Which random professions you tip versus which professions you don’t. When you’re expected to give hostess gifts and who is supposed to be gifted at Christmas (the mail person? really?). And why do we do this lying game where we say “supportive” things to people we don’t respect, don’t like, don’t approve of? The social games, those I do not get.

But I do get people. I can tell at a glance. And I’m learning more and more to trust it. More often than not, I wind up comforting someone in tears. So I know I know people. What I don’t know is why it seems so hard to build an actual friendship.

***

I never would have said before that I have anxiety or social anxiety. But now I find myself playing things over and over in my head. But what were they really saying? What were they really thinking? What is wrong with me? Why do I put people off? And then the dark whirlpool of pleasing others and earning affection.

I don’t think I need to be everyone’s favorite. I hate the feeling of wanting to ask people what the other people are saying behind my back.

***

I suppose that is too much to ask.

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Relationships

Here’s a thing that I don’t get in my life: People I know, who I thought I was friends with, who go through major martial changes, keeping mum, and then afterwords send out a generalized “now that I’ve ignored any of your attempts to connect, let’s be friends now that it’s over.”

I get that when you are going through major challenges, you may be too overwhelmed or vulnerable to share everything with everyone. But if I know you well enough to know that something is not ok, and I reach out to you, and you literally ignore me with no response, and then after — after a divorce, after hooking up with the new guy, after marrying the new guy — you want to pretend that our friendship hasn’t been affected in any way and I should just jump in and be happy for you — well, I’m confused.

What is friendship? Is it not the process of sharing the good times and the bad? I don’t call a distant cheering section of spectators “friends.” If you can’t even do the dignity of a response — any response — (“I’m having a rough go right now, but not ready to talk,” counts, among many other things) then how are we even friends? How am I supposed to pick back up that supposed friendship I thought I had after you shut out any interaction with me? How is this not a damaged relationship?

I recognize that I have never been through a divorce, and I can’t speak to what that experience can feel like. I can only share my experience from this side: I’ve lost more friendships from cutting me out, ignoring my attempts to reach out, followed by a vague and generic group statement about how now I should feel happy for them. The temptation to make a biting comment about how relationships take work, and maybe the fact that you don’t seem to realize that is a factor in you dissolved marriage is definitely there. I don’t make it, but I realize that, whether words are spoken or no, I grieve the loss of friendship and move on.

It might not have been that the friendship was damaged. It might have been that it was only a figment of my imagination in the first place, and all I am grieving is my lost notion that there was a relationship. Am I owed an apology? No, but I don’t think I owe one either. If my presence in your life did not merit an acknowledgement, I am willing to accept that. But if there is no attempt to literally mend broken things, I’m not going to pretend they weren’t broken.

I’m saying this not to condemn the people who went through the dissolving of these relationships; I’m saying this because I can’t for the life of me believe that those people understand what it is like to be on the other side of these ignored-friendships. If you really think you can suddenly put up a generic Facebook post about what happened in the last year and we can pick up our friendship where we left off, you’re wrong.  If you think that just because you have had a rough year it automatically absolves you of any need to invest in relationships, you’re wrong. And if you think that being your friend means that I will automatically agree and support everything that you do, you’re also wrong.

I didn’t walk away from the friendship because you got divorced. I walked away from the friendship because you walked away first. I got tired of looking at your back. And now that you are all fake-smiley and waving, there’s not much to walk back toward.

unformed

I guess what I was trying to talk myself around to the other day, when I became suddenly distracted by the unrelenting desire for Sabbath land, is that I think I’ve drunk more of the wine than I realized.

The world of school is perpetual Deadlines and Doing. Perpetual. And it doesn’t matter if you have enough time or not, because, at the Deadline, the Work is submitted anyway. And there are rubrics and directions and we just talk about how you figure out how to do it and then you do it. Because that’s how life works. You decide what you want to do, you make a plan, you do the plan, stuff happens. It’s as simple as that.

Only it’s not.

I mean, if you are a citizen of this world, I guess you don’t have any other choice than to embrace that. But the perpetual doing blinds you to your inner self, and certainly keeps your eyes well off the things above and you can’t really function in a way that assumes the superiority of the heavenly places, because we aren’t there — we’re here, and we’re doing. It cripples you in your ability to hear, because you are too busy deciding and doing. They did make a little lip service to this with “reflection” assignments, but they, too, were a thing to Have Done.

So, after years of sickness, my biggest (yet subconscious) goal has been to get back to Doing. Planning, shaping, accomplishing. Deciding, doing.

After hurling myself repeatedly against that brick wall (and the harder I hurl, the more likely, it seemed, I would be getting sick again. And again), I am beginning to hear just a little bit that small, still voice. And am surprised to find it prodding me toward “spiritual formation.”

As someone who has long held (even without knowing this was what it was called) to sola scriptura, “spiritual formation” seemed like just a thing God did to you while you weren’t looking, like growing that half inch between birthdays. Growing up wasn’t a thing you did, it was a thing that happened to you. This was compounded by the fact I didn’t really get what “studying” meant. I mean, you were supposed to “study scriptures” but what did that really mean? What do you do, besides read the passage and think about how people smarter than you would probably see more in this line than you can. Fourteen million years of studying for school later, I have a few ideas. . . but I’m less sure than ever that “studying the scriptures” is really a main thing we are to do. Studying, I can say after much experience, is for facts. And I don’t believe that the Bible is just a dense packet of obscured facts for us to try to make some sense out of.

If God Himself describes the interaction of mankind and God as a relationship, then facts are not sufficient. There is something more about dwelling with God, walking with God, and seeking God than knowing facts about God. And so He cannot possibly have just meant that book to be as stale as a textbook, to be neatly repackaged and summarized in notes for easy regurgitation. I think that pretty thoroughly constitutes Missing the Point.

Well, my former self says, there is prayer. And there is His Spirit. Only, often I have no idea what or how to pray. And the Spirit seems something so elusive I more often than not have no idea how one hears It or communes with It or through It.

Still, my former self says, “spiritual formation” is contrived and a man-made concept. Only, with some peculiarity, as I read the New Testament, it seems like part of Jesus coming to this physical world, in a physical body — as we are, even now — was, for lack of a better word, for His spiritual formation. How else can it be said things like “He learned obedience”? He never learned disobedience, and He had nothing to repent of. So what does it mean to “learn obedience”? Somehow, though I do not claim to understand it very deeply at all, part of the Son coming to this world was also the shaping of the Son.

The problem for me is that so many discussion on “spiritual formation” are so effort driven, so contrived, so clearly reeking of the priorities and concepts of mankind. I am doing better now with words like posture and framework and a system of reminders and practicing remembering and training your mind to different reflexes and thought patterns and listening.

It’s not about improving ourselves, or making our spirits into different shapes. It’s just about practicing, again and again and again, turning our face toward God. And then being open and receptive to His changing, His planning, His deciding and His doing.

And to that I can say yes. Yes, yes, and yes. Because when the framework and mindset of life drives me away from God, what I have is life, with an after thought of God, and that has not been working out well at all. Cramming God into little leftover cracks and being frustrated when things don’t seem to be growing. And what I need is a framework and a mindset of leaning toward God, and life just being a part of the structure pushing me closer to that which is God.

Which is listening.

Which is drives toward: Mercy. Forgiveness. Repentance. Patience.

But it starts with listening, and the other things come out of it. It doesn’t come out of effort toward Mercy or Peace. It comes out of shutting the heck up, sitting down, and listening.

I still don’t really know what “spiritual formation” means. Right now it means being curious about what it means to other people, and listening. But from all the looking and listening, spiritual formation means following God on purpose, not as an assumptive after thought. And that means a certain amount of doing. Which itself seems obvious, something about faith without works being dead. But still a struggle for me to figure out.

This thought I lost. . .my brains wore out by the end of the day, and the moments from before supper to after took my last few coherent sentences from me.

I would like to not always be the caregiver and would like to have someone take care of me. And that sounds very cold, like I am not appreciative of all the things that people do for me. But all day I am a caregiver. And then when I come home, people ask me to give them care. And I don’t know how to fill back up. I am not even sure what I want, what taking care of me looks like. I am just so tired of majority of my conversations being about how I can take care of people or how I might suggest other people take care of themselves. Sometimes I just want to be alone, just so that no one will ask me for advice, tell me how they are hurting, or limp around in a self-martyring way because they won’t bother me even though they are dying.

It’s not that I’m particularly good about being able to share what is bothering me, or what I want or need. It’s just that I’m so spent from caring for others. It’s not that I think I deserve more attention. It’s just sometimes I wish we could talk about something mutually interesting, not about you, or even about me.

When I went over the things I did on a daily and weekly and monthly basis, I couldn’t find anything that actually engaged my brains, my thinking-deeper, my not-just-basic-problem-solving-and-organizing brain. My emotions are totally drained. I can kind of sometimes do things a little creative. But actually having a meaningful conversation with an exchange of ideas (not an emotive rant) seems to be out of the question.

I feel broken and un-tended to, and despite my attempt to actually work through a thought process today, it seems I have once again circled back around to wanting a sabbath and a chance to heal. I think I could be a friend and a human, if I could heal. But right now I feel too broken to even be a friend or a human. I am stiffly going through the motions, because that’s what you do, you do things. Why does everyone make it sound like it’s a virtue to push through? Why can’t it be a virtue to stick up for yourself long enough to get off the hamster wheel and re-gain your equilibrium and sense of direction?

I know that getting life just-so is not really an option. I know that we aren’t called to trust in God because it will be easy to get life figured out and in control just like that–that it is chaos and weakness that drives us to God. But I don’t understand why God so many times calls us to rest and then all the people around us seem to imply that’s a sin. I just feel sad and tired and empty and exhausted and I want to get better.

Where am I today?

I felt so strange the year after I graduated, like the person inside of me was so buried as to be dead. I kept calling, waiting, listening, watching. Long after the “threats” were gone, I couldn’t shut off the adrenaline of survival that had become my complete existence: getting through. Nothing but pure endurance. Head down, focusing on one foot in front of the other. And now, on the other side, I couldn’t stop.

Immune system badly weakened from what had happened over the last two years, I fell badly sick again, shoving me back into head down, one foot, one breath, suffocating, paralyzing, desperation to not cease to exist, feeling the inexorable slide toward just that.  I finally wound up sobbing uncontrollably in the office of a doctor I’d just met, saying over and over “I just don’t know what to do, I just don’t know what to do.”

The next 9 months or so was a muddy swirl of attempting, once again, to recover; followed by the brutal yet predictable slam of winter darkness that leaves me crippled with annual faithfulness.

Now, in the last few weeks perhaps, I am finally (I think perhaps maybe) making a few tentative steps away from adrenaline. I find myself observing in myself peculiar thoughts and outlooks that don’t seem like me at all, that I hadn’t realized I’d picked up in the last few years. I feel a queer sense of deja vu when driving flashes of my cross-country travels blinking across my subconscious, the strange sense that it is about time to skip town again. There is a unsettling sense of duality, the “me” that existed in the prior years, and the “me” of the intervening years, and the “me” now that seems to slide awkwardly between the two, no longer able to settle into either shape, and the almost-more-unsettling that it is time to create a new, third thing which actually is the shape of the me now.

The people I saw almost daily now seem to have no idea that I even exist. The people I tried to keep friendships alive with from before saw so little of the me-in-between that I feel almost as though I am faking when I am with them – they have no idea how I have been smashed and twisted in the intervening years, and without words to explain it, I resort to trying to be the same person I was before. But in the meantime, I keep trying to find a mirror capable of helping me actually examine my scars, assess my damage, and understand what I have become while I was too busy trying to stay alive to see any of the things on the inside.

Some things maybe are good. I don’t want you to think I am merely broken. Not that merely broken should be a phrase at all, as it is in our breaking we are made whole – although that does not make the breaking any more pleasant. I think there probably has been growth of good things, questioning of things that should have been questioned, and certainly there is no end to the need for humility.

Some things maybe are bad. I feel the scars, but even writing “maybe some things are bad” and I cringe away. I don’t want to look. It hurts, and I only go that way very gingerly, very cautiously, and unable to share in any kind of meaningful way when I can only look at tiny pieces at a time without feeling powerfully overwhelmed.

I don’t know what else to say except that I am yearning for healing. When I think what would I do, if I could do anything I wanted, without fear of judgement or condemnation or “reality” or “responsibility” (so often self-made concepts without real truth). . .I think of buying some land to have a sabbath year on. No schedules. No expectations. A time to be alone with God. A time to face up to damage and scars. A time to listen to the still quiet voice without the clamoring. A time to rest, o God, a time to rest.  I would come back out of it, I know; I have no ideas of being led to a purely hermitage lifestyle fleeing from the challenges and trials of this world. But some raw, earnest, honest, wilderness time, to learn (again?) how to breathe, to rejoice, to hope, to be alive. . .

People say we have to learn how to do that while in the midst. People say we’ll never have a life quiet enough to spend the whole day, or day after day, seeking, praying, meditating, reading, listening, singing, dancing even. They say you have to find it in the middle. But with sadness and longing, I see in the Old Testament God setting aside day after day, whole years even, to do just that. To rest and rejoice, and remember that He is God and we are not, and to be filled with courage for what comes next.

I am not at all sure I have the courage to withdraw. I am not at all sure I have the courage. Leave a job I should be lucky to have. Step away from the people I was waiting so long to be close to. Emptying hard earned money into rocky ground that will likely “never be good for anything,” if doing nothing truly is worthless. Shutting my ears to things that burden me with implied, implicit or explicit responsibility.

Yet I am also not sure what kind of existence I can have without a rest. A real rest. A prolonged rest. Surely, there would not be condemnation for rest, after all of that? But I say it with such tentativeness, because I feel such condemnation. Life is hard; you’re supposed to be harder.  But I am not hard. I am not tough. I’m sensitive. I cry. I carry the burdens of people I’ve barely met. And I am looking for the courage to hope. I’ve found a lot of different ways life can be harder. I want permission to learn a lot of different ways life can be more full and less parched.

I can talk myself into the truth and necessity of a real, long rest in my mind, in theory, in concept. The fear and anxiety and, honestly, terror, overwhelm me when I try to talk about it aloud. If I can’t explain to you my hurt and brokenness, how will I ever be able to convince you of my need for radical rest? But if I don’t have the faith for rest, how will I have have faith for action, for sacrifice, for growth, for living?

I don’t know. I didn’t expect today’s writing to go there. I thought this would be more introspective. But it seems compelling, I suppose, that no matter what path of thought I take, I seem to wind up here. And by “here” I mean, looking at land listings and wondering how realistic it is to buy some land as soon as possible, because why wait? But I also feel like I need someone to talk to about all this, to stop just hiding in my own mind, to find the courage to say the words out loud. To move beyond a place of ha-ha-just-kidding-we-can-dream-right? to the place of no-I’m-serious-help-me-figure-this-out.

My own level of avoidance can be rather self-shocking.

 

Defined by whom for what?

Enneagram.

So popular, so famous, so trendy, and, so far, the most complex and therefore accurate personality test I’ve stumbled over.

For me, the use of these are very limited and often result in little more than ego stroking or justification of one’s reactions to unpleasant stimuli. Somehow, I can’t resist taking them, always wondering how people see me, I guess, a preoccupation I’ve had for too long and still can’t let go of. Yet I rarely remember the results, because it doesn’t challenge my understanding of myself or how I should approach my life. Accordingly, I can’t really tell you if I consistently get the same results, even if I’ve taken the same test many times throughout the years.

Today I stumbled on my Enneagram results, because although of all the Types, Type 4 did not seem too off base, I resented what was described as their fundamental struggle — their basic fear or basic desire: That they have no identity. Worse than that, they basically said that the fact that Fours are swamped in too many shifting emotions is the root of what leads them to feel as though they have no stable identity.

I don’t want this to be true of me. But I think that it does ring true. This means that I have to grapple with it, the first time I think a personality test has actually done that for me.

I’ve long wondered whether  I was just a product of my environment, or if I were actually a stable entity of my own. I wish I felt like I had my own defined sense of style, my own home environment. In “real life” I am too busy keeping my head above the water, and those things don’t come together, but I always want them to. I have wanted to have a well defined role, except that I hate being defined as one thing, and I am much more complex than that. One of my biggest stumbling blocks is that it seems like there is no direction to my life, no arcing story line, no actual cohesion. In fiction, everything is so much more neat, or so it seems to me, since I don’t understand the context in which the Author is writing.

The thing is, I don’t think it’s healthy to spend your life looking for “an identity.” That’ s not what I think life is “supposed” to be about. Don’t judge yourself, they say. Accept yourself as you really are. The problem is, when all you see is fractured tiny pieces of nonsense, and no idea how any of the pieces go together, well, nothing is big enough to hold on to long enough to accept. That’s how it feels, anyhow.

Do I think that getting good at something would give me peace? No. Or a relationship, or a home, or defined sense of style? No, of course not. But do I envy the people who seem to have a strong arc, a strong sense of who they are, what they want, and the path that they are on? Yeah, I do. Well, would you like a different set of life problems? As we say in health care, would you like to die of cancer, dementia, or frailty and falls? No one ever said it was going to be pretty.

And I can’t escape the dogging feeling of needing permission to do what I need to do. What I most want permission for is permission to be weak. To stop trying to force myself to be responsible, dutiful, reasonable and hard working. To stop trying to go along with society’s expectations. And yet one of the things I most resent is when it seems like my identity is slipping into that of Invalid.

So what do I do? I read the blog of Christian woman with bi-polar disease, and I marvel at how much of it seems to apply to me. Not the symptom descriptions; the coping with life descriptions. The “actually, I can’t work full time, I am an artist, and it’s ok to go to bed early.”

It’s hard for me to say, “I can’t help you today, I don’t feel well.” But I don’t feel well. But couldmake myself do it? I mean, I could. I’m not dead yet. I have several people in my life who view not “making yourself” as laziness, as lack of commitment, as being weak, of having no discipline, not sticking to things.  So I want someone to say, you don’t look like you feel well. Because apparently I want someone to validate how I feel or otherwise it’s not the truth? But otherwise I’m fighting this guilt that I’m giving up too easily, have no will power or perseverance, no grit. This was not how the war was won.

I guess I am trying to shift my mindset to what I have experienced to be true, but it takes energy to fight all the voices (people, society, habits, previously held stances) that scorn that mindset. It’s hard to leave things behind.

But if my life is a novel. . .I’m beginning to suspect that I’m not the Heroine. Or that I have to learn how to write a different kind of Heroine. Because I’m not strong. I’m tired. I’m not the center of the story; I want to hide and to heal. I don’t make the world go round; I struggle to get through each normal boring day. I’m not leading anyone anywhere doing anything, although sometimes I remember to put tremendous effort into small actions to Not Be Part of the Problem.

“Not Quitting” is offered up as the gold standard; but maybe yeah, do quit? Not life. But maybe what life is described as. Where do we get this stuff from, and why do we believe it? I understand why some people want to take the path of minimalism and strip everything right down and see what still holds. So much garbage and so hard to see what is real hard truth buried in it all. We’re all dying, in that none of us live forever, but that’s not as clarifying as one would think it would be. Maybe, for some of us, quitting certain things takes more courage and bravery than Keep Going.

If none of this makes much sense to you, that’s ok. It’s the muddled meanderings of someone feeling feverish and sick, but not so feverish and sick that she can’t make herself go to work tomorrow. Not all introspection is either healthy or conclusive.

 

Flannel

The flannel is

the closest

thing to comfort me

still me and

hold me

gently.

The flannel only

knows me

the measured breath

the covered breast

the fears and

the dreams

are kept.

The flannel has

room for

more than just me;

no jealous lover

yet exists

for me.

The flannel wants

not part of

me, my life or being.

If I come

or go

still

the flannel is.

(9/16, rough draft only, without revision)

Discipline and Disciple

My first thought is, “Oh my gosh, this is going to take so much discipline.”

To not worry.

To not pack the knapsack the the night before, not double-check the school website, not insist on writing that one last email before bed. To stick to the new diet when it feel so odd and seems to be so expensive. To go to bed with the sun when the to-do list isn’t done. To not panic when I see that class is half an hour earlier than I thought it was.

I apparently have a hair-trigger on panic right now. Everything seems like a crisis. I have to remind myself again and again, “God has a plan. God already knew that. There’s still plenty of time for God.

But my second thought is, “Wait, discipline?” I’ve felt for  a long time that it bodes very ill for my internal state when I catch myself thinking “I’VE worked so hard. . .” I’ve? “I’ve” means my head isn’t screwed on straight. It means I’m still thinking it all depends on me. What does discipline mean? At first blush, I thought it was just a fancier word for “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” Come on; be disciplined! Do it!

But I wonder. The word “discipline” and “disciple” are so similar. They both have their root in being taught. I think that is the thing that I need to keep in strong focus. It’s not about what I’m learning, but who I’m learning it from. Going to bed earlier doesn’t do a thing to make me righteous. The act is in no way morally superior.

But to go to bed earlier, I have to trust that the things that weigh on me are smaller than God, and that God is more well pleased by my rest than by my anxiety. It’s not the act that matters. What matters is that it is an act of faith.

Lists

Everyone keeps making these lists, and it makes me feel left out, even though I think it’s stupid to make numerical lists about things that can’t be numerated–“5 ways to have a more joy-filled life” is a stupid thing to write. Sorry. I am all harsh and judgmental like that. I just think that implies a whole lot of knowledge that people don’t really have, and implies a cause-and-effect universe that we’d all like to figure out, but can’t, because, guess what? It doesn’t work that way, or everyone would be following those lists to a T and having awesome, joy-filled lives and no tummy fat, forever and ever amen. Seriously, it doesn’t work like that.

Anyway, lists. Because I’m horribly judgmental, every time I see a horribly executed list, I think to myself, “I could do better than that!” Then I think, “That would be stupid. I’m not allowed to be stupid.” Then I’m all like, “Who says I don’t get to be stupid? Who made the rule against stupid? I can be stupid if I want to be!” Then I realize the reason why a lot of us don’t be stupid a lot more often is because of the people watching, and we don’t mind being stupid, we mind being caught being stupid. If no body sees it, it didn’t happen, and you can enjoy it for what it is.

So here’s my stupid list. I think I’m going to call it, “Important Things That Men And Women Ought To Know About Each Other, But Probably Don’t” or “Relationship Advice From The Outside: I Know You’re Doing It Wrong, Even Though I’m Not Doing It” (this is more common than you think; didn’t C. S. Lewis write a book on marriage, even though he’d never been married? Guys writing books about kissing dating good-bye when they hadn’t yet figured the whole thing out and gotten married either? I’m, like, trending over here, not going out on a limb). Or something. Maybe when I get to the end of the list, I’ll come up with a really splendiferous title. I usually write first and come up with the title last, anyway.

Okay, now I’m really, really done with the preamble. Here we go:

Things Women Should Tell Men, but Probably Never Do:

  1. There will be tears. They cannot be avoided, they cannot be stopped, it isn’t your fault, and I don’t like them either. So there.  But there will be tears, and for women, it’s as natural and healthy as, like, going the bathroom. It’s not going to ever be something where it’s like “Man, I just really like crying,” but trying not to cry, trying to hold it all in–that’s going to cause some serious harm. I can’t not cry. I can hide it and I can be ashamed of it–but I’m pretty sure that almost nothing would make a woman feel more loved than to have a safe place to cry.  I’m sure you don’t like to see me cry, and I’m sure it makes you very uncomfortable, but there’s no way you can take care of me better than to make me feel like it’s okay to cry and that’s what your shoulder is there for. You can’t imagine how awesome that would be.
  2. “Help me” means “do it together,” because, actually, I’m lonely. I say, “Honey, come help me with the dishes.” And you’re all like, “Mm. Honey no like dishes. Dishes go away. Let’s–always eat off of paper plates, so we can throw them all away and NEVER do dishes!!” And then I’m all like crying, and you don’t understand. I had a problem, you found a solution–shouldn’t this be the happy-kissy part? Yeah, but you got confused on the grammar part. The important part was come help ME with the dishes, not come help me with the DISHES. If there were no dishes, I would want you to come help me with something else, because, basically, I’m feeling lonely and forgotten and unvalued, and I want you HERE, with ME, doing whatever I’m doing. It makes me feel like all is right with the world when we’re working together, like I’m safe and you care.
  3. I take it very seriously when you make fun of/look down on my emotions and/or emotional capacity. You’re strong and muscle-y and that’s your strength. My strength is my emotional capacity. If you trash that, I have nothing left. The flip side of this that you can give me such incredible encouragement and support when you say out loud when you notice the value of that emotional capacity. If you can tell me “You’re such a good friend to so-and-so” or “I like how you always seem to know how I’m feeling” or “I like how cheerful you are” or anything that says you see worth in how I am pouring out my heart and soul–that’s going to really balance out the times you can’t help but roll your eyes and say “Sometimes it IS about the nail, honey.” or “Stop taking it so personally!” or “you’re making this into a bigger issue than it should be.” Okay, yeah, sometimes; but if you never tell me the things you value about me feeling, feeling, feeling all the time, it basically makes me think you have no respect for me.
  4. My body does not work the way yours does. I don’t put on muscle as fast as you do; my metabolism will never burn as fast as yours, no matter how much I exercise. I will never be able to drop weight the way you can. It really is that hard for me to lift that thing. No, I do not know how to drive standard, and even if I do know how to drive standard, that doesn’t mean I understand the hand motions you’re making. Those raging hormones and biological clocks have been abused as excuses, but they’re really true and not funny at all. I think babies look cute the way you think food is a good idea when you’re hungry.
  5. It matters to me what things look like. You’re all like “What does it matter how it looks? That doesn’t change what really IS.” I know, I get it, but you’re still wrong. How things look can make me feel happy or not happy; why do you think I care so much about what color we paint the room? To you, a room is a room is a room. To me, it is a happy room, or a sad room, or an energetic room, or a calming room, or a room that reminds me of my Great-Grandma, or a million different other options. And the same is true about clothes, about the plates I serve food off of, and just about everything around me.
  6. I’m trying. And I know you’re trying. And I love you.

Things That Men Should Tell Women, But Probably Never Do:

  1. I have emotions, too. Just not the crying kinds. You handle emotions by talking or by crying, but I have one way of dealing with things: Fight or Flight. I’m either going to get really mad, or I’m going to hide from it. I might hide from it by watching sports non-stop, or playing computer games, or any number of things. But basically, I Hurt Inside = Fight or Flight. So I come home with all these bad emotions inside, and I go into flight trying to deal with my emotions, staring at the glowing screen. And then you’re all like, “Honey, you never help me with the housework,” “Honey, we never do anything together,” “Honey, are you even listening to me?” And I’m all like, Ugh. More bad feelings. More Fight or Flight. One time I heard this story–I don’t know if it’s true or not, but anyway–this woman felt like her husband had totally checked out on her, on their marriage, on living. No matter what she tried to do to get him to engage, he wouldn’t. Some guy told her, “Stop nagging him and start loving him, and he’ll come around.” So she stopped nagging him, and just gave him a kiss and told him she loved him, and five minutes later, he was upstairs helping her with the chores. I don’t offer any magic solutions, but if your dude is hurting and depressed, More Bad Feelings isn’t going to make him come around, and you might be able to help him better if you can realize the difference between I’m Lazy and I Hurt.
  2. Just tell me. Really. You’re trying too hard to be gentle and I can’t read between those lines. Just tell me. You’re all like, “Wow! The garbage can is really full!” and I’m like “Yep.” Then you’re all upset because I didn’t change the garbage, and I’m all like, “What the heck? I didn’t even know you wanted the garbage changed. Why didn’t you ask?” You thought that hinting about a full garbage can was good enough, but I am a man. I either (a) noted your observation, agreed it was correct, and promptly forgot about it, or (b) was thinking about how much fuller I’ve seen other garbage cans, or the time we stuffed Joey in a garbage can, or thinking about eating my breakfast, or even thinking about NOTHING AT ALL. Just say, “Honey, can you change the garbage can?” and I’ll be like, “Yep.” and we’ll both be happy. Say, “Honey, I want flowers on my birthday, and my birthday is next Friday.” Say, “Honey, I hate my stove and it makes want to cry every time I use it. Let’s get a new one” not, “don’t you think we should think about updating the kitchen?” Say, “You really hurt my feelings with that last comment,” don’t storm around the house for three days while I wonder what happened, and if it’s my fault or someone elses’. No hinting. Just say it. We’ll both be happier, I swear.
  3. Please understand what you are asking me to do. Sometimes you act like you’re asking for the moon in a handbasket, and it’s the easiest thing in the world. Other times, you ask me to move Mount Everest, and wonder why I’m giving you The Look. It might help if you tried to do it yourself first, or if you did it with me. But sometimes I think you really don’t understand the gift I’m giving you, and I feel like I’m your errand boy, not the love of your life. Give me advance notice; be honest if you really want it done before a certain time, and understand what this supposedly easy project entails. If you painted the house with me, you might understand why I put off painting the house for so long.
  4. Indecision is painful. I hate indecision. I get rid of it as fast as I can in my own life. Watching you go through indecision is like watching someone hurt. I would like to end your pain and give you a decision. You keep telling me that half the fun is trying to decide, but not for me. For me, I want answers. Don’t come to me when you want to talk about the relative merits about two different colors of pink. Go to your girl friends for that. Come to me when you want an answer, this one or that one, yes or no. I’ll give it to you in a hurry, but I’m not going to talk about this decision and re-visit it ad nauseam.
  5. Just because I’m not saying anything doesn’t meant I’m not listening or that I don’t care. You talk all the time, and I listen. I don’t talk. If you want an answer to a question or want to know what I think, ask me directly. But don’t think that just because I’m quiet it means that I’m ignoring you. I just don’t have as much to say.
  6. I’m trying. And I know you’re trying. And I love you.