A while back, my wife and I participated in a marriage class offered through LDS Family Services. In this class, the teachers talked about being vulnerable in your relationship. This idea caused Erin to ask,
“How can one stay in control and avoid being hurt if they make themselves vulnerable? Wouldn’t that create an open door to being taken advantage of?”
We decided the answer to that is, maybe. But we also decided that in a relationship where two people are striving to make things work, they both have each other’s best interest in mind and their intentions are well meaning (I believe most marriages begin with this frame of mind). Being vulnerable incubates growth, respect and understanding.
So how do we become vulnerable in this positive nourishing way?
Recently Erin told me about a time in high school when she was in a Shakespeare competition and she was to give a dramatic reading. Her life experience to that point had not given her the skills to completely immerse herself into a role with complete abandon. However, while she was in her first performance, she felt something new, not an emotion like when one feels the influence of the Holy Ghost as a warm feeling from the head down but more of an opening from inside. Her eyes watered up as she spoke. She was in the moment. She was the character. She had become vulnerable to the feelings intended in the words written long ago. Why? Because she was able to abandon her fears, anxieties, concern for what others thought of her, the competition, the thrill of victory and agony of defeat and lay everything out in her performance.
“I’m a man, but I can change, if I have to, I guess.”
(“The Man Prayer” The Red Green Show)
Men are often accused of suppressing their feelings. I have learned to suppress my feelings as a safety mechanism to avoid discomfort, embarrassment, conflict, fear etc. I have built walls for most relationships in my life that mask my true feelings to the point that when asked how I am feeling, I become speechless. Feelings are scary!
What is my point? I need to do things differently. I need to tear down the walls especially in my marriage and court Erin with abandon.
I am sure that George Costanza isn’t what my wife wants in me but the concept is true. What I have gotten in the past isn’t enough and so I need to change things up. Say what I feel no matter what. No matter how clunky my communication.
I have recently listened to a BYU Devotional talk from Trenton (Awesome name) L. Hickman given in 2014. He describes Moroni in translating the writing of the Jaredites in the book of Ether to his “Clunky” reformed Egyptian. Moroni says:
Ether 12:24 And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands. Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them.
25 Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.
26 And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;
27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
Moroni felt clunky in his ability to share the words in his heart and as compared to the abilities and language of the Brother of Jared. I feel clunky when I make attempts to share my feelings.
I just had in my mind the episode of Friends where Phoebe runs. She didn’t care what she looked like, she just ran with abandon, “yielding herself without restraint or moderation.” I can see myself expressing myself verbally and non-verbally communicating with abandon the feelings in my heart and the thoughts in my mind that create these feelings.
In our marriage class, there was a lesson that addressed the Primary Emotion, Anger. Oddly, that is the only one that was discussed so I have looked for a list of the other emotions. There is a wide variety of opinions and lists out there defining what are the primary emotions. Finally, I looked to the images results and found this handy dandy chart. Using this chart as a guide, I may be able to distinguish between feelings and thoughts. So often, I am asked to share my feelings about something and I respond, “Well I think…..” or I try to analyze and put into words logically the feelings I feel. So here is a test. A week ago, I went with Erin to see a play called “Standing not Standing.” It was a great production but to be honest, it was painful. There were too many parallels to my life and my marriage. The general gist of the play was about a young couple who were dealing with trials stemming from the husband’s health issues (most prominently chronic fatigue) and unemployment and the emotional strain caused by a lack of motivation on the part of the husband; and a feeling of exhaustion for carrying the load on the part of the wife. After the play when I told Erin how I felt, she said tell me more about why it was painful…………Blank!
So with my new found vocabulary to the right ————>, let me try to use my analytical brain to find a voice for how I felt watching this play.
Feelings I Felt
Anger- Resentment, Irritation, Frustration
There are days where I resent being “the healthy one” even though Erin works hard and contributes way more than the stricken husband in the play. I feel resentment and frustration from actions/in-actions and choices I have made that created distance in my relationship. Erin is always urging me to tell her the truth. “If you can’t do something, say so!” I have developed in recent months a stronger desire to be more assertive and say my feelings not just to Erin but to others in my life including my family that I grew up with.
Fear- Apprehension, Overwhelmed
Fear has always been a struggle for me. I have been afraid to try new things, do things that have an intrinsic danger to them, say what needs to be said and stand up for myself. I have been apprehensive to approach topics that may incite anger, hostility or even pain in others. I feared creating an uncomfortable situation for myself and others. Caring what others think of me has often created feelings of being overwhelmed. The play just brought these feelings of not being able to keep up with the task to be done and not being able to say something about it to the forefront. Brutal honesty hasn’t always been my forte.
Pain- Hurt, Pity, Sad
Recently, I have come to the realization through experience and counselling that I can only be hurt by someone that I let hurt me. I no longer am affected by mis-judgement or accusations on my character. This is when pain can turn to healing and growth. I have caused pain because of fear, and a lack of urgency to change behaviors and habits that affect others, especially my wife and kids.
I am glad there is a positive one here. I am hopeful for the future. I have once again put habits and addictions behind me and I am looking to the future. This blog site is a center for healing for me as I have found peace and healing in writing. I am not a literary genius, but I have found a voice in my words. The challenges portrayed in the play were resolved in the end but it wasn’t until the last 5 minutes that a resolution was made. Hope is the anchor to our faith and if we believe that hope will anchor us in the storms of life, we will stay in our place and not drift in the wind and the waves far from our destination. I am hopeful that I will see that spark in my marriage again as I seek to abandon my old, learned less effective patterns and adopt new, more effective ones.
I felt compassion for the characters in the play because I have been there. That is why it hurt so much to watch.
In the eternities, when we are able to see all and stand before our maker, every sin, whether a sin of omission or commission, will be reviewed unless we have taken advantage of the atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ. If we do not repent and choose to obey his commandments, our shame would cause us to shrink and we might wish to have the mountains hide us from his face. Our shame would cause us to want to be removed from his presence. God will never shame us though! He will invite us to come to him. It is Satan who takes our sins and rubs them in our face so that we feel shame and disgust towards ourselves. It can however, be a catalyst to our deepest sorrows of godly pain that leads us back to our savior.
Guilt- Regretful, Remorseful
Along the same lines as shame, guilt is not given by God, but is part of our nature to drive us to repentance. C.S. Lewis explains that there is a standard of right and wrong called the law of nature that, like it or not, exists and all behavior is compared to this “yard stick.” When we deviate from the natural law, our being protests and our energy is affected. We feel guilt or a gravitational pull back towards the natural. I have made choices in the past that have thrown my own energy into a spin and created a wake around me affecting the spiritual growth and blessing of my family. Seeing my life played out in front of me on a stage brought those feelings and events to a real scenario. Although, my guilt is being removed as I wander back to the natural path, which by the way, Jesus followed perfectly, the secondary feelings of regret and remorse are still there, leading me to seek further peace.
Loneliness- Isolated, Remote
I am separated in more ways than one with my wife. I currently work in Price which is about 60 miles from home but I don’t have a vehicle to commute or I would. The year 2014 was one of my most frustrating and trying years I have experienced. These trials gave me excuse to stumble from where I had climbed for 3 years, and I claimed the excuse to fall. Now, after 3 months of working and only seeing my family on the weekend, I wonder what would be different had I remained sober and watchful last year? Where would I be? Legally and socially, my wife and I are still married and even still enjoy the rights of marriage but separation emotionally and in relationship is reality for us. I don’t like it and don’t want to admit it but it is real and I am lonely and isolated and so is Erin. This is the reason, she tells me to come to her with abandon. Don’t just step up the pace, “Phoebe run!” Make it hurt to catch up and resolve these feelings. In the play, the husband eventually went home to his mother (played by Erin’s sister) because he had decided that his wife, “deserved better.” Hiding from our pain and struggles creates a serious feeling of lonely. All emotions can cause a person to retreat and find a place where their failures won’t be seen. See my previous blog “Alone” and “Distance” for more thoughts on this.
I know this blog is long and I really don’t care if anyone but my wife reads it. This site is intended for my personal growth and healing and so I have typed freely with very little editing. Usually I like to read and edit multiple times before posting but this feels like it needs to be a little more raw. (Unless my blogging OCD kicks in)
“With Abandon” (n) is the state of exuding the feelings and energy that allows others to believe your intentions. Last night as I watched the last of the blind auditions and the first of the battle rounds on the voice, I saw several examples of people methodically singing through their planned/rehearsed performance. Those trying to get the judges to turn failed because a good voice wasn’t enough, especially being the last contestants. Those who had the opportunity to be coached received advice that allowed them to step away from the rigidity of the years of music training to “becoming the song.” Those who approached their performance, like Erin in her competition, succeeded in remaining in the competition. I choose to stay in the competition!