Show Don't Tell

>> Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Been a while since I wrote a post post. For those of you who still wander over here periodically, wondering if I've died yet or if this site has reverted back and is now sporting science-themed pornography, not yet. Maybe you'll get lucky next year.

I was thinking about one of the many things I learned from my second marriage. Don't get me wrong, I learned a lot from my first marriage, mostly that there's no reason to stay with someone who treats you like absolute crap. And that thoughts like "You know, if I'd committed a crime, I'd be out by now," probably mean your marriage isn't a screaming success. But years of emotional abuse left me a mess, compounded by one of the ugliest divorces ever. And I missed something crucial.

Just because someone isn't saying hateful things to you, doesn't mean they're treating you right. How someone really feels about you, what you really mean to them, is reflected in their actions, no matter what is coming out of their mouths. It took my second marriage to learn that (or, perhaps more accurately, the dissolution of my second marriage), that words of devotion when paired with actions are of disdain are worthless.

Part of me knew it before I acknowledged it consciously, that's why, when he left, I wasn't really destroyed like I always thought I would be. Part of me had clued in on the inevitabilities and built my defenses. But it was still a costly lesson and I didn't pay it alone (sorry, kids).

But I have learned it. I have caught on to it. I get it now.

It's one reason my younger children's lack of talking hasn't really been as much a trial as it could have been. I know they love me. They show me, bless them. Not that I'd be heartbroken if one or both said it to me occasionally.

I know who my friends are. They go out of their way to contact me (since I hardly run into anyone in the real world any more) and ask to hang out, with or without my kids, because they know I can't get out alone much. They call me unprovoked. They check up on me and even argue with me to let me know they care what I think and they've taken the time to think about it, too. I get their honesty, which is something I treasure.

I've spent a lot of time alone. Not technically, years-wise. I was married the first time in college and I've always had a spouse and/or a kid or two with me since. But alone in that I didn't have someone who I depended on, could depend on, to help me carry the load. In general, the dependence was the other way or, if I could depend on them, it was limited or grudging. Aspects of my base nature were usually a bone of contention or ridicule. I didn't and don't have someone, who, if all goes to hell, I can expect his/her help until I get back on my feet. I've never had it. I'm not the only one who's been there, I know, but I'm one of the few people I know that doesn't have people who will back them, take care of them, hold them when they're drowning. And that, my friends, is frightening.

(Which isn't to say I haven't had help from time to time, because I definitely have. Sue has helped in ways beyond counting and still does. My second ex' family helped me during the divorce from hell with emotional support and even safe haven. My sister was there for me emotionally. Other friends have helped as much as they could.)

But, if I dropped it all, completely lost it, there's no one to pass the ball to. That's a lot of pressure and I gotta tell you, I've been feeling the strain for a long time now. People are okay with it because they assume I'm strong. I am, indeed strong, but that doesn't mean I'm not struggling, not lost, not desperately alone. But I digress.

It's come clear to me recently how important actions are in saying how you feel. How I'm sometimes surprised or let down, if I buy into what someone tells me they feel, when it turns out that their actions say, "Meh, you weren't really that important." or "Your kids are too much hassle to deal with."

Maudlin, I know, but there's a lesson there for ME on my own behavior. I'm very much a hermit-y type of person. I don't get out much which is ironic because I like people. But it makes me determined to find a way to spend time with those people who have made a point of reminding me they want to spend time with me. Damn it, these people have lives, too, and they're making me a priority enough to call out to me and give me a chance to see them, reminding me that I matter to them. If they matter to me, I need to do the same and reach out, even before they call sometimes.

So, to Lauralee who traversed across two provinces to see me when I was in Canada, to Nancy who gives me a heads up whenever she's in Houston, to Barbara who makes an effort to spend time with me even though I'm off in la-la land, to Sue, who makes me feel treasured whenever I see her. To my children who make sure I know that, though there are others they love, no one takes my place.

Thanks. And I'll try to do better because I love you guys. I do.


  • Lauralee

    I used to have conversations with people I worked with about the words/actions thing all the time... especially with kids, but grown ups too. Pretty clear which matter most.

    No need to do anything "better" or differently for me, btw... you've got more than enough on your plate as it is... just keep on keeping on.

  • Roy

    ((sigh)) And then there are those of us who love you dearly but are too far away to be there, and too poor to travel. All we can do is lob love-bombs from afar and hope they help at least a little bit.

  • Roy

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Stephanie Barr

    I know I sound ungrateful, Roy. Really, those love-bombs from afar are very precious to me and I really really appreciate them, need them. Thank you.

    It's probably not fair I'm still lonely, but I still am. I don't want to feel that way, but I don't seem to have complete control over my emotions.

  • Roy

    Oh, I wasn't thinking you were being ungrateful; I was regretting being too far out of your range to be tangibly helpful. I understand the loneliness, believe me.

  • Stephanie Barr

    You know social media takes a bad rap for keeping people from spending time with actual people and I get that. But, for someone like me who's not odd enough to really fit with the weirdos but too weird to fit with "normal" people, who usually feels alone even in a crowd, social media and the internet has allowed me to engage with people who feel like they are on similar wavelengths, even though they live across the country or even across the globe.

    It's not the same as hanging out in person, I get that, but for someone people don't hang out with in person (voluntarily) that much, it means a great deal to reach out and touch with people who understand me even if they've never met me.

  • Roy


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