Rascal (RIP 3/23/16)

Denial – I knew he was sick. But I didn’t think he was that sick. Sure, cataracts blinded him, but that didn’t mean death. In fact, I was working on an inspirational post to show how pets don’t let illness ruin them. Rascal ran up and down the stairs just like normal; he didn’t mope about because of his visual impairment. However, about three months ago, he’d started vomiting. It wasn’t a lot, but throwing up is a sign. The vet had switched him to a prescription dog food. He refused the dry. He loved the wet. Still, he threw up. By the time I’d taken him back for a wellness visit, he was six pounds and his skeletal structure poked through his apricot fur. Dr. B. guessed that it was lymphoma of the intestines. But I still didn’t think the vet would suggest euthanizing him.

Bargaining – I should’ve taken him to the vet sooner. I should’ve been a better pet owner and friend. I wished I could’ve done more for Rascal. I snapped out of these thoughts. I cared for Rascal close to twelve years and I wasn’t going to let the last three months dictate my dedication. None of us holds the fate of another being in our hands, no matter how intertwined we become.

Anger – No, I didn’t want a “replacement dog,” as my best friend suggested. No, I wasn’t going to get a fish tank, as the mail lady recommended. Fish and dogs are not remotely similar. No, I didn’t want to talk about it and re-live trauma over and over again. And no, I didn’t want to be cheered up. Unlike many, I’m comfortable being sad and angry because I know it won’t last forever. No emotion does.

Depression – I take that back. I’d never felt so much pain for so long in all my life. Uncontrollable sadness ruled me for a few days. My mother died 27 years prior. My father died less than a year ago. I’ve attended a barrage of funerals in between. But I never could’ve predicted the heartache associated with losing Rascal. I thought I would sit in the car and quietly weep. You know, poetic-like? I didn’t. I wailed. I made noises I didn’t know existed. The person who always has it together, who analyzes death as a part of life, who writes about attachment and detachment as natural occurrences could not stop crying. It continued throughout the day when I felt compelled to walk a deceased Raz that evening. It persisted the next morning when I opened the blinds and porch door for an absent Rascal to sit outside. I held myself together long enough to teach, and then when the last student left, tears streamed down my face. Surely, this would end. I just didn’t know when.

Acceptance – You never think about your own dog actually dying. I didn’t, anyway. The day he was euthanized, I washed all of his belongings and donated them to the Humane Society. I knew it was an important step in my grieving process. I thought about how grateful I was to be able to have a dog that fit our family. I’d chosen a Toy Poodle due to Dwight’s allergies. He was little and smart, just like the rest of us. He cuddled with Desi when she rested, and when Kesi allowed him to, he slept in his favorite place, a blanket next to her bed. He traveled many states because if I could bring Raz with me, then I did. I suppose that’s why there was an outpouring of love when I announced it on Facebook. If you know me, then you knew Rascal. I’m grateful that I experienced pet-owner love. People say pets are like family, but I disagree, if you welcome a pet into your home, then s/he probably is family. I know Rascal was.

img_0629RIP Rascal (April 15, 2004-March 23, 2016)

Jasmyne from The Unhappy Wife book

Jasmyne was the fifth wife that I’d interviewed, but I decided to use her story first because I thought it offered a blatant message. Her entire relationship seemed to be based on Bible-based therapy and ill advice from friends and family. Each of these demonstrated one of the themes I’d intended to convey with this book: It is important to listen to yourself and your inner voice.

Concept: During our interview, Jasmyne told me about a couple’s retreat that her two therapists wanted her to attend before she divorced Eddie. “You invited us into this marriage. Now, you have to invite us to its divorce” is a direct quote from the counselors. She felt as if she couldn’t leave the guy based on her own feelings.

When she mentioned the retreat, I knew that would be the focal point of the narrative. I wanted her character to flashback several times to illustrate how she knew Eddie wasn’t the right husband for her. It was important for me to show these feelings existed before she got married and way before she ended up at a weekend session.

Although all of the details of her marriage are true, I made up the part about vomiting. Again, I wanted her intuition to be obvious, so I thought associating her gut feelings with a stomachache would send a clear message to the reader.

Commentary: There are two things that stood out as I listened to Jasmyne’s story. The first was her description of Eddie. I speak with many people who have abandonment issues in one way or another, so it was natural for me to ask, “Where are his parents?” Due to therapy, Jasmyne understood Eddie’s issues stemmed from two deceased parents. In her answer, I heard about a good guy who wanted to give and receive love; however, he seemed to be a little boy who never learned how to be a man. She felt that she could remedy this with her love. This is a common relationship pattern, but I’m not sure what the success rate is for working out childhood problems in this way.

The second thing that stood out is something Jasmyne’s friends, family and therapists continued to tell her: Nobody’s perfect and he’s not that bad. Although I was sad to hear this, I was glad that it was a theme for her story. This is something that women tend to do. We encourage one another to remain in unhealthy relationships, simply because the man “isn’t that bad.” In my opinion, the tolerance level lies within each person. For example, a friend of mine texted that she would’ve left Eddie once the hot water was turned off. There are plenty of women who would stay. My point is that it’s not for me or anyone else to suggest staying or leaving, but rather, it’s up to the person to learn to listen to her inner voice and make the best possible decision for her situation.

Let me know what you thought about Jasmyne and Eddie, what I’ve said here, or anything else that you felt was important about this story.

And if you haven’t ordered a copy of The Unhappy Wife, then please do so here. We’ll be discussing Gina in February.

The Ultimate Inside Job: You

Royalty Free Image
Royalty Free Image

Spiritual growth is an inside job. That’s why I work on myself constantly. For me, inspiration stems from relationships and experiences within those relationships. For example, I’d noticed that people with the title mother oftentimes wrap their love in judgment. My mother-in-law, grandmother and stepmother have all, at some point passed judgment on something they thought was best…for me. Whether it’s getting my oldest daughter’s hair done more frequently, not moving around so much or engaging with my dad in ways someone else saw fit, each of these women have offered unsolicited advice about how I choose to live. Conversely, I’d inherited a few of these traits myself. My younger cousins claimed I was “too judgmental” and my own daughter once said I was so “judgy.” I probably was. What finally did it was a group conversation I had with a few friends. One thing led to another, and summer 2013, I decided to try and judge less.

It’s a lot harder than just saying it.

Think of judgment as a big box that encompasses many other things, such as superiority and arrogance. In order for me to stop passing judgment, I had to see myself as equal to everyone. I had to step down from my proverbial moral high ground and stop wagging my opinionated finger at others. We’re the same. I’m equal to the drug addicted, the shop-a-holic and the teenage mom. I’m not better than either of these people, thus I have zero right to judge their lives. If I’m feeling judgmental, then I remind myself of this: anyone, at any moment could judge what you’re doing or have done in your life. Who am I to pass judgment on anyone’s life or life choices?

Image. © 2016 K E Garland
Image. © 2016 K E Garland

My next project was learning to trust my intuition. I’ve always had a good sense of how I felt, but somewhere along the way, I’d stopped fully listening. That is until I read T.D. Jakes’ Instinct. My husband and I were having some rough times and I’d met a friend to vent. I didn’t know what to do. She suggested we read the book together. Though I’m not religious, I am open to new ideas, so I agreed. I was so inspired by this book that I attempted a Facebook group centered on the ideas. That was a flop. But my renewed sense of following my heart was not. Using one’s instinct means consciously living life and being mindful about those pesky feelings. You must be perceptive and pay attention to that thing in the pit of your stomach that’s warning you about where you are and who you’re with. Though Bishop Jakes situates the concept in a discussion about passion and purpose, he also touches on relationships. He describes how people grow, sometimes together and sometimes apart due to monotony. Either way, instinct can show you how to proceed. I’d decided then and there to be quiet so I could hear. I quit a job that was too far to drive, wrote a book of Kwotes, started a blog, and just celebrated my 19th year of marriage. I firmly believe intuition is an underrated tool that we all have.

The last principle is a result of my father’s death. So I’m still figuring it out and listening for answers. When my dad died, I needed a lot more compassion and care than I thought I would. Because I had been following my intuition, I was in tune with my emotions. I requested empathy from specific people. It didn’t matter though. Considerations from them didn’t flow like I thought they would. I was very confused. All this time I thought that compassion was an easy sentiment to provide. It turns out that I was mistaken. Compassion is made up of three parts: (1) putting yourself in another person’s place, (2) imagining what she or he might be feeling and (3) doing something considerate. That’s a lot to ask of anyone. It’s a challenge. It takes extra effort. As it turns out, it’s something that I shouldn’t have sought out. So I stopped. Instead, I began showing other people compassion. Like I said, this one is a work in progress but already I feel better being compassionate, rather than seeking it.

“I’m not perfect.” We use this phrase often. But what does it mean? Does it mean that you stay stuck in your imperfect self, while asking forgiveness for bad behavior and judging other people’s perceived imperfections? I don’t have a universal answer. But I do believe that we can all be better than we were yesterday if we try. How are you willing to be a better you? What advice would you add to this?

kwoted

Christmas Movies 

I’m starting to dislike the commercialism of the holiday season, but I love Christmas movies. And as long as I still own these DVDs and a DVD player, my family and I will watch at least five of them each year. The film has to have one of three criteria, though: (1) It has to be funny; (2) It has to be authentic; or (3) It has to be inspirational.

Funny Christmas movies are the best. My favorites are probably similar to other people’s. A Christmas Story and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation are two that I will not only watch each year, but also laugh at as if it’s the first time I’ve seen either one. Humor is subjective though. While Clark Griswold’s antics are both absurd and comical, Billy Bob Thornton’s role in Bad Santa is not. I mean I laughed, but I don’t want to see Santa cussing kids out and acting crazy. It’s just not aligned with the holiday spirit.

Authentic Christmas movies are relatable. Who doesn’t have a crazy family member who has predictable and perhaps dreaded behavior? Also, each film seems to accurately portray the stress encompassed during the holidays. Coming home to family that doesn’t really know you because they haven’t seen you all year, or hanging out with family that treat you as if you’re a perpetual 12 year-old are common and real experiences. That’s why I always kick-off my holiday season with Home for the Holidays. Okay. I know I said Christmas movies, but the Thanksgiving theme is perfect to begin the following five weeks because it’s such a real portrayal of awkward family interactions. Four Christmases is another great one because it depicts two people who have avoided going home, but eventually have to. The experiences they have are priceless.

Inspirational Christmas movies probably speak for themselves. They always make me feel warm and fuzzy at the end. These movies perpetuate an idea of hope. A Christmas Carol, the Jim Carrey version is my absolute favorite. That’s what the world wants, right? Hope. Most of us want to believe that people are capable of transitioning from old and crochety characters to free-spirited and giving human beings. The Santa concept is similar. Although I know Santa is not real, I enjoy watching Polar Express, especially the part where they all gather in the town’s center and sing “Santa Clause is Coming to Town.” The inspiring part is the act of believing in something greater than oneself, which I also tend to believe is a common human experience. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were some jolly old guy who made everyone’s wishes come true?

I’m not sure about the other 47 weeks of the year, but if you happen to stop by any weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas, then you’re bound to join me in watching one of these films. What’s your favorite Christmas movie? I’d love to ooh and aah about it with you in the comments.

3 Things I Learned Saying, “YES” to a Fête 🎉🎉🎉

img_2573On Sunday, November 30th, I received an invitation to a fête scheduled for December 3rd. I almost said, no because one of my rules is not to attend events where my invite seems to have been an afterthought. My friend, Dr. B. had planned this celebration months ago, but somehow my invitation was given less than seven days prior. Another reason I almost said, no is because it is in Gainesville, and I already commute twice a week. By the time a weekend rolls around, I’d rather spend my Saturday without hard commitments. The final reason I almost said, no is because I wasn’t sure I would know anyone there besides the host, and who likes going to an event where they don’t know more than one other person?

But, I said, yes for one reason only. The things I’d made up in my head were just that. Made up. I’m glad I ignored them. My friend’s party was one of the most authentic experiences I’ve had and it reinforced the following:

Just Be. The celebration’s theme was to be. Dr. B’s hope was to provide a space for 20 or so women to simply be. There were no husbands or significant others. There were no children, except hers and one of her friends. There were just women, be-ing themselves, eating a three-course meal with fine linen, and having conversation. Each of us being ourselves, in our own ways. Some women cried as they reflected on their connection to the host. Others revealed insecurities about their journeys, things that many women hold dear and hold in. You know. Body image, motherhood, perfection. Dr. B. had literally carved out a space for authenticity without judgment. Wouldn’t it be great if we each did that for one another every day?

Honor your friends. Because Dr. B. is a self-proclaimed introvert, she understood that most of her 20 friends wouldn’t want to stand up and introduce themselves, so she did it for them. However, this wasn’t just a “This is Kathy Garland” introduction. She individually described each and every person, including their personal connection and why she valued the woman. In addition, she’d recently learned letter writing, so each lady was given a handwritten letter with calligraphy-style address. Acknowledging others for how they’ve influenced your path is important. When is the last time you told the people in your life how much you value them?

Pay it forward. This isn’t a new concept to me, but it’s the first time I’ve heard how other people were affected. The room was filled with women who’d ridden that all too familiar “struggle bus.” They needed one another at some point in time. As a result, these women found themselves asking how they could ever repay their friends? The answer was simple: pay it forward. A lot of times we think we’re required to do some overt action to thank someone. But the ultimate act of gratitude is to help another person when she is in need, especially if you’ve been in her shoes. Is paying it forward a part of your life’s practice?

I’m glad I ignored my perception of the invitation, and my subsequent made-up social rules. That decision alone allowed me to be a part of something heartfelt and special.

7 Days of Yoga

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Royalty Free Pixabay

Yoga sparks my creativity. I’m sure there’s some scientific/spiritual rationale of which I’m unaware, but for me, the proof is production. With all my Unhappy Wife marketing, it became challenging to write anything new, so I decided to engage in seven days of yoga. Consequently, I attained more than creativity.

Monday, October 31st (Yoga Den, Mandarin 7:45-9:00 P.M.) It slipped my mind that today was Halloween, so I almost didn’t make it. I wanted to pass out the four bags of peanut and peanut butter M&Ms that Dwight’s eyes had signaled was too much. But I’d promised myself attendance at Sun Flow Yin. I would have to rely on my nonsocial daughters to take the lead. One little boy showed up right before I left. Turns out he was the only trick-or-treater we got this year, so I didn’t miss anything and my daughters didn’t have to interact with people.

Today’s Lesson: Follow your instinct.

Tuesday, November 1st (LA Fitness, Kernan, 9:45-10:45 A.M.) I slept like a six-month old baby snuggled in between co-sleeping parents. I’m attributing a good night’s rest to the previous night’s yoga. However, practicing back-to-back made me nervous. My anxiety floated away once I noticed a guy doing downward facing dog in his drawers. I was slightly distracted, not because anything showed, but because I kept wondering if those were indeed his skivvies. They were. The bright blue band around the top gave it away. I didn’t think my yoga crew noticed because there were no side eyes or eyebrow raises. He and I walked out together and he engaged me in conversation. Underwear guy’s name is Joe. He’d lost his wife seven years ago in a drunk driving accident. She left him with a set of twin boys and a daughter to raise. Without yoga, he believed he would’ve died too.

Lesson: You never know what someone’s gone through, so treat them with kindness.

Wednesday, November 2nd (Yoga Den, Mandarin 6:30-7:30 P.M.) I loathe Wednesdays. On this day, I drive two hours to teach one class that lasts an hour and fifteen minutes. The angst of the drive begins Tuesday night and settles into my consciousness, making for a stressful morning and grumpy day. But today felt a little different. Maybe back-to-back yoga helped me maintain peace. After class, I usually drive to main campus and participate in a meeting, work in my office until 5:00, and then leave. The chair cancelled today’s meeting, so I graded papers until 3:45 and made it back home just in time for Mind-Body yoga. To be honest, I chose this yoga because the time was appropriate. But the lesson about mind-body connection was also what I needed to hear. Hopefully, I can put it into practice this coming Wednesday.

Lesson: Everything begins in the mind.

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Royalty Free Pixabay

Thursday, November 3rd (LA Fitness, Kernan, Jacksonville, Florida 9:45-10:45 A.M.) Welp, my yoga crew did notice that Joe and his undies. They were in a circle discussing it as I rolled out my mat. By the time I returned from the restroom, someone had approached Joe about it. I came back just in time to hear this:

Joe: Y’all shouldn’t be looking at me anyways. Yoga is supposed to be a meditation. Y’all should be meditating. Everybody in here should be able to do yoga naked ‘cause we should all be so focused on ourselves.

Mrs. Gail: That’s what I tried to tell ‘em Joe!

I politely stretched into child’s pose and minded my own business.

Lesson: Focus on yourself.

Friday, November 4th (Yoga Den, Mandarin, Jacksonville, Florida 9:15-10:45 A.M.) I almost didn’t make it today you guys. The bed was so warm and cozy. And I thought to myself, KG, you’ve already done four days. Isn’t that good enough? Then, that same nagging feeling I get when I make self-promises began to surface. It’s familiar. I cannot tell myself I’m going to do a thing and not follow through. Off to yoga I went. This isn’t any old type of yoga. The instructor begins by playing a banjo and we all chant Om Namah Shivaya. Then, we chant three OMs and begin our practice. It’s intense. Today, I almost threw up. I know that’s not a good yoga practice if you almost hurl. And it certainly goes against what you’re supposed to be practicing in the first place. I thought I was done overachieving, but this proved otherwise. Every now and then, I still unconsciously overextend myself; yoga is no different. I’m working on it. After Savasana, she plays the banjo again and we do three more OMs. This particular practice is my favorite one, but it usually doesn’t come behind four other yoga days.

Lesson: Be true to yourself by honoring your word. Be mindful.

Saturday, November 5th (LA Fitness, Lakewood, Jacksonville, Florida 11:00 A.M.-12:00 P.M.) On Saturdays, I wake up sans alarm clock. I lie in bed, blog a little, write a little, and then decide what I’m going to do. Not today. Friday afternoon, my goddaughter texted to inform me that the local bookstore had run out of copies of The Unhappy Wife.

“So I can come Monday?” I asked Jen, the owner.

“We’re open Saturday and Sunday at 9:00 A.M.” she replied.

I broke my usual routine and was at the bookstore by 9:00 A.M.

“Thank you so much,” she started, “Really appreciate you.”

“No. Thank you,” I smiled.

We were helping one another. Because of her, I didn’t have to sell books out of my trunk, and because of me, she was gaining more customers and revenue. This was the win-win I’d heard so much about.

Afterwards, I went to yoga.

Lesson: If you want something, you have to be willing to break self-made traditions.

om
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Sunday, November 6th (Walk with Dwight) By this day, I was tired of yoga. My shoulders felt as if I’d been lifting weights all day. My core was a bit tighter, but hurt when I bent to the side. My legs felt as if I’d done 100 squats each day. So Dwight and I took our usual Sunday walk.

Lesson: Know when to listen to your body, as opposed to your mind.

My creativity is back, but quite honestly, three days worth of yoga is quite enough for me.

20 Years and Counting: Falling in Love Intuitively

IMG_2990I’m glad I had the opportunity to “find a man” when I was in my early 20s.

I’m glad I fell in love in my youth.

I’m glad I fell in love when I was younger because I was  not as conscious of all of the things I wanted and needed. All I knew is that this guy is a cool dude. He likes hanging out, having a drink or two, or four and walking in the rain. He was about to graduate with an accounting degree and wanted to work on a cruise ship.

I thought that was brave. I mean who finishes undergrad and then aspires to work on a cruise ship?

I didn’t have the list that so many of my friends over 25, 35, 45 seem to currently have. I didn’t even have the list that has accumulated after two decades of marriage.

I wasn’t thinking about if he saved money or if he had a 401k. He made about 27k at first, and he spent most of his money. I wasn’t consciously thinking about how or if he would love our future kids. We eventually had two daughters; he avidly watches Avatar with one and advises the other about the importance of self-respect. I wasn’t worried about if he would clean the house or take my car to the shop. He ended up being obsessive about cleaning, at first, and he rarely serviced any of my cars. I wasn’t concerned about if he’d support my future goals. He does. Always.

He played tennis and I barely ran across the street even if I saw a car coming. He only ate rice for lunch and dinner, while I devoured several servings of any and everything in front of him. One of our first dates was to Red Lobster. Because he didn’t have enough money, he let me eat what I wanted while he ate salad and cheddar biscuits. I didn’t condemn him for not having money, cause he was 23. Plus, I didn’t have any money either.

I didn’t follow a 90-day rule.

I didn’t care if he believed in God, was a Christian or an atheist. Our philosophies about a higher power developed and intertwined like violet Wisteria on a white trellis. Most days we would just be. We would talk about hypothetical situations and what-ifs grew to be realities.

I didn’t read a bunch of magazines (or blogs) about how to get a man, how to keep a man, how to stop your man from cheating.

I’m glad I fell in love in my youth because I had the time and space to follow my intuition and my heart each step of the way.

Image. ©2013 K E Garland. All Rights Reserved.
Image. ©2013 K E Garland. All Rights Reserved.

And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 20 years of our marriage.

3 Things I’ve Learned being Married to Dwight for 20 Years

img_1814You guys, as of today, I’ve been married for twenty years! I don’t care what anyone says. Twenty years is a long time to do anything. But quite honestly, I’ve always said, I married the absolute right person for me. I couldn’t imagine being married to anyone else for two decades. One reason is because he’s taught me so much about living life. Here are my top three:

Leave the door open. I’ve written before about how I used to leave people alone when I felt rejected; however, Dwight has always suggested that I “leave the door open.” According to him, people might not get along with you today, but tomorrow it might be a totally different situation. The thing is, you never know unless you leave the door open for that opportunity. So whereas, I used to close the door, lock the door, and dare you to even knock, Dwight has always realized it’s a new day with new experiences. It’s challenging, but we can all do this.

Allow people to be themselves. This is not a new concept, but I’ve never met someone who allows others to be themselves as much as Dwight does. Sometimes it comes across as not caring, but it’s really not. It’s him allowing you to be yourself, no matter what. At first, this seemed odd to my little controlling self. But over time, I came to understand that allowing people to be themselves is the most loving thing you can do. Dwight believes that every person has his or her own journey and makes specific choices to walk that path. Consequently, who is he or anyone else to intervene or try to change that journey?

Be yourself. Anyone who has met my husband will agree that he is himself all the time. Whether he’s out partying, at dinner, at your house, or at our home, it doesn’t matter. You’re going to get the same Dwight Garland Jr. in each moment. If people are around him going nutz, he’s sitting there calm or deciding if he’s going to leave. He doesn’t conform his personality to the situation, but rather maintains himself in the situation. In 2016, it’s cliché to shout “be yourself”; however, I’ve had the privilege of watching someone do this unapologetically for decades. And finally, I can say that my private and public self match 100%, no matter the company I keep.

Me_n_DI believe that you can learn from any relationship, whether it lasts 20 years, 2 years, or 2 days. I’m so grateful for my two decades of marriage, not because it’s a societal milestone, but because it’s made me a better version of myself.

Have you learned anything from your relationships? Please share. You know I want to hear all about it.

Saying “F*ck you” versus Releasing Expectations as a Way to Deal with Rejection

I was introduced to rejection when I was born. My schizophrenic mother abandoned me in an apartment when I was five months old. As a result, I had implicitly learned that sometimes people give up on you when they are incapable and life is unbearable.

When I was seventeen, the cycle repeated. I’ve written about it before, so I won’t belabor the point. But, in 1990 my dad gave up his parental rights, once again teaching me the same invaluable lesson: people give up on you when they are inept and life is too much.

Like many people, I developed some coping mechanisms. I began to read people and interpret their actions. Any slight rejection equaled an abandonment warning sign, and warranted a preemptive, “F*ck you” before I thought the other person would pack up and leave.

You don’t want me in your life? So. I don’t want you in my life. Deuces!

You’re rejecting me and my personality? Nope. I’m rejecting you and your personality.

aloneFor a very long time, that’s how I functioned. It was unhealthy. It was immature. And it left me by myself in some ways, because eventually, when you hand out a round of unwarranted “F*ck yous,” you’re bound to be left standing in a circle by yourself.

I had to change.

About six years ago, I learned to release expectations instead. Many people have wondered how I can release expectations of people with whom I share a relationship? The answer is not easy.

First, I recognize that people can reject parts of my personality, but that doesn’t mean they are rejecting me. Next, I write these words: I release expectations of name-of-person, until I feel liberated from the situation. Then, I remind myself of these things:

Saying “F*ck you” means leaving a person alone, forever and ever. Releasing expectations requires letting go of who you think that person is supposed to be.

For a long time, I thought my mother in-law would be like an extended family member for me. I envisioned her visiting every year and doing grandmotherly things with the girls. Listen. That hasn’t happened. In fact, I can count on one hand how many times she’s come to see us. It feels a lot like rejection. Now, of course I would never disrespect my MIL. But a former me would’ve just left her alone. Instead of doing either of those, I have released my fairy tale like expectations of our relationship. When she calls, I’m happy to hear from her and if she doesn’t, that’s okay too.

Releasing expectations means allowing people to be who they are.

This might seem to be the same advice, but I see it a little different. Allowing people to be who they are means less judgment on my part. For example, during much of my marriage, I wondered, Why doesn’t my MIL call? Why does she need a personal invitation to visit? Why won’t she just act like my grandmother and schedule a visit? These are all judgments about how she interacts with us. And it’s quite simple, if I’m judging, then I’m not allowing. Who my MIL is, is who she’s shown herself to be. That’s perfectly fine. At this point, I allow her to be who she is, free from my criticism. I don’t expect her to be someone she is not. Think about it. Don’t we all want to be accepted for who we are in this moment?

Saying, “F*ck you” means the door is closed and locked. Releasing expectations symbolizes an open invitation.

My former self would’ve definitely perceived her actions as rejection, and then met it with a closed heart. But not today. My MIL is welcome to visit our family anytime she’d like. I have no ill feelings and I hope that she will. But again, I don’t expect an action either way.

Let me know what you think. Is there ever a time when releasing expectations just isn’t good enough? You know I’m happy to hear your thoughts!

Behind the Kwote: Be You

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My sister-in-law and I have different personalities. Our one commonality is being married into the same family. The last phone conversation we had stemmed from a final attempt at building a long-distance relationship, so that family events wouldn’t feel like two strangers meeting for the first time. This is how it went.

SIL:     Kathy, you’ve always been rude and mean to me.

Me:      Really? How was I rude and mean to you the last time we saw each other?

SIL:     You didn’t say anything to me and you didn’t want to listen to my advice about Kesi’s hair.

Me:      You’re right. I didn’t say anything because whenever I do, then you call me rude and mean and when I don’t say anything, you still call me rude and mean. But, it’s funny cause you always tell me to be myself.

SIL:     <sigh> Well, I’m not going to tolerate rude behavior.

And she shouldn’t. But after lots of overthinking, it seemed that my SIL wanted me to be myself in ways that pleased her. The 2011 visit we’d discussed is when I tried something different and said very little. I thought it would keep conversations peaceful.

However, it backfired because in essence, for me to speak few words is not me…at…all.

Our phone conversation revealed how I’d stopped being myself to appease her for no reason. Her perception of me remained. From that day forward, I’ve learned to be myself, regardless of others’ positive or negative opinions.