It is my that time of year that I start reading my favorite piece of writing I have ever read.
Every year I sit down and dedicate an hour or two to really reading it and this year as I read it, I am in a different place than I have ever been while reading it. A few years ago when I read it, it was during Prop 8 and it touched me to read his words and see how he spoke for the people of today and their crisis even though this letter was written in the 60’s about a completely different issue.
Today I am reading “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and I am seeing my life and how, perhaps, it relates on a personal level.
The letter written in 1963 was in response to a letter published in the local paper, though thinly veiled, stating that outsiders(MLK jr) were coming in and causing tension and they felt they were concerned for the community with such words as, “We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel their hopes are slow in being realized.”
MLK jr. replies with a letter that is so well written in response, it makes me cry. I want to know, was it really read?
Ho w many times have I spoke out for my very own needs to have them dismissed and not really heard? Too many times.
I read something that said, “Fair is where you get cotton candy.” This to me at first was humorous, then hurtful. Yes, there are people that say, “that isn’t fair.” And to which I want to say, “That’s life.” What a shallow thing for me to even think. Fair is relative. For me, fair means that each person has a say in how they will be treated. They will get the respect that they have earned.
Look around you, is there someone in your life that has treated you with respect? Have they been understanding and actually listened to you when you spoke your needs? If you have someone in your life that has given you that fairness, count that as the biggest blessing you have been given. Through those actions you learned self esteem and hopefully have been able to give that in return, not only to the person that gave it to you, but those around you.
MLK spoke of tension which led me to focus more directly on my life. In every friendship and relationship there will be tension. For any growth there must be tension and how you deal with that is what is going to make or break the friendship or relationship.
MLK said there are four separate actions that need to be taken. First collect the facts to see if an injustice has been committed.
What he is speaking of is way more profound than anything that I have in my life, but for my purpose I have to think of the situation I am dealing with and because I am a woman…it comes down to my feelings. Is what I am feeling completely irrational? It’s “feelings” so it could go either way. I began with sitting back and thinking about what I feel like when certain actions or words take place and it is more of an annoyance than an injustice. When I sit quietly with myself without the distractions and dig deeper, I listen to what the actions or inactions are really saying to me. Sometimes I will hear “let it go.” And other times I can physically feel how damaging it is to not address it.
The next step is negotiation. Here is where the problem looms for me. I will stand up for myself, but only after allowing myself to get pushed really far. This comes from not wanting confrontation. I don’t talk about it a lot here, but I grew up in an alcoholic family. I am not unfamiliar with yelling, screaming, throwing things and irrational name calling. Please don’t think for a second that my parents do not regret every single negative word and action during those times, because they do and they have changed their lives tenfold and I do not blame anything that happens in my life on my childhood, I am just stating why I feel like I personally don’t like confrontation.
If you have ever heard me fight back with you, loudly or even threaten physical violence then you have tapped into something that not a lot of people will ever see and they should fear it, because I do. That side of me doesn’t come out very often. It’s an ugly side that serves no purpose but to break me.
I’m a negotiator when it comes to finding a fair balance.
For example if I am wearing a perfume that makes you feel sick and you come to me and say, “that choice of perfume is annoying me, it makes me uncomfortable.” I am certain you won’t ever smell it on me again. Now if that is my absolute favorite scent in my collection and I have never had complaints before and only compliments I am going to have to negotiate with that person. I won’t wear it if I know we will be spending time together. This person isn’t asking me to throw my bottle in the trash and never wear it again; they are simply expressing their needs. I can totally respect that and it’s a fair negotiation in my eyes.
Most of the time…it doesn’t go that way with me. I express what I am feeling or need and then I wait to see what route the other person will take. This leads to nothing ever really happening and I have to decide what is important, my needs and feelings or the good of everyone else and their needs. Sadly, I always pick everyone else, because I don’t want to fight…and that is what negotiation to some. It’s a fight where they can see who can get cuss the loudest or say the meanest thing to shut the other person up. For some, negotiation is a way to make the other person feel like they are wrong or irrational.
That leads us into the third step which is self purification. I think this is where through the years the most of the growth I have had has been. It has always felt that bouncing back from situations took longer than I could patiently sit through. Through removing the toxic situations from my life and finding a healthy way to happiness I am able to recover more quickly from a situation I would once be heartbroken over.
During my second marriage I would have the same conversation over and over with my husband. So many times it walked us right into marriage counseling. I am certain he heard me the first time I brought up the situation I had found because we talked for hours and hours about it and how there were things I could tolerate and others I would not stand for. Then it happened again. We talked for hours and hours…well, he mostly talked…I just sat there in complete disbelief that he would do it again after the hours of sitting up into the early morning hours discussing it before. It wouldn’t happen again. It did…and I kept hearing myself say all the things I had said before and somewhere throughout the years I finally stopped talking.
This isn’ t healthy. I finally went all the way back to the very beginning and analyzed how I had gotten to where I was. Answer: I didn’t want to be his ex wife. I wanted to be the cool understanding new wife that was super understanding and show him I wasn’t like his ex. Well, there came a point when I figured out why his ex was like she was. She had been super cool and understanding until she finally sat down with herself and saw that his actions and words were damaging her self esteem. She probably had a conversation with him and expressed herself clearly on her wants and needs. I am almost 100% he listened and said he would respect them. Then he faltered. She had the conversation again. He promised, and broke that promise.
You see, I had gotten to the point where I wasn’t even going to have the conversation anymore and that is when our marriage truly ended. Our marriage ended long before he walked out, it ended when he came home one day and could clearly see that there was something wrong and I had given up on speaking. He sat there and par to ever other conversation it went like this, “You ok?” and I said, “Yep.” No, I wasn’t, but I wasn’t going to say, “hey, guess what I found” one more to that man. He then got mad at me because there was something wrong and I wouldn’t tell him. My thought at that moment was, “I have had this conversation with you a hundred times and if you didn’t hear it the 100 times before, you will never hear it so shut the fuck up and let me figure out how the hell I am going to ‘get over this’ so I can find my own happiness all while making sure our kids aren’t hurting.”
Because of the things that happened in my marriages and even relationships, I have fast tracked myself to self purification and it goes something just like this, “Kristine are you pissed? Yes? Is it for a good reason? Yes? Okay then…have you talked to him/her about it? No? well then you need to sit down and express how you are feeling and see what happens. Oh you did talk to him/her about it and it got turned around back to you? Okay…did you give it a day to simmer down and then you negotiated a reasonable compromise? No, they just pretended it didn’t happen. Okay…here’s the plan of action, GET THE FUCK OUT.”
Yeah, I see how unhealthy it is, but how many more years do I have to waste expressing my needs and feelings to only haven them shoved back at me as if they are irrational?
My time is valuable and there are people that respect that.
So that leads into the last thing MLK jr speaks of. Direct action.
Before I ever go to direct action I re-examine the situation.
1. Did I express myself and needs clearly?
2. Was I heard or was the situation then turned back onto me?
3. Was that action deserved and was your response heard?
4. Is that person willing to negotiate a fair settlement and actually stick to it?
Every year I read that letter from start to finish and each year it brings tears to my eyes to think of how he poured out his heart to be heard, to address the statements and claims that had been made against him and his fellow brothers and sisters. It makes me sad because I know that letter was never truly received by the people intended. I imagine the person picked up the letter, began to read and felt uncomfortable and angered that someone would begin to express how they felt because of an action that they were directly involved with. If it is going to take away from something they hold dear to and they aren’t willing to change or modify then it will anger them.
I’m afraid they read the first few paragraphs, got angry and just skimmed to the end.
Perhaps, they didn’t hear it. I did. I do every single year and this year I with a different heart. With a different focus.
Happiness and success isn’t ever going to meet you were you’re comfortable. I know that time doesn’t heal all, what you choose to do with that time plays a role in it.
Again, my time is precious and valuable and I don’t want to waste another minute of it on people that blame me for their life not turning out the way they thought it should turn out. Guess what? Mine didn’t turn out the way I thought it was going to either. Poor planning on my part, I didn’t know what I wanted, but I sure the fuck know I didn’t want to ever feel like I should be lied to. I sure the fuck didn’t want the person I trusted my children with to destroy everything I fought to get. And I certainly don’t want to be told for fucks sake to knock it off when I express myself.
There are people that will have to be in my life and to them I say show me the respect I have earned. I do not feel guilt for the things that happened in the past. I don’t live there anymore. I forgave myself years ago and I moved on so you can’t use those threats anymore. They do not work on me and they take all that I have worked for and make me feel like you did nothing but use me.
There are people that I want in my life, forever. To those I say, I love you..always will… and I hope you figure out a way to treat me with the respect that I have shown you and earned from you. I hope you see what I want out of what is left of my life isn’t irrational and situations can be negotiated for both people to be happy.
I am so worth that.