Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Simply supportive

Over the weekend, Gentleman Jack noticed the book I'm currently reading, Codependent No More.

"You're always reading some kind of self-help book, baby. Don't you ever read a book that's just for fun?"

I thought about it. Nope... I've been reading self-help books since the downfall of my marriage. I've been trying to fix that part of me that ruined my marriage since then. It is a heavy burden to carry and yet I do... I have to every time I look at my daughters.

"Why do you believe you're broken?" he asked. "Why can't you just accept who you are right now? Why do you think you need fixing?!

THERE'S NOTHING TO FIX!"

The most ironic part of all is that I've learned that from all of my self-help books.

Now... to put it into practice...because maybe, just maybe.....

He's right.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Challenged

**I was going to name this post 'Broken' but I won't. I'm feeling very down but I do have hope. Therefore, I'll just be really politically correct about things...***

If you scroll down to the bottom of this page, you'll see a tag cloud on the bottom left. If you click on the tag 'infidelity', you will find 36 posts about cheating. The most popular posts in this category are the 10 posts I wrote regarding my affair.

There could probably be many more posts with that tag if I really looked closer at older posts. It seems to be a running theme in my life.

The secret my friend asked me to keep was about her recent infidelity in her marriage. The friend I was telling the secret to also had an affair. And pretty much so did just about every married person I know or have encountered in the past few years.

And people wonder why I question monogamy.

If I've learned anything while reading about codependent behavior, it's that codependents and enablers are unsure of their feelings a lot of the time and therefore don't speak up. I'm well aware how most others feel at any given time. My own feelings, however, are difficult to gauge until much later.

This is how I've found myself in situations that I'm not readily proud of. Like when my flirting... was taken seriously (and I knew it, on some level)... and it turned to infidelity. Or being too sexual lead me to affairs with married women. Granted, if you were to ask me then, I would have told you that I chose that. Perhaps I did. But now, I'm so scared to flirt or to have someone assume I'm flirting because I don't trust that I won't end up in another situation... where I won't speak up or won't gauge as possibly too far until it's too late. I'm still finding my boundaries. I'm still searching for a nice little box that I feel safe in.

I don't want to hurt my man. Period. I could sit here an analyze myself all day long about how I don't realize what I'm feeling or how I won't speak up or how I martyr myself or how people tell me I'm so sexual that they sense it when I walk into a room or how everyone wants to tell me about their sexual escapades because that USED to be my favorite topic of conversation and now everyone wants to share with me that they're cheating on their husbands and *la la la la la* I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT!

Truth is, the bottom line of all of this is that I still haven't forgiven myself for the hurt I've caused. So when I hear about others doing it, it comes bubbling up to the surface and scares the living crap out of me. I keep saying I won't do it again because I have less than ZERO desire to feel that bad again but yet I keep feeling bad about it... over and over and over and over....

I've hurt people because of my lack of boundaries and because I love to have sex and because I don't speak up and because.... I don't know why. Who cares why.

All that I know is that it's all around me... in my history and I'm scared... in my future. My Gentleman remains there, standing firm for monogamy and swears that he'll never... but so did my husband. My husband was/is a GOOD man who would NEVER.... but HE DID. And it was... much of it was... MY fault. Now everyone close to me is cheating and it's breaking me down. It's affecting me, my mood and my thoughts... I'm almost gun-shy about the whole topic!

Whose to say it won't happen again?


I'm trying. I want so bad to believe but I'm so scared. So scared... terrified of finding myself on one side or the other of infidelity again. I'm so scared that I'm standing frozen in a single spot crying out for help.

Help me to move past this.

Help me to forgive myself.

Help me to trust myself so that I can trust others too.

Help me to see.

Help me past this challenge.

Please.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Keep Your Secret to Yourself


Last night I told one girlfriend another girlfriend's secret.

I felt completely safe sharing it. My dinner companion from last night has always been kind and compassionate towards me. And seemingly, kind and compassionate in my perception, to my lunch companion today. My lunch companion, however, sees my dinner companion through completely different eyes. She doesn't trust her and therefore believes my sharing her secret will come back to haunt her.

She could be right. Or she could be completely wrong.

Either way, I'm in the middle of a girl drama gone bad. I'm stuck in a struggle between two (or three) different perceptions of the exact same thing.

Bottom line: Keep your secrets away from me.

***

When I was 7, I noticed my dad's best friend wink at my mom behind my father's back. Later, I would oftentimes be with my mom while she went to spend time with this "friend". I don't remember actually being told, "this is a secret", but somehow I knew it was wrong. I knew my daddy would be hurt. So, I didn't like this guy very much at all.

I also didn't like the fact that I wasn't supposed to say anything.

****

In my tween years, I recall riding in the car with my father when we approached a traffic light. The light turned yellow right as my father sneezed. He kept going and obviously ran the red light.

We were pulled over and my father was furious. After being cited with a ticket, my dad said that he would go to court to fight it. He told me that he would bring me along as a witness to testify that he didn't run a red light.

"But it WAS red, Daddy." I told him. He was so angry at me that he stopped speaking to me and sent me to my room when we got home.

***

In high school, my best girlfriend was dating one of my best guy friends. She got pregnant by him and asked me not to tell him.

Meanwhile, she asked me to drive her to an abortion clinic. I, up to that point in my life, was anti-abortion. Now here I was looking at it in the face. I felt devastated but supported her.

Word got back around to her parents that she'd aborted a baby. My guy friend showed up innocently a few days later to visit her and was met with her very angry father.

My friend was stunned. He didn't know about the pregnancy OR the abortion.

Her parents blamed him and me. HE blamed me.

During this same time period, my teenage sister admitted that she was pregnant too. "Don't tell Mom".....

And yet another friend was seeing her boyfriend behind her parents' back and was using me as her alibi....

***

Ya know what, ya'll. I can't stand it anymore. I'm a person who likes to know people. Really KNOW people. I've always been curious what makes a person real. I've always presented myself as understanding and available. I've wanted to be there for those in my life. Thus, many have felt safe with me... safe sharing their secrets.

But what a burden to carry! What a heavy load! I can't do it anymore. Maybe it's part of establishing boundaries? I need to simply understand that I have no business being in someone else's business. Yes, I divulge all of mine but that's ME. I want to be pure, clean, authentic. I don't want shame or worry about who I am. My assumption is that, or rather, my WISH is that everyone would live like that.

Instead, everyone has secrets. Secrets are very heavy so they look for someone to carry the load with them. And I, in my experience, have always volunteered for the job.

What do I do with these secrets? Well, they feel even heavier to me because they are not mine. They feel even more painful to me because it means that someone is hurting or someone could be hurt and I need to repair the pain. Surely I can make it better by letting the truth out?

Because secrets are so heavy, I have to share too. I have to give the load to someone else. If I don't, I resent the HELL out of the person who told me the secret to begin with. How dare you give me this burden? How DARE YOU?

Maybe I need to start saying that to people when they want to share with me, "You can tell me but I'll more than likely tell someone else. Just FYI."

Or maybe, at some point, I'll realize it when it's happening and stuff a sock in their mouths.

*sticks finger in ears and starts humming aloud*

I don't want to know. I JUST don't want to know.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tough Love is a Bitch

I've been eating through my Codependent No More book like it's candy.

One of the most unbelievably common traits among codependents is how weak we are when it comes to ourselves. We're so strong for everyone else. We have such ideas for how to fix others and their issues. We know exactly what they should be doing in order to be happy. We'll even suggest things we are unwilling to do ourselves. We take on the world, shoulder everyone's burdens, stand strong and statuesque in the shadow of the pain of the world.

Then treat ourselves like shit.

I'm noticing that I do it... as well as many others in my life. Lately, I've felt very quiet, almost observing myself and everyone around me.

I'm also feeling a bit... cynical. I don't mean to be this way. Perhaps it's my own awareness of how I've given so much and expected, no, settled for so little in return. I actually expected much more but then silently resented the fact that I never received much. And truly, it's my own damn fault.

The problem is knowing exactly where that line is. I mean, I know better than to crawl all up in my ego and act like a victim or act all bratty like I deserve better. I think it goes back to that deserving vs. worth thing. I'm finding it very difficult to adjust or assess, in my eyes, my value in certain situations. Often times, I feel as if I'm completely disregarding someone's feelings - which is something I've tried my damnedest NOT to do. Sometimes, I find that I'll say I'm okay with something, only to realize later that I, in fact, am not.

I'm a work in progress, I guess.

The most ironic part of this self-discovery is that I'm more comfortable using tough love on my children than other adults. I'm more apt to say to my girls, "you did this so you have to fix it" than I am to another fully grown and capable grown up. Maybe it's because I'm teaching what I need to learn. Maybe it's because it was always the ADULTS that needed "fixing" in my life.

I'm feeling the need for a mentor. I realize we all have our own stuff to process and our own lessons to learn. I'm just tired of being a teacher of lessons, a fixer of problems, the one with all the answers. I can't even help myself sometimes! (I mean that statement on so many levels!)

I'm craving an older, wiser person who understands. I can feel myself almost seeking out a "wise elder" to help guide me through.

I met an 80 year old woman at my yoga retreat. She was such a gem. She had only just begun practicing yoga 2 years ago at age 78! She was tough, flexible, happy, charming, and so full of spirit! I could have talked to her for days.

"I want to be just like you when I grow up," I told her on our last morning.

"Well, I'm not planning on growing up!" was her reply.

Yes.

THAT.

In Codependent No More, the author lists a fairly common reason for codependency or other unhealthy relationship behaviors:

"(It begins with)... the unwritten, silent rules that usually develop in the immediate family and set the pace for relationships. These rules prohibit discussion about problems; open expression of feelings; direct, honest communication; realistic expectations such as being human, vulnerable or imperfect; selfishness; trust in other people and one's self; playing and having fun; and rocking the delicately balanced family canoe through growth or change - however healthy and beneficial that movement might be."

Unlike my sweet elderly friend, I think I grew up way too fast and a very very long time ago.

Friday, May 20, 2011

SHHHhhhhhhhh......


There is an old spiritual saying: "Be in the world but not of it". It can be found in everything from the Bible to the writings of the Sufi poets. What does it mean exactly? The phrase has been translated and explained countless times.

All that I know is this: When I think I'm "of the world", I'm all wrapped up in the noise, the stress, the pain, the misery and the general not fun nature of doing, running, going all the time. It's exhausting.

When I realize that I can just BE... in the world... but that it's not my true nature to be noisy, stressed, in pain and misery and that when I choose peace, calm, and stillness, I smile more. Life is fun. My head stops spinning.

Don't you sometimes want the world to just SHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh?

I'm heading out to a beautiful retreat center to simply BE. Be with nature. Be with my quiet mind. Be with my yoga. Be with kindness to my soul and body.

I'm looking forward to the silence.

What ways do YOU find to quiet the noise of the world?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Smile... and the whole world smiles with you

Last week in my A Course in Miracles study group, one of the students, who is currently separating/divorcing her husband, giggled as she told us of how she's interacting so differently with the world now.

She told us of an encounter with a stranger in an elevator.

No... nothing like THAT.

It was a simple moment when, instead of looking down or staring blankly ahead, she actually spoke to the handsome man sharing the elevator with her. She showed kindness, interest and (quite honestly) was a little flirtatious with him. His positive response left her giddy and feeling great.

Since then, she has started sharing interest and happiness in every encounter... from the lady in the checkout line at the grocery store to a smile to the person in the car next to her at a red light.

What she's found in this new experience is that the world is responding in kind! People are smiling back!

As a side note, this reminds me of a Russian friend I knew. He didn't trust people who smiled for no reason. I don't know why that always made me giggle.

I related my story from the week prior, when I wished I'd complimented some runners while I was cycling. I explained that I was reading and learning more about codependence. I explained that I was still learning boundaries and one of them was being TOO kind to people.

As I explained in my sexual history and other encounters, sometimes I put out more energy than I'm willing to receive back in attention. People see me as available, forgiving, loving, accepting... and thus, everyone shares their deepest secrets with me or believes I'm open to sexual attention. I'm not sure where to... or how to draw the line.

Then, another Course student said, "Perhaps you need to look at codependence this way: it doesn't mean pull YOU back, it means protect yourself from others' stuff. Like an umbrella. The rain is still falling but it isn't falling on you."

I'm working on that. There are still plenty of questions and confusion for me on the subject of boundaries and codependence, not on a theoretical level but in practice. Because this is new and because I'm figuring out boundaries, it feels very alien still.


Hoping to get a better grasp... and offer more outgoing smiles to the world again soon.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Overwhelmed, how bout you?

I've been feeling overwhelmed for the past few weeks. I shouldn't be surprised. The post-Gentleman Jack week tends to leave me lazy and uninspired. Then the following week, I'm kicking my ass trying to catch up on all that I didn't do the week prior. It's a cycle I should be used to... but nonetheless, here I am. Again.


I'll make this an easy bullet post just to get some things out of my head. That's why I blog anyway...

  1. I found out today that one of my oldest friends and former roommate, Marie, has breast cancer. I haven't talked to her in about a month so this revelation shook me pretty fiercely. I felt... like I wasn't a good friend. I felt... concern... frustration that she didn't reach out to me... selfish that I was frustrated... then selfish that I begin worrying about my own health. She seems to have good news about it so far. Still, I couldn't talk much after that for fear of absolutely destroying her positive attitude on the phone.


  2. I've finally made an effort to get my girls out on bikes. As a cyclist, I treasure my time in the saddle and I do want to share that joy with them. However, I didn't see myself as a patient teacher and therefore have avoided teaching them. Thankfully, my ex-husband taught my oldest to ride without training wheels. They were both very proud. So, I bought her a new bike (her legs are nearly as long as mine!) and put the training wheels back on the other one for my youngest daughter. We've been at the park 2 days in a row now and they're sold. I look forward to the day that we can all go riding together.

  3. Love that new bike smell!

  4. Over the weekend, we set up the tent and had a camp out in my backyard. Mom, my brother and my sister's kids were all here for burgers and s'mores too. We had such a great time. My hair still smells like campfire and I've washed it 3 times since then! Mmmm... campfire smell.


  5. Later this week, I should hear back about the job interview from last week. I'm tempted to remove myself from the running. This job I have now may not pay much but I have freedom to pursue other goals. Goals that, when I get organized about it, may help supplement my income. Do I sacrifice the possibility of guaranteed money but less freedom for the possibility of a career doing something I love? It's a throw of the dice really...


  6. I'm going on a yoga retreat this weekend. I am SOOOOOOOOOOOO looking forward to a weekend of centering under some glorious trees. Food, wine, lodging and classes are all included. This girl will be very peaceful & rested come Sunday. I can promise you that!


  7. Lastly, I love my man. We've both been so busy that our phone calls have been more along the lines of, "This is how my day went: went to work, came home, did xx with the kids, now bedtime. You? Ok. Love you. Good night." I've been exhausted lately. I'm ready to go call him and crawl under the covers for the night.

I have some great posts in mind but just don't have the brain power to put them together.

O.Ver.Whelmed.

How are you?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I Give a Damn (a.k.a. Saturday morning rant)

Pardon this Saturday morning rant but I have to get a few things off my chest.....

First of all, sorry that I haven't visited your blogs nor blogged much this week. I have had a lot on my mind, including preparing for a pretty important job interview. I'm still not sure if the job is for me or not... or if I'd be getting in over my head. Lots of thoughts about that.

Also this week, I was distracted as not one, but two, of my girlfriends admitted to me that they're cheating on their husbands. (For those keeping count, that's 4 in the past year and a half.) I care about them both very deeply and really have no advice for them other than a question, "Is this who you are?" Just because I did it doesn't mean that I think it's right.

The worst part of it is feeling like an accomplice. Especially when one, after sharing illicit details of her affair while I sat in stunned silence, sighed thankfully and said, "Boy, it sure does feel good to be able to talk to SOMEONE about this!"

I really had no words... and I'm working on that.

***

Next, I'd like to tell you that I give a damn.

Earlier this week, I posted a link on my personal Facebook page to this article: The Moral Awakening of Mainstream Christianity with my comments, "Love this. It's about time."

The article is written by Rev. Dr. Janet Edwards, a Presbyterian minister, who has openly married gay and lesbian couples. She discusses how the Presbyterian church is currently voting on whether to allow gay or lesbian people to become ordained ministers. Over half the countries have voted a resounding yes, meaning their "church has taken a bold step towards inclusion that brings the third largest Mainline Christian denomination more in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ; that His love embraces all."

Within a day, my uncle (a man who has currently shut out my mom's family and locked down my grandparents' property to any of his siblings and their families) commented on my post:

"How could my flesh and blood condone such a slap in the face of JESUS? Your Grandmother would turn over in her grave. I love you, but this is completely against what the Bible teaches and YOUR Roman Catholic background."

Oh. Em. Gee. No, you di'n't.

I was pissed and called him out on it. From someone who has turned away his own flesh and blood, I shouldn't be surprised that he would turn away others as well. Should I remind him that Amnesty International has just listed the Vatican for human rights violations for failure to protect children from sexual abuse from its priests?

THEN, as I was cooling down from that interchange, I fell into another heated discussion just yesterday with a co-worker. We were discussing politics... NOT one of my favorite subjects.... and he began touting how "society is being degraded because our schools are teaching tolerance." He said because the schools are teaching that different families all look different (i.e. two moms, two dads, single moms, single dads), they are, in effect, teaching his children that homosexuality is okay and should be tolerated. He then made it sound like schools are actually teaching kids to be gay.

Oh. Em. Gee. No, you DI'N'T. Again.

Whew. I was fuming. Seriously?!? It reminded me of a girlfriend whose husband's family is in theater. The whole family acts, sings and dances but they never had professional training at an arts school because, "that would turn them gay."

I can't believe the ignorance around here. Is it just because I live in the conservative, Bible belt of Texas or is this ridiculousness world-wide?

I'm working on tolerance. I feel as if I've been a tolerant person my whole life, or at the very least, open-minded. Maybe I'm NOT being tolerant now. But this shit is absolutely mind-boggling to me.

***



This reminds me of a conversation I had with Jim about this topic of same sex marriage. His opinion?

"Why not allow the gays and lesbians be as miserable in marriage as the rest of us?"

Heh.

He has a point. From what I've heard this week about my married friends, and from my gut feelings about my co-worker, TRUST me, marriage and society couldn't possibly be more degraded by teaching tolerance and letting same sex couples marry.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Compliments welcome!

Saturday morning, I rode my bike along a beautiful biking/running path in my hometown, Louisiana. It was a gorgeous 82 degree day made even more perfect by a cool breeze from the river.

During my ride, I'd only encountered one other cyclist and plenty of runners. One such group I'd already passed from behind, but now I was turned around and riding towards them.

"Dang", I thought, "Whatever these guys are doing... they need to KEEP doing it."

As I got closer, I realized they were all older men. Older as in, my age and up (40 +). Which made me even MORE impressed. I wondered if they were training for something or just working out together to stay in shape or lose weight. Whatever... they were all shirtless and *drool* in awesome shape.

I SOOO wanted to give them kudos but, as I blew past them with a smile and wave, I kept my mouth shut.

Why?

Well... I was afraid they'd think I was flirting with them.

I chided myself the rest of the bike ride for not saying anything. I kept wondering, "Why can't I compliment them without them reading something else into it? Or would they?"

I've gotten myself in a lot of trouble for simply telling someone, male or female, that they look good. Past experience plagued my thoughts and kept my lips sealed.

After my ride and after loading my bike in the truck, I sat on my back bumper and was busily typing a text to Gentleman Jack. About that time, one of the trail maintenance men walked past me, carrying a weed eater over his shoulder. I looked up and we acknowledged each other. He smiled and said to me, "You're looking like you're in GREAT SHAPE!"

Then he continued walking by. No gawking. No stalking. No gross unnecessary advances. Just a very nice compliment. I felt great and was very thankful to him.

I thought to myself, "SEE! That is the feeling I wanted to share with those men!"

As someone who tries to stay in good shape, compliments are always welcome. It feels nice to be validated. I simply wanted to pass on the validation to some hot older men. Where's the problem in that?

Why was it easier for me to be complimented than to offer one to a group of men? Thoughts?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Guilty

Well, it's yearbook time again at the kids' school. It's also time for registration fees for summer camp for both kids. And fall after-school registration. And time to pay for their school supply packets for the fall.

It all adds up.

This particular afternoon, I told both girls that I'd just paid a hefty $320 to get them both registered and therefore, didn't see how I'd have extra cash to purchase yearbooks for both of them.

My oldest spoke up: "It's och, Mom. I think I have enough money in my piggy bank to buy one."

I felt bad as she emptied her bank and gave me the full amount for the cost of the yearbook.

"Baby girl... can I put it in my checkbook to pay you back for this? I feel bad. I mean, you also stepped up and gave me that $20 when I was missing it, remember?"

I'd pulled $80 aside to pay someone and left it on the counter a few months ago. When I finally went to retrieve the cash, $20 of it was missing. I was pretty upset because the only other person I could have imagined stealing it was my brother. And I really didn't want to accuse him if I didn't know for sure. My sweet eldest child pulled the missing amount from her bank then too.

After their showers for the evening, my daughter seemed upset about something. Then, she was pacing the floor, clutching her face in absolute terror. Her entire body was shaking and her face was red as tears streamed down her cheeks.

"Mom... I did something bad.... SO BAD. I feel awful..." She paced the living room floor, "Oh God... Oh God... Mom... I feel so bad. I don't know what I was thinking.... it's so bad... I feel awful... oh God..."

I watched her in complete horror, begging her to talk to me. At one point, I pulled her into my lap to soothe her fear. She pulled away from me and continued pacing and telling me how bad she felt. She said she couldn't talk to me because I would be so angry at her.

At this point, my heart was sinking. What on earth had she done that she couldn't tell me?! My mind immediately went to a worse case parent nightmare... but she's only 9... oh my... now, I was the one gripped in fear.

Finally, thinking calmly enough to remember that she feels safest on paper, I asked her to go write down what she was trying to tell me. After I consoled her little sister, who was at this point, pretty worried about what was happening too, she practically threw a handwritten note at me and ran crying down the hallway.

Dear Mom,

I took this and I didn't want to. :(

You might be mad but please don't yell at me or not like me anymore!

Wadded up inside the note was a $20 bill. I now knew who my little thief was.

I wrapped her up in my lap and dried her tears. We had a discussion about guilty conscience and angels on our shoulders. I consoled her fearful aftershocks and praised her honesty. I also reminded her that she could tell me ANYTHING and I wouldn't ever "not like her anymore".

"I'm your momma. Nothing you do will ever break that bond."

I considered some disciplinary action... but I think she hurt herself more than any restriction that I could put on her.

I'd like to think this is a powerful lesson. I'd like to think that perhaps she'll learn to recognize the still small voice inside her guiding her.

I'd like to think so. And I'd like to think my heart will climb its way back up into my chest where it belongs.

Whew.

Parenthood is hard.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

An open letter to me, as a Mom and parent, on Mother's Day

Dearest T,

I know you're exhausted after a lovely day with your man, followed by much love and attention from your girls, and a very thoughtful gift from your ex-husband, but this letter needs to be written.

After all that we've learned lately... after all that we've discovered about your family and your children and your friends and their children and yourself.... this is something extremely powerful that you just may have to put it on your mirror so that you remember it every. single. day. of your life.

Live your life the way you want your children to live theirs.

I mean it. Look at everything you do. Imagine if you could put your current life on a giant movie projection screen and let your kids watch. Would you be proud? Would you be able to watch and not cringe? Would you believe that you are setting a good example?

Would you be able to sit with your children and say, "This is how I'd like you to live your life too"?

I'm suggesting this notable advice with awareness of your own mistakes, your own lessons, your observations of others, your own childhood, your perspective of your parents' lives and what you've noticed in other children AND adults. I know none of us is perfect. I know we're all still growing and, in some cases, still stuck with those false childhood beliefs about ourselves that we struggle to move past.

I also know that kids don't follow that whole, "Do as I say, not as I do" rule. No, kids think you know everything. You are the sun in their solar system.

Kids learn by OBSERVATION. Kids are giant sponges who absorb the negative things you say about yourself. Or the negative things you say about them. Or the negative things you say about others... or life. After all, the negative things you say about you... are more than likely the negative things YOUR PARENTS said about you or themselves or others or life, am I right?

Here's the thing:

The world will kick your ass and your children's asses enough. The world will challenge and belittle and berate. Shouldn't we, as parents, be the encouragers? Shouldn't we, as parents, be the ones who hold them up? With love. And in faith. And with strength that doesn't come from the belitted "us" but from the Highest and Greatest part of us?

I'm not saying, Be the perfect parent and teach them to be perfect children. Heck, I know you're gonna screw up your kids somehow. You WILL be talked about in therapy one day, I'm sure.

But at least, pay attention to your actions. Pay attention to your words. Live with awareness. When your child acts or speaks a certain way, accept the responsibility of your own actions or words as the possible inspiration behind them. Good. Or not.

Be a neutral observer of your life. Be real with yourself. Admit you don't know everything. Understand that you're not perfect and therefore, allow yourself mistakes and LEARN from them. Show your flaws. Then be gentle. Be forgiving. Be loving. You were mistaken only. Now choose again.

Don't take self-hatred or self-pity out on them. Even if it feels like the world is against you, don't blame them for it. Don't hold them down because you feel held down. Instead remember:

Whatever you feel the world is withholding from you, you are withholding from the world.

Pick yourself UP. Lift your own spirits. Give yourself love, acceptance and gentle allowing to BE imperfect. Allow them to see and know this about you too!

Observe your actions. Listen to your words. Are they self-loving? Are they self-damaging? How authentic are you? Are you aware that you're being observed as the way to live a life?

If you treat yourself well, you are treating them well.

If you can teach those kids to literally laugh their way through life's (seeming) lack, learn from their own lapses in judgment and love themselves through all of it, then you are building TRUE character and strength.

Then you are building something powerful and unshakable. You are, in effect, sending love into the future.

Happy Mother's Day.

Always loving you,
T

Friday, May 6, 2011

Why don't you tell me how you REALLY feel?

"Individuals who are capable of assuming the responsibilities of other people are impressive. They get a collective pat on the back and a boost to their self-esteem.

"For this reason, enablers work at being virtuous and righteous. They exhibit seemingly wonderful qualities. They are hardworking, tolerant, capable, courageous, tough, sacrificing, wise, adaptable, forgiving and loving people. Their multitudinous virtues are enough to gag a normally functioning person."

"Each of these virtues has a dark side. One person's exaggerated capabilities can make another person feel incompetent."

"Maintaining a virtuous personality is essential to an enabler's sense of worth. But... because enablers don't have an honest way to relate to other people... (they) often have to swallow their anger, and suppress or ignore their personal needs.

"This incredible feeling of saintly martyr, victim, and superhero is the confusing profile of the enabler."
~ The Enabler

All I can say after reading the above description is ... WHOA.

That's so me.

***

One of the things I love most about Gentleman Jack is his complete transparency. He simply cannot NOT tell me everything. He also, in his own way, expects that from me. It's the best way, we've found, to build trust and to put many past relationship fears to rest.

He is one of the first people in my life to actually want to know how I REALLY feel. Down deep. Past the mask of "I'm fine." Initially, I was extremely uncomfortable with it. I thought I shared enough about me. But no, he wanted to know if I was disappointed, upset or angry. He may not always agree with me but he wanted to know, nonetheless. Some of those conversations still make me shudder.

I'd never gone on record to admit my resentments and imperfections. Maybe, in all honesty, if I'd been with someone as intuitive as Jack, I would have. Maybe.

As a codependent/enabler, I was used to making things right. In my family and on through adult relationships, I was the go-to person with the advice. I was the fixer of problems and thoughtful, selfless giver. In order to be that person, I had to constantly be "fine". I kept everyone at arm's length with the phrase, "I'm good. Don't worry about me."

My Gentleman wouldn't take that as an answer. To us, the phrase "I'm fine" meant... something's wrong. Granted, I think much of the reason we wanted to know the depth of each others' feelings was to squash our own insecurities. Nonetheless, it felt good to be listened to and actually heard.

This is why, when he sees me getting weak from low blood sugar (and martyrdom) while trying to make dinner for the kids, he'll step in and say, "Eat something NOW! What can I make for you?" This is why, when my friends ask for impossible favors, he'll advise me, "You don't HAVE to do that. You can say 'no', you know." I guess, more than anything, he reminds me that I DO have a choice and I DO matter.

That's just something I never felt before unless I was being needed by someone else.

It feels really good to be able to be real, have feelings and be okay with them, and be accepted in all of my imperfections and imperfect moments.

"Perfect makes me nervous. It is in the imperfect times that you really see the strengths or weaknesses. That's when you get all of the answers you are looking for."
~ Gentleman Jack (from this post)

The best part of all is that his acceptance of me is helping ME to accept myself too.

Our relationship feels like I'm being loved and learning to love myself... all wrapped up in one perfectly imperfect package.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Power

"You have A LOT of power in this relationship," my Gentleman said to me.

He continued, "You could hurt me really easily and you wouldn't even realize it."

Oh.


***

I wrote the beginning of this post over a year ago. I remember thinking that Jack and I had entered a new phase in our relationship. One where fear and doubt were wearing down the both of us because vulnerability and trust was being tested.

The feeling seemed odd because I thought we'd always been open, honest and vulnerable. It seemed easier back when we didn't really know what we were doing or where our relationship was going. Now we KNEW we wanted to be together... now we KNEW we really wanted to move forward... now we realized how hard it would be, how devastated we would be if it DIDN'T work out.

Looking back over this statement from a year ago, I now wonder if our definitions of "power" were the same.

***

I am currently reading The Enabler, When Helping Hurts the Ones You Love and boy, have my eyes been opened!


I could write account after account about my "power" in relationships. From being the perceived "CEO" or "matriarch" of my family to selflessly over-giving to a soldier at war. Yes, my enabling began at an early age... being born to a young mother who was finally out of her strict mother's stranglehold only to become pregnant and married really quickly. My mom likes to say that she and I "grew up together". Honestly, is that the model of a healthy parent/child relationship?

Throughout my marriage, I swept problems under the rug under the guise of maintaining the facade of a perfect partnership. Even within the relationship, we didn't tackle our problems but instead acted as if they didn't exist. It was a perfect partnership all right. A partnership of enabler/dependent.

"Whatever disability or crisis people endure, they should be allowed the opportunity of developing their own individual means of coping. When enablers do everything for people who can't (insert perceived incompetence here) (or insert ailment, predicament, addiction, unhealthy behavior here)...it makes it hard for their dependents to develop tools for coping with their lot in life. Their enabler becomes one more obstacle... for them to overcome."
~ The Enabler

I have, in effect, supported unhealthy behaviors in many relationships and I believed it was love. I was supposed to take care of my mother or invite her to hang out with my friends. She was my best friend and I couldn't let her down. Never mind the fact that a nearly 40 year old woman shouldn't be partying with her teenage daughters and her friends. I was supposed to help take care of the family, even after I left home. Each of my parents often called to ask, "Can you please talk to your sibling about...?" when the appropriate action would have been THEM talking to my siblings.

"Unfortunately, I had focused on the 'be responsible for yourself' part and had missed its corollary 'and let others be responsible for themselves.'"
~ The Enabler

I carried this "responsibility" into each adult relationship. I grew frustrated that my husband couldn't take care of certain responsibilities and therefore decided to do them myself. It became a parent/child relationship in many ways... and one that he ultimately resented. I'd resented it all along. I just didn't know of another way of interacting.

In some ways, I've tried to exert this same power over Gentleman Jack. And I've tried all tactics to continue to maintain that image enablers are known for: kindness, strength, selflessness, competence, control, perfection.

Despite our distance, he allowed me to control a few things and fought me on others. It wasn't until I began resenting the parts he let me control that I realized something was wrong. I didn't want another relationship filled with resentment.

That's when I began to be aware of certain things others in my life were saying. That's when I was noticing Jack's own resistance to my lack of faith in him.

"This relationship is interesting because this guy, he doesn't need you. He wants you in his life but he doesn't really need you. That's a first for you."
~ a really intuitive friend

Much of it has thrown me for a loop because Gentleman Jack is so unwilling to allow me to exert my "power" - especially after he tuned into my resentment. When enablers aren't needed, they feel displaced, threatened and their self-esteem, which relies so heavily on this dependent feeling, usually suffers.

"To maintain the bond, enablers and dependents sometimes unwittingly sabotage progress... enablers by continuing to treat their dependents as fragile and helpless, and dependents trying to remain that way."
~ The Enabler

Thankfully, my partner is very accepting and loving of who I am, recognizes these strengths AND weaknesses and stands his ground. All through this, he supports me, allows me to grow, loves me through the recognition of my (*cringe*) imperfections and stays consistent in his adoration, respect and love for me.

I can't imagine any other person I'd rather be "discovering" myself with.

I wonder if he realizes just how powerful HE is.

Coming tomorrow: Who is an enabler?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Some of our conversations are less than inspiring...

One night a couple of weeks ago, I could tell Gentleman Jack was feeling restless and irritable on the phone. He said something about not sleeping well the night before due to restless legs. I mentioned that I knew the feeling and said, "those legs want to move!" He snapped back that he KNEW they wanted to move but he didn't feel like going to the gym. I wasn't harassing him about the gym so I didn't take it personally. As I was feeling pretty out of it myself and down with a cold, I made sure the phone call was short.

The next day, I texted my morning pleasantries and mentioned that he'd seemed irritable. I asked if he was feeling better. Again, he snapped that just because he wasn't going to the gym, it didn't mean he wasn't taking good care of himself. He was just "taking a break from working out."

Ohhhhh... Kaaaay.

Then he called me. I was nearly fuming for having my head bitten off just for showing concern. We talked it through, as we're so good at doing, and I came away from it with a clearer understanding.

I'm highlighting this conversation because, in general, I only blog about our inspiring conversations. Well, we're a couple in love. Two imperfect people trying to find perfection in an imperfect relationship. Sometimes, it's easy. Other times, not so much. Sometimes there are miscues, miscommunications and mis-perceptions. Things get lost in translation due to low feelings or whether either of us is having a particularly tough day.

Apparently, just as with his financial crisis, my showing concern about his health told him that I didn't trust he could take care of himself. My saying to him, "I was worried about you," translated to, "You suck at taking care of yourself. Just do what I tell you to do and you will be happy."

The sad thing is... he's not the first partner who's translated me this way. I'll even admit that sometimes I *do* mean it that way. From my experience, I could easily generalize that men *don't* know how to take care of themselves. But I don't seriously believe that... Do I?

Or am I simply attempting to control something that's out of my control? Because when I think about it, the one thing in common with the men in question is me.

***

When I look back at my history of relationships, I've chosen one unavailable man after another for some reason or another. I've encountered addictions to everything from alcohol to gambling to sex. These men also pointed out that I was "too good" or "too perfect" or "too giving"... when in actuality, I was "too controlling" and "too scared" and "too judgmental" and "too dependent" on them.

I'm working on it but I am still triggered occasionally with past fears. I'm trying to let a man's heart be wild and still trust. I'm learning the art of allowing.

I'm trying to dispel my past so it won't repeat into my future.

I've realized the pain and frustration I feel is because I have no control over a partner's behavior. And if I can't control it, then their behavior could possibly affect me and my happiness.

But wait. When did I allow someone else to dictate my happiness?

***Warning. Warning. Codependent alert.***

If I look into -anon programs (Al-anon, Gam-anon, Nar-anon) or Codependents Anonymous, I see that there is a way to detach with love. I see that the addiction... is mine. People are my addiction. Feeling needed is my addiction. Controlling is my addiction.

If I'm needed, then I won't be forgotten, right? Well, that's the premise. My biggest fear has always been to be forgotten.

Can you say, "enabler"? *

***

I put myself in a relationship with someone who lives 3 hours away, whom I have no control over, with whom I have to communicate and learn to trust implicitly, just to test myself: Can I allow him to be?

Though he is considerably the most emotionally available man than any in my past, he is still physically unavailable. Though he is well-versed in taking care of himself, he has also expressed his complete fragility to me. Can I stand back and not worry?

Can I allow him to kick his own ass over financial issues? Can I allow him to hate himself because he hasn't seen the inside of a gym in months.... when, at the beginning of our relationship, he was going 5 days a week? Can I allow him to be uber-sensitive about these things and not take it personally when he naturally tries to redirect it at me, the one he feels closest to?

Can I allow him to beat himself up even more because he realizes that sometimes, my fear won't allow me to have faith in him, either? (And my goodness, that is a difficult one to admit. Control issues... grr...)

Most especially, can I, and this is my biggest challenge, allow him to do these things without thinking he's doing them because of me?

HE is telling me to allow him to make his own mistakes and fix them on his own too. HE is asking me to have faith in him. Can I actually step back and do that?

***

When my marriage was failing, I read the book, "Healing the Addictive Mind: Freeing Yourself from Addictive Patterns and Relationships" by Lee Jampolsky (also a student of A Course in Miracles). In the book, he states that people who are addicted are "spiritually thirsty."

As much as I try to understand others' spiritual thirst, I have to remember it is not ME who is responsible for leading them to drink. All that I can do is quench my own thirst.

After all, my lack of faith in others doesn't serve either of us.

*Tomorrow's post: how I became the enabler

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lucky me, lucky me, look at what I'm drippin' with: Little Girls

The kids and I went to see a friend perform in the musical, Annie, this past weekend. They were amazed because I knew practically every word to every song in the play. I only watched the movie over and over again at age 12. So many great memories.

This particular song sung by the orphanage's frustrated spinster Miss Hannigan (played in the movie by the awesome Carol Burnett) has always been my favorite part of the entire thing.

Ironic I'd be able to relate to her so well as an adult. Heh.



Do you have a particular childhood movie or memory that you enjoy sharing with your kids?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Will we have peace NOW?

I turned on the TV last night to hear that Osama bin Laden is dead.

I was, funny enough, in the same place when I turned on the TV and saw the plane fly into the 2nd tower of the World Trade Center. In my bed... far removed from it. Far removed from the overwhelming confusion in New York or Pennsylvania or Washington, DC that day. And far removed from the celebration that took place outside the White House last night.

I do remember how we came together after 9/11 and I was just as moved to see how we came together last night, if only for a moment.

However...

A lot has changed for me in 10 years. I may have been in the same bed when I heard the news then and now but I'm not in the same house. I'm not in the marriage I was in. I've now been pregnant 3 times and given birth twice. I've developed an interest in natural medicine. I've had to learn to forgive in what seemed the most difficult of circumstances.

I've gained friends and lost other friends. I've gained a new family while slowing separating myself from another. I've dated a soldier and supported him while he was deployed for 15 months. I've learned how our troops believe in good and evil, light and darkness, us and them.

The "me" that was in my bed 9 and a half years ago, pregnant and scared, was happy to hear the news when I turned on the TV last night. Bin Laden was a phantom, a frightening devil ghost that has haunted us, in this country, for nearly a decade. I was happy to know that our troops would feel vindicated and even more dedicated to their mission. I was happy to think of those who lost loved ones on 9/11 would feel justice and tears of joy. I, personally, felt thankful for the relief.

But the "me" that I am now, that has been through all that I mentioned above, the "me" that knows that death will not stop this... I felt nothing but sadness at the news.

In the big picture, I no longer believe in "us-vs-them". It isn't real. It will not serve us. As long as we feel separate from one another (and even through the perceived "unity" of us as a country), there will never be peace or "defeat over evil". The evil isn't some bearded man hiding in another country, ordering people to come kill us. The evil is something different, entirely.

The evil is our belief that we are separate and somehow better than they are.

Somehow we've forgotten that they believe what they are doing is God's will. And so do we. What that means is that we, both sides, will still fight. We, both sides, will still behold our power as if we're chosen and they aren't. We, both sides, will still do what we can to "win" against the "devil"... the image we've cast on each other.

How does that make us any different or better at all?