Listen

“You don’t get angry anymore?

I used to get angry all the time, frustrated too.

Not anymore?

I’m not lost anymore.

How did you do that?

Same way anything that’s lost gets found. I stopped looking”.

I don’t watch much tv, but M was watching LOST a couple of months ago, and I overheard this conversation. It gave me goosebumps when I heard it, but I couldn’t put my finger on why.

Over the last many weeks, my thoughts have returned to this conversation. I couldn’t decide if I agreed or not.

I couldn’t decide, because I spent most of my life searching, and I often feel like I’m still searching.

I spent my childhood hoping for a place to belong, a place to feel safe. I counted on adults to show me, but was repeatedly disappointed.

In my teenage years, I continued to search, but I relied upon myself more than ever. I developed a drive and a strength that could and would carry me away. I wasn’t certain of the what or where or how, but I knew I needed to leave to find it.

There were college years where I felt more belonging than I ever had, but even then I was searching for something more. Anything. Nothing. Everything. Although I earned good grades, I engaged in some really risky behavior. My natural instinct was to search for proof of my worth, because I constantly heard this voice in my head questioning it.

Later, even after marrying an amazing man who wholeheartedly loved me, I built walls around my heart for a long time, and even I didn’t go too far behind them. Anger was my go-to emotion. It was easy, safer. It kept me from having to full-on feel the things which anger could hide, and allowed me to keep others at a distance so they wouldn’t see.

I was lost. I spent a long time not even knowing how to search, but desperately trying, walking in circles, and feeling defeat. I tried so hard to avoid repeating the things I’d seen and heard in my own childhood, that I forgot how to listen to me. In some ways, I never truly learned to hear my own voice.

I ignored my fears by moving at 100mph toward anything that caught my interest. Because when I slowed, there I was. And I was so afraid of seeing me, of feeling the hurt, regret, and grief, not only for my own actions and choices, but for other’s actions and choices, too. For times gone by, for lost years, and things I’d never experience, or those experiences for which I felt I’d robbed others. For the ways my choices hurt the ones I love the most, especially my children.

Most of all, I feared rejection. Abandonment. Shame. My voice inside was so afraid. She spoke to me out of fear.

I worried I was a giant bundle of ‘too much’ because I deeply needed, when I’d prided myself on being strong and independent all the time. But that persona was so draining.

All along, I hadn’t realized I could be both. I could be many things. I could stop looking, and see me. I could hear me, feel me.

I was safe. I could trust.

I could be me, whatever that meant.

And when I began to do so, to let go of some of that fear and be vulnerable, I was able to see the ones I love through a different lens. A clearer one. One in which their actions or reactions aren’t all about me. By that I mean, they aren’t always not thinking of me or not caring, if they behave, or don’t behave, in certain ways. That’s my voice speaking, not theirs. And if I think they are being hurtful, I can ask, or express myself. We can communicate, and they won’t run away or think I’m stupid.

Do I want to be the best version of me I can be? Of course! But I suppose I’m not so much seeking as I’m trying to listen, with an open mind and an open heart.

I can hear my own voice. I’m learning my patterns. I hear that hurtful voice, which may always be there, and I’ve allowed a new voice to emerge, one who understands or wishes to understand.

It may take a long time, but I’m learning to have compassion for that hurtful voice and her origins. I can, because I find comfort and security in this life I’ve helped to build. I feel the safety and love, and I’m trying to truly receive it and believe it. I can feel all my heart is able to feel, not hide behind anger. The only way to do that is to listen. Not fall backward, not speed forward.

I just have to remember to listen to me.

-photo credit viralnovelty.net

Hold On Forever

I’ve been in a rut for a while as far as my job is concerned.  No matter how hard I try to have a positive attitude, there’s no well left from which to draw. It has depleted me, and as much as the rest of my life is filled with amazing things happening, I can’t seem to draw from it and fill my well.  And sharing with M just how down I am, how emotionally frail I feel regarding my job, has been difficult. 

Although my journey has helped me to expose myself to him, the deepest crevices of my soul, needing him this much is the most vulnerable I ever been. 

For about the last year, I’ve been stuck in this weird cycle I can’t seem to stop. My stress level will soar, and I’ll share with him that I need help finding ways and making time to fill my well. In so many ways, we’ve done so, building into our daily lives these wonderfully connecting things that bring light to our days, and also help me focus on the positive. Even so, I feel as if my well is drawn upon faster than I can fill it. I will crash, and feel so deflated. I’ll share it with him, and he is so supportive and helpful, but then I feel shame, because I can’t bare to feel like a burden. So I’ll find myself in an upswing, motivated by guilt and shame, and wanting to add something to his well instead of drawing from it, but that doesn’t last long. How could it? Then I’ll crash, again, in an endless cycle. 

Truth? I’m scared. Terrified, actually. Behind this feeling of the deepest vulnerability  I’ve ever felt, is difficulty trusting. I can’t seem to make the best of the now, because I’m too busy not trusting the future, not trusting M, and not trusting me. I’m allowing those same old issues to seep through: shame, guilt, and issues with worth, even though this man sitting next to me not only allows me to lean on him, but he cradles me in his palm and guides the way. Even though I know there’s light at the of the tunnel, and that M intends to help me shorten the length of that tunnel. I know he’s doing his best to help me transition into a new job, and that is scary, too. 

And as powerful as this relationship feels, as freeing and supportive it is, there are some things in me that this dynamic won’t fix. Can it support? Will it lift me and empower me? Yes! But’s it’s not even fair to think it will fix these feelings in me which existed long before he and I became one – that power lies within me. I’m so fortunate to have him, to have this relationship to lean on. To count on.

These lyrics really hit home right now. I need to trust. I need to let go. I need to hold on….forever….

Another night and here we are again
All our faults laid out ahead
Let it out, then let it right back in
All those voices in your head

And we both know everything, but we can’t learn to leave
So I’ll tell you what you need

First thing: we make you feel better
Next stop: we pull it all together
I’ll keep you warm like a sweater
Take my hand, hold on forever

Just fall apart if you need to
I’m here and I won’t leave you now
Don’t look down
Hold on forever

Lay down all your troubles end to end
They could reach up to the stars
So many roads, you don’t know where you’ve been
But you still know who you are

And if I seem preoccupied, I’m wondering what to do
So here’s my recipe for you

First thing: we make you feel better
Next stop: we pull it all together
I’ll keep you warm like a sweater
Take my hand, hold on forever
Just fall apart if you need to
I’m here and I won’t leave you now
Don’t look down
Hold on forever

And we both know everything, but we can’t learn to leave
So I’ll tell you what you need

First thing: we make you feel better
Next stop: we pull it all together
I’ll keep you warm like a sweater
Take my hand, hold on forever
Just fall apart if you need to
I’m here and I won’t leave you now
Don’t look down
Hold on forever

Just take my hand; hold on forever
Hold on forever

Just take my hand; hold on forever


~Rob Thomas

Letting Go…

I need you. I am ashamed.

Those words are maybe the most difficult I’ve ever spoken. I’m not perfect, and I never was. I never will be, although I spent way too many years of my life hoping I could be, wishing I could live up to other’s expectations, and hoping I’d be enough.

And for most of my life, I tried really hard not to need anyone, even though I poured my heart into every relationship I ever had. I let others need me, but I couldn’t need in return. I mean, I could, I just couldn’t let the other know just how much.

I also jumped in with two feet into anything I did – relationships, school, jobs, everything. I found strength within myself to get through anything, regardless of the cost to me. It was never a question of whether I could, I just did.

I did what I thought I should. I put others first. I came through. You could count on me. Always.

But that had a high cost. So high.

It has taken me a long time, but I’ve come to a place where I can tell others when I need them, although it’s not always easy. I still feel shame, but I’m trying.

With M, I’m so open about my needs, but it feels all tangled at times, because I have this intense need to please him first and to seek his permission to put my needs on the priority list. And when I fail at making myself clear in what I need or expressing it fully, because I’m ashamed, I end up feeling even worse, as if even he isn’t making my needs a priority. I’ve made that mistake more than I care to admit.

Over the last few years, I’ve shared with M how much I need him, but my job is an issue that has only gotten worse. I’ve tried to express just how much worse, and what I need because of it, but I’ve not always succeeded. Now, I’m at a place where, despite the amazing things going on in our relationship and with my girls, I feel like I’m drowning. My job is sucking the life out of me. It has slowly, over the course of 13 years, completely depleted me, and it has far reaching affects in all areas of my life. I’m running on fumes at this point, and the thing is….I know I have the strength to get through. I do. It’s a part of me which will never ever go away. I can dig deep and do whatever I have to.

But I don’t want to be strong in this case, not anymore. The cost is far too high. Putting that face on and stuffing those feelings away so I can get through turns me into someone I’m not, someone I don’t like. Someone who isn’t ME.

And I NEVER want to feel like a foreigner in my own skin again.

In order to get through it, I need M more than I ever have. I need him to be the life raft. I need him to help me to not lose me. Ever again. I need my needs to matter as much to him as they do to me….and in order for him to be able to fully do that….I need to lay them in his lap and let go of the shame I feel for needing him as much as I do.

Slowly, and layer by layer, I have shared my deep need for him as well as my needs. I have laid them all out, open and honest, absolutely and completely.

I can’t say my shame is gone, but it’s one step closer to letting it all go. And it’s allowing us to go even deeper together. We are building the structure we need to get through it, the structure I need. It’s going to be a process, one we’ll have to tackle together.

And my strength? It’s still here. He’s my raft right now. I’m hanging on with all my might.

But I’m still kicking my feet like a mofo, while I hang on.

Balance.

There are times I truly question my submission. I wonder…..am I actually submissive? Am I really just selfishly trying to have my needs met? In doing so, do I disregard M’s? If my instinct is to think of me first, or how a situation will impact me, what does that mean? If I have such intense feelings sometimes when things don’t go my way, what does that mean? Am I selfish, hiding behind a cloak?

And there are other times I actually begin to question whether I’m getting lost, if that strong, independent woman I’ve counted on all my life is fading away. Lines become blurry, lines which have always been so very solid for me. Areas which used to bring me such strength feel not so strong, distant, and even feel non-existent. My feet feel as if I’m not walking on solid ground, as if what I knew was true, what I’ve counted on for so long is turning to quicksand. I wonder what to trust, in me.

I may not be submissive, I don’t know. I’m pretty sure I don’t care, actually, about the term, at least. Fitting into a mold of what I ‘should’ be or what others see isn’t important to me in the least. How I relate to my husband matters to me. It’s maybe the most important thing in this world to me. I need to honor and respect him, love him with my whole heart, bare my soul, be open and communicative with him. He deserves it. I NEED to surrender to him. That is in my bones, in my soul. He deserves that too. And I need him to need me just as fiercely.

A large part of my surrender has been acknowledging that selfish, self-pitying, bratty, spiteful voice inside me. I’ve had to understand why she exists, why I’ve needed her. I’ve had to see that she has served a purpose. When it has felt like there was no one else in this world who made my needs a priority, she was there. I listen to her. I allow her to feel. I evaluate her motives. And then I choose to act in a way that is best for US. Or I try to, at least. Graceful surrender is what I aspire to, but there will always be a part of me which needs to feel my boundaries, to be reminded they are still there. And yet another part of me which will always need to be heard, valued, and understood. One valued half of a partnership.

Another aspect of my surrender has been acknowledging that M and I have a 22 year history together. We’d developed all sorts of behavioral patterns, some of which, despite our continued efforts, just didn’t work, or perpetuated continued miscommunication. I’ve had to look back on all of that and take responsibility for my choices and actions. I’ve had to make committed efforts at making choices that benefit us and move us in a direction of growth, and do not move us backward into those same patterns. It was a journey I had to take before I ever even spoke to M, in order to get to a place where I could truly begin to offer myself to him, my honest and true self.

This offering of myself to him, allowing him to be the captain of our ship and my giving up the fight for control, has been an exercise in balance for me.

My feelings of surrender run deeper than I ever imagined they would. Balancing that selfish-feeling voice with my need and natural slide into surrendering more of myself has been difficult at times. In times of stress, this becomes more apparent than ever. When we are faced with a big life stressor, or many at once, as we are facing at the moment (M got a new job, was essentially away for 4 days while my daughter broke up with her boyfriend, our getaway has been rescheduled three times, my job is overwhelming), I have an intense emotional response to what feels like the sudden withdrawal of the security of the dynamic. M has been present, but also excited and preoccupied with his job move, and rightly so. I’ve had to spend a lot of time talking with my daughter, and we’ve all spent a lot of family time connecting and using the opportunity to grow together. All positive, right?

Except, instead of focusing on those positive things, instead of focusing on what the logical and reasoning parts of me know to be true – that M and I have built this relationship with mechanisms to grow and evolve with our changes, to continually communicate openly and honestly, and that our intent is clear, that we always have the other’s best interests at heart – I sift though it all to find the potential weaknesses, the possible leak-through patterns of old behaviors that occur in times of stress. The ones that could damage our dynamic. I question my own needs, whether my fears are burdensome, whether the attention I seem to require is unreasonable. I wonder if I am able to be strong for him, as he is for me. I wonder if I’ve become too dependent and not listened to that voice which feels selfish, but may actually be my line of logic and reason, my source of strength which allows me to be the person he can lean on as well. The one we can both count on.

It’s almost like there are dueling halves of me. What I know doesn’t always mesh with how I feel. Am I selfish, pessimistic, distrustful and too dependent, or willingly surrendered and needing him this much is what makes this work?

Here’s the thing – my brain knows there’s a balance that works for us, because we find it, we feel it. It’s rather fluid, within certain parameters, actually. My brain knows what feels right and comfortable and that we can and will talk it through and continually adjust to remain healthy and happy. We’ve built it right in.

The problem arises when I get so far into that headspace, so confused and overwhelmed, that I look to him for all the answers. I look outside of myself, counting on him to fix it. Is that fair? Is that realistic? Can he not feel adrift or need me?? Can we not be unsettled at the same time? Am I not my own source of strength?

I do believe there’s a balance. I know so! We live a constantly evolving one. I do not believe it is his responsibility to make how I feel mesh with what I know to be true. I need to be able to do that, for me and for him. But do I need his support? Do I need his guidance when I’ve begun the slide? Do I need help sometimes seeing that I have the strength to fill the gap? YES!!! I do, so very much.

During these times, I need to feel at ease to readjust with him, with life, with us. Our relationship has proven that we can and do accomplish that.

Balance. It’s probably the most difficult part of my surrender, and I falter and fuck up royally at times, but I have the best support. I have M!! But I also have the strength within me. And I believe that strength is the very best thing I can ever offer to him. I need to remember that.

Her Offering

In the welcomed darkness,
On able, bended knees, she waits,
Cool anticipation drawn in labored breaths,
And morphed to flame upon its exit 

The visceral ga-gong, ga-gong 
Of her need so loud, it’s echo reverberating, 
And she can taste its familiar bite 
On the tip of her shameless tongue

At home in the even-handed off-balance, 
Her head bowed, in acquiescence 
And her eager eyes closed
At her alter,

She the offering 

Friends and Woes

Last year at about this time, I was in another city not too far from here, spending the weekend with some friends from high school I’ve reconnected with. It began about 5 years ago, when we saw one another at our reunion (the only reason I went was because those two were going to be there), and vowed to stay in touch. We connected via Facebook and messaged back and forth. On a whim, we packed up and met in Nashville for a long weekend, and an annual get together was born.

I’m so glad we did, we had a blast. We talked and caught up, and it felt as if I’d connected with two open, fun-loving women who wanted to share and maintain a friendship.

Over the next few years, others joined in, but the three of us tried to meet up apart from the larger group of seven. There was something more between the three of us. There was an easiness, the kind that passing time didn’t seem to affect.

By last year, I’d realized that while I very much enjoyed their company, the weekends always left me feeling as if I’d gone with hopes (and expectations) that we’d talk and catch up, talk about deep, meaningful things, and not just chill and drink and go out to eat. As much as I love those things, I need the other too. There was every indication that we had the sort of relationship in which that was a realistic expectation. We’d done it before, but it seemed to fade away. Contact faded more and more until it was mostly likes on Facebook. I agonized over whether I should go.

I asked myself…did I still value them? Absolutely. I was just beginning to see the friendship for what it might be – acquaintances with a history. Ones who have fun and can be open and honest and accepting with one another, but still really just acquaintances. And that was okay; I wasn’t ready to give that up. So, I went on the weekend. I tried to go with realistic expectations and I had some fun. I do value each and every one of them very much.

Except on Saturday, there was this odd-feeling exchange. The day before, J and A brought up that we should go to her parent’s cabin this year and plan on a big vacation weekend next year, some place like the Bahamas or a cruise. A few said maybe, and then JK said she wasn’t sure her husband would let her. I said I’d have to check with my hubby too, and the conversation ended….until Saturday, when JK left.

After she left, J and A brought up that they thought it was weird that JK had phrased it that way, that she wasn’t sure her hubby would let her. A couple of the others said it was a little odd, but J and A said it sounded like maybe her hubby was really controlling or something. I chimed in and said maybe that’s just the way it works for them. It works that way for M and I, and I’d have to ask him too. Then J seemed to abruptly change the subject with a giggle, so I left it alone. We had a decent evening and went home the next morning.

But later, I couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened. Sometimes it takes me a while to process my feelings with things like that, when I’m hurt and fear rejection. And in my history, I have a very difficult time telling those I care about that they’ve hurt my feelings or said/done something that I’d like to discuss. Again, that fear of rejection and abandonment, but I’ve been evolving and trying to maintain healthy friendships.

A few days later, I asked J and A if we could talk. I asked if we could do a three way call, but we couldn’t figure it out and decided to group text instead. I carefully brought up that it seemed like they were being judgmental toward Julie, and their judgement of her made me worry they might feel the same about me. All I wanted to do was discuss it. I also didn’t like that they’d spoken about JK while she wasn’t there.

Despite my efforts to try to talk with them openly, that conversation did not go well. J did not love that I confronted her about talking behind JK’s back. A said she was concerned that JK might be in an unhealthy relationship. They both turned it back on me, saying I shouldn’t have to defend how I live if I’m happy, when all I wanted to do was share of myself with them. That hurt.

I attempted to talk it through, but again, J just abruptly left the conversation. A was short and a little abrasive at times, but stayed in the conversation for a few more exchanges and seemed to try to understand my point. I understood hers.

Since then, there hadn’t been any contact at all. Nothing. Not even on the girl’s weekend FB group where plans are made each year. And then, two weeks ago, N asked if we were still planning to go to J’s parent’s cabin. J said she was busy and if someone else wanted to plan, she’d let us know if she could come. A said the same. Two others said they were in. I said life was hectic for the next couple months. It all just felt weird and unresolved. I figured it would, there’d been no contact, no further discussion.

Fearing last year’s exchange was the cause for the evasiveness, I contacted them both again last week by text. I’d had a long time to think about what had transpired.

A didn’t respond at all. J was still very agitated. No matter what I said to try to explain my thinking, to take responsibility for what I perceive as wrongdoings on my part and apologize, to tell her it’s possible I misunderstood their intent, and maybe even responded the way I did because I feared rejection, she wouldn’t hear me. She was angry and defensive, didn’t explain her view, took no responsibility at all, and abruptly left the conversation again. I offered to speak via phone (my preferred method!), but no answer. That was a few days ago.

The thing is, I always think about misunderstandings, I can’t just ignore them. I have this need to understand what went wrong.  I always evaluate them to see what part I played, so I can take responsibility and apologize, understand the other person’s view and feelings if I can, and learn from my mistakes. I certainly don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I don’t mean to, but I know I do sometimes.

I also have a history of taking responsibility for things I shouldn’t, because I don’t want the other person to feel bad. I feel other’s feelings so deeply, that I often allow them to overshadow my own.

My history also consists of instances where I’ve fostered these sort of co-dependent tendencies in some relationships. I’d do things to keep the other person around, seek approval, giving and offering, and hoping they accept that offering of myself and appreciate it. I’d give my all, putting others before myself, protecting their feelings above my own.

These are all things for which I’ve had to be acutely aware, but I feel like I’ve made some positive strides. I’m in a much better place; I know what healthy looks and feels like. I have some healthy friendships with some amazing people (which I constantly analyze, lol). I know that it’s sometimes not possible to mend a misunderstanding and it has nothing to do with me.

And I know it will pass, but it still hurts when it feels like someone who was a friend doesn’t care enough to try to work through a misunderstanding. It always will.