Friday, August 30, 2013

One benefit of surviving pain

As I get to know Hawk, I'm realizing that pain is pain. There is no such thing as comparing the validity of the experience or who gets to say they had it worse.

He suffered too, which may be why he gets it when I talk about the things I learned from my marriage. But when he talks about his experiences, he knows. He knows that feeling of not being able to bear it, of having nowhere else to turn, or having to give up and not knowing how.

I'm so thankful that those experiences woke him up instead of ...

Well, let me back up to how I used to deal with the pain so you can see the contrast.

I used to block the pain by filling my mind with a variety of things that effectively kept me numb to my experiences.
  1. Anger, blame, bitterness. - When I could simplify the problem as someone else's fault, giving me no choice, then I felt there was nothing I could do.
  2. And so I felt free to fill my mind with distractions.- I could forget. I could even feel happy and pretend I enjoyed my life, so long as I didn't think about it. 
(Now, as a temporary measure distraction is excellent. I use it every month when my moods swing into depression because I know the source and that it is a rise in sensitivity that will go away on schedule. Recognizing when someone is actively causing harm is fine, too, since it's not healthy to take the blame for problems you didn't cause.)

When blame and distraction become a constant state, they're not so helpful. I was emotionally numb, cognitively asleep, and unable to function in stable relationship with anyone.  It wasn't until I broke down and faced my pain that I began to heal. Because facing it for real forced me to change. I knew if I didn't alter something, I'd go right back to the numb cloud, and by that point I was suicidal, so it wasn't comforting to stay there. (I had a lot of help ... but that's another story.)

So, Hawk took his pain and faced it. He let it wake him up from the general sense that everything can be handled if you just manipulate life enough. He realized "there are problems I can't handle alone."  Facing the destruction of his dreams changed his perspective. And now he is even more compassionate than before because he knows how painful it is to face such overwhelming odds.

People who haven't been there rarely know what to say to someone at the breaking point. It's one of the benefits of surviving ... that you can then help others make it through and begin healing.

Like me, he has scars and unhealed wounds. I feel privileged to be connected to him, because he has every reason to keep others away, to close them out. Yet we are friends, and I am trusted with his story.

That's amazing!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

How to deal with past pain ... now

Nobody can take the burden of being "the one who heals" the other.

Some try.

During my marriage I often thought of myself as the healer ... the restorer ... the savior ...  of everyone, really,... and it tore me to pieces. I accepted accusations of failure even though I really didn't have the resources to handle the abuse, the demands, the constant drain.

Who knows why I thought I should have that strength. I was very religious, so in a way, I felt the ability to be enough for other's expectations and needs must be an inherent characteristic of good people. I wanted to be good so I tried to act the role. I thought it was my responsibility to fix everything, for others first and myself ... never.

It wasn't.

I was trying to be the sea when I was merely a channel somewhat capable of transporting water. And that, only as long as I hadn't been blocked by damage to my structure.  The blockage and damage were significant. We were in the same place of need, and I was trying to have enough for everyone. I needed a healer myself.

With Hawk the relationship is very different. I'm not trying to fix him, though it will be nice if he heals within our friendship. What I am doing is consciously allowing myself to heal because he very conveniently stumbles into my wounds and alerts me to their presence. And I'm being honest with him about that process whenever it arises between us.

He doesn't even have to try. Just living his independent life is enough to trigger my wounds at this point. When I want to cling and feel sad because he's not right there taking care of me, I realize how easy it is to be dependent ... to put the burden of my healing on another.

It's not his job!

Even if we were dating it would be wrong of me to expect that level of over-protection from him. So I don't expect it. I did let him know that I consciously choose not to demand anything of him, even if I might react emotionally at times and then realize later the full spectrum of what I was expecting and need to apologize.

He is still healing, himself, after all.

We both have our own first-aid kits, and it so happens that we each have some items (healing practices and attitudes) that the other doesn't. We can share that knowledge and insight with each other, and so heal a little faster. I can learn from him whether he triggers my hurt or my joy. And I'm so thankful that he is a gentle person, because he doesn't make things worse as a general rule. In fact, he is very encouraging.

I'm used to being told where I ought to be by far too many people, and have been surprised at how accepting he is of  "where I actually stand."

Because I'm already wounded I will be easily hurt by Hawk. I already know this, so hopefully it won't surprise me too much. Even doctors cause pain as they attempt to understand the extent of the damage, and as they actively assist in healing there is often further pain.

Pain is necessary information. It lets me know where problems are, and often whether I've found a solution specific to the problem. I  remain aware of my needs and path to healing by asking these kinds of questions.

  • Why does this hurt me?
  • Has he actually done something purposefully to hurt me, or is he just dealing with his own stuff?
  • Is my current pain only because of what just happened, or is it bringing up older wounds that haven't been dealt with?
  • Do I need to let him know how I feel about this, or is this feeling so disconnected from what he did that it is better to face the past before I overreact?
  • Have I acknowledged that past hurt and faced the damage it did to me?
  • Do I need to forgive anyone? (This isn't for their sake, but for mine. Hanging onto the past wounds me physically as well as emotionally. A bitter or fearful attitude affects my body by preventing me from resting, preventing my body from healing naturally, and by triggering unneeded emergency chemical communications through my system to further burn out my nerves and cells.)
  • How could I respond differently to this situation?
  • Am I believing any lies as a result of the wound?
  • What could I change in the way I deal with this that might change how it affects me?

Then I tell myself.

"I can't control what others do, but I'm always in charge of how I respond. How can I turn this into a story that will help me (and others) heal without trying to control anyone other than myself?"

And then, I move toward living that story. Or at least I do on good days.... This is why I need healthy friendships to help me keep balance. It isn't a quick ... or easy process. I often face the same lie again and again, each time sneaking up in a slightly different disguise.

"Everyone who is nice to me is lying," is one lie I've had to battle for years.

I still fight with it as I deal with Hawk ... because he is very kind to me. *laugh* I view that kindness with a suspicion he doesn't deserve.

But I'm learning to tell the truth instead of the lie when I hear it in my head.

"There are people who pretend to be nice just to deceive or get what they want, so it's okay to stay alert and identify individual patterns. BUT for the most part people who are kind actually mean it, and it is healthier for me to take their word for it."

As a result, I remain open enough to discover new friends, which is worth a few painful moments now and then.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

When love falls apart

My dear friend, C, has faced a lot worse relationships than I have, physical beatings as well as emotional destruction. I admire her for still being a loving, growing, beautiful woman after all she has been through. It would make sense to be bitter, and she isn't.

About a year ago, she reconnected with her childhood sweetheart. Everything was wonderful. After multiple abusive marriages, she thought she had finally found someone who accepted her for herself and was willing to walk beside her through life. She was so happy.

I began to feel that maybe loving again wasn't so unrealistic. After all, C and N were doing great together. Maybe you just need to know each other really well? I thought.

They got married ... and now only a few months in ... its already over. She wasn't who he thought she was when he married her. He wasn't willing to work it out with her even though she desperately wanted to go in for counselling.

I'm not idealistic enough to think only one of them had issues. They both went in with preexisting wounds that would cause sensitivity to things that might otherwise have been tolerable. I do wish he had at least tried to work it through instead of running. They might have managed to heal together and support each other with some effort.

Now they are separating. I don't know enough about their relationship to understand why ... but I do know this.

I'm afraid of living that story. It affects how I think of Hawk. And I'm very, very thankful that we are merely friends right now, because if we were dating I'd pull back because of what C is going through. I feel wary.

How can anyone know?

Sometimes those relationships work out. I've met couples that only knew each other for a few weeks before getting engaged ... or who reconnected after years of separation. They have strong and mutually supportive relationships, somehow. So I don't think the problem is universal, or perhaps it is?

Maybe, instead, one might say that most people don't know or implement the solutions to our common relational problems. If only one is willing to try, it isn't going to be enough. A relationship needs both people.

Every individual brings their past into every present interaction. And when you have two people who have been hurt, it's going to cause problems even if they both choose to heal no matter what the other person does.

No one person can take the full burden of being "the one who heals" the other.

And there isn't anyone who is capable of being in a close relationship without hurting the other person at some point, even if they never intend to do so. Everyone is different, and that comes with misunderstandings.

It's worth thinking about, next time.  How do you heal a relationship before it falls apart?

I don't know ... but I do have some observations from the perspective of one who has been on the receiving end of a whole lot of problematic "solutions" that caused more problems than they solved. And I know what helped me to heal enough to open my heart.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Please forgive my temporary anonymity.

The names you will find in these posts are fictitious, but the events and thoughts are my real life. I always appreciate people who honestly share the story from the center of the struggle, so I thought I'd share mine for others who feel this way.

These are my thoughts ...

I'm still too wounded to reveal my story where random (unfriendly) acquaintances may see it, but I strongly believe that our inner life is meant to be shared openly so we can build honest relationships and learn from each other.

I keep secrets for others, but choose not to create secrets myself. They tend to turn to poison. So ... eventually, I will connect my real life to this place. But for now only my best friends will know (therefore it isn't much of a secret) along with those of you who happen to pass this way.

You are welcome to talk about and link/share my story. I only ask that you treat me as a friend, even when we disagree. I have closed comments. This journey isn't about feedback, but transparency. However, if you really want to respond somehow, you can email me via the form, below.

Am I right?

Am I wrong?

That isn't the point.

I am only revealing where I stand ... as best I know ... for now. I change every day as I learn from my experiences, and who knows what will happen tomorrow.

This is my path to healing. Perhaps it will spark a similar journey for you.

I can't wait to discover what tomorrow holds!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Honesty and Restraint - becoming friends

This post is excerpted from my journal, edited, and back-dated to the day of writing.
What Hawk said last night, during our discussion of how much phone time we will have and what limits are best so he won’t feel pressured has sent me off on an analysis of how I view relationships in general, and what defines the difference between friendship, dating, engagement, marriage, etc.

I find this ironic since, last year, I was at first entirely certain I’d never be interested in any man ever again, and then (after the shock of realization that I was attracted to Hawk) determined to force him out of my head … which didn't work so well.

(Ree took the brunt of that flood of ranting about how unfair it is that I should fall in love ... and survived rather well -- even if she did laugh at me like the true friend she is.)

Hawk's comment, as best I can remember was, “If we were dating I’d understand talking every day, but since we’re friends I think a couple times a week is enough.”

I haven’t thought about dating yet … what with believing it couldn't happen and all. According to his measure of relationship as I understand it thus far, I’m linked to several of my friends at a frequency level that would make him feel nervous.

Which makes sense, since for him I’m a new discovery. He hasn't been thinking about me since last November ... like I've been thinking about him. He can have all the time he needs, since I took plenty myself … and STILL need more … How can he be both terrifying AND so very reassuring. Augh!

I’m prepared to adjust to his feedback, whatever it may be. I need that reality from him, too. That is what I hoped to learn from when I connected in the first place. If I must be attracted to someone, at least he is choosing to be honest while befriending me.

But the fact is, I’m always adjusting to the other person’s level of comfort in every friendship. So the reality isn't “I speak to all my friends every day,” but rather, “Sometimes we end up speaking every day for long periods of time, and other times I don’t hear from them for weeks or months, until I remind them that I’m beginning to be concerned about whether they’re still alive.” It probably does average out to “a couple times a week” sometimes even for my closest friends.

I know I can only maintain so many relationships at frequent, deep connection.

The weaker connections are naturally pressed out by the stronger, and they weave together, time-wise, in a way I sincerely believe is orchestrated. Somehow I always seem to have time when it’s really important, and so far if two friends need me at the same time I've either been able to manage going back and forth between them or there is someone else they can rely on instead.

Other times, I’m left feeling a bit disconnected when … aaaallll... my friends seem to be busy elsewhere. But I’m okay with being alone, too. Sometimes I purposefully keep the various social sites closed because I need silence and time to think … like today.

Because Hawk is uncomfortable with daily interaction right now, then that is where we are. And because I understand why … to some extent, at least … I’m fine with that.

I want the best for him, even if it means … losing him. I don’t want to think about not being friends with him right now. It makes me sad, since we just started.

But I will be very happy to hear from him … any time … just like I am with Mica, Ree, Bri, Nic,.... etc. Hawk could wake me up at 3am with a call like Nic did in his crisis and I’d be thrilled, even if I miss my sleep, because it would demonstrate that he trusts me and that trust is more important to me than my rest. (I’m not quite that patient with my kids … familiarity? Well, they have me all day, every day.)

Most of all, I accept his limits because those limits prove he trusts me with where he is. He was pretty honest about his usual strategy of avoidance when he feels overwhelmed, and that it was hard for him to be straightforward. He chose to imitate my transparency and trusted me to see his vulnerability through my disappointment.

So yeah, I'm feeling disappointed, but also ... thankful that this is real. Friendship is way more than I ever thought would happen between us.

Now that I’m left with the realization that it’s possible for me to love again, I guess it’s time to analyse what I think about relationships. What would qualify someone as date-able? Hmm...