I have been debating whether to post this here or at my personal blog. I think this one is a rare occurrence where it belongs in both.
Getting out more isn’t just going places and seeing new things. It’s a lot more than new outward experiences. It is about challenging yourself. Buying the ticket. Taking the ride. It’s about getting out of your comfort zone. And sometimes it is about getting the shit kicked out of you.
In the last few years, I have been dealing with a lot of changes in my life. Some of these changes were a long time coming. Some of these changes were a direct consequence of other changes in my life that were a result of my choices. Your comfort zone has a lot to do with fear, but within that fear isn’t the fear of pain as much as it is the loss of familiarity. We often adapt to some really awful situations and find more comfort in the known damage that is done to us, rather than the unknown. Maybe it could get worse? Or even still, maybe it is better but it can’t last!
Anyone who reads my other blog knows some of the things that I have been processing and dealing with over the last several years. But I have had help along the way. And some of the help I have had has been the person I was a long time ago, who had been buried underneath years of a no win situation. I stayed there out of loyalty, out of protection of my family, and then at the end, I found myself just waiting my life out because I didn’t believe anything could change. I stayed out of fear. Fear of germs. Fear of security. Fear of safety. Fear of retribution. It was a perfect environment for learned helplessness.
The high-conflict classes I took a few years ago talked about recovering from learned helplessness, which is what happens when any decision you make will result in pain…which means you would rather just endure the pain and wait for the comfort of death than make the “wrong” decision.
I have been reading a lot
I started off my early days on my own reading blogs about abusive relationships, narcissists, and what to do to escape. After that, I was given a copy of Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. I got a lot of good insights from this book, but found it very limited when it comes to actual relationships. I started to notice that just about any reliance on someone else was considered codependency in the book. There was little room for interpersonal relationships when you have to be an island. Apparently Melody isn’t a Simon and Garfunkle or John Donne fan.
I already knew that my marriage was awful. Really, it hadn’t been a marriage for years. But I was finally away from it and wanted to find out how to do things better. I started figuring out what that meant. I was interested in a few women, I started talking to a few of them, and sometimes I would get shot down. I tried dating sites and found nothing there, other than some brief conversations and a carousel of narcissists. The commercials on TV and shows makes it look so easy. The vast majority of who is “out there” on dating apps are spam bots. They aren’t even real people. And the real people who are there are just looking for one night stands; as few and far between as they might be.
That’s not my cup of tea.
But still, I did meet someone when I was least expecting to (not on an app either). Someone amazing. We got to know each other. Fell in love. But both of us were fresh out of long marriages, so our timing was sometimes off. We were sorting through ways to communicate, but there were moments neither of us was being heard. Desperately trying to leave behind old baggage as we collected new baggage with each other.
Our rollercoaster romance was punctuated with many perfect moments, however. Better than I had ever known, in fact. Road trips, hot air balloon rides, quality time together, moonlight walks, and even moments apart where we kept in touch and shared the journeys, separated by many miles. She brought me back to my faith, challenged me, and I hope to think we learned from each other.
When all of that ended, I was heartbroken. No, that is an understatement.
“There’s so much confusion…I can’t get no relief”
–All Along the Watchtower
As I mentioned other posts, my relationships with my kids were rocky since the divorce.
A lifetime of doubt threatened to drown me. What was it I had done? Did I not deserve anything good in this life? When looking back, you see a few bright spots overshadowed by a very painful history of relationships, you can’t help but wonder if the common denominator is you. Well, it is and it isn’t.
The reality of it is you are the only one who is stuck there, unless you decide to do something about it. I decided to fill my big brain up with information. Maybe the wisdom of others would shake something loose.
–Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2
I read three Steven Pressfield books, including the War of Art. Pressfield states quite accurately that resistance is a very real manifestation of evil and it will eventually kill you. Not only artistically, but in relationships, work, and personal growth. I was familiar with that on many levels. This book was instrumental in me pulling my bootstraps tight and pulling my self out of the mud. But that was more about the writing, which I had let go fallow for too long.
When my relationship fell apart, I started reading Cloud and Townsend books. I read three. Boundaries, Boundaries in Dating, and Beyond Boundaries. The takeaway from these faith-based books is establishing good boundaries is healthy. But at some point, you need to open those boundaries up to include people in healthy ways into your life and your heart. The better the boundaries, the better the people you will attract. This isn’t to say boundaries are to keep people out, but to offer structure for what is acceptable and what isn’t in your life. You might not get a say on how someone treats you, but you can decide what you will tolerate. And even how to start over again in trusting.
The next book was Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson. Opposed to the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy method of Codependent No More, it acknowledges that people are hard-wired for relationship. This is Emotionally Based Therapy; EBT. It doesn’t run from allowing yourself to be reliant on other people. It accepts it, when done in healthy ways. It also told me a lot about the pain I was experiencing from the loss of many relationships during the last few years. This was true physical pain! Things started to make sense. I began to own my pain.
But I couldn’t shake the thought of” what did I do wrong?” Why couldn’t I shake this pain? I was in a funk and it was affecting the rest of my life in horrible ways.
Sharing the story
Now, should I admit any of this? I’ve heard a mixed bag of responses to getting all of this down in words. Don’t ever admit defeat. Pretend like nothing bothers you. Don’t share so much. Don’t give them the satisfaction! Is this for negative attention? What purpose does this serve?
No. The answer is as a writer, this is how I process what has happened in my life. I think I have been general enough about the details so that it resonates with people, and isn’t just a confessional. My goal is for the reader to come along with me, not to drive my damage down their throat.
There is, after all, an upside. A light at the end of this tunnel.