Codependency. Just Codependency.

Let’s assume that the guy I’m seeing does not have Asperger’s and that story was all a delusion I made up to make myself feel better for seeing him. It’s an excusable reason for why I’d be okay with his behavior last week at the diner. If he has it, it allows me to continue hanging out with my group of friends, which includes him, without feeling disrespected, because dude cannot help it.

The other alternative is that we never figure it out because either I never mention it to him, or he doesn’t accept my theory. How would you feel if a friend diagnosed you with a neurological disorder associated with a lack of empathy towards others? I sure wouldn’t like it.

One of my friends seemed convinced Jay had Asperger’s, until I told him I decided I don’t care, and I’m going to continue hanging out with dude, because if dude is a robot, well, he’s the sweetest robot I know. And Aspies aren’t robots anyway. So then this particular friend said that he didn’t want to see me get hurt because he saw how hurt I was over the ex, and it seemed to him that I’ve made up this diagnosis because the fact that dude is just not into me would be an unbearable truth for me.

As much as I’d like for you all to think I’m a nice girl, and that I’m in love with this man, the truth is, I am not. I’ve got the easiest situation in the world, which is that I get to see my lover once a week, and I spend the rest of my time doing what I enjoy doing, which is write this blog, spend time with friends, do all of my self-care things I like to do. Maybe one day my heart will get broken again—and that’s a risk worth taking—but it won’t be with this guy. I want to be in love with him more than I actually am. Let’s be real here.

bullshit

Let’s take a step back. What did the guy do? He talked about another woman’s boobs in front of other guys with me present, which I interpreted to mean that he doesn’t care what I think or how I feel. When I got upset, I looked at Spencer the whole time, leading one to believe I was upset with Spencer when in reality I was pissed at Jay.

It’s unfair for me to expect him to feel and act like I’m the love of his life when I know he’s not the love of my life.

As much as I’d love to believe men don’t sit around talking to each other about this or that woman’s tits or ass over there, men of his generation absolutely do. Probably they all do—I really do not know. But I know that I certainly noticed her enormous boobs. Would I have brought it up to my friends? I doubt it. But what if we could see guys’ packages? And someone with a huge one just walked right in the door? I wish guys had to walk around with their junk showing for all the world to see. The rest of us could be like, Wow, that dude has a micropenis. Hope for his sake he’s a grower. And let me tell you, I certainly noticed the gargantuan hands of this 6’4” co-worker of mine, and I absolutely did talk about it to the other women after he left. To this day I talk about it. He’s a good-looking dude. With huge hands. It’s just the truth.

Maybe Jay has Asperger’s and maybe he doesn’t—I’m not a psychologist so I don’t know. Whether he does or not, isn’t it better to just be direct and straightforward with him, and everyone else?

So that’s where I am with that. One of my friends said I have a diagnosis for everyone, which may be true. But like I said before, everyone has something. I can’t help it that I have intuitive powers. 😉

Of course I’d rather be in love with someone who was in love with me. But right now I have someone who I enjoy spending time with, and neither of us is ready to get into a serious relationship with anyone. Why not just enjoy this for what it is? And stop trying to make it into something it’s not. When school starts back I won’t have time to create drama where it doesn’t exist.

Of course I’d rather Jay and I be in love with each other. But we are not. I want him to love me and treat me like a queen, yet I don’t feel that way about him, so it’s not really fair of me to have that kind of expectation. And as they say, expectations are just resentments in the making.

The more time I spend with Jay the less I have a chance of meeting the right man. I *should* be single (my former sponsor used to tell me: Do not should all over yourself). I do not have time for a relationship, and sex without love is unfulfilling. There are so many reasons why I should walk away. Spend this time focusing only on me.

But I just cannot do it. Today. So this might be a codependency relapse.

know-and-feel

One of the characteristics of codependents that always makes me cringe when we read it in my meeting is that we accept sex without love. I don’t like to think of myself that way because I have this shame around sex, that I’m just not a “good girl” if I do that. I want to not care. I want to be able to say that I can walk away, giving a fist pump in the air, and that you all will cheer me on: good for you and you be you and don’t take that shit. I want you all to read my blog and think, Wow, what a badass courageous woman she is, and I want to have the strength and courage to take the hard road for spiritual growth.

By the way, my ex sent me an email last week. He forwarded an article about a topic we both share an interest in (alcoholism), without any message in the email. Since there was no question in it, and I don’t know what he was trying to accomplish, I did not respond. If he wants to feel forgiven for breaking my heart, he’s just going to have to wait. That wound will take a long time to heal. As much as I wish that relationship had worked, it did not, and there’s nothing I can do about that today.

I really do have a good life today with friends and a woman I sponsor in AA, and I’m showing up to my CODA meetings, and I have a sponsor there. I’ll see my therapist in a couple of days, and I will keep doing this thing. I don’t have to drink over it today, and that is a blessing.

In the past, when I was in a loveless relationship before, before my ex and before CODA, my AA sponsor asked me, What do you want to do today?

So that’s what I’ll focus on: today. One day at a time.

Here’s a good quote I found on Pinterest and which originated from lonerwolf.com. God, I look forward to the day this happens for me.

healing2

Codependency and Asperger’s: A Marriage Made In Heaven?

Here’s the short answer: No.

But let’s not dismiss the person with Asperger’s (the “Aspie”) as someone who lacks caring for others. They are not robots. They have emotions. They just can’t read yours. No one has telepathy.

Here’s an article I came across from a psychologist, and this quote in particular stood out to me: “The Aspie needs to recognize that he or she does indeed have zero degrees of empathy. And, the Aspie needs to stop expecting that his or her grasp of the facts should rule. The NT [neurotypical, non-Asperger’s person] needs to recognize that zero degrees of empathy can co-exist with feelings of caring.”

The common belief is that Aspies lack empathy, but here’s a blog post I read in which the writer states: “If you don’t realize others are seeing and feeling different things, you might well act less caring toward them… But that doesn’t mean, once people with autism spectrum disorder do become aware of other people’s experience, that they don’t care or want to connect…. Studies have found that when people are overwhelmed by empathetic feelings, they tend to pull back. When someone else’s pain affects you deeply, it can be hard to reach out rather than turn away. For people with autism spectrum disorder, these empathetic feelings might be so intense that they withdraw in a way that appears cold or uncaring.”

When I think back to particular situations with my dad and with Jay, this explains a lot.

Once I remember my dad crying in frustration after I spent a week in bed, not coming out of my room except to go to the bathroom or eat, because I was so depressed at that time. “I’m just worried about you!” he’d said.

3love

(The above quote came from this site.)

So much more is becoming clear to me. Yesterday I spent reviewing Jay’s behavior, confirming all the little clues I got but didn’t see at the time, that there’s no way he does not have Asperger’s. I read this article, How to Be a Better Friend to an Adult with Asperger’s, and I felt compassion for this man, and for my dad, who’ve lived their entire lives mimicking others’ behavior just to appear normal to everyone else. I can see how AA (Jay and I are both sober alcoholics, for anyone new to this blog) is a safe place for him, because it offers an instruction manual for how to live. Interestingly, he accepts the belief in a higher power (probably unlike a lot of Aspies), maybe because of his Catholic upbringing, which a lot of alcoholics reject for the same reason.

The person with Asperger’s syndrome (AS) appears cold and distant, when really they just don’t know how to pick up on nuance, hints, body language even. The fact that most of us don’t always say what we mean—that’s an eye-opener to me. Yet it’s so obvious, now that I think of it. When I first read about it in a friend’s blog, my initial interpretation of her post was that she felt that her friends were just playing a charade of being her friend, so why bother reaching out. But actually, she’s just being honest about how people behave. And it’s true. We do not always say what we mean. In fact, we often do not. In the Four Agreements, Don Ruiz writes about the importance of being “impeccable” with your word. This is true for everyone, not just those communicating with Aspies. Having grown up in a passive aggressive family (and culture really), it becomes second nature, until someone points out that we try to control and manipulate others through this passive aggressive behavior. I might have said, “I’m fine,” when really I was not fine. I might have been angry for days with my first husband without telling him, bottling it up, leaving him only to guess what he’d done that displease me, until I finally just exploded ragefully in a drunken fit. I learned in AA not to do this anymore, so I did/do my best not to act that way after I got sober.

My codependency (maybe?) appeared when I started devising schemes for how to tell Jay he probably has this psychological disability. I must rescue him! (Yeah, right.) I thought, we (our group of friends) all need to understand this so we can better communicate with him, and he needs to know so he can better understand himself and get the help he needs. Though I’m not sure yet what a person with AS does to get help. Everyone in my family thinks my dad has it, and sadly, that knowledge (so far) has not changed anyone’s way of communicating with him—though I must say it will change mine, and I do want to go on a crusade to communicate with the rest of the family about how we should go about interacting with him. I do think it’s made my uncle be more forgiving towards him, though they still butt heads. Perhaps I’ll get a book and buy them all the same book so we can read up on this. Or at least send them an article. Here are the cliff’s notes—and I’m a beginner at this so bear with me; I’ll probably have more information later—but for now: be very direct and literal in your language, and mean what you say. Do not take offense when the person says something that seems cold or distant because they’re really just telling it the way they see it, and if they say something that sounds like a quote from a book, they’re probably just mimicking what they’ve learned to show as “normal” behavior.

Does that mean we just excuse whatever thing they might say, even if it hurts our feelings? No. I think we can just explain why we disagree, but then each of us has to be willing to allow the other person their opinion or feelings. Does it mean that if I were to choose to go back to Jay—which I’m not—that he’d change or I’d be his hero? Nope. Been there, done that. I read several books on bipolar disorder (which my ex had), was committed to going to support groups, I thought/hoped CODA (Codependents Anonymous) would save our relationship (it did not), was ready to be his loyal life partner and stepmother to his kids—and all of that did not save our relationship. I still made a serious mistake, and mistakes were not allowed! The mistake was inevitable, and I could not control the relationship or him or his feelings, nor could I change who I was or how I felt at a particular time. If I could do it over I wouldn’t have said the words that hurt my ex so badly. But trust me, I’d have made some other mistake at some other time. There would eventually be something I’d done or said wrong that I didn’t know about, something he’d bring up later. And this is actually how an Aspie feels—that they could say or do the wrong thing at any time, and their partner may be holding back something they may spring on them at any moment.

That’s not to say no one can have a relationship with someone with bipolar disorder or Asperger’s. Just that it was more work than I could continue doing. Having grown up in a broken home where no one’s relationship ever worked out, relationships are hard enough for me as it is.

But in many ways, as a codependent/adult child, I was the perfect partner for someone with a neurological disorder. Adapting to whoever or whatever appeared, no matter how damaging, and the willingness to work with it no matter what, held our relationship together. But if the other person isn’t willing to work with me, the relationship cannot stay together, not in a healthy way. And that kind of relationship just was not good for me personally. I do believe there’s someone for everyone though.

This is my opportunity to be real about what I want out of a relationship, and what I want is someone willing to commit to me, be open with me, communicate honestly with me, and allow us each our own space. I know I will find that person one day.

forget

Is Everyone Crazy, or Is It Just Me?

Probably just me, or all of us really.

After writing yesterday’s post, and then reading up on Asperger’s syndrome, I became convinced that the guy I was seeing had it. All the signs were there: he didn’t understand subtle clues, facial expressions, or innuendo, in this or that situation. I remember at one point interpreting my words for him into more direct language, and him being like, Okay cool, yeah, I feel that way too. It was one of those situations that seemed obvious to me. He often used formal language, even in texts, which just seemed quirky and cute at the time. Once, I’d told him I was worried about my sister, because my mom’s death hit her harder than my other sister and me, and he paused and said, “I’m sure you love your sister…” Just a bizarre thing to say. Of course I love her. Let’s see… what else? He’s detached, he doesn’t touch people much, and he often asked me, “What would you like for me to do?” And he’d say, “I’ll do whatever. Just tell me when to be there and I will.” He was not kidding when he told me in the beginning he really does not know what to do. It makes me feel sorry for him. If he really has that, what a lonely and confusing life.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to adjust my communication style and start seeing him again. That’s what I’d have tried to do with my ex, who had bipolar disorder. Read every book on the subject and learn how to make life more comfortable for him, to make our relationship better. And I just cannot do that again. As cold as it sounds, I can no longer morph myself into being the person I think others want me to be, and instead I need to look for someone who jibes with me and who I am. I’ve lived my life for too long trying to change who I am just to feel accepted, instead of being who I am and letting others accept that. I don’t mean to be uncompromising, just not so easily adaptable.

On a positive note, this may help me better communicate with my father. Everyone in my family has been convinced he has Asperger’s for years, and I rejected that notion, insisting he’s simply an active alcoholic with self-centered, anti-social behavior. After reading these articles, I can see exactly where they’re coming from. He absolutely does not get sarcasm or innuendos. He makes occasional eye contact, probably because he’s learned that’s what you do when you talk to people. He often refers to people in third person, and everyone has a nickname. He likes everything to be direct science, and he doesn’t believe in God, yet he says it’s okay to go to church because “it makes you feel better.” He could not explain it in any other words than that to me. I really think he has spent his entire life guessing at what people wanted. My mom had said that they went into marriage counseling before their divorce, and the therapist said he had the emotional maturity of a 13-year-old. That was in the 80s, before anyone knew about Asperger’s. That must’ve been such a frustrating situation for him to be in, to be so misunderstood. And it must’ve felt so impossible to be married to him. And I could’ve been asking him for money for years and I bet he’d have given it to me, at least sometimes. Not without complaining that I was freeloader and criticizing me to my sisters and to my face, but still. Just kidding. That would’ve sucked for me (and for him), and I had too much pride to do that. Not that pride is a good thing—I could’ve at least asked for money more often. But it doesn’t matter now.

In ten days I’ll see my father, which is the same day a year ago my mom died. It also happens to be the day of the eclipse. I’ll try this new direct way of communicating, without hinting at anything, without speaking in metaphor, without sarcasm. Which really, should not be a thing anyway. Wouldn’t it be nice if we always said what we meant?

I want to write more, like how, even though I don’t want to see Jay again in any way, I want to find out if he has Asperger’s, because people fascinate me, and I feel like a sleuth, figuring out what disorders they have. My sister says everyone has something because this world is hard to live in, and I think maybe that’s true. If we don’t all have something, I wonder if soon we all will. I read that 1 in 45 children have some form of autism now, which makes me wonder if we’ll have a society of robotic-like people one day in the future. Then this woman I met at a meeting came into the store where I work yesterday, and gave off some serious Single White Female vibes, and I started getting paranoid that she has borderline personality disorder or some kind of stalker-like tendencies, due to that and some other things she said that I’ll probably write about in a future post. All I know is that either I’m attracting people with mental disorders, I have a mental disorder myself, or everyone is just crazy and this kind of thing is inevitable, or I’m just paranoid. To be continued.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite scenes from Orange Is the New Black, which is Crazy Eyes’s definition of love. My sponsor says everyone is crazy, you just have to find the person who has your brand of crazy. The one who’s crazy complements yours.

Respect Yourself

There comes a time in a person’s life when you have to say enough is enough. We can talk about forgiveness and apologies and keeping an open mind all day, but when another person shows absolutely zero respect for you, you’ve got to show love for yourself, and walk away.

bring-to-the-table

(The above quote was taken from this website.)

After the meeting the other night, at which a new attractive young woman showed up, the first thing the guys set in on was, “WOW. What a knockout!” By the guys, I mean Spencer. He went on about how hot she was and the first thing Jay says is, “What I want to know is how you get a rack like that.”

That’s when I snapped.

“Well that’s a shitty thing to say,” was all I could say, because I was so flabbergasted. In what universe did it seem okay to talk like that around me? But I figure I’m going to stay quiet because otherwise I’ll just look jealous, while Spencer goes on about how smart she was, she seems to have her shit together, she’s on her way to Syracuse, she’s visiting friends in Rockville, blah blah yada yada. But Jay’s comment was seared into my brain, and Spencer really could’ve shut the hell up then and there but nope, he kept going. So then I really snapped.

“Why don’t we keep talking about Bob?” That was her name, unfortunately for her. Not really, because this is an anonymous blog, but very close. I went on: “Let’s talk about how big her tits were, how pretty she was…” and then Jay interrupted me: “Oh, she was pretty? I didn’t see her face. I was zoned in on her tits.”

WOW.

I totally lost it then.

I didn’t learn until later when I talked to Spencer about it that he thought I was joking at first. I think the guys were surprised by my reaction. I don’t think they expected nice little people-pleaser me to spew forth venom like that. But let me tell you, I let them have it.

I showed my anger, and anger, my friends, is a valid emotion. These guys were being disrespectful. Jay was. Jim actually never said anything at all about Bob or women’s body parts. James didn’t either. James made a few jokes, feeding off them, which actually were quite funny, and I laughed. What he said was something like, “Oh I didn’t notice how pretty she was. I was thinking about her IQ.” Spencer didn’t need to go on and on about her, but he mostly just talked about her as though he’d fallen in love with her, as he does with every pretty woman he sees, because he’s a romantic and he dresses up lust as love as most of us in AA do, especially in early sobriety.

The one who really messed up (I’ll use polite language) was Jay. This is the guy I was seeing. For some reason he thought it was okay to talk about women like that. In front of me. And in front of the guys, with me there. First of all, that he even feels that way, that all he could see was her boobs, she’s just body parts to him, that right there tells me all I need to know about who he is.

It gets worse.

At the time, I felt as though I had lost control of my temper, and I wanted to appear rational and not jealous. At one point Spencer said, “Well you were the most beautiful girl in the room,” so obviously it was too late for me to not appear jealous. I pointed out that it didn’t matter. But really. Would I want them talking about my boobs that way? Or my ass? Is that how they see me?

So I calmed down, but I didn’t try to hide my feelings or pretend everything was great.

Jay had taken me to the diner from the meeting, which meant he’d have to take me back to my car, which meant we’d have time alone in the car, ample opportunity for him to apologize. The other guys apologized. They felt really bad. Jim told me he’d wanted to high-five me like ten different times when I was letting them have it. And the remorseful look on Spencer’s face almost made me feel sad. And none of them even referred to body parts or not noticing her face. But do you think Jay made any apology at the diner, or in the car? Or the next day via phone call or text?

There is a brain in this head, and a heart in this body. If all I am is a piece of ass to Jay, then he can move right along.

In the car, and even at the diner, after I’d lost it, I thought about God. I thought about what a person with integrity would do, and how to have an open heart. I thought about how it really didn’t matter in the big picture, because I wasn’t in love with Jay (thank God for that), and I didn’t need to hang out with him. He’s allowed his opinions, and I can say how I feel and be on my way. Now that I think of it, at the time I wanted more to show that I’m the bigger person and show forgiveness, which really was dismissing the problem, so it was more about how I appeared to be than how I felt, and it was less to do with forgiveness and more to do with me wanting to look like Mother Teresa. Well guess what? I am not Mother Teresa, and I don’t give a damn if he or they think I’m jealous, hysterical, or whatever the hell they want to think. But at the time, I thought, This doesn’t really matter. But my feelings do matter. What doesn’t matter is how he is, because I can’t change him. But I also I don’t have to spend my time with him.

And Jay said nothing in the car. No apology, no explanation, no nothing. I thought to myself, Oh for the love of God, and finally made small talk. Thank you for the ride. I hope your sinus infection goes away soon. And he wasn’t angry. No, not stony Jay. Nor did he seem afraid. He just made some lousy excuse about feeling out of it, feeling spacey and tired, as if that’s why he was quiet in the car. What a lack of courage. My therapist said he probably didn’t think he had done anything wrong, just as Trump thinks he does nothing wrong. Or that it’s possible he’s confrontation-avoidant, which is no good either.

When we got to my car, I just politely said goodbye, no kiss, and thought, I am so done with you. He had ample opportunity to apologize in the car, to explain he was just joking and being a stupid old guy, that he didn’t really feel that way about her, that he didn’t realize I was so pissed. My dumb ass would’ve probably forgiven him.

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The thing is, I’d also just learned that Saturday night when we were all at the diner, when someone asked him if we were seeing each other, he shook his head and waved his arms as if to say he didn’t know how to answer that question. Are you kidding me? This is a secret? I am NOT someone’s secret. I have done absolutely nothing wrong, I have nothing to be ashamed of, and if you want to date me, you damn sure better be proud to say you’re with me.

Jay revealed his true colors, and I thank God I found it early. When I reflect on times we’ve spent together and how he’d showed no emotion, I remember thinking, Wow, this guy is a LOT like my dad. I think I have something to learn from him. I think I thought I’d discover that there’s a heart in there, and that it would take a long time to learn something from him. Nope. That didn’t take long at all.

I’m not saying my dad or even Jay has no heart. But I am saying that there are some people that just can’t be reached, for whatever reason that I may never know, and I don’t need to know. Because I don’t have to hang out with closed-off robots. I feel sorry for them, but I do not have to be their friend. I can still love my dad because he’s my dad, but he’s never going to be the dad I wanted. He’s just the way he is.

I am so grateful that school starts again soon, that I have a new woman to sponsor in AA, to have women’s meetings, to have friends who are good people. I’m so grateful for Codependents Anonymous, to be growing into my true self, the best version of myself. I’m grateful to be visiting North Carolina soon where I’ll get to see my best friend and my sister. I am grateful that I can choose how I want to spend my time, and who I want to spend it with, and that I have options. No one deserves to be treated with disrespect. We get to choose who we spend our time with.

respect-yourself

Peace and love,

TCH

 

Being True to Yourself

In the September issue of the Lion’s Roar, editor-in-chief Melvin McLeod writes:

Who am I?

We have been asking ourselves that for millennia: What is our essential nature as human beings? What is our role in the universe? How should we live? But I think it would be more helpful to come at the question indirectly, by asking a practical and perhaps even more important question:

What do I really want?

Nothing tells us more about who we are as human beings that examining our deepest longings, hopes, and needs. We are defined by what really makes us happy.

There is another important reason to ask ourselves this question. According to Buddhism, answering it unskillfully is the source of our suffering. Answering it with wisdom—knowing that we truly want and need—is the starting place of the spiritual path.

He goes on to write:

We want love,… We want to be loved, and I think, even more, we want to love.

…That is why the famous practice of loving-kindness starts with ourselves and extends outward.

He points out that a common misconception about Buddhism is that we must sacrifice ourselves, but that actually Buddhism seeks to renounce our suffering and its causes. Being open to what is does not mean ignoring my own needs. Accepting some truth does not mean liking or approving of it. For example, I do not have to commit to someone who’s unwilling to commit to me. May seem obvious, but think about it. How many of us stay in relationships with others who make it clear from the start they don’t want to get married or live with another person? How many of us think we’ll be the ones who change the other person? The truth is, I can’t change anyone but me. But that doesn’t mean staying in a relationship with someone on their terms only and ignoring my own wishes.

My sponsor says what we put out into the world is what we get back. The law of attraction. If I’m ambivalent and I don’t know what I want, I’ll attract that. My tendency has been to fall for someone who doesn’t want to commit, and then rearranging what I want in my own mind. I start thinking that their idea is a good one. Sure, I’ll live on my own forever because I don’t want to deal with his snoring, hogging-the-bed ass anyway. I like my alone time. I need hours of time early in the morning to write, and late at night to read, alone. I want time with my friends, and I want to come and go as I please. At the same time, I want a partner who is committed to me, who’s not going to give me a hard time about my time away from him, yet who wants to spend time with me, and who’s not afraid to tell me how he feels, and I want someone who’s not afraid to tell the rest of the world how he feels about me. He doesn’t need to make an announcement, because that would be weird, but he doesn’t need to keep it a secret.

So what does that mean? What does that look like?

Even after this epiphany, I still don’t know. Do I want to get married again? Do I want to live with another guy again? Would I rather have my own space, and would I be happy with that, as long as I know he’s committed to me? And what does that commitment even look like? But it doesn’t matter, because all I need to focus on is today.

In the meantime I can exercise self-love. And self-love means spending time with people who treat me the way I want to be treated, and treating others as I would want to be treated.

stop-planting

I can also appreciate this time for what it is, rather than long for something that it’s not. When I think about it, what really matters?

A friend of mine commented on a boyfriend I had after my divorce, a guy who I’d seen around and thought was good-looking, but who I knew nothing about–nor did I care to know much, tbh. I mean let’s be real here: I didn’t want a relationship, I was going through a divorce, I felt like I hadn’t had fun in a long time and I wanted to go out and have fun. So that’s what I did. He was interested, and I told him from the start exactly how it was gonna go down. The problem is, this guy was five years younger than me, and psychologically even younger than that, because he didn’t understand that when a person is going through a divorce, if they’re in their right mind (which actually, probably none of us are at that time), the last thing a person wants is another relationship. Though I was honest with him verbally, my actions said differently, because I spent quite a bit of my free time with him, going out to dances, camping, to the beach. Which was crazy because we didn’t have a whole lot in common. But remember that I’m codependent, and I’ve spent my life going from one relationship to the next with very short periods of singlehood in between—and sometimes no periods of singlehood, sometimes the relationships overlapped. So I tried to break it off with that guy after a few months, and guess what? He threatened suicide. He threatened to drink again (he was a sober alcoholic like me). And for some insane reason I still enjoyed, or felt like I needed, to spend time with him because at that time I hated being alone. The whole situation was unfair to him, because that poor guy was really into me. And I was just using him. And that’s not the first time I’ve done that. In fact, I’ve stayed in relationships for far longer than I intended just to have someone to be with. It’s a terrible feeling, knowing deep down you’re not in love with the person, and they’re into you. And everyone asks, What are you thinking dating that dude? Because they know you’re not really into him, and that you have nothing in common, and that you’re just not being true to yourself. And I knew it too. It’s a yucky, yucky feeling.

I’ll elaborate more in a future post, but for now I have to cut this short and get to work. My point is, be true to yourself, stay open to what is, and find gratitude in this moment.

Peace and love,

TCH

PS: I’ll leave you with Tara Brach’s latest talk, which, in part, inspired this post.

Love, Forgiveness, Come On Everybody Sing Kumbaya

Last Wednesday I went to Tara Brach’s dharma talk and meditation, and it was like medicine for my soul. Her words still resonate with me this morning. The topic was forgiveness. When we got ready to meditate, which we did four times (!), she’d asked, “What is it that your heart truly desires?” What is it that you long for the most?

For the longest time when she asked that question, in the past, the first thought that popped into my head was peace. Serenity. Just to feel okay. Not to feel so worried all the time. To feel comfortable in my own skin.

But this time was different. This time I thought, Love. To love and to be loved. Not necessarily in the romantic sense, but just in the general sense of feeling love for everyone around me, and for myself.

When my mother died, I felt the deepest love. I still do, when I think of her. I imagine it’s that way for all of us: when someone you love dies, all you want is to tell them how much you love them, what an impact in your life they made, what a good person she was, what a good job she’d done as a mother and as a person on this earth. How sorry I was that I didn’t express that love more often. Even when my coworker Pedro died, I wished I’d had the chance to tell him what a good impact he’d made on our little corner of the world. To this day customers come to the store asking about him. He brightened everyone’s day.

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(The above quote I found on Pinterest, and traced it back to this beautiful blog.)

So when I think of some perceived wrong someone else has done to me, it helps to think of how I’d feel if that person died–as morbid as that sounds, but it’s a way to cherish that person’s presence in my life, to let go and let those old wounds heal. I have to ask myself, In the end, does it really matter? That thing that I’m holding onto, is it really that important?

Nothing feels better than just loving someone, flaws and all. Forgiving them for not being perfect, understanding that they’re doing the best they know how to do, and seeing that we all experience pain and suffering. You never know what someone else is going through. Hurt people hurt people. That doesn’t make everything okay but it can help to try to understand where someone else is coming from.

Some wounds will take longer to heal. But I can begin by being willing to forgive, or by asking my higher power to give me the willingness to forgive. If I’m struggling to forgive someone else, maybe it’s because I struggle to forgive myself of similar mistakes. Haven’t I done the same thing to someone else in the past? Haven’t I had the same feelings and reacted in similar ways? If I look really closely, I can see it’s there.

This is most challenging to do with someone in which there’s a history. But if we want to move forward and grow, it must be done. I must be willing to forgive that person. Finding compassion helps. Remembering that this person is human, like me, and doing the best they know how—that helps. It doesn’t mean I have to be their best friend or agree with whatever wrong, perceived or real, that they did, but it does mean that I can let it go. It is possible. What does holding onto resentment really do for me? What am I achieving? Showing everyone what a badass I am? Am I really a tough person for holding onto a resentment? Am I just trying to punish that person for the wrong I feel they did? Is it my job to punish someone else, or teach them a lesson?

In other situations, someone may lash out at me, and that’s an opportunity for me to see that this is not about me. It’s about them and whatever they’re going through. I may have happened to be in the line of fire when they decided to attack, or maybe I was part of the group they decided they don’t like or are upset with. But if I look deeper, I can see that any time someone blames a group of people for something, it probably means that person feels isolated. When a person feels isolated, they don’t feel like they belong. When we view ourselves as separate, it’s harder to have compassion and love for others because I’m too busy thinking of them as Other. It’s a lonely place to be in, and I should know, because I’ve been there most of my life.

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Today I feel so grateful to be alive, to be on this journey, to have you all for my friends, to have my sisters. I’ve held on to too many petty resentments over the years and can still do it today, but if I can focus instead on what really matters, which is that we’re all just people trying to make our way in the world, I can let go of those hurts, big and small.

Over the past year or so I’ve come across quite a few people who once found faith but are now lost, people who have become disillusioned. They thought they’d found a solution, they’d felt so happy before, and now the worst has happened, or nothing really happened, nothing better. They just hit a spiritual plateau and they don’t see where else there is to go. Everything had gotten so much better for a time, then at some point they realized this is it, there’s nothing else. It’s possible I’m at that peak now, and tomorrow I’ll be disillusioned. But I’ll tell you one thing. I’m not going looking for it. It’s too easy for me to get caught up in how effed up this world is. At the same time, I don’t need to be angry with the person who points it out to me. I can look at it as a situation in which that person probably feels really lonely, depressed, or just isolated. At the same time I don’t have to beat myself up and feel like I’m some kind of rose-colored glasses Pollyanna just because I choose to focus on the positive and trying to be happy. I’ve spent too many years of my life feeling miserable to want to go back to that place.

If I sound preachy, I don’t mean to. It’s just that now that I’m happy, I want everyone else to feel happy too. That’s something else for me to work on. That not everyone will feel happy all the time. Just because I’ve found a new way of life does not mean everyone else has to hop aboard at the same time. Sadly, some people never get it. And I have to be okay with that too. I also have to recognize that this too shall pass. Appreciate the good while it’s here.

And when someone says something that hurts my feelings or upsets me, I can pause and ask my deepest self, In the grand scheme of things, what really matters?

And what matters is love.

That is all that matters.

 

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Love,

TCH

 

Zippidy-Do-Dah, Turn That Frown Upside Down, Yada Yada, Blah Blah… For Real Though

When I’m feeling anxious or upset, it helps to read inspirational quotes which I usually look up online. I’ve dedicated a Pinterest board to these quotes, and I will spend sometimes half an hour just reading through them. It’s part of neuroplasticity, what Tara Brach talks about in her dharma talks, of rewiring the brain to focus on the positive instead of the negative.

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I got the above quote from this website, where you can find many more like it.

Whatever you think about becomes your reality. When I get so focused on what I’m not getting instead of the beautiful life I already have, my world becomes small. It’s easy to fall into this space of negativity; it takes more work to try and realign my attitude—but it takes less work today than it did a year ago, and last year it took less work than a year before that.

I’m not saying everyone should skip into work singing zippidy-do-dah—although that can be fun and would not hurt in the least—I’m just saying it helps to see the richness of life, the meaning in life. It’s what Viktor Frankl talks about in Man’s Search for Meaning.

Last night I got to meet someone who’s just starting on her journey of self-discovery, of living a life of sobriety. What a blessing to watch someone else make a decision to get sober and be happy about it. Often alcoholics aren’t super happy about quitting drinking and their old way of life. It’s a big decision, a huge change, and when drinking alcohol is your only way of coping with life’s problems, it’s scary as hell. We have to find a different way of living life, after having lived this way for years, maybe decades. But when you find that place where other people have done the same, gotten sober and are happy about it, and have a good life without alcohol, it’s such an eye-opener. It was for me, anyway. It gave me hope that maybe I don’t have to stop by the liquor store every night after work, maybe I don’t have to apologize for what I did last night because I blacked out and made a fool of myself. Maybe I can wake up remembering what I did the night before. Maybe one day I would no longer obsess about drinking. And that happened for me.

What did not happen for me was that I do not always get what I want. And that I did not want to hear from people who’d been sober a long time. How can a person be happy if they don’t get what they want? There’s no way for me to convince you with words alone, if you’re like me, but I’m going to try anyway. The only way I learned was through experience. When I finally figured out that life has its ups and downs regardless of my strongest efforts to get what I want, and that I have the choice for how to cope with those undesirable events that happen in life, that’s when change happened for me.

This might be old news for some of you, but so far for me the meaning just goes deeper with every experience. No matter how hard I tried to keep my ex-boyfriend, that relationship did not work. No matter how hard I prayed for my mom not to die, she died. It doesn’t mean life sucks and then you die, nor does it mean that I forced myself to laugh and celebrate after such heartache. No. I cried. A lot.

Then I realized how short life is, how precious our time here is.

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This quote and image came from tinybuddha.com where you can find more inspiring quotes.

It’s helpful for me to think about someone else for a change. How can I be there for someone else as others were there for me? What did others say or do when I was down?

A couple of weeks ago a woman from my Sunday night AA meeting told me that she felt like there’s no sobriety at that particular meeting. I happen to be the person who finds speakers to lead the meeting, so I took it personally. It sounded like an attack to me, that she was saying I did not choose inspirational speakers, and my feelings were hurt. This particular woman is about the age my mom was, and she’s been like a big sister to me for a few years now, and she has 20 plus years sober, so to hear that from her really got to me.

Internally, without expressing it to her, my first reaction was to apologize for not being good enough, quickly followed by anger. How dare she attack me and my meeting that way? (By the way, it’s not my meeting—no meeting belongs to any one person but to the group as a whole.)

“So… you don’t feel like there’s any sobriety here,” I repeated back to her, a question but said like a statement, like a double-dog-dare-you-to-insult-me statement. Which is bold for me. Usually I immediately start apologizing for my very existence, but the new me who’s been emerging does not put up with that shit. I explained that I have no control over what other people say or do, and I thought about apologizing for something the speaker had said, but decided against it. It’s not my job to apologize for anyone else.

This particular situation I’ve been ruminating over since it happened. At first I’d decided in my mind that she could eff off, and who needs her as a friend anyway. I didn’t need her blessing. Maybe we just wouldn’t talk that much anymore. She probably didn’t approve of certain things I’d said or done, and if so, she could go along her merry way. If you don’t like this solution you’ve chosen, if we’re such bad people to you, then find another space.

Then I realized that this is exactly the kind of situation where I can exercise compassion. Why might someone say what she said, particularly when I (and others!) see it differently?

Because “we don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” This quote was attributed to writer Anais Nin but apparently originates from Rabbi Shemuel ben Nachmani in the Talmud.

What might be going on in my friend’s life that would make her offer such a negative view?

Well, she’s been in physical pain for a long time now, and she’s done just about everything she can to resolve the problem, and so far nothing has worked. Her best friend died last year. Those two things I know. Who else knows what’s going on in her life?

And is it really my responsibility that she didn’t see the meeting as inspirational? Not any more than it would be if she had. How many times have I gone to a place expecting hope and getting none particularly when everyone else there seems to be in a different boat than me. Just wait until they get a divorce and see how they feel. Wait until their loved one dies and let’s see who can talk about jumping for joy then. But that’s all just part of the us-against-them mentality we create in our heads to separate ourselves from each other, that I use to isolate myself. She may have been doing it then, but I do not have to react with the same sentiment. I’m reminded of one of my favorite prayers:

Grant that I may seek rather to comfort, than to be comforted.

To understand, than to be understood.

To love, than to be loved.

For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.

This is my favorite part of the St. Francis prayer, and I repeat it to myself daily–when I’m doing well–because I need a reminder. Otherwise I’d just do my own thing and y’all can all move along—an attitude that left me lonely for many years.

So I sent my friend a positive affirmation the next morning to let her know I was thinking of her. How many times had she done that for me in the past? A lot. Now I have an opportunity to be there for her, even when she’s being a grouch.

Now. If I can just take this same attitude with me when it comes to my closest, oldest loved ones. That’s where the real work begins. That’s where true growth and love happens. It’s progress, not perfection.

Love and peace,

TCH