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.

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(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

 

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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.

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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