Month: May 2014

The Beast

“The beast in me is caged by frail and fragile bars.” Johnny Cash

I gripped the steering wheel tightly as the tires screeched around the corner. My heart was racing and I giggled at the thrill.

“Do you fear death?” I asked my girl friend in the passenger seat. She was silent, her mouth set in a straight line. She’d seen me that way before. She knew talking to me would be useless.

When I think back to the times I fed that side of me and what I allowed myself to do I still shake my head in disbelief:

Yelling at my sister or my mom, scaring them and pushing them to the point of tears; Lashing out and saying terrible things to friends; Hurting and harming myself in more ways than one. I’d always end up crying uncontrollably at the end of the worst episodes. When I’d pushed people as far away as possible just to see who loved me enough to stay and hug me tight despite my claws and bared teeth. But who would (or could) stay when that beast was out? So inevitably I’d be in that place alone – scared and ultimately ashamed and full of remorse. That’s when the crying would come. Tears of frustration, anger, shame, fear, loneliness and guilt. If it was a really bad night I’d howl for all the ways that I’d hurt myself.

I used to ask myself over and over why I behaved so dreadfully. Why was I so awful? Where did that horrible side of me come from? I had my suspicions of course but did not know how to deal with that knowledge. It was easier to turn away, hell it was easier to pretend I did not know where that beast came from.

But I know now that she came from a place of fear. Any experience which triggered subconscious memories of times when I’d felt insecure, unloved, taken advantage of, unworthy, broken, hurt, ashamed, unseen, or unheard were enough to stimulate strong emotional reactions. Most of the time my rebellious nature and a sense of daring would take over, determined to let fun override any negativity. It worked most of the time. Every now and then it didn’t. My fear of facing those emotions brought out the beast in me.

I hated myself when I was like that. I was ashamed and I’d lash out at everyone else for not understanding. But how could they? They never knew. I’d never given anyone a chance to really understand. I’d built myself a little cage around me to keep others at a safe distance. To keep anyone from really connecting with me.

But that carefully constructed cage had frail and fragile bars. They were never really solid though, fashioned as they were out of the unexplained remains of a broken heart, so of course with the right (de)vices they were easy to break apart. Unfortunately, instead of letting others in, that broken cage  let the beast out. You see, I never really believed that I was worthy of love. I had trouble believing that love, kindness and understanding offered to me could be sustainable, so instead of gently accepting what was offered, I’d snarl and bite and demand proof that was offered was of substance.

I think differently now of course, at least I hope I do.

Phoenix

 

A New Story

I had coffee with a new friend a few evenings ago. We had a great time comparing our stories and getting to know one another. Later that night, while I was falling asleep, I thought about all that we had talked about. I realized that while I was happy to have shared what I consider to be new stories, I had spoken of the old stories in the same way that I had been for a long time, despite the fact that a lot of time had passed and my understanding and interpretation of those old stories had changed.

I woke up feeling heavy and unsettled and it took me a few days to truly understand why. Even though I had long come to terms with the old stories and have accepted that they are a part of my past, I was still choosing to drag along with me the old heavy, hurtful, angry feelings they once produced.

I made a decision right then and there to choose more. To choose a new story for my old stories. I choose to love that they will forever be a part of my life and accept that they are important to me because they have made me who I am today. And I’m not half bad, when I really think about it.

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How do you know when it’s time to move on?

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A few years ago I was in a dysfunctional and co-dependent relationship. We were both running from issues in our past and dealing with the feelings they brought up in unhealthy ways: too much alcohol, junk food, smoking, refusing to face our personal issues, and not spending any time or energy toward emotional, mental, spiritual or physical self development. I did love him and he loved me but eventually I had had enough and started putting my life together.

I wanted a better life for myself and was willing to go the distance but unfortunately, as he was not ready to deal with his own issues, as my life started to improve and I adopted healthier habits he felt left behind. He pouted, blamed, whined and retaliated. Eventually I realized that no matter how much I loved him, he wasn’t ready to love himself enough to save himself or our relationship.

Sooner or later each one of us will have to make the difficult decision between staying in a relationship and moving on. A knee jerk reaction to the thought of a relationship ending is usually to hold on tighter. It is caused by fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of change. Change crawls through our imagination and torments us with negative outcomes. We panic. Our footing feels unsure and we have to hold on to something. We reach out desperately and hold on even tighter to that which we should really let go of.

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If we’re lucky, it’s a short-lived reaction.

You see, once we’ve reached the point of having to make a choice between staying and moving on it’s usually because deep down we already know that the relationship is not working and it’s not right. Our instincts tell us so. We already know it is time to let go and move on, and no matter how impossible it seems to compose the pros and cons lists they must be done. That’s when we know we have to let go of the all-too-human fear of change, really search our hearts, and ask ourselves the difficult questions:

Am I really being myself or have I been changing myself in little ways to accommodate another?

While accommodation and compromise are necessary parts of all relationships, have any of the compromises and accommodations I have made lately left me feeling unhappy or lost or like I am less than the person I know I am?

Have I put myself on the back burner?

Am I being true to my heart and following my instinct?

Am I whole enough on my own and really ready to SHARE my life? Or has the relationship been filling a void that I am yet to fill within myself?

Is that person whole enough on their own and really ready to share his life with me?

Is the person I am reluctant to let go of truly ready to inspire, challenge, nurture and love me?

Am I truly ready to inspire, challenge, nurture and love that person in return?

What is it that I am so afraid of? Is it that I won’t know how to stand on my own or that I don’t know how to enjoy my own company? Is it that I am afraid that I will be unloved? Where is the fear really coming from?

Do I understand that letting go and moving on doesn’t mean the absence of caring and love, but instead means acceptance, trust and self-love?

Do I realize that if I hold onto this relationship which isn’t working with the blind hope that things will change, I will never make room for the relationship that can work?

We are the only ones who can truly know our hearts. If we respect and trust what our hearts feel, allow ourselves to be honest, and listen to and accept what our instincts guide us to do, we can find the strength to make the right choice.

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Further reading:

How to determine if a relationship is codependent and how to end it the healthy way.

The Unanswerable Questions

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 Why is it you never have to explain why you drink, but always have to explain why you don’t?

Why do people say: I’ll feel more comfortable if you have a drink with me?

What do you do when people don’t respect your choice to stop drinking?

Why do most dining establishments offer only coffee, soft drinks, and water as non-alcoholic options?

Is it ever polite for an alcoholic to say to someone: “I think you have a problem with alcohol.” ?

When will it be socially acceptable for me to say: “Sorry, I can’t date someone who drinks.” ?

“The Moon stays bright when it doesn’t avoid the night….”

It’s ok to feel. It’s ok to let the darkness affect you. It’s ok to feel vulnerable and scared and alone and lost. It’s ok to hurt. It’s ok to grieve.

It’s not ok to push the dark away without owning it. It’s not ok to bury it so deep inside of you that it poisons you. It’s not ok to run from the dark to dark devices. It’s not ok to let the dark in you rush out in a rage lashing out and hurting you and those around you.

D L Ennis

For a long long time I equated vulnerability with weakness. I thought that showing that I was hurt or frustrated or desperate meant that I was weak. I thought it meant that I was incapable of being a mature adult capable of handling my stories. I would bury those emotions and feelings by cracking jokes, or reading a book or watching a movie. I would focus all of my energy on someone else’s problems telling myself I was just being a good listener and shoulder to cry on. I would meet my friends for drinks or have glasses of wine. I would get angry with myself for not feeling better. Can you imagine that? I would ask:

“What the hell is wrong with me? Why can’t I get past this? I should feel better by now. I can’t stand myself!”

But you know what? It is PERFECTLY OK to feel angry, upset, frustrated, worried, stressed, hurt, unhappy, desperate, scared, afraid and unsure. It’s ok to cry and stare up at the ceiling. It’s ok to want to crawl under the covers and stay there. It’s ok to want to watch tv all day with junk food on the couch next to you. It is ok to allow yourself to feel all of this. It’s necessary to allow it to swallow you sometimes. It is ok to sit with it for a while. That is the only way you can move past the darkness and into the light. And I promise you, the light will come. You WILL feel better.

“The moon stays bright when it doesn’t avoid the night.” ― Rumi

Now, I’m learning to allow myself to feel unsure and afraid that I wouldn’t let myself achieve what I was meant to. I allow myself some time to mourn for what I’ve lost, to feel remorse for mistakes I’ve made and to yearn for things that are yet to come.

You see these emotions are all part of the healing process and if I try to run away from them or bottle them up, I will never move on to the next step: Healing. I am learning to allow myself to reach that place of vulnerability, and see it as being brave not weak, so that I can comfort myself, pick myself up and take the next step.

I am allowing myself to relax and let go a little. I am letting myself breathe. I am beginning to understand my fears and doubts. Spending time with them and allowing them to be heard gives me insight into where my insecurities come from and this is important for me as my insecurities have become triggers in the past. Now I am learning to put them into perspective and face them.

When the darkness becomes too much, I write and write and write. With no real intention other than to let everything pour out of me. It brings me clarity and closure. When writing doesn’t work, and on occasion it hasn’t, then I ask for help. Yes folks, I am learning to reach out without apologizing for feeling! That dreaded sentence: “Gosh, I am so sorry for burdening you. I don’t now what’s wrong with me.” is officially gone.

But, I have to say, there is something merciful about sitting alone with my darkness. And there is such peace and beauty when the darkness lifts. 🙂

Phoenix