Stripped & Unburdened part II: Perspective, compassion, and connectedness

This is the second part of what would have been a lengthy post – if you haven’t read the first part yet, you might want to do so here.

After more time had passed, though, I started to consider that maybe I could want and have friends again, but I told myself it wasn’t safe. I lied to myself saying that my world was too catastrophic and chaotic and anyone who came near me would just get hurt. It was (and is) all bull shit, of course, but I was still too afraid to acknowledge that the reason I wasn’t reaching out was because I was focused on all the differences between me and everyone else and was terrified of facing rejection and shame.

In psychological research (and, really, in most forms of research), there is an ethical danger called ‘congruence bias.’ It exists outside of research as well, and in every day cognition. It means that you find what you’re looking for simply because you’re looking for it; or, conversely, you don’t find what you’re looking for because the idea you have in mind is too specific. The thing is, it backfires both ways: 1) Frequently, we have very specific ideas as to what we’re looking for, and when we don’t find exactly that, we conclude that whatever “it” is, isn’t there. For example, let’s say you were looking for a screwdriver and it happened to have a red handle. You pull out the tool/junk drawer and start tossing things every which a way, and you cannot find the screwdriver. Then someone else comes along, opens the same drawer, and says that the screwdriver is right there, handing you one with a black handle. You would probably swear up and down that there was no screwdriver in that drawer 30 seconds ago – because you were looking for the red one. 2) Similarly, if you’re looking for and expecting people to behave a certain way, you’ll interpret all their behavior to match your thinking. Let’s say you think that everybody doesn’t like you. So when you walk into a group of people and someone happens to leave at the same time, you conclude they left because they didn’t like you even though that wasn’t necessarily the situation at all. Maybe they’d had to pee for the past hour but one of the other people in the group kept running their mouth and Mr. I-need-a-potty-break-NOW! was only able to escape because your arrival caught Ms. Mouthy’s attention and she shut up for a half a second giving Mr. Potty-break the escape he needed.  Make sense?

I don’t remember when I realized I had been doing this with my life exactly, but at some point in the last month and a half, I did. The Universe had been sending me little signs – showing me people who I would never think had seen and experienced the same kinds of things I had (not necessarily in the specifics, but general themes anyway), but they did. I’d been so focused on finding the differences between me and everyone that I encountered that I could not see the ways in which we were alike, the things we had in common, how we were connected. On a drive from (or to – doesn’t really matter) work, it coalesced in my space. What connects us (all) is ultimately more powerful than anything that can divide us. It is simply a matter of perspective.

Does this mean that the possibility of my being rejected by anyone who I decide to trust with some choice pieces of my history and experience has suddenly diminished? Maybe, but not necessarily. Maybe because of the new perspective I intend to take, I will draw people to me who would be accepting. And maybe not, but it doesn’t matter either. It certainly wouldn’t shock me. I recognize that a lot about me is a bit “out there” for most people, and that’s okay. What matters is that I breathe in the Truth of the power of our connection and live in that space. Whether others choose to see that or not is not my responsibility. We all behave from who we are, not at or to anyone around us. If someone I encounter is in such a place that they cannot recognize what I have recently discovered, I have a choice. Because I was in that space so very recently I remember distinctly how absolutely miserable it made me, I can choose to have compassion for them.

Thus, when I read of one of my new favorite blogger’s recent experience with discrimination, I was not surprised. Sadly, “A” has not yet come to learn what I recently have. I have been, at earlier times in my life (and still occasionally, though I try not to be), judgmental or intolerant in some way. And I’ve learned that I make my life and myself the poorer for it when I am. So while I empathize with Ollin, having experienced similar discrimination, I also have compassion for “A” because she probably has no idea of the internal consequences of her decision in her own space, not to mention that her blog will be all the poorer for the contribution she denied Ollin the opportunity to make. And I have compassion for her because of that loss of which she might not even be aware. What I found interesting was that when I was reading through all the comments Ollin’s readers made to his post in which he recounted this experience, I noticed that the comments that I interpreted as a little snarky toward “A” had me shaking my head in compassion for those individuals as much as hearing of “A’s” own action did. Perhaps its simplistic (not to mention unpopular) to think so, but at its root, I think the energy of those kinds of comments is as divisive as “A’s” action was.

I finally finished reading Eat, Pray, Love the other day, by the way. I had set it down for a while and it just seemed time to pick it up again. I’m sure that all this embracing of compassion has everything to do with what I’ve taken away from that book. I’m interested to see what else I’ve garnered from it, to watch it unfold in my space and my mind. The father of a mentor of mine used to finish every workshop he did by telling us that we were taking away and had received far more from our time together than we understood in that moment. I think the same is true for this book for me.

Moving forward, I realize that I have allowed the experience of these crises to result in an extreme and negative change for and in me thus far. I’m done with that now. From this point on, I intend to strip myself like a shameless menopausal woman in the midst of a personal summer of this fear and pain that I have been harboring and, instead, continue cultivating this new perspective on connectedness and compassion.

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Exes: An Update

Well, I couldn’t write that last post about J and not update you when there’s updating to be done!

He stuck in my head. Since I had the dream, I just kept thinking about him. I’m sure it helped that my wife has just begun a secondary relationship and so there was (and is) New Relationship Energy (NRE) floating around the house like crazy (you know, that exciting and bubbling mix of energy when you begin a new relationship that’s like a bright and effervescent prosecco?  In poly circles, we call that NRE). And in our house this year, Papa’s return since Yule has manifested in an abundance of sexual energy that has us giggling while we shake our heads and remind each other that no, it’s really not Beltane, despite the fact that it feels like it on an energetic level. That probably contributed also.

So, on my birthday (the 26th), I decided to check in with my new pendulum (an adorable little sunshiney carnelian) about responding to the last message he’d sent me on linked in (in 2008). It practically screamed ‘yes’ to me, and my insides erupted in a frenzy of fluttering like a handful of faeries hyped up on jolt cola. After I managed to calm myself down a bit, I set to work forming a short and concise (hard to imagine, but yes, I am capable of this when necessary and with great effort) attempt at reaching out and clicked ‘send.’

I’m going to pause here to inform you, in case you hadn’t figured it out yet, that I am a girly girl. Not to great extremes (I don’t get manicures and pedicures, I don’t have an innate sense that enables me to distinguish between Prada, Gucci, and Dolce & Gabbana and the various seasons and years of their lines, I don’t keep up with celeb gossip, etc.), but I am girly, and I know it. Unfortunately, the combination of girliness and having to wait for a response from an old flame makes for a potentially diabolical combination. Thus was I spinning in circles in my head wondering if he would make me wait three years before responding like I had or fantasizing about his immediate response asking me where I was so that he could catch the first flight here and make passionate and crazy love to me as soon as was humanly possible or wondering if he was married or if he still wore that badge of arrogant asshole on his sleeve proudly or what our babies would look like or if he still used his linked in account and what if he didn’t and didn’t get my message or what if I wasn’t meant to reconnect with him since he was my heroine and could I handle it better this time than a decade ago, etc., etc. You see?  Crazy.

He responded I think a day and a half (or so) later. Believe it or not, I had not been profusely checking my email over the course of that time. I had vowed to myself that I would not let myself become that consumed because it would be imbalanced. When I saw the bold letters forming his name on my gmail inbox screen, everything within me hitched for half a moment. Exhaling, I tentatively laid my hand over my mouse and clicked. Within the first five sentences, I was reassured that he had ripped off the arrogant asshole badge. As I moved on to the second paragraph, though, my feet figuratively flew out from underneath me. He was married. I summoned my strength, swallowed, and managed to finish reading the remainder of the message. When I had gotten to the last word and his salutation, I felt like a forgotten balloon three days after a party. Three-quarters of the way deflated, I quietly called for my wife, and she read over my shoulder.

Now, my wife is not girly. Whether it’s because she’s old as dirt (on a soul-level), is a healer, or whatever, she simply doesn’t have girl friends. Most of the relationships she begins with other woman (of the platonic variety), typically end up with her being their healer and them not knowing how to maintain multiple-role relationships and still be a friend. So my wife has never had girl friends. What’s interesting (and highly amusing to me) is that since my wife has begun this secondary relationship, she has started to become girly. Yet, because this is totally foreign territory to her, she doesn’t know how to do the “girl friend thing” in situations such as the one in which I found myself. I am incredibly blessed that my wife is who she is and that our relationship is what it is because she was, in the midst of confessing she had no idea how to help me or what to do as I stared numbly at the screen, promising me everything from cursing him till he was dead or making his penis fall off to getting me ice cream to just squishing me to…etc. And when she wasn’t saying that, she was simply repeating these words, “comforting words, hug-hug, squish-squish, lick-lick-thrust-thrust, comforting words.” It was adorable.

I did finally break down and start crying and snotting a little while later. In the end, I determined I needed to shop (see, girly), and so we went to Target and spent my gift card from my parents on an adorable new shir, skirt, and some awesome body lotion. A few days later, I determined that it seemed as though J had accomplished what I had always hoped for him: to strip away all the bull shit and be the amazing person I knew was buried under there somewhere that I had caught occasional glimpses of. I comprised a response that I think managed to be authentic in its joy for him and confirm for him that he was accurate in that I had departed very far from the space I was in when he knew me last without verbally vomitting any of the details of that departure for him (I mean, come on, how would you react if the ex of yours came out and said that their sexual orientation had changed, that they were in a totally unconventional relationship, and that they were a practicing Witch?  It’s a little overwhelming even for the most open-minded of people and hard to communicate all at once without seeming aggressive).

I haven’t received any further communication from him, and I actually feel okay about that. If there still is unfinished business between us, we’ll either tend to it at some point before either of us die or just try again in another life. One thing that this whole situation did help me to realize is that I am not interested at this point in my life in relationships that don’t have that soul-level connection and substance to them. Romantic, platonic, whatever. This is something of a break-through for me, and one that I’m glad I’ve made because now that I know that, I can clearly communicate this desire to the Universe and Momma and Papa.

Exes and Ohs

I had a dream last night that my ex was in. Not just any ex. You know, the ex. I think most of us have (usually) one of these. Whether it was the one who broke your heart the most, the one who made you the craziest, the one who got away, etc., (or perhaps some combination of all of the above). When I was talking to my wife about my dream and my ex’s resurfacing in my subconscious this morning (he has a habit of doing that every once in a while, and I have yet to concretely figure out why), our fourteen year old came and sat down with us. As we were trying to explain why this particular ex was a bigger deal than any of my other exes, my wife seemed to sum it up perfectly.

“He’s like her heroine,” she told our daughter. I’ve talked about this ex -we’ll just call him J here – with my wife in great detail, so she knew exactly what the dream had stirred up for me and a good idea of where my thoughts were wandering.

I sat with that idea for a few minutes and decided it was probably pretty accurate. While it’s true that my “relationship” with J ended almost a decade ago and I like to think I’ve gotten smarter since then, I got stupid around him, just like people do on heroine. Heroine is not one of those drugs that you can try once and only do occasionally. Smart people check themselves into rehab after doing heroine once.  I was not smart then. It took me a long time to get smart.  One look from him, and I would be gone. I had melted into a puddle on the floor.  I paid for witnessing and sharing in the infrequent bursts of brilliance when his true self emerged by letting him play me and treat me poorly. He broke my heart more times than I remember, and I willingly submitted to it until I decided not to anymore. I used to say that he would be amazing if not for that small personality flaw of being an arrogant asshole. Those moments of brilliance were pretty incredible. It took me a little while to realize I was completely in love with him and then it took me even longer to quit him cold turkey. Even after I had, I would know when he was near or in town. I would know shortly before he tried to contact me (which he did several times, despite my having said I never wanted to hear from him again). The connection I had with him was one for which I have few words. And I knew him. I realized years later after I began studying Witchcraft and Paganism that I have known him life times upon life times before. I’m not sure what lessons we were meant to teach each other and help each other learn this time around, but it feels like we still have unfinished business. I will forever be grateful to him for helping me to find my Fire – because it took a shit ton of it for me to be able to leave him and cut myself off.

So when I woke this morning from the dream with visions of his dark, shoulder length wavy hair, turquoise and hazel eyes, broad shoulders, chiseled cheek bones, and heart-shaped lips in my mind, I just shook my head and chuckled. This was an atypical reaction for me. When I’ve dreamt about him in the past, I’ve woken up angry or frustrated or sad (and, of course, horny). But this morning was different. As I sat with the difference, I realized that, Oh, despite all of the shit he’d piled on top of who he truly was and how much he had hurt me, I was still in love with him. And not the “in love with him to the point where I would allow myself to get stupid again” kind because that is not love. It can get tangled up with love, but it’s not the same thing. And I certainly was not, nor am I now, in love with the shit piled on top of his essence. It’s his essence that I will probably always be in love with.  And the packaging for that essence this time around just flat does it for me. I’m a total sucker for dark hair and light eyes to begin with but add in the broad shoulders, put some wave in the hair, and toss in some sculpted cheekbones, and I’m done. And in that moment of realization, probably for the first time, I did not try to fight being in love with him. I just accepted it. Accepting didn’t mean I had to contact him, to try to rebuild or recreate some kind of relationship with him on any level. I just sat with it and acknowledged that it was.

After I’d gotten myself coffee, I looked him up on facebook for the first time without feeling guilty or like I was betraying myself. He doesn’t look very different. I did not message him or friend request him, much to the disappointment of our 14 yr old. I don’t remember what I told her when she asked why – that might have been when my wife pointed out he was my heroine. As I drove to work, though, I thought about it. The only reason at the moment I would have for contacting him would be an ambiguous curiosity, and while flirting with the idea of doing so in my head is one thing (and mildly entertaining), I’ve decided without clearer intention than that, the only possible thing I could create from doing so would be a hot mess. I certainly don’t need any of those right now. So instead, I will enjoy this knowing that I am still in love and that I can simply accept it. And I will marvel that I can indeed be in love with two people at once (I hadn’t been sure this was entirely possible for me). And I will enjoy this reignited spark of my sexuality that visions of J stirred up. 😉