Excuse Me, There’s A Reason For This Madness

She was right in thinking that turning our past wounds into excuses isn’t healthy or good. I actually made a lot of excuses for her because I knew her history. I wanted her to feel safe. Ultimately, it wasn’t as productive as what I can now understand to be the truly loving work that happens between two people. 

The primary difference between a reason and an excuse is accountability. 

A reason is a logical and objective explanation of cause and effect. An excuse places blame on something external. 

To break it down simply: 

reason=responsibility 

Excuse=escape

Excuses add bricks to the walls we build. Reasons carve out doorways. 

To relate that to some of the situations that WE have encountered I would argue it as a temporal thing. Of course we are shaped by our past. But if we bring up the past as a justification as to why we are behaving a certain way in the present-that is an excuse. If we are able to identify the current problem objectively and take accountability for our contribution to the current shitty circumstance then we have found a reason things have taken the turn they’ve taken. With this, reasons help find solutions for better actions in the future. Excuses keep us tethered to old patterns of behavior by handing our power back to the painful circumstance that shaped our world view. World views are allowed to change, and I think they should often. This is an indication of growth. To be clear, there are many indicators of growth in life, but I am speaking specifically of emotional growth. 

I have been doing a lot of work to understand my old childhood wounds, and working to heal them. In other words, I have been thinking about this a lot. 

They say that nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to learn. I guess I knew there was more learning to be had with her. So, I’m grateful to re-open the door, and the pain. 

I’m not going to say that I have never made excuses, or that I won’t do it in the future. However, I do find a certain sort of liberation in understanding the critical difference between these two modes of thought. 

I’m trying to decipher which of those were reasons or excuses. It still ends up being a temporal thing to me. As children we are easily impressionable, and it takes a lifetime to come back into our true selves. My goal in this life is to unlearn all the negative bullshit that has been projected on me from external sources, and people who can’t or won’t be honest about their pain. 

She said that she doesn’t understand how it [love/relationship] could work with someone else if it didn’t work with me after being together for as long as we were. Time invested doesn’t mean shit if the walls are still there. 

We can’t change our pasts, but we can change our reaction to it. Listening to her last night showed me that she is still in the victim role. We are often victimized as children. But we don’t have to stay there as adults. She said that she doesn’t mind being the hardass at work because as long as she can justify the value for the greater good, then she’ll do the thing that other people don’t necessarily want to do. I think that is totally fine, admirable even. Yet, it ultimately comes down to motivation. 

The work persona and the personal life persona are slightly different. When the “love of your life” tries to explain that they are not happy in the relationship it is not an attack on you, but a demonstration of love; a person who really cares about wanting to make things better. I know I put a lot of things on her-thinking if she could do something different then we would be better, and this often kept me from taking responsibility for my own shitty (codependent) habits. 

I don’t want to be codependent anymore. It is self destructive, and it keeps me in a constant position of powerlessness. I am not powerless. 

Those walls we build to keep us protected from the threats of the external world are not safe heavens. They are prisons that deny us the true freedom that comes with real love built from vulnerability. Each brick in that wall is an excuse. Reasons are what will pull them down. We can hide and run for as long as we would like. I know that I am finally ready for something different. 

I wish her the best in all that she does. No matter how much I still want it to be her that I share my life with, I’m FINALLY beginning to understand that no matter how much she has to offer someone, she does not have what I need. 

I came to this life to face and conquer fears. This is not easy, and it often leaves me in a state of anxiety and frustration. I’m learning that this energy can be used to propel me forward. I don’t always know what steps to take, and she’s right, sometimes I just need someone to tell me where to go, or what step to take. I’m looking for the person who always wants that first step to be toward them, and if they can see that I’m too scared to take it, then they step in closer toward me. I’m looking for the people who want to stand next to me when those arresting moments happen. The people who want to encourage me to take a step and do so by stepping toward me and not away. I want a person who isn’t going to look at my discontent as a fault, but for what it really is-a yearning for something more. Because this is the kind of person I want to be for myself, and for my partner. 

Comfort zones are great, but nothing ever grows there. I don’t want my comfort confined to a zone. I want safety. I want to be uncomfortable so I know I’m moving forward. I want risks and failures and movement. I want more and always more. 

I have been stuck for the past year. Sure, I moved to another state. Sure, I got into a phd program. Sure, I’ve done a lot of growth internally. I’ve retreated into my quiet space. I’ve wrapped myself in a cocoon. I’m ready to emerge from it, and I have no idea what the next step is supposed to be. What I do know is that I can’t be with someone who sees those cocooning periods as withdrawal. In my mind, they are not that. It’s about growth and understanding. I suppose I can admit that it would be helpful if I could articulate this process a little more clearly. Self-awareness usually comes from mistakes. 

Part of this creatively analytical mind I have brings forth a whole lot of daydreaming. As I work through the possibilities of where I want to go and what I want to do, I take my time. When I decide what I want, then I will take the action steps to get there. I’ve spent the larger part of the last year hung up on her. No matter how many people told me not to be. I asked her about these things, and she made excuses as to why we could not have those things that I thought would bring growth and togetherness. “I just can’t see it happening.” And “When do you think you’ll actually have time for a kid?” Were the excuses she offered. And even, “You talk about these things like they’re something you want in your own life, but you’ve never said you wanted them with me,” like, who else would I be talking about? See, external circumstances blamed for her own inability to create something new. The reason was fear. To be fair, she’s admitted that, but it didn’t change her perspective. 

The facts are there, and pretty clearly laid out. We aren’t compatible people. My primary hang up was that I had decided the direction I wanted our life to go, and she all but denied that possibility with no wiggle room. This threw me into a tailspin of uncertainty and disorientation. Although I wrapped my mind around it BEFORE I left-the mind is a tricky place to be. There are things I left behind that I associate with security and safety. Our home. Our home life. Dual income. Comforts. And of course, my dream of having a family. Ultimately, she WAS right; I don’t need her, specifically, to achieve those things. I just need someone who is ready and willing to take that risk with me. 

She told me that she felt like the only reason I wanted her to move with me was for financial assistance. But we never even merged our finances. Her money was hers, and my money was ours. She is the one who told me to just take out the loan, and be a normal student. She never, ever indicated that this would be something WE could figure out together. Then, more recently, she said that after she got the first paycheck from her promotion, she wished she had her “spouse” there to share it with. I got hung up on the shift from accusation to celebration, but that’s a moot point. This is just more of the same. Her narrative shifts, and makes no sense in relation to the previous plot points. 

Ultimately, none of this about money for me. It’s safety and security. Emotional support. Comfort. I realized that I have those things on my own. In fact, I have those things built with a much more solid foundation here than I ever did there. This is the reason I left, and took responsibility for my own life. I needed something different. Something that did not exist in that space. I don’t need to beat the dead horse. We both know I’m not going back. 

I’m finally finished with the push and pull. I can see how that whole game was fueled by excuses. I pushed when I was triggered. I pulled when she didn’t react the way I needed her to. The reason I left is because she does not have what I need-openness, vulnerability, strength, and emotional security. Just excuses piling up bricks in a wall that I will never be able to break down. 

Backward Feeling

My therapist had told me for years-you can’t feel for other people. But I can. And I do. Saying that I can’t had sent the message to my subconscious that this was a challenge. I love a good challenge. I started to take on her emotions, and I had no idea I was doing it. I accepted her pain. But in my willful unknowing-I thought it must certainly be me. So, when the projections started flying around I had already begun to believe that there was something wrong with me. 

The earliest one I can remember was right before I went into therapy. It wasn’t my first rodeo in therapy. My first time was when I was 8. My mom says, “you were always a happy kid, and then one day you weren’t anymore.” Right-so, toss me to the school counselor because that doesn’t alienate anyone in their third grade class. She gets out of class because she can’t adjust like the rest of us. Thanks mom. 

This time, life was happening. It’s cool. Shit happens. I lost my job. Got fired. I had a guest complaint which I still maintain was the biggest bullshit claim I have ever heard. I am no stranger to guest complaints throughout the ten years I spent in the restaraunt industry. I always owned it. This one, though, was an all out lie. But, you know, whatever. I’m sure I needed out of there for a reason. In hindsight…it was bringing me even more truth that I still wasn’t willing to recognize. 

So, I lost my job. With that loss came a whole heaping weight of, “what the fuck do I do now?” Overwhelm. Sadness. Fear. Things I now understand to be totally normal in that situation. Totally valid. Totally acceptable. 

Yet, this is how it went down.  

The next day, I was laying in bed. Throwing myself a pity party, otherwise known as trying to figure out what my next steps should be. The bottom dropped out. What the hell do I do? I tried talking to my partner about it. But, you know, things just work out, everything is fine. Let’s just have sex. I, obviously, couldn’t go there. I wish I could have, it just wasn’t what I needed. There’s a pretty strong chance it COULD have been exactly what I needed, but in that moment-it wasn’t right. I said no, not now. I can’t. 

She flew out of the bed in a huffy puffy mess of her own perceived rejection. I laid there alone in my own perceived rejection. We were young. We were stupid. I don’t know whose perceived rejection was more or less valid, but nobody felt loved that Sunday morning. 

As I laid alone and cried, she went to take a shower. As I laid alone and cried, I could hear her masturbating in the shower. My hurt and shame and fear and rejection compounded exponentially. I felt useless and used. She didn’t want to have sex with me to connect and help bring me out of my funkiness. She didn’t want to have sex with me because she loved me and knew the healing power of human connection. If she did, I very likely would have completely surrendered to her proposition and her touch. I guess my soul knew things I hadn’t figured out. 

As I laid there, vulnerable, alone, and deeply hurt a surge of anger built up in me. Who was this person that I shard my life with? What kind of a person acts like this in these situations? She’s a monster. Why would she hurt me like that? What did I do to deserve this? 

The shower turned off. I was up and pacing. I didn’t know what to do or say. I don’t even remember what I did say. But I definitely didn’t shy away from expressing how incredible shitty that behavior was. 

She smirked at me, “I don’t even know how you heard that. I was trying really hard to be quiet.”

Fucking asshole. 

I hadn’t learned yet how to say, “I’m hurting.” But something tells me it wouldn’t have mattered. 

“It’s not about the fact that I heard it, it’s the fact that you DID IT!”

“I have needs.”

That was her answer. That was her sole means of justification. 

“I have needs.”

Selfish fucking asshole. 

I was speechless. 

But let’s break down this monstrosity of an interaction. Her needs for sexual gratification with or without my presence trumped my need for human contact and a genuine need for my difficult emotions to be soothed and processed. 

She left. She went to go watch football, and drink beer with her friends. She didn’t invite me. 

Instead, she looked at me and said, “You’re a lonely person. You need to go talk to someone.”

She was right. I had never felt more lonely than I did that afternoon. And I did make an appointment with a therapist shortly thereafter. But my loneliness in that moment was not wrong, chronic, unfounded, or even a ME problem. I felt her loneliness so deeply it became my own. I went to therapy to try and fix it. 

That never truly worked itself out. Only now can I see why. 

Triggers Transformed to Miracles

There was one day that everything seemed to change. I pushed up against a wall in my heart, and found a hidden door. The one I had been searching for, longing for. It had been there, but I didn’t realize I held the key. 

“I deserve to be with someone who wants to support me emotionally.” 

I stood in the kitchen. As the words exited my mouth it felt more like someone was speaking through me than I was speaking for myself. I had never known this kind of bravery. I had never seen myself stand so firm. Who was this person? Who was I becoming? 

This, of course, came out of an unnecessary fight. A fight that had been going on for so long I had just learned to live with the anger and frustration. I had been asking for help over and over. I was losing it. But I knew it was temporary. My shit was all in the fan. I just needed some help. 

I’ve made a lot of choices in my life that contribute to my own personal growth. Basically, I’m a professional student. And no matter how much I long for the quenching of my thirst for knowledge, and no matter how fulfilling these desires are for me; I can admit that it takes its toll on the people with whom we share our lives and our space. 

I was deep in my master’s program. I was preparing my PhD applications. All the stress was drowning me. There were many days I was running on little to no sleep. I was trying to decide on which programs I wanted to apply to. I was trying to figure out how to keep living all of my dreams-finding a balance between work and life. It’s nearly impossible. 

I was teaching two courses, taking two courses, trying to get together a writing sample, working 25-30 hours a week, still doing my best to be available to my partner. Always trying to keep the lines of communication open about which programs I was looking at, the locations our life might be moving toward. 

I cried a lot. 

At one point, she openly admitted to withholding affection from me. I blamed myself for taking on too much. 

She complained a lot. 

“You’re not doing enough,” was a refrain I heard often.

“You’re unbearable to be around.” 

“When you leave the house a mess, this is the shit that makes me want to drink. I told you it was important that my space not be filled with clutter.”

When a recovering alcoholic tells a raging codependent that their lifestyle spiraling out of control is pushing that alcoholic toward that codependent biggest fear-this is crazy making. The three C’s of al-anon (we didn’t cause it; can’t control it; can’t cure it) somehow get lost in the sea of self-loathing and self-blaming buried under the inner critic telling us-“If you can do better-this will be under control. Your life is unmanageable, and it’s affecting the alcoholic. You are bad. You promised her you would do better, and you’re failing to follow through.” 

This preliminary blaming for the addict’s choice to drink which may or may not be coming around the next bend of chaos is stifling. But I was not going to give up on my dreams. I couldn’t. 

This day, I was rushing around to get my stuff together for school, and to follow it up with a restaurant shift. I was frantically searching for my apron-which I realized was in the washer. It was Wednesday. It was her day off. I had put that laundry in the washer on Sunday. This is what grad school looks like. 

As I expressed my frustration for the circumstance, she retorted with this:
“Why is there still laundry in the washer?”

The condescension in her tone was not subtle. 

I said, “Because I FUCKING forgot about it. On my list of priorities, it’s somewhere around number 30. If it is a big deal to you-take care of it. I just can’t right now.”

I hit my breaking point. I reacted to the circumstance. I reacted to the implication that my life choices were interfering with her happiness. I accepted the blame, but tried to push it away by screaming my frustration in an effort to finally be heard. 

“I guess I’ll fix it, just like I fix everything else. Even though it’s my one day off. I’ll take care of the laundry that you never finished.”
TRIGGERED: Suddenly, I’m eight years old. Standing in the kitchen, crying about laundry. Feeling inadequate. Feeling like an inconvenience. Feeling like I can’t hold up my end of the deal. Her tone and words combined, and the comment translated itself in my mind. It became, “You aren’t good enough. Good thing I’m more awesome. You’ve ruined my day. You’re lazy. You can’t do anything right.”

Excessive self-criticism, I know. 

THE MIRACLE: An equally sudden shift occurred. I realized, I was 29. Standing in her kitchen. Listening to her berate me for my inadequacies. But I didn’t feel inadequate-I felt overwhelmed. I recognized overwhelm through a new lens. The inner critic had never seen this lens before, and had no power to usurp my words as I clearly, coherently, and quite powerfully expressed them. 

“I deserve to be with someone who wants to support me emotionally.” 

That was almost a year ago, and I’m still struggling to integrate that from an intellectual knowing and brashly articulated sentiment into a core belief. But I am getting there-one day at a time my self-esteem and self-worth are getting stronger. My ego is getting healthier. That is really all I can ask for. 

Not an Isolated Incident

The tensions were high. The tensions were often high. I worked 60 hours a week, and so did she. Juggling graduate school, teaching, and working kept me stretched to my limits. Stress ruled our lives. I always did my best, and I guess she probably thinks she did, too. I still tried to maintain the home and play housewife. Home cooked meals, and cuddles in the couch. Gentle touch, and a warm embrace was all I really needed. I still loved her. I wanted to make space for her. I still held on to the Us I wanted us to be. 
I was home for an evening. No class, no work, and when she returned from work-I was happy for her arrival. In those moments, she was my life. 
I heard the door open and close. She came in and greeted the dog, and I waited. I waited. I waited. I know she saw my car in the driveway. I can’t wrap my mind around why her excitement to see ME did not match my excitement to see HER. I waited. Finally, I went to the kitchen. Sadness triggered, defenses engaged. 
“How come when you come home, you greet the dog, but not me?”
“Are you seriously jealous of the dog? It’s just what we do. You’re never here when I get home. I didn’t really think about it.”
“I’m not jealous of the dog. That’s not the point. I know I’m not here a lot, but I am today. One would think that would make it even more important to, I don’t know, say hello.”
“Hello.” Her cold tone matched her cold eyes. 
This was not an isolated incident. So, when I thought that I could somehow be better-that had become my mental refrain. “I’m a bad girlfriend. I don’t give her enough attention. She’s so used to coming home without me here, it’s like I’m not here at all. How could I do that to her?”
I don’t know how it happened. How my thinking got so warped, and how it could get so twisted so quickly. I have no idea how my hurt feelings could so quickly get turned into sympathy for her. I have no idea how I so quickly internalized her shame. But it happened all the time. 

Addiction

Not always using substance
But always using something

To cover up the shame with more shame

Fun isn’t real and cannot be held

feigning freedom
Building traps without 
doors held open

Windy wishes blown 
Like stardust that was only ever
rusted truths compromised and crumbling 

After the storm has passed. 
A new storm will always be
on the horizon. The weather
patterns uncontrolled 

Sunshine that burns

Snowflakes falling
like sawdust in our eyes

Nothing is ever clear. 

There is no moment of knowing

Every second preparing 
against the next angry fix 

fighting a battle of wills 
In unknowing battlegrounds

Everybody Has Darkness, Everybody Is Bright

This is a little different than what I typically post. Here is a response to something I saw on facebook that resonated with me. The comments section maintains a commentary which is similar to my old way of thinking in my own damaged (and damaging) past. No matter how much we have been hurt, there comes a time when we know something else is the answer. When what we have always done doesn’t work anymore, we have to do something different.

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Yes, every body is a little damaged. The world breaks everyone. Here’s what I have learned, through both experience and a lot of therapy. You may choose to take on the weight of someone else’s difficult past, but it is not required. It will eat you alive. See, the thing about coping, is that many of us have gotten so good at denial, that while we are able to acknowledge certain injustices, we are not always equipped to process them, nor are we ready. That must all be done on our own terms. To be in a relationship with someone fighting demons, often allows us to ignore our own. This, my fellow humans, is a recipe for disaster. This is where toxicity seeps out of every small wound we have ever had. This is codependency. This is not healthy for either party involved.
You cannot take away someone else’s pain. At best, you may be able to get them to recognize it so that they may tend to it themselves. We are all silent warriors in our own battles. Nobody can win them but us alone.
It is our duty, when we see or know someone struggling, to merely offer peaceful support. Some of my personal favorites are: handwritten notes, coffee dates (in which battles may or may not be discussed, it is up to them), home cooked meals, and chocolate.
Light attracts light. Do not fall into someone else’s darkness. Bring them closer to your light. The only way I know how to do this is to concentrate on your own light, and let them find their way to it.
I will end with this quote, one of my many mantras, “I will take care of me for you, you take care of you for me.” This is what I find to be the secret of all healthy relationships. Attachment is not love. ✌️