Monday, March 12, 2018

Reframing your story to reclaim your power

Fragments of Hope posted a while back about something she's done to heal. It's a powerful exercise, inspired by a book she read, and I was struck by the potential it had to really help others so I'm including it here: 

I've been doing so much work lately on core values that have arisen from childhood and on self-forgiveness. A powerful tool is to write out how we forgive ourselves for the things we tell ourselves about ourselves post affair or how we don't nurture ourselves. I've been doing a lot of meditations that emphasis all the areas where we don't respect and accept ourselves. Also I must very highly recommend a book by Meryn Callander: After his Affair, Women Rising from the Ashes of Infidelity. In chapter seven, she walks us through the ways we have betrayed ourselves, a gentle exploration of the ways we did not stand up for our needs or our boundaries with pertinent questions. With all the work I'm doing, I decided to listen to what I told myself post-affair and still sometimes tell myself. I first listed those core beliefs from childhood that still resonate. Later, as you will see, I answered each of them back and hope to eventually fully accept those new statements. 

I am stupid
You were trusting and optimistic and positive on the side of light and could not see the extent of the dark treacle of his maladjusted patterns and needs.

The family life I’ve created is worth nothing 
The comfort is you provide to others is invisible sometimes but more powerful for that.
What I contribute to the family is worthless (you thread through everything and are the fabric even if they don’t know) 

I am interchangeable with these other women he gets involved with 
Even if there are people behind the scenes it does not stop me on this new journey of self-respect, love and strength.

I am helpless in the face of others’ entitlement and vilification. 
I will be me, everything I am strongly and truly with whoever I want to be

I am not safe
If you are hurt again, next time it will be filled with fire and purpose

I am foolish

You were open and accepting of another human the the good in him but his twisted pattern overcame even what he says he wants

I am weak
You are a tree in a storm. You are a rock in weather. 

I am sad and pathetic
You are disappointed that others do not hold the same ideals of light, you have given yourself up to see the side of others. You can hold onto both with yourself as the strong core. 

I am afraid
You must rest in yourself and in a place of tenderness, you are a tree in the wind. 

I am confused
You have lost yourself in the weather, you must identify the roots of yourself, you must hold situations up to the light of your values. 

I will never know what I want to do. 
There is always something you want to do before you second guess yourself. You have been given clear warnings and signs. 

I will never fulfil my writing dream. 
You are very close, you are preparing your energy

I mean nothing
And everything

I am boring 
You see the quiet and remarkable things. 

My life will be and is a disappointment 
There is already so much done if unseen. You have clarity and intelligence and are unlocking energy. 

Wishing you all the chance to find yourselves and your strength again this year xx

Thanks Fragments of Hope for sharing this. It is so powerful. And so are you.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Guest post: Today you rest.

by Still Standing 1
Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future... Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. ~Maya Angelou

Today, I give you permission to rest. Today you don’t need to be strong.You don’t need to figure anything out. You don’t need to get all the things on your list done. You don’t even need to check off one. Today you don’t need to hustle. Or kill it. Or be winning. You don’t need to do everything for your kids or spouse or other people in your life. You don’t need to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm.
I’m reading exhaustion in so many of our posts. We’re just so tired. Tired of hurting. Tired of trying to fix things. Tired of being in charge of our own healing. Tired of standing and working and pretending like we are okay. Tired of being in charge of the emotional labor. Of everything. Of holding it all together. The thing is, trauma sucks all your energy. Surviving is tiring. Working on your own healing is bone achingly exhausting sometimes.
As I train for my first half marathon, I’ve learned pretty quickly that my rest days are an essential part of my training process. Resting is an active choice and not a waste of time that should otherwise be “productive.” Rest is a chance to let my body and mind recover, regroup and heal. I can’t run seven miles and then go run 14 more. I need to rest in between. I think sometimes, in the wake of betrayal, we try to run all one hundred miles at once, in one day. Just let all the running be done. We think if we run hard enough it will all go away. But…that’s not how this road back from trauma works.
When was the last time you rested? Gave yourself a break? Let yourself off the hook? Gave yourself a hug? Said something nice to yourself? Savored your meal? When was the last time you stopped moving, sat down and took a deep breath?

Today I give you permission to stand down. Don’t light the match. Stop hustling. Today you can read a book or play a useless video game or sit and listen to birds completely guilt free. Nap. Put your feet up. Leave the dishes and the laundry where they are. No guilt. The truth is everything will get on just fine if we don’t do all the things we feel we ought to be doing. Don’t accomplish one official thing and, in so doing, give your body and heart and mind some much needed space to be. To recover. To unclench and breathe and gather strength for the next leg.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Boundaries Are About You. Just You.

I recently had one of those "a-ha moments" reading an e-mail that quoted Brené Brown's wise words on boundaries. That they are simply "what is okay and what is not okay."
And what I suddenly realized is that the missing words are "for you." And that, my soul-warriors, is what trips us up. Too often we think that our boundaries are not only what is okay and what is not okay but that others need to agree with us about what is okay and what is not okay.
And so we get talked out of our boundaries.
It might go something like this: It is not okay for my chronically late friend to keep me waiting. Next time it happens, I'm going to give her five minutes and then I'm going to leave and go on with my day. 
We set our boundary. It is not okay to keep me waiting. If we're feeling super-mature, we tell our friend: If you are late again, I'm going to wait five minutes and then I'm going to leave.
And then this happens: Our friend gets defensive. Our friend tells us how busy she is. Our friend insists that she's rarely late. Our friend reminds us of the time we were late. Our friend suggests that a true friend accepts others just as they are. And so on.
Or, just as we're leaving, our friend arrives breathless and sees us with our coat on and our purse and our keys in hand. I got caught in traffic, she says. Or I got stuck at work. The babysitter was late. Why are you in such a hurry? What are you being so hard on me? I suppose you're never late? And so on.
And our boundaries, that felt so firm, suddenly feel squishy. They feel selfish. They feel awful. And the critic in our head starts up: You're not perfect so what gives you the right to be so hard on others? You've been late before. What makes your time more valuable than theirs. And so on.
What felt so simple and so clear – What is okay and what is not okay – is reframed in our own heads as selfish and rigid.
And, then, for many of us, we give in. Or we at least get into a discussion, as if our boundaries were negotiable.
They're not.
What is okay and what is not okay is not negotiable. They are our boundaries. Their purpose is to keep us emotionally and physically safe. What's more, they keep a relationship healthy. They keep us free of resentment, that poison that seeps into the cracks of a relationship and makes it toxic.
You know the feeling. The one where you've been talked out of your boundaries and so you sit back down with your late friend but you're seething with resentment as she chatters on about her life. Or you agree with your husband that you're being hard on him by insisting that he sleep on the couch when, really, all he did was have a lunch meeting with a woman in his office, who's actually old and unattractive and he would never ever cheat on you again anyway so why are you making such a big deal about this. And while he's congratulating himself on convincing you that it wasn't such a big deal after all, you're fuming because you feel violated, yet again, and you feel that you've betrayed yourself, yet again.
Yep, that feeling.
And that's the thing with boundaries. They are about self-care. They are about self-respect. Those who can't see that – who instead make it their mission to convince us that our boundaries are negotiable – aren't interested in respecting us. What they want is to control us. To keep us pliable. To keep us doubting.
Remember: Boundaries are what is okay and what is not okay. You get to decide for yourself. And it doesn't matter if anyone else agrees with you. Your boundaries might shift over time but they should shift only because you've decided to shift them, not because someone else has demanded that you do. For one person, being kept waiting is not okay. For another, time is a relative construct. There is no right and wrong. There is only what is okay and not okay for you.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

What Brené Brown and my crappy ex-friend taught me about pain

"It is so much easier for people to cause others pain than it is for them to feel their own pain."
~Brené Brown, On Being with Krista Tippet

I was driving along the highway listening to Barry Manilow. (No dissing of my musical taste allowed. Manilow was and is a musical genius/national treasure. Do not argue with me.) I haven't heard his music in years. Ever since the digital revolution made my LPs and CDs irrelevant. But a recent Spotify subscription is restoring my music library and giving me access to my youth via music yet again.
And so...Manilow.
Music, we all know, transports us, often to the past. I landed somewhere around 1984, the year that my best (ha!) friend, recently dumped by her boyfriend, began dating mine. Technically, my boyfriend and I had broken up a few days earlier. We were "taking a break" (yeah, I know). I was at school in another city and it just wasn't working. But I was heartbroken and he was heartbroken. Enter "friend" (ha!).
And so my friend (ha! again) made her move. First she told him what a crappy girlfriend I had been (which might have technically been true). Then she told him that I already dating. (I had gone on ONE date and I was sad through the whole thing.) I didn't find all this out until later. I knew she wasn't returning my phone calls, which was weird. And then, a week later, I show up at a party and the two of them are clearly a couple.
My heart shattered.
I give you this backstory because, over the years that have elapsed since 1984, this episode in my life has become something of a punchline, a sort of "wow, I was young and stupid and had really bad taste in friends" kinda story, punctuated with laughter.
But, with Manilow singing about heartbreak, I didn't feel like laughing when I remembered. I felt like crying. Because I suddenly remembered how painful that was. I was so young. And so in love with this guy who was completely wrong for me. And I had trusted both him and my friend (HA!). Not to never hurt me but to not intentionally hurt me.
Thing is, this friend (ha! ha! ha!) carried her own pain. Lots of it. She had done this to other friends. She fed on male attention. And so, even acknowledging so many years later, courtesy of Manilow, just how painful that was, I was able to see exactly what Brené Brown is telling us: It's so much easier for people to cause others pain than it is for them to feel their own pain.
Think about how often that happens in your life. A mother who can't apologize to you for something cruel she said. A friend who would rather sever ties than face your hurt, or her own. A husband who convinces himself that it's okay to cheat on his wife. That "nobody" is getting hurt.
It's psychological (not to mention moral) gymnastics, this ability to numb ourselves to our pain while hurting others. But it's as common as dirt.
All of us carry wounds. We cannot reach adulthood (hell, we probably can't reach first grade) without having suffered an emotional wound, some deeper than others, of course. And many of us learn to ignore it. In a culture where expressing emotional pain is seen as weakness, we pretend we're "fine", especially men. In a family in which our emotional pain makes us a target for more, we learn to hide it. We lie to the world. Nothing to see here. And then we believe our own lies.
But that pain doesn't go away just because we pretend it isn't there. It simply drives our behaviour in ways that aren't so obvious. We eat more than we should. We drink more than we should. We spend more than we should. We cheat more than we should.
And we refuse to accept responsibility for the pain that we're causing to others because we're so divorced from our own.
I've always been a sensitive person. "Too sensitive", if you ask the most wounded (but least aware) people in my life. When I was about 12, I came home from school upset about something a friend said. "Why are you crying?" my mother asked me, even after I'd explained. She was so removed from her own emotions that she, literally, couldn't fathom tears. Not surprisingly, she spent a decade at the bottom of a vodka bottle, numb to her own pain. It was only when she got sober that she got in touch with any feeling other than shame. There was a world of hurt waiting for her to face it. But until she was able to own her pain, she caused me a world of it.
That's the challenge as we deal with infidelity. And it's such a tough one. The challenge is to acknowledge our own pain at being cheated on, while also acknowledging the pain that drives someone to do something so contrary to his own moral code (if it isn't contrary to his moral code, then that's a whole other problem). Healing from infidelity isn't a zero sum game. It can be true that you are in the worst pain of your life because of what he did. And it can be true that he never addressed the pain in his life, which is why he did what he did. Your pain doesn't cancel out his and vice versa. Each of you must tend to your wounds. Especially so that you don't carry them with you in a way that allows you to hurt others without regard.
We cannot be whole until we are able to acknowledge our own pain and the ways in which we've hurt others. Only then does healing begin.


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