Friday, December 16, 2011

Pain in the Neck: A Story with a Happy Ending

My neck was a mess. It had kinks, muscle tightness and a dull pain.
This neck pain was, forgive the pun, a pain in the neck.
It got to the point when I could barely turn my neck to do a shoulder check when riding my bike in the summer.
So I began going to my massage therapist weekly in hopes of working it out. I have periodically visited a cranio-sacral massage therapist ever since she magically banished the migraines I was getting when I was pregnant with my first child. Generally, one or two visits eliminates whatever pain I might have for months.
But after about six weeks of regular visits, it didn't seem to be making any difference. So I asked a logical question: "Why isn't this working?"
To which she responded, "You have a lot of stress in your body. You carry it in your shoulders – the weight of the world. Until you deal with that, I can only offer up mild relief." Then she went further, suggesting I ask myself a question: Is it true that it isn't getting better?
To which I admitted that, well, I could now shoulder check quite easily, though it still ached at time when I sat at my desk.
"So," she said, "it's getting better."
"If it's getting better," she ventured, "then isn't it possible that it can continue to get better."
"And what might you need to do to help it continue to get better."
And so I admitted that I could stretch more, stand up from my desk more often and – here's the key – tell a different story.
This story, rather than focusing on this pain in the neck that won't abate, is about pain that is abating, albeit slowly. It's about letting go of the stress in my life that I don't need to take on (my father's grief over my mom's death, for example). It's about being responsible for my own "stuff" and letting others deal with their own. It's about not managing other's issues (ie. reading to my husband from books I've been reading on addiction in the hopes that he'll "see" the point) and letting them find their own way.
Lo and behold, my neck pain is improving. It even disappeared a few weeks ago.
Now I feel it creeping back but rather than look at it as a setback, I'm viewing it as an early warning system.
I'm taking on more than I should (holiday shopping, planning, mailing gifts – trying to create the "perfect" holiday for my family).
I'm building resentment over my husband's refusal to go to church with me and my kids. (This is fodder for another post but he was raised Catholic and marched into church every Sunday and has a strong visceral reaction to ANY church.)
I'm trying to tell myself a different story around that. I could stick with the script that if he loved me enough, he'd overcome his resistance and go because it's important to me and the kids.
Or I could tell myself that he has such trauma around church and his parents' doctrine of guilt and shame that church triggers trauma all over again (there's also the potential that he's repressing abuse...given his sex addiction). And that he'll either overcome it or he chooses. In the meantime, I have the choice to either go alone with the kids, or not. My choice.
My story.
My healing.

What's yours? And can you reframe it in a way that gives you power?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Be Willing...

December 10 marked the five-year anti-versary of D-Day.

And those who follow this site will note that I recently shared how far I've come since that day five years ago. That I, as much as anyone, was surprised to find myself healed and happy.

I've given some thought to the path I've walked this past five years. And while thinking about it, I happened upon a radio program about grudges featuring callers with grudges they've carried for decades. A few phoned in with grudges they've managed to let go. One man, whose father (!!!) carried on an affair with his wife (!!!) had managed to forgive both of them and move on with his life. He had relied on a 12-step program and a strong relationship with his "higher power" to heal. Another woman finally recognized, after a decade following a nasty break-up, that she was punishing herself by holding on to the grudge. She, too, let go and forgave.

It can be hard to even conceive of forgiveness in the early days of discovering such a betrayal. And forgiveness is such a fluid concept. It can mean different things to different people. To me, it reeked of absolution. And there was no way I was letting my husband off the hook. He was damn well going to regret what he did every minute of every day.

Until the day that didn't matter anymore. Until the time I was able to see that making him "pay" was only keeping both of us locked into an adversarial relationship based not on mutual respect and caring but on jailor and jailed. The power I felt was an illusion and kept my heart locked up.

What I'm suggesting to all of you – no matter where you are on the path to healing – is that you open yourselves to the possibility of healing. That you be willing to at least consider forgiveness – whatever forgiveness means to you. It doesn't (shouldn't!!) mean that you're saying what he did to you was okay. But how about being willing to forgive if it meant simply that you recognize his pain, even if he still can't recognize yours? It can seem impossible to acknowledge that cheating is a consequence, not just a cause, of pain. But no-one hurts another like that unless they're hurting too. Whether they seem cavalier about it or not, betrayal is borne of pain.

And forgiveness needn't (shouldn't!!) in any way indicate that you will continue to let anyone hurt you. Forgiveness of another doesn't mean abandoning yourself. Your first duty is to protect yourself, emotionally and physically.

But that duty to self must also include a willingness to open up to healing. And that can't happen when your heart is locked up tight.

It doesn't need to happen today. But consider opening up the teensiest bit. To be willing to consider the possibility of the miracle of healing (and believe me, it will feel like a miracle).

And while you're considering it, watch this video about miracles and what can happen when you're willing...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How Fearing Adultery Hurts All of Us

I felt badly for Herman Cain's wife who, when news hit of her husband's 13-year affair, reportedly said, "Here we go again."
But it can't be ignored that it was news of his adultery that derailed his presidential nomination – NOT the reports of sexual harassment.
And this is, I think, part of the problem.
Sexual harassment is a crime. not. Adultery is hurtful absolutely. But it's not criminal.
Yet we live in a society that treats it as more serious...or at least a portion of society treats it as such. And by keeping it in the shadows, we don't talk about it, nor do we discuss how to deal with it if it happens.
Instead, we all pretend it only happens in bad marriages. Or is committed by people of poor character. While I'm not defending those who engage in adultery (though it might sound as if I am), I am saying that we can't tar all adulterers with the same brush (as tempting as it is to tar them with something...especially when you're the hurt party!!).
My overwhelming wish, having survived betrayal, is that society discuss this as something that can, and frequently does, happen in marriage. Even "good" marriages. But bringing it into the open, I'm convinced that, rather than make it more acceptable, we'll make it less attractive. By seeing the pain it causes in relationships, by having honest discussions about the impact and the long, rocky road to recovery, I would hope it would seem a whole lot less tempting.
What do you think? Does treating adultery like the scarlet letter make it more likely? Or less?
As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts.


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