Sunday, September 7, 2014

Breakthrough! (And it should have been obvious.)

I'm kind of excited.

Actually, I'm really excited.

I've been trying to figure out my issues, my epiphany, my family of origin, my inability to locate what I want in a romantic partner....

....and I actually, really, truly believe that I may have figured it out.

Happy dance!

But before you read, be prepared to scratch your head and say, "What, that's it?  THAT is the sum total of your breakthrough?  It took you this long to figure out THAT?"

Well, I warned you.

My epiphany is something along the lines of the following:

I don't trust my relationships because the big players in my life (parents and husband) had words and actions that did not align, and I'd grown to accept that as how people would treat me, and I was never going to agree with that again.  Okay, realizing that I had a trust issue was the epiphany.  But the solution?  The solution is so vivid all of a sudden, and it's this:

"I can trust anyone whose words and actions align."

That's it.  Isn't it beautiful?  Isn't it gorgeous?  It's so simple, and it's got a method for testing it built right in.  I can say, "Do his words and actions align?"  If they do, I can proceed with trust.  If they don't, I can end it immediately, or say "Your words and actions don't align right now."  If he apologizes and then immediately aligns his words or actions, we're golden.  If he continues to have words and actions that don't align, it's my sign to walk away.

Brilliant!  And it seems so perfect, because I FINALLY FREAKING GET IT!

I told you.  It's not exactly a new idea.  I've heard it before, and so have you.  It's basic pop psychology of the kind found in rows and rows of books at Barnes & Noble.  I think, honestly, that I'm a little slow that I didn't figure it out earlier (like 44 years earlier), but allow me to explain (redeem?) myself.

My whole life, the key players in my life looked me in the eye and spoke nonsense, and told me that what they were speaking was reasonable.  I believe that this is called "gaslighting" - look it up.  To me, this was normal.  It was normal to have someone say "I love and cherish you and I'd do anything for you!" and to immediately follow that up with "Why are you so stupid?" or "Do it yourself!" or "Gosh I'd love to help you but I just can't.  I'm sure you understand!"

Get enough years of this under one's belt, and you get used to it.  I responded by becoming super independent (good), and by learning coping skills (not as good as it sounds).  I treated this like NORMAL behavior.  Annoying, but normal, behavior.  I learned to always have a fallback plan.  I learned to allow my needs to be placed second (or last).  I learned to ignore the more minor versions of this behavior because I was tired of fighting it out.  I am a fantastic enabler, as it turns out.  Among the best!

But, ever the optimist, I kept trying.  When it got really bad I'd say, "Can't you see how this is?  Please change?" and hope for the best.  I'd work on myself so that they didn't have to go it alone.

But in the end, I expected them to do what they were going to do and keep saying one thing and doing another, and somehow I felt like maybe this was because nobody would ever really love me if I didn't put up with this behavior.  I felt like a few crumbs were better than no cake.

Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  This is ridiculous, and not the way I hope to raise my daughter.  ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

But I think I've got it figured out from a new angle, and I swear I hear angels singing.

Let's look at another example: Luke.

Luke: gorgeous, successful, committed dad.  Absolute flatterer, knew how to butter me up with language until I was quivering.  Gentlemanly behaviors like door opening.  Said things like "I can't believe that I wasn't looking, and then I found you," and "I've never wanted to introduce someone to my kids before, but I think you're different," and "I dreamed of you last night and woke up wishing you were here" and "You're amazing, sweetheart, and I'm so glad I found you."

Sounds just about perfect, right?  Who wouldn't want that?  Who wouldn't be shocked when he suddenly went all icy and said, "I'm so sorry but I don't have time to date so this is over," without preamble?  Poor me, right?  I couldn't have possibly seen that coming, I mean, it was so PERFECT, right?  Proof of the goodness of love and romance in the world, right?


Here's what I wouldn't allow myself to see:

He said those things to me in text more than in person.  I'm not sure he said them in person, actually.
He said, "I miss you so much" and didn't make much time to see me.  We once had a whole day planned together, much organized around kid and work schedules, and on day of he changed it to 10:30am-1:30pm.  That's not my definition of a whole day.  He said, "I really wish it could be longer" but then he left.
When - before we had sex - I revealed how nervous I was about exposing my scarred body with the unfeeling fake breasts and no nipples, he said that he was fine with it.  I took that at face value, and clearly we moved on.  But I'd be lying if I said that "fine" was all I needed.  I needed some deeper reassurances, and I didn't get them.  All those flattering words, and he couldn't comment on something that is such a deep part of me, of my fears, of my body?  He couldn't say, "I can only imagine how hard that must have been for you" or something to communicate that he got it, at some level, or that he understood me?  He said, "I want to know every part of you and to be there for you" but when I gave him that chance, he left me hanging.
We went from first date to him slathering it on thick.  At first, I was resistant.  It seemed a bit too fast for me.  It seemed like he couldn't possibly know me enough to say those wonderful things, that he was level jumping, if he was a serious person who took relationships seriously.  But I wanted to believe, so I believed.  It WAS too much, it didn't align with who he said he was, but I chose to believe.

Does any of that make Luke a bad person?  No.  He may or not have been a player, but that's not the point.  The point is that there were all kinds of small and large ways that his words and actions didn't align.  He said, "I want you, all of you!" but his actions said, "Not that often and only on my terms, because I'm not really in this."  I saw it all along and wouldn't admit it to myself.  I was willing to do cartwheels - I moved childcare around to accommodate him, but he never did the same for me - because I thought that was my job.

So sad when I think about it that way!

But now, I feel differently.

Now, I would notice that he wasn't making time for me, and I'd see that action for what it is.  I'd probably refuse to move to second base with someone who couldn't connect with me, even a little bit, about the fact that being a breast cancer survivor makes that a super big deal for me.  (Is that fair to the guy?  Maybe not.  But it certainly wasn't fair to me, either, to have my breasts chopped off and replaced with unfeeling blobs.  A guy who won't face that also isn't going to come to my side as I sit in the oncologist's office hearing results, and that is a normal part of my life that a true partner would have to share.  It's my reality.  Someone who cares about me would say, "I want to be there for you," and not "Fine.")

So, I think I know how to remove the briar forest around me, the fortress that I have erected to keep myself safe.

I can let the briar forest fall away, knock down the stone walls myself, stone by stone.  I can do that, because now I understand that I always have the ability to spot the distance between words and actions, and that I know I can keep that boundary in place.

If there is chemistry, I can allow myself to enjoy it.  I can let someone in, to let them see me as I really am, including the soft places in my heart that I protect.  I can be vulnerable.  I can expose my true self - not just my Wonder Woman self, the parts of me that I am proud of, but all of myself - and I can open myself up to falling in love, the ultimate act of faith.

Because now I have faith in myself that I can acknowledge when words and actions do and don't align.  If they align and there's chemistry and matched values - hurrah!  And when they don't align (and looking back, there are usually early signs) I can walk away calmly, because....

I'm worth it.

I'd rather be alone than with someone whose words and actions don't align.
I believe in love, and it's worth waiting for.
Men want women whose words and actions align, too.
There are good people in the world, and one of them will find me, and I will find him.

My words and actions align.  I don't parent the way my parents did, not at all.  I'm not my parents, and I'm not my marriage or my ex.  I will be a different partner than before if I ever meet the right person, one who makes me want to be a partner.

I'm me.  And I think that some man is going to fall in love with my integrity, my joy, my energy.  And now, I'm going to be vulnerable enough to really, truly let him in.

And that makes me so happy!

No expectations, no timeline, no "Bring it on" and DEFINITELY NO ONLINE DATING.  (It's not for me.  I've given it a good run, the ol' college try, and it's over.  I don't like it, and I'm not good at it, because it makes me impatient and shallow and I'm tired of first dates I don't wish to repeat.).  I'm just so happy to have this new self knowledge, this new discovery, this tangible way of viewing my own problems.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  Happy.  :-)


This lesson has been a long time coming, by the way.  Ending my marriage was the beginning.  I told him, "Your words and actions don't align!" and I was so angry at him for that, and knew that I deserved better, and that being alone would be better than living that way.  But I am to blame for some of that.  His words and actions didn't align for a long, long, long time before I finally confronted him, and by then we were too entrenched in our way of being to change our relationship; in reality, our relationship relied upon me agreeing to these disagreeable ways of being.  I could see that his words and actions didn't align (finally!), but I couldn't see what my part in it was until now.

There was a moment after we got engaged, a specific incidence, that set off warning bells in me.  I called him out on it, and he got very, very angry with me.  From a relationship perspective, I probably, in hindsight, should have ended it right that minute.  Things got worse, not better, and I agreed to it, over and over.  The agreeing is my fault, not his - I could have walked, and chose to stay.  I could have expressed strong boundaries, but instead, I swallowed anger and pride and agreed to his words even when his actions told a different story.

But thank goodness we married.  I love my daughter so deeply, and nobody else could have brought her to me.  And maybe, just maybe, I would have had the same problems with anybody I married, because my inability to have boundaries around words and actions was MY fault, not his, and so I drew someone to me who fit that pattern.  (Would a healthy person agree to such a partner?  I doubt it.)

Today is a happy day - I think I finally "get it."  September 7 - Breakthrough day!

And in a strange twist, today is also a beloved cousin's birthday.  Katherine, after whom my daughter is named, would have been 44 today if she had not died at the age of 17 in a car accident.  Oh, dear Kathy, how I miss you, and your friendship, and your humor, and your stubborn persistence.  I've always thought you were looking after me - did you send me this, on your birthday?  I love you.  I hope you're dancing to Duran Duran records with Princess Diana, wherever you are.  I'm ready to believe that this has your hand in it - thank you.  It's a funny, quirky gift, and only someone who knows me as well as you do could have come up with it.  Does that mean that when I talk out loud at you, you're really listening? 

Today also would have been my 15th wedding anniversary if we had stayed married.  I believe that the Universe just rewarded me with a gorgeous anniversary gift.  It's perfect, just what I needed.  Thank you, Universe.

Come to think of it, I was so excited to get married on Kathy's birthday, but I can just imagine her going "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" because she was a straight shooter and she probably would have said something to me, the one in a million with the courage to say something (because nobody else did).  But maybe she wanted to see that little girl who is named after her come into the world, and so she stayed silent.  Our Katherine was worth it, Kathy.  But I'm not going to have any more kids, so help me choose better next time, okay?  Thanks.

Truth is stranger than fiction.  And today, I'm talking to angels and the universe and I probably sound like a nut case, but I can live with that.  I've been accused of worse.  :-)

Dear reader, today I am wishing you epiphanies and joy, gifts from the Universe and angels. xoxo

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