“I love you. You know that.”
That’s what his text said. I had sent a link to a song, Tim McGraws, The Cowboy in Me and I don’t know if he listened to it or not- but, that was his reply. Something inside of me exhaled. Something that had been holding its breath, waiting for the end- that now appears to be often facilitated by me. Crap. Why do I do that? An end facilitator? That was not on the list of things to be when I grow up.
Let’s back up. If we were a movie, the screen would be doing that out of focus, wavy thing and we’d be going back to a different time. But we aren’t a movie, we are a blog. Crap. I just had an epiphany. Pause the movie. We are a blog. Do you see that my friends? We. Are. A. Blog. We are. As in you and I. Oh my Lord. I just felt community. Let’s sit with this for a minute. Okay. Unpause. We are not a movie, WE are a blog and so we are going to stop mid thought/subject, and switch gears completely. Insert wavy screen here.
“Nothing so much prevents our being natural as the desire to seem so.”
― Francois Duc de La Rochefoucauld
This has been my struggle as of late. Being me. Being the natural me. Knowing me. What does that even mean? “Know thyself.” Was that a sick joke? A riddle with no viable answer? I once read that a wise guru said we should ask ourselves every day, Who am I? And so I did, because a book said, that a guru said, that you should. So it must be true right? This, I see now, is how to NOT be me. By thinking that if it worked for them, it will work for me the exact same way…and maybe it will. But maybe it won’t and for God’s sake Melissa, that’s okay! Do you know how hard it is to be me when I keep questioning who I am instead of being who I am? Well, it’s hard. I’ve been doing it for a year or more now. Guess what? It doesn’t work for me. And guess what else? That’s okay too.
Last night I sat down to blog. I sat down to blog my life- almost moment by moment. I wanted to be funnier and more down to earth. I wanted to show that I am normal too- with kids and a job and a french press that I don’t know how to use. That I have this fear of taking my kids to the park because I don’t know how to play good enough and because I have a fear of plastic playground equipment that may, or may not, have been peed on. I wanted to be relatable. It sucked. It was horrible, so NOT me and painful to read. It was painful to write. In an effort to really expose myself to you, I managed to sink deeper into the question of who am I, but nowhere near the answer. So I stopped.
Stopping is not easy for me. This is one of those moments when I realize that I need to work on something- like stopping, but upon looking back I can see that I have gotten better at it. Not really good at it, but better. Somewhere along the way, when asking that question of my true identity, I did learn to become aware of who I was…and I was not a stopper. I was, I am, a pusher. Now I would like to point out that what we do to others we do to ourselves first and worse so that we can establish a level of empathy here. Now, I’m a pusher AND a stopper. That sounded good when I wrote it, but then not when I realized the truth of it. The truth of it is that it’s a recipe for angst and disaster- for breath holding.
“I love you. You know that.”
That’s what his text said. I had sent a link to a song, Tim McGraws, The Cowboy in Me and I don’t know if he listened to it or not- but, that was his reply. Something inside of me exhaled. Something that had been holding its breath, waiting for the end- that now appears to be often facilitated by me. But, just like that, it was over. In the world of Melissa, which is projection/reflection, it would be wise to relate the lyrics of the above mentioned song;
“The Cowboy In Me”
I don’t know why I act the way I do
Like I ain’t got a single thing to lose
Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy
I guess that’s just the cowboy in me
I got a life that most would love to have
But sometimes I still wake up fightin’ mad
At where this road I’m heading down might lead
I guess that’s just the cowboy in me
The urge to run, the restlessness
The heart of stone I sometimes get
The things I’ve done for foolish pride
The me that’s never satisfied
The face that’s in the mirror when I don’t like what I see
I guess that’s just the cowboy in me
I am not a cowboy, but this song was written about me and 98.2% of every man I’ve ever dated, which makes sense under the projection/reflection theory. We are what we seek. Ain’t that the damn truth? Chris may in fact, be a cowboy. Except he doesn’t like horses- but he is a man and super good at being the strong, silent, cowboy type. Also, I’d like to reiterate the statement- We are what we seek. This is not to say that Chris and I are identical, because oh momma, we are not! Chris is like the artistic medium in which I express myself. He is how I become aware of myself. He isn’t the only one- That’s not how the Universe works. Relationships are how we see ourselves- good and bad- and all relationships serve this purpose. Our relationships with our friends, our children, our partners, our parents, our bosses and complete strangers…Our lives, our Selves, are reflected in the people we share space and experience with and this can be clearly seen when we aren’t projecting all over them…Which, by the way, is pretty much hardly never- and so seeing is a complicated, time-consuming, hold your breath series of do overs. And over. And over. And over. Chris is my do over, over.
This morning I woke up like I always do, with my mind racing around in circles. Insert dog and tail-chasing. I don’t think that I’m tired when I wake up. I think that I become tired. I think that waking up and the barrage of thoughts that start upon eye-opening, are fricking exhausting. But, now I have a new thought on that. That’s who I am. I am never going to wake up and slowly open my eyes and think,
“Oh what a wonderful morning to be alive! It’s so beautiful and open to possibility! I can’t wait to bound out of bed, make coffee in the french press and meditate!”
I wanted to be that person because somehow it seems judgementally better to be her than just tired old me, but I can attest that it is not. It’s exhausting just trying to be her. I would just like to open my eyes, calm my thoughts, pick up my daily devotional, my one sentence journal that doesn’t work for one sentences, and start my day. I’d like to notice how much I love that bush outside my bedroom window, debate (again) what to do or not do with my pallet bed and be completely and totally aware of the small, warm, perfect, Pretty Princess next to me. That’s who I am. I’m sleepy, not exhausted. I’m a work in progress, not a bounding force of energy. I’m more like the spark that results after you’ve drug your feet on the carpet through every room of the house- I have to build up to this life.
This morning I woke up, calmed the thoughts and grabbed the not one sentence journal. I opened to the little flyer we handed out at Albert’s funeral that I use as a bookmark/reminder and began to write the following sentences;
Let the search begin
Gracyn waking up and asking, did you have a wish this morning?
“I love you, you know that.”
Why do I go through struggle? It was over just like that. Why does that make me anxious?
That’s two damn good questions that needed to be asked. Why do I struggle? Is it my foolish pride? My restlessness? The face that’s in the mirror? Yes. It’s the mirror part that’s most important. The reflection. What do we reflect in our own lives? What, by needing to struggle do I reflect? Who am I reflecting? Where did I learn to struggle? Why am I anxious at it being over, just like that? Can’t it just be over? Storm clouds past? Sunny skies? Why do I struggle with letting the storms go?
“All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.”
― Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven
I blame my parents.
The short version to these questions lies in my parents inability to handle their children and their marriage- and not just how I interpreted it, but how I instilled it within myself. I read once that part of our contract in life is to work out our parents crap. Thanks mom and dad, both for being screwed up (insert sarcasm) and for not being screwed up even worse than you were (insert gratitude here). My parents fought. Not in physically abusive ways. Not even so much in screaming ways- though it’s no surprise to me right now that any screaming done, was my mother…damn it. My parents fought by systematically aiming for the heart of the other person, targeted on exposing and exploiting each persons greatest fear and then by never, ever, forgetting. My parents laundry listed each and every word, deed, harm, insinuation, and threat- saving them all for ammunition later. My parents built weapons of mass destruction, forever altering the atmosphere of their marriage, and as it turns out, my life. My parents created storms. They did not let them pass. Calm was a sign of something being wrong- of the enemy gathering troops and preparing for the next big attack. Silence was deadly in my house. Love was dead in my house, the casualty of fear. The fear of being alone (mom) and of not being good enough (dad).
Ask me what Chris and I fight about most- the things we fear and say most. Go ahead, ask. I’m glad you did. Chris fears not being good enough. I have this way of touching that part of him that does not feel good enough. NOt just touching it, but waking it up by kicking it where it lay, dragging it out of him and poking at it until it’s like a rabid beast in the corner. I do that. I am so, so, so sorry for that. I want to say that a colder, more scared, frightened little girl part of me, knew for sure that she was doing it, but that I- the woman who loves him- could not see that clearly until this morning. If this resonates with you in any way, please go apologize now. Please be a part of the clearing of the storm and not the thunder.
As I do to Chris, he does to me. He is an expert at finding that little girl in me and essentially dropping her off on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, with the minimal of supplies to survive until he decides to come back for me. He says things like,
“I won’t go anywhere without you” but then leaves me there alone and in silence.
“Push doesn’t work for me” then he pushes me away, indicating, that it does in fact work for him. Push does NOT however, work for ME. That’s projection/reflection at work friends. He says,
“I need time and space” and I hear, you are alone and I may or may not be back. You may or may not have to do this alone. I hear, just assume that you are alone. You are not good enough for me, or for anyone else. You are not good enough for marriage, taking the kids to the park, or life in general. You suck.
He did not in fact say any of that. Unfortunatley for him, I say enough for both of us, 98% of which he never hears, rendering him guilty and defensless at the same time. It is not easy to be my other half in the crowded whole of me. If Chris and I were another couple, I’d have advised me to give him time and space. To realize that this is how he is, for now- possibly forever, and that no matter what he does, you and you alone, have to decide if that’s doable for you. You can’t change him- you can only change how you react to him. You can choose to suffer through this- to struggle, or to accept it as the way in which his storm comes and then goes…knowing that just like that, it will be over soon enough. But we are not another couple. I did not give myself that advice. I suffered. When the storm passed I struggled to let it go. I asked myself, what is your problem Melissa? You got what you wanted and now…now you want to argue with it?!
I had to look for compassion here. So I opened my devotional, The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo and read July 13. (This is how the Universe and God let you know that you’ve hit the mark. That’s called an awakening. FYI- sin means to miss the mark.)
Now you see it, Now you don’t.
God Leads me to still waters that restore my spirit. Psalm 23
It doesn’t take very long for each of us to accumulate an emotional history. A child burns her hand on a stove and a fear of fire begins; in a tender moment, a hand is slapped and a fear of love begins. Our emotional associations and reflexes run deep. Often, the heart breathes beneath all our associations like a soft, sandy bottom, waiting underwater.
Thus, to see ourselves clearly, we must try to still our associations till we are as transparent as a calm lake. When still enough and clear enough, others can also see through to our bottom. It makes love possible again. But paradoxically, when someone is moved to reach for us, their fingers stir things up, sending ripples everywhere, and we and they can often lose sight of what matters.
All this affirms the need to stay with our feelings long enough for the emotional associations- the ripples- to settle. No one can escape this. No matter how young or old you may be, no matter how innocent or experienced you are, if you’ve been awake and alive and in any kind of relationship that has in any way been real, your waters will stir, your emotions will ripple. It seems the only way we can truly know our own depth is to wait for our associations and reflexes to subside, till we are clear as a lake again. Only when what gets stirred up settles, can we see ourselves and each other clearly.
While proofreading this blog, I felt compelled to call Chris and read it to him. In Mark Nepos above essay he says, the reflexes run deep. Mine seem to lay just below the surface in the shallow end. They stretch far and wide AND deep. My first reflex to my call going to voicemail was neither practical, nor pretty, but my oh my, it was reflexive and deep. The Queen began,
“It’s ten am his time and you haven’t heard from him. He lost track of time last night and nothing this morning. He probably doesn’t even have his phone with him…”
I would say all of this to Chris as in, I would not hold any of this in as my inside voice, but here is what he would not hear,
“He obviously had something more important to do than you and probably with someone he’d rather be with than you. Maybe fishing. He’s really just more afraid of being alone than wanting to be with you. Why would he want you anyway? You’re broke, in debt, twice divorced and a giant nag. You’re lucky he gives you anything at all because he could probably do better- like that woman you saw in Starbucks with the perfect clothes and hair and make up- She probably has a fabulous car and house, her kids are probably grown and in college, her ex husband is probably fantastic…man you suck. How did this happen? Your dad was right. You are your mother’s daughter.
Let me leave you with this my friends. It is hard, so, so, hard, to be who we are when we are trying to surface our way through the depth of our relflexes. When we are struggling to swim through the silt and mud at the bottom of our souls and rise up into the currents of life that will, please god let this be true, will become the still waters of our lives.