What was said; What I heard

I read something that had a pretty big impact on me at a pretty important time which has led to the inspiration for this post. I have not spoken to my mother in a week. This would not generally be note worthy but this time it is. The last time we spoke ended badly and the space I thought I needed to take care for myself expanded from a half hour to multiple days to now a week.

During this week my Dad showed up in his normal role in our family: peace maker/mother fixer. My Dad picks up the messes of others so everything can stay neat and tidy and we can all pretend there is no mess. Dad also takes care of Mom, Mom comes first. Always.

The space has been painful. I feel like a terrible daughter, I feel like I am the problem, I feel like I am breaking my mother’s heart, I feel guilt, I feel shame, I feel like I will be a terrible mother. I feel self-doubt. I worry that my actions are manipulative, I am constantly second guessing myself. I feel unstable, out of control.

As the space has gotten bigger so has my truth; I feel rejected. I feel used. I feel blamed like a scapegoat. I feel resentment. I feel more stable. I am starting to gain clarity. I am starting to truly understand how much bigger than me this is. I am learning how to care for myself since the focus is not constantly on caring for her. My heart is aching. I feel let down.

Yesterday or the day before, I honestly cannot remember now, I was reading a blog that I have been following for a long time. It is a blog similar to my own; personal, searching, honest. I appreciate the honest part most. I admire and appreciate people who are willing to say out loud that life is hard, families are hard, relationships are hard. I see enough posed photos with perfect smiles, sometimes I need the honesty of how devastating losing a pet can be. This blogger shows up in her truth.

So I was reading this post that true to form was painfully honest and I definitely identified with parts of it. My truth is different from hers but I saw myself, my childhood self, in some of her writing.

I wasn’t sure I had the courage to be so honest but right now seems like the time. The only way for things to be different is to do things differently. That means honesty and stepping out from the shadow of denial. Last week my mother and I broke another vase, metaphorically speaking, and despite all his efforts my father was not able to sweep these pieces under the rug like so many broken pieces before it. So now I am going to stand here in the mess I helped make and accept Alma’s invitation to be seen in my truth.

What was said and What I heard:

Calm down: You are acting crazy. You are crazy.
This isn’t going to work: You can’t do this. You made a mistake. You did this wrong.
Your mother is really upset: Your mother is really upset and it is your fault. You need to apologize to your mother. Please fix this for me. I am scared.
Your brother _____________: I love him more. Your accomplishments, life, words, ideas, problems, are less important than his.
Mother-daughter relationships are hard: This is what it is, get used to it. Stop trying to change things. Stop upsetting the apple cart.
What is most important is that we love each other: Do you still love us? Are we good parents? Please don’t leave us. Family comes before everything, including your emotional well-being.
*Silence*: Fuck you. You are the worst. I will not bend. You will give me what I want. Who do you think you are? You owe me this. You are not stronger than me. Don’t make me angry. How dare you. I do not love you.

What I needed to hear:

This started long before you.
This is not your fault.
I own my part.
Take all the time you need, I will be here.
I am ready to really work on this.
The truth, the real honest truth.

 

There are a lot of ANDs that exist in this space of pain but this time I am going to keep my ANDs to myself. I know what they are and that is what matters. I do not feel compelled to make this mess pretty to make myself or anyone else more comfortable. Not this time.

mom

I Need Some Time to Take Care of Myself

I said this to my mother today after she said something to me that was an instant trigger. My mother knows how to push my buttons. Of course she does, she created them!

The moment I felt myself losing control I showed up for myself: I need to get off the phone. I am upset and I need some time to take care of myself. I love you, I am not mad at you but I am upset and I need to not be on the phone right now. We can talk later.

It was important to me that I spoke my truth and got off the phone as soon as possible. I did not want to be pulled back in, my mother often tries to pull me back in.

Mom: Well I don’t know how to respond to that.

Me: Yes, I understand this might be confusing for you and I am sorry about that but right now this is what I need. I have to get off the phone, we can talk later.

……Silence……

Me: Mom. I really need to do this for myself right now but it is important to me that I am not hanging up on you so can you please let me know that you are okay so I can go?

I look down at my phone. She had already hung up on me.

Jokes on you kiddo.

I stood there in my fury and rejection and cried. Here I was needing to take care of myself but still putting her first. I was afraid of how my just hanging up the phone would make her feel while the whole time she had already it done it me. I was trying to mother my mother who was not mothering me. The only person I needed to be mothering was myself. And that is just what I did.

A half hour later my dad was calling. This is typical. This is one of our patterns. Mom and I fight, Mom tells Dad, Dad smooths it over. Nothing is resolved, just ignored. Dad is the reset button.

No thank you.

I turned off my phone and spent the rest of the hour taking care of me and mothering my inner child that felt completely rejected and destroyed by her mother.

I do not know how I have the clarity of mind to even write this right now. My mother is tornado, her path of destruction is wide and I am often left in utter shock and confusion in the emotional wake of it all.

I still do feel a bit shell shocked but I this time I showed up for me and that made a difference.

inner child

Looking Out for Each Other

looking out

Recently in talking with friends this topic has come up about getting needs met in relationships. Whether these are intimate relationships, social, familial.. We have different needs depending on the relationship.

I have said this before and I still hold it as one of my personal truths: I do not believe a person can be sustained by just one relationship. That is a lot of pressure to put on another person, to meet every single one of your needs. I say this because I think sometimes there is this (unrealistic in my opinion) idea that when we partner off with whomever our “forever” person ends up being, they are supposed to do this for us; meet every single need. Or “complete” us.

That is not my truth.

My husband absolutely meets a lot of my needs but this sweet man cannot do it all and I would never want him to.

The conversation came up again today at internship between myself, another intern, and one of the social workers who I think I will probably stay personally connected with once I leave. We were exchanging numbers and agreeing to stay in touch. We were talking about how important it is that we (social workers) look out for each other. What was meant by this is that we keep in touch and get together from time to time to hold space for each other.

I do not discuss work with my husband. I might tell him Hey I got a great review or today was hard or my supervisor said this weird thing to me that I don’t get, but I do not talk about the actual work. Most of my clients have survived severe trauma. There stories are sacred. And more over, if my husband was able to hold space for this kind of work he would have become a social worker himself. My husband is not a social worker and he cannot hold space for this kind of work and I have no right to burden him. I do not discuss work with my husband, or my family, or my friends. They might get a two second snippit of something surface level but that is it and that is rare.

This is one example of how I do not expect my husband to meet all of my needs for me. The truth is sometimes I need to discuss social work, in a confidential/ethical way, and I have my social work people for that. This is how we look out for each other. They will not become annoyed if I needed to vent about the red tape that I am encountering that is getting in the way of me getting my client the services they need. They will nod along as I complain about silly things that happen during a therapy session like me not being able to control my body while someone is disclosing part of their trauma and suddenly I sneeze in the middle of their tears. Sometimes I show up in human ways and I need someone else to be like Oh gosh, that is the worst, listen to what I did..

This is true for me in other ways as well. I have always been a girl that needs girlfriends. I need female companionship. My girlfriends show up for me in a way my husband would be clueless to, and that is okay, I would never have this expectation of him.

Then there is my therapist. I would never expect my husband to try to hold any of my stuff for me. It is my stuff to work through, asking him to hold it would only complicate our relationship and blur important boundaries. My therapist is there to hold that space so I can hold my stuff and work through it in healthy ways.

I could keep listing examples of how all of these different relationships are so important and need to be separate. At the end of the day the only person I should ever be looking to take care of all of my needs is me. I am responsible for that, just me. And part of how I take care of me is by enlisting all these awesome people to hold a little space now and then, and as a thank you I return the favor for them.

I am looking out for me and we are all looking out for each other and it works.

NF Types Managing Conflict: Part III

While on this trip one of the topics that came up was MBTI. My one friend, the one who had never been in crisis, just recently took the test for the first time and discovered she was an ENFJ. We all talked about our different types together. I am INFP, another is INFJ, this friend is ENFJ, and the last friend said she has never taken the test but I am pegging her as an INTJ.

My ENFJ talked about our similarities at length regarding our two types since we are both NFs. One similarity is that we both abhor conflict and avoid it all costs. We are both peace keepers. One of the things she was processing with me over breakfast when it was just the two of us one morning was how she has trouble boundary sometimes because she is very self-sacrificing and does not want to hurt others. I get that. I have struggled with that as well and I have other ENFJ friends who I know have sacrificed their own emotional well being at times for others. Some of my best friends over the years have been ENFJs, including a few of my current soul friends. I think NFs are naturally drawn to each other because we process the world similarly.

These talks we had helped both of us support each other over the trip as we did have to start setting some pretty rigid boundaries with our friends on the trip.

The first boundary came when they were buying alcohol. My ENFJ friend and I knew we would not be drinking. We had to be up early, look professional, we would be in front of our professors and colleagues from the program not to mention elected officials, and then we would be in the car for four hours. It was going to be a long day. My ENFJ was not willing to risk the hang over. For me this was a no brainer because I stopped drinking all together last year.

We made it clear to our friends that they could do what they want but the plans were what they were for the next day and we would not be changing plans if someone was not feeling good.

We then decided to move my ENFJ friend into my room for the night so she would be able to rest and not get caught up in any possible alcohol induced shenanigans. We did not mean to assume the worst about our friends but they way they were talking at the store was not encouraging.

That night after I had called hubs and checked in for a while I invited my ENFJ friend into my room. We took turns in the shower, talked for a while, watched the amazing light show put on by a lightning storm out our window, and then read our books in bed together until bed time. We were asleep by 9:30.

It was a nice evening. I felt as comfortable with her as I do with any of my people that I am close with (family, soul friends, my husband). I know it is because of our similar personalities. Even our E and I are similar. While yes, she is an extrovert, she is an extrovert that needs quiet alone time because she gives so much of herself when she is out in the world. And while yes, I am an introvert, I am a social introvert because I spend so much time lost in deep thought that it is necessary for me to come to the surface and be social in my own way in order to maintain balance.

The one area we realized we differ is when it comes to our J and P parts. She talked at length about her need for control. Not in an overbearing, manipulative way. It is more of just needing to have a plan and be prepared for possible outcomes. She is very on top of things (hence her arriving 15 minutes early to my home on the day of departure). Where she struggles is when things do not go as planned or she does not have options in situations meaning that control is lost.

I related to her when she was talking to me about this. I think everyone has this piece. My control piece may function differently than hers and may not be as prominent but it is there.

The next day our concerns were confirmed and I have to say I think the two of us did well in supporting one another while we both tried to maintain control over the situation, be flexible when needed, and deal with conflict through boundary setting.

 

This is What Abundance Feels Like

This brainwork is a bed of soil A place she where she digs And I watch as her thoughts they grow I like to peek over the iron-wrought walls of friendship, fortresses and fear to see The things that grow beneath Her words fall Into the freshly-watered soil of a blank computer page To grow […]

via The Harvest of An Idealist — Everyday Poet

Yesterday my soul friend and I were emailing back and forth as we typically do at the start of the week. I was struggling in one of my relationships with a colleague at school and she had sage wisdom to help me with my boundaries. At the end of the email she informed me she had posted some new poetry for me to check out.

I was sitting in a parking lot outside of a Banana Republic, I was on the search for a dress to interview in. I opened her blog and read and then spent the next few minutes in my car crying. My soul friend is one who my garden gate is always open for and this is why. She understands the beauty and meaning in all my delicate emotions and can see the work I put in planting my seeds.

I am really touched by her piece, more so than I have words to express.  I am very grateful for all of my people and moments like this bring me back to my gratitude. Thank you poetry queen, you touched  my heart.

soul friend

Emotional Arsonist

emotional-arsonist

I was weary and ready for sleep tonight when it was time for lights out. I did not write yesterday because the words had not yet come to me. Then magically they appeared in the middle of the night as they sometimes do like a song stuck in my head. The longer I lay there trying to ignore them, trying to wait til the morning, the louder the song grew. Until there was only one choice to make, it is time to write.

I woke initially with a pain in my shoulder which makes sense because I am carrying a burden. A burden that weighs heavy on my heart and heavier on my soul.

Before I go further I would like to offer background for this post:
The Unraveling of a Family Tie
and
Boundaries are Hard in Families
will give some context to this post for anyone that wants it.

Out of respect for my family I have been doing what I consider shadow writing on topics related to family issues up to this point. For now I plan to continue to write in the shadows, I may feel differently about this as time goes on, that is yet to be seen.

So in these previous posts I have mentioned a long brewing issue that one family member is at the center of. In recent months another family member has become involved and when this took place a small flame was lit. A flame of negativity and malice, of confusion and mistrust. This small flame has resulted in a raging fire of destruction and disconnection that threatens to engulf my family.

Previously I mentioned that I am not the fire department and I hold no power to extinguish this blaze; that is still my truth. I am one person with a bucket though and today was the day I decided it was time to pick up my one bucket and use it before it was too late.

Up to this point this flame has been somewhat contained. There are two family members who started it and they have been trying to add small pieces of kindling but the fire has burned away from most of the rest of the family so we have been able to remain uninvolved with collective hope that this fire would burn out on its own given enough time. Today a flame from that fire licked my face and that was too close to comfort. It was time to set a hard boundary.

What took place was that my relative who is one of the fire starters emailed the entire family to speak their truth about another family member who they have a waged character war against. This was done as a way to further discredit this person and lambast their integrity. On this issue I remain neutral, this is not my quarrel. What I will not do however is accept any kind of correspondence that will cause further injury to my family. I did not read more than the first line of this person’s email, that was enough for me. From there I took a breath and decided to respond. My response was as follows:

_________________ ,

Please know that as I write this email I bear you no ill will. I believe that you feel that you are doing what you think is right.

With that said, I did not read your email and I will not read any further correspondence that means to further injure our family. When I say family, that includes everyone. You, ______, and _______ will always be part of my family and I will always have compassion for all of you, as I do everyone in the family.

I feel as though you have lost your way and I send you light and love during this difficult time.

As for  __________, there is nothing that anyone could ever say that would convince me that he is anything less than good hearted.

I hope we are able to heal as a family. The disconnection we are experiencing is hurtful and it does not have to be.

I am sending you love and forgiveness.

 

This was my bucket of water. This was my offering and my hope is that the healing energy of love and compassion would act as water to the flame. If not, I have at least set the boundary in an assertive way to let them know I will not accept this kind of correspondence going forward.

This person’s email was entitled “The Truth” and they spoke their truth. I took this as an invitation for the rest of us to speak ours.

I have remained silent and neutral up to this point, as the rest of my extended family has, for reasons I have listed before: hopefully this will blow over, it is none of my business, etc.

This is not blowing over, the flames are growing larger and the moment my relative sent that email to the entire extended family this situation went from being none of my/our business to this person making it our business.
There is a time for silence and a time for action and for me the time for silence ended the moment this person hit the “send” button and spewed this venom on the family.

I still remain neutral on the overarching issue because I do not believe it is my place to pass judgement on who is right or wrong. I might have my private feelings about that but I do not have the authority or the right to pass that judgement openly. I also do not believe that doing so will help me meet my ultimate goal for an outcome which is the healing and preservation of my entire family.

Judgement and anger and other negative emotions would only further insight this fire. To put out a fire you have to introduce a new element: sand, water, etc. Love is my water. Unconditional forgiveness  and compassion are my water. An invitation to heal is my water.

When I sent my response I replied all. No one else in my family had responded to this relative, this is still true. My hope is that I was able to set an example of love, an example that my family will have the courage to follow. My hope is that my family will see me here with bucket and join me with buckets of their own healing truth to share with this family member in an effort to extinguish this flame.

In the end we cannot control this person or their reactions. We are not the fire department and we may not be able to put out this inferno. I will not stand by with my bucket and feel useless though. I will not watch my family burn and do nothing when I have a bucket I can offer. My family may be doomed to burn either way but at least I know I did my part.

Tonight I send out love and light to everyone in my family, we all are hurting in the wake of this crisis. My hope and intention is the light I am sending out be the light that guides my family back to a path of love and connection. We have to come back to each other in love and connection to heal and be whole again.

 

An aside: When I got out of bed to come and write I did what I normally do when I write in the middle of the night. I lit my candles to bring light and love to darkness, I lit my salt lamp with the same intention, and I made myself a cup of tea. Then I took my tea and nested in blankets on the couch for comfort. The tea I often make for middle of the night writing is a brand that has what I think of as “love notes” on the tag. When I looked at the love note on my tea it was as though the Universe knew what I am trying to do with my healing bucket of water and was sending me support and assurance in its own way.

cosmic-support

 

You Came Back.

I had lunch with my best friend from elementary school Monday. This is the second time I have seen her since she has come back into my life and I can’t explain the feeling of having her back.

I remember dancing to Madonna and the Beach Boys in the living room. I remember having the same day beds in our bedrooms and wearing the same shoes and the same clothes and pretending we were sisters because neither of us had one. I remember selling purple cool-aid on her street corner because we didn’t have lemonade. I remember our brothers being best friends too and us both thinking they were nerds. I remember sleepovers every weekend, I got pink eye for the first time because she had it and I wasn’t willing to be away from her.

This girl is a big piece of my good memories. It feels good to have something good from that time in my life come back to me.

Not everyone comes back. There are a lot of uncertains in life. My brother walked out a door one day to go off to boot camp and there was no certainty that he would come back. It took 10 years before he was back for good. I walked out of room one day thinking I had more time not knowing that was the last conversation I would ever have with my papa.

People move. Relationships end. Lives end. You make promises about one day.. One day.. But the truth is you don’t know and you can’t control it.

To have someone so important and so good come back after so long.. It just hit me how rare and special that is.

Sitting across a table talking about big girl life with my best friend from childhood is a dream come true for my inner 8 year old . We were together then talking about our dreams and we are together now talking about our dreams.

The holes people leave in our lives may get smaller over time but it wasn’t until she cam back that I realized they never really go away. She cam back and suddenly I felt a bit more complete, that hole was once again filled.

dancing