|Aphrodite startled, also known as Lely’s Venus.
Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. Used under
a Creative Commons license.
I’m going to delve into something here that is really hard for me to share. In fact, as I write this opening paragraph, I’m not sure if this post will ever see the light of the internet.
I’m writing it, though, for a few reasons. First, I am going to write daily. It’s an important intention of mine for reasons that would take a million years to explain, but that every writer would understand without explanation. Actually, I think any artist or any person who feels passionately about something can “get” it. It just needs to happen. Second, I share constantly about my life. Avoiding sharing what I’m currently experiencing is so utterly inauthentic and unusual for me that I know if I want to grow beyond this stage, I had better get it out of me. Finally, as my fog of sadness, low self-esteem and raging emotions lifts, I am starting to realize that I’m not the only person on the planet who has had these experiences. (This isn’t an “aha moment,” it’s more of an “oh, duh” moment.) In the same way that I feel much better to read about what others go through and talk to friends about what they go through, I want to give that back to the world. I know how to write. I know how to articulate my thoughts and experiences (most of the time). I shouldn’t just read what others have written and not give back. I kind of owe it to the world.
I’ve been dealing with a very serious, painfully recent breakup. You would think, after having so many major life experiences, that I could have handled it pretty gracefully. I did not. I still am not. All I can say about the way I’m dealing with it is that I’m still here! Things are getting better for me. I would prefer to continue moving forward, but I doubt that I always will. That’s not pessimism speaking, but realism.
I have much control over my present and future, but the things over which I have no control make me want to break stuff. That’s a really difficult emotion for me. I can never remember — as an adult — being so angry and feeling violent. It’s not a good feeling at all. My only explanation for this is that these experiences are definitely creating the “fight or flight” response in me, but I don’t have the option to flee. So, fight it is.
I’m working on trying to channel the fight into something productive instead of destructive. I don’t feel like I’m there yet.
I’ve been working very, very hard on doing something about the sadness, low self-esteem and raging emotions. This work might help deal with the anger. I really believe it is important to feel your emotions and work through them because, if you don’t, the problems hold you back and those feelings will resurface again, making some future situation much harder to manage. I’m dealing with such ugly and terrifying emotions, however, I have felt stuck within them.
Two weeks ago, my therapist suggested I write a relationship vision. A very powerful feeling I have is that I want someone to share my life — to be a partner in all things, to have adventures, to have romance, to navigate ups and downs. While friends and family are incredible and I certainly feel love from them, being in a partnership is a very different and exclusive feeling. You can experience physical closeness unlike you can with anyone else. You can experience vulnerability (which I believe is a good thing and opens you to an amazing world). You can experience a shared vision. While these things might be replicated in other types of relationships, I feel they are most strongly found and developed within a romantic partnership.
I have felt really weird saying this — in my head, to my therapist, right now. Really, I don’t think anyone has to have a romantic relationship — I don’t think I HAVE to have one. I have never been one to jump from one relationship to another. Although I married at 26, I was plenty single before then and single after that. I didn’t even feel I needed to be in a relationship when I got into my recently-ended one. I have never felt I needed to be in one. I have recently realized I WANT one and I have wanted a deep, satisfying, loving relationship for a very long time.
It’s kind of like buying a new house. The house you live in is a shack. It’s a cute shack you chose and you loved it when you got it. Then, you realized the roof leaks. That’s ok, you can deal with that, but, damn, it’s annoying. You make the place your own: paint, buy throw pillows, bake cookies. Then, you realize, you really would prefer to have space for a washer and dryer, a roof that doesn’t leak, a little garden out back, and maybe a kitchen with a stove that has more than one functioning burner. Do you need a new house? No, you are getting along just fine in the shack. You really love it, actually. And the mortgage is practically free, so that’s good. But you really, really want that washer and dryer, garden, dry roof and functioning stove. And, why not? You want a nice house. You will shop around and make sure you get the best darn new house you can afford. Will it come with it’s own set of problems? Probably. Surely, the mortgage will cost more. It will take more time to clean. You might get termites. But the washer and dryer, garden, dry roof and stove will make your life better than the cute shack every single day. The trade-offs are undoubtedly worth it.
I want the new house, dammit.
I feel like I have a lot to give toward a healthy, positive relationship. I feel like I would get a lot from one, too. So, Dr. Therapist told me to write a relationship vision. It felt weird admitting that’s what I wanted to do, but it was no problem for me to actually do it. In the last few weeks, my vision of that person has become utterly clear in my mind. Completely. Entirely. I know what I want, mainly because my relationship failures have made it abundantly clear what doesn’t work for me, as well as what parts I miss terribly. It probably took me 30 minutes (or less) to write my three-page relationship vision.
As I neared the end of it, I realized I was writing about a pretty incredible man. My mind started wandering into the territory of “do I even know someone like this?” As it turns out, I could name more than a handful that — from outward appearances — do seem to fit the bill. And what do they all have in common? They are married. Of course, “already married” is not in my relationship vision, but it was a bit depressing to realize that. They are married to women just as incredible as them. And the very next place my mind jumped? “You could never attract someone like this.”
Chalk it up to a therapy bill of $800 or so (and counting), but I was able to stop myself and say, “your therapist would have a lot to say about that.”
So, I decided I need to write a vision for myself. It only seemed appropriate. Why the heck was I writing about some other awesome person when I didn’t even think that much of myself? The only problem was, I couldn’t come up with a single positive word to describe me.
That’s a problem, eh?
I sat at my computer staring at the empty screen unable to think of a single thing about me that was good. I have been propped up in recent weeks by friends. I could see their faces as they looked at me and said all sorts of wonderful things to me, but I couldn’t recall a single word. I tried hard to remember it — anything — and I had nothing.
I pondered it for a day, thinking maybe I was just putting too much stress on myself at that moment. Still, over the next 24 hours, nothing came to me. This was so far beyond writer’s block; this was a complete and catastrophic self-esteem failure.
I recognized how empty and sad that was, which was exactly how empty and sad I was feeling.
I decided to reach out yet again to my friends. I planned to ask them for five positive things about me off the top of their heads. It would be just a little boost to get my mind headed in the right direction. But as I considered this process, I wondered if reaching out to my best friends would really be enough. They told me the things I needed to hear all of the time and it wasn’t sinking in! What would make the most impact for me? What would I BELIEVE? As I thought, I decided I had to broaden my request. I needed some men on my list – men I thought were pretty cool. I needed people to whom I don’t normally look for validation: co-workers, acquaintances. I even included my ex-husband and his wife (my daughter’s stepmother) on the list. If those people could come up with five things, I would be forced to believe them.
It was an idea so crazy, it had to work.
So, I sent out emails and over the next few days, the words that came back to me were, in a word, AMAZING. Just as I thought, as the first BFF emails came in, I thought, “Oh, that’s sweet … but they have to say that.” Then, as more and more came in, all echoing the same qualities over and over, I started to believe it. (And, yes, my ex-husband and his wife each sent me a kind and wonderful list.)
Then, I wrote.
First, I wrote “how others see me.” Using present tense “I” statements, I wrote up all of the qualities people were giving me. It was two full pages of awesomeness.
The same things came up so often, there was no way I could deny that it is me. At the very least, it’s the me the world sees when I’m at my best.
It was the self-esteem boost I needed to get myself writing a personal vision. Again, using present tense statements, I wrote about the life I want now and in the future. It was incredibly empowering.
Since I wrote those documents — eight pages of who I am and what I want in my life — things have dramatically shifted for the better. I’m able to concentrate better. I’m more emotionally stable. I’m thinking a bit more clearly. I feel hopeful again. I’m not all there, but I have vastly improved.
When I have moments where I’m getting that feeling where I’m about to spin out of control, I read my statements. If things are really feeling badly, I read them out loud. Sometimes, I can’t do it aloud, but I’ll mouth the words. Something about the physical act of reading them makes me concentrate harder, makes me feel it, makes me believe it.
As I’ve done this, I haven’t needed to call one friend to cheer me up in the last 10 days. Yes, I’ve talked to friends, but it’s been really more about quality time laughing or catching up. I haven’t needed someone to tell me I’m OK. I have my statements to tell me and I can slowly feel my inner voice starting to say it.
As I write now, I can tell you those qualities about me are absolutely true. I can also tell you I’m perfectly capable of achieving my vision — both in my life and relationship goals. In fact, it’s pretty true right this minute, minus a few minor details. My therapist and a few close friends tell me those details are there right now, I just have to grab them. As I write now, I’m not sure at all why I didn’t think I could do it, even for a moment. However, in an hour, I’m just as likely to feel frustrated and hopeless. That’s when I’ll pick them up and read them again.
I’m looking forward to the moment when those visions feel like an integral part of me. They are, to say the least, very inspiring. I want it all.
So, I’m still working, as I’m sure I always will be. I’m still trying to get the anger under control. I’m still trying to integrate how others see me into my psyche. (Did you know I have great hair? I HAD NO IDEA! But at least four people said it, so I’m going to believe it now.) And I’m trying hard not to put pressure on myself to work on everything at once, which is really impossible and exhausting. I’m just trying to believe it for now.
And because ABBA makes everything better, here’s a song for you. I picked this version because their blue eyeshadow matches their blue outfits! And if ABBA can be one of the most commercially successful acts in rock history with those awkward dance moves, surely I can write a book people will read. My dance moves are better.