Things I want to keep in mind.

Month: September, 2016

Dirty water

Her hair was wild.  She looked like a character in a horror show – I was actually glad that it was daylight or I might have been truly frightened.

She does not recognize me anymore.  Even if I tell her who I am.  It is rare that she can express a full thought on her own. Normally, she just repeats whatever you say back to you – with the same inflection.  She can express joy – as she did when I brought my grandson in to visit.  He is 16 months old and she immediately started talking in her baby voice and waving her arms at him.

It is almost as though her mind works in waves.  If it is the right day, and the right time of day and if you stay long enough, she will say something – or half of something.  But how do you ever know if it is the right day?  It is heartbreaking.

The largest part of the heartbreak for me is letting go of my lifelong hope that ONE day I could know her and that she could truly know me.  We were always on opposite sides of the river.  I spent my life looking for a bridge or a place of shallow water for crossing.  Even though I can accept that we will never make that crossing, I will always wish for it and mourn the finality of that lost prospect.

Logically, I know that she loved me.  All mother’s love their children – they sew, cook, clean, transport, teach, and help their brood in anyway they can.  She sacrificed a lot of herself in her lifetime – trying to make a life for all of us.  She left her home and family and moved to a foreign country (Montana) where she was lonely and ridiculed.  It was a cold place, in more ways than one.  Of course, she was depressed and sad and often felt her life was out of her control.  She was right to feel that way.  Knowing what I know about her life, I do not begrudge her feelings of loneliness, frustration and resentment.

The little girl in me just wishes that it could have been different.  She wishes that there could have been more softness and less harshness – more concern and less disregard.  She wishes that her memories could produce more feelings of being cherished and less of being a burden.

We don’t choose to be unloved by those who should love us. Shame will keep us in all kinds of prisons if we let it. And it will keep us from those we love and who love us. (Call the Midwife)

In my lifetime, I have learned a lot about feeling unloved, about low self-esteem and about codependence.  I have my own personal library of self-help books, several that I refer to regularly.  I understand that the little girl who felt so alone and unloved still exists though she is in the attic or dungeon – whichever you prefer. I know there are triggers – a phrase, certain types of days, certain types of people, certain smells, certain fears. Despondency will surface, sometimes without my knowledge and certainly without my bidding.  Usually, it takes time to become aware and then it takes more time as I mentally backtrack to find the trigger and convince myself that the feelings aren’t REAL or justified.  Frankly, it can be exhausting.

Most of us believe that if we LEARN these things about the little girl, we can be “healed”, she will feel loved and we can move forward unencumbered by her frailty and dismay.  Not so.  She is like an abandoned water feature in the yard.  You can turn off the water that feeds her, but every time it rains, the water will accumulate and puddle between the rocks.  If there is too much water and it isn’t drained, the water will grow bacteria and slimey moss will begin to grow.  This will attract all manner of insects and crawling water creatures.  Better not to abandon the fountain but instead keep the water clean and clear, don’t let it overflow or fall into disrepair.  Listen to the trickling water and remember that the fountain doesn’t grow moss, the dirty water does.


Placation Nation

Placating (to appease or pacify, especially by concessions or conciliatory gestures). We all do it. As children, parents, spouses, employees, siblings – for every relationship we have, we do a good bit of placating. So much so, that sometimes the lines blur and we have a hard time distinguishing our own wishes. We can’t make a decision about what we truly WANT because we are so busy placating those around us. It is part and parcel of our codependent nature. And we all have codependent features – whether we know it or admit it – we want to please others, we want to avoid confrontation, we want smooth sailing and we’ll do whatever it takes in order to achieve it.

Placating isn’t necessarily a bad thing – we can be peacekeepers. We are observant, as a group, mindful of avoiding obstructions that can block the path, we can operate efficiently and quietly and get things done. We are good parents because we are so attentive, ever vigilant and looking for changes in behavior, need or desire in our children. It becomes an ISSUE when those lines blur, when the success, peace and quiet of others becomes more important than “us“. We become ill, we can’t sleep, we lose or gain weight, we lose ourselves.

(As a sidebar: a word of warning. There are those who don’t know the meaning of the word placating. They will power through and run roughshod over every “placater” they see and not even notice the bump. We are like fuel for their fire. If you have a relationship with someone like this, either at work or in your personal life I have one word of advice, RUN.)

There is a very fine line between placating and sacrificing. Very often, more often than we’d like, that line disappears. We lose our way, we spend our time doing things for others or the way we know others want things to be done. We placate and then place ourselves at the bottom of the pile, the proverbial back burner. We may be quiet about it at first, knowing that we CHOSE to make this sacrifice, but in the end we are resentful and angry. Sometimes, it boils over and we lash out but we are more likely to remain quiet about it – repressing those feelings simply because we know that we made that choice of our own free will. That repression sends us into a shell – seething, frustrating, ready to burst with a desire to speak up and stand up; confused and wondering: How do we get out of this eddy?

Escaping the vortex that is the placation nation, is a long and difficult process. One that each of us must deal with on our own and in our own time. BUT we can start now. As my good friend always says, “You get to decide”. Find your most difficult and prominent placation situation – the one that makes you feel the most resentful and frustrated and begin to detach. Accept that you can’t control the situation or the outcome. Begin communicating what you need – start by telling yourself. Then practice saying it to others. It will feel awkward at first, there will be guilt. Breath through it. Find something that helps you decompress and process – running? walking? journaling? coffee with a trusted friend? reading? yoga?

We need to take responsibility for communication. Let our words reflect high self-esteem and esteem for others. Be honest. Be direct. Be open. Be gentle and loving when that is appropriate. Be firm when the situation calls for firmness. Above all else, be who we are and say what we need to say. In love and dignity, speak the truth–as we think, feel and know it–and it shall set us free. CODEPENT NO MOREMelody Beatty

The truth is – once a placater always a placater, to some degree. The important thing to learn is how to prevent the disappearance of that thin line from placating into “sacrifice and loss of self”. We need to learn how to identify those cues that warn us we are “over-placating”. Cues like feeling sad, resentful, lost in the shuffle, overworked and overdone. Then we know to pull back, breath, regroup – speak up. Say what you need to say. The guilt will get more and more opaque as we progress.

**A note to my children: as I’ve written this, I have realized the possibility that you may feel the need to placate me at times. I promise you that I will try to be aware of those times so that I can assure you, it is not necessary. SAY WHAT YOU MEAN AND MEAN WHAT YOU SAY, and I will do the same. It will be difficult at times but we are traversing this world together and we can manage, if we want to…we get to decide.

***Book recommendation for anyone – Codependent No More by Melody Beatty

Fair play

Rules of fair play. We are taught, we teach our children, and they usually teach their children, to be fair. We are led to believe that life is fair. If we do what we “should” then all will fall into place and roll along in a river of clear, sparkling fairness. THEN, we meet that kid in school…the one that is mean and a bully and, somehow, never seems to get caught or punished. In college, we witness cheaters cheating, lying, stealing and, still, they play a starting position on the football, basketball, volleyball or lacrosse team; they graduate with high honors. We work with people who do next to nothing, take all the credit for the work of others and, yet, their income is three times as much as our own. Sometimes, we marry someone we believe has goals and plans similar to our own, only to find out they intend to mold us into something else and then ridicule us beyond recognition. Most of us will die alone, in a house or rest home, possibly remembering our life as it once was or, very likely, not remembering a moment of those bygone days. Doesn’t sound fair, does it?

We watch our children struggle with their feelings of betrayal from fairness. We feel it ourselves. Follow those rules and you can’t lose. Have patience, all will work out in the end. I submit to you that the world is mostly fair but not always. The rules of fair play are often forgotten, overlooked, discarded. We are all painfully aware that not everyone plays by the rules.

I recall a number of times telling my children, “life isn’t always fair” but in my heart of hearts – I believed it was and so did they. Fairness is our one true hope in life. We have to believe that the good will always win, the right will overcome and those who are unkind will meet karma in a back alley someday. If we didn’t believe that, or some version of that, this would be a very gloomy world indeed. We would have no reason to stand at post and do the right thing, the world would run amok (in some places it already has) and there would be no value in caring.

I propose we continue teaching fairness to our children. The true lesson has always been learning to promote fairness in spite of the opposing influence of egocentric and self-serving belligerence. (“Every man for himself no matter the collateral damage!”) If no one opposes injustice, inequality or dishonesty, what will remain? Despair. Desolation. Fear.

You can believe in fairness. On any given day, if you look, you can find more moments of fairness than of injustice. The injustice just seems bigger because you had to fight harder in seeking a just outcome. Then, you suffer at the feeling of defeat. Perhaps the loss isn’t in the final outcome but in the response to the outcome. Never relinquish the desire for fairness, the belief in justice or the power of the righteous.

Some days you win, fairness wins, all is right with the world. Other days, you have to accept that you didn’t win. It wasn’t fair or just. But you didn’t join the egocentric and you didn’t fall into apathy or despair. You stood at post.