Category Archives: Be The Change

Am I Nice?

We all think we are a nice person, and when we act in an unloving way, we justify it by blaming the other person’s behavior. Sometimes we believe that by being “mean back” in those moments, we can teach them a lesson, or “inspire” them to change.

Mathematically, that equation simply doesn’t add up. It is impossible to use a negative action, like anger, to produce positive genuine actions, like love.

Maybe the other person’s behavior is intolerable, but when we use their behavior to justify being intolerable ourselves, we mold ourselves into that same ugliness we are trying to change.

To continue having a bad attitude because “someone did something you didn’t like” will only end up with us hating ourselves. We slowly become more and more like the person we despise. When we do not like ourselves, all we get is unhappiness, bitterness, loneliness, and neediness. So if you think about it, KINDNESS and LOVE always win.

Co-Parenting With The Enemy

It was about 6 years ago that I was, on a daily basis, exchanging hateful emails with my older son’s father about the divorce and custody issues. Sadly, we spent 5 whole years battling each other in what felt like an endless litigation and tens of thousands of dollars. The result was completely broken trust, hostility, and a very negative and hateful image of the other person. What once brought us together was tearing us apart, and the only one suffering the consequences was that precious thing in the middle- our son (but we couldn’t see that because our anger and fear was blinding us).

I could write pages and pages about the hateful back and forth we had for so many years, but I won’t. To summarize, it was two very bitter demons threatening and being defensive and overly reactive. Things were so bad, we had a court-ordered co-parenting therapist come between us to help us communicate, and even one year of that wasn’t bringing us anywhere closer to cooperating or co-parenting. Sadly, out of lack of trust and a deep hatred toward the other party, we signed our 30-page court order, and several stipulations and motions later, we were on our way to litigation-free co-parenting. It was a rocky transition, living without having our attorneys as the go-between. It required us to…(gasp!) communicate. Living with such a build up of animosity toward each other, for the first year, we didn’t have the capability of communicating, because everything that came off our tongue was laced in mistrust, anger, and fear. It was easier to just live off the “rules” (the court orders, motions, and stipulations).

It wasn’t until nearly 2 years later that we were able to be flexible when we couldn’t. What changed? We stopped seeing each other as the enemy and started (FINALLY!) seeing each other as our son’s “other parent”. But more than that, we started really understanding that the only victim in any of this was not ourselves, but our son.

That was hard because for the first several years we didn’t see each other as “the other parent,” but as “that horrible parent-wannabe that doesn’t deserve to breathe on this earth“. For a long time, both of us were rationalizing our own bitterness and defensive mechanisms as simply “protecting MY son” from “that evil person”. Changing that image was dependent on letting go of our pain, our sad stories, and broken expectations, as well as forgiving the words and behaviors that we couldn’t see were rooted deep in resentment and fear. While letting go didn’t come without a fight, slowly, little by little, we let go.

The awkward and humbling feeling of accepting that maybe  it wasn’t just the other person…but maybe I was also responsible for the hostility and inability to co-parent. What got me thinking, was, at one mediation appointment, the mediator said, “you can’t come to every decision with an automatic NO in your mind. You have to approach everything with an expectation of saying yes, and then consider what implications that ‘yes’ could have.”

The point wasn’t to be a pushover and say yes to everything, but to get us out of our habit as seeing the other person as the enemy and train our minds to WANT to cooperate and co-parent, even if we don’t get things exactly the way we want, and even if it means we have to be a little uncomfortable with the other person parenting in a way that we don’t see “to our standards”. Of course we have to consider safety. If the other partner is abusive, we are not going to jump into a “yes!” Fortunately, for me, my son’s father was not abusive (for clarification purposes, my current husband IS, but not my ex).

Eventually, we became flexible on things such as make-up days, exchange locations, and who buys clothes and shoes this time. Flexibility turned into cooperation, and cooperation turned into co-parenting. Co-parenting rebuilt the respect and trust we had toward the other parent. When I went through this most recent separation with my “new” husband, my “ex” was even supportive and helped in many ways like bringing dinners to the house so I didn’t have to cook, taking the dogs every other weekend so that I wouldn’t have to worry about walking them with the kids, and even providing emotional support with words like, “you’re a great mom to the kids” and “I’m sorry you’re going through that…I wish you could have made it work out…”

Still, 6 years of hostility and litigation tends to leave a bit of a scar. We still struggle with fully trusting the other parent, but our intentions are there, and the bigger picture is clear: It’s not about us, it’s about the kids. We both just want the best for our son. We both want to be an important part of our son’s life. We both want happiness and peace for ourselves as well. How we go about that may be different, but it should NEVER come at the cost of our son having to witness his two most favorite and important people in the world being unable to get along and co-parent.

We determined that being the “best parent” for him meant being the best co-parents. Co-parenting after divorce is hard enough, but it’s nearly impossible if you see the person as an enemy.

Now, I’m stuck reflecting on those days in bitter litigation from the ending of my first marriage. I move forward in what feels like a re-run from the past, forced to communicate with my current husband about our pending divorce and our baby’s future. What kind of child custody schedule will we have? How do we communicate? What part am I playing in preventing a positive co-parenting for him?

I have days when I wish I could just stop all of this and beg for my marriage back. I miss my husband, I miss our family. Unfortunately, the reality is he loved his addictions more than he loved me. He loved his addictions more than he loved the idea of having a family. That comes with tremendous sadness and the feeling of rejection, neglect, and abandonment… I was tempted to see my husband as the enemy. I was tempted to put all the flaws I saw in him as my husband (and human) on him as a father. If only he could get sober! If only… If only we could find a way to save our marriage… But the truth is, as much as I loved this man, the man I loved was too deep into his addictions to know, see, or want anything different than his choice of lifestyle. His addictions caused him to be abusive, angry, and neck deep engaged in dangerous sexual activities, alcohol, and gambling. And if he was that same person when our baby was under his custody, I would never know. Unfortunately, California Family Law doesn’t see a problem in that.

I was forced to conclude that I had two choices: I could spend the rest of my life worrying about it, full of anxiety and emotional stress, hypervigilance and being a nervous wreck all the time (all the while deeply hating and resenting him for exposing our child to such horrendous and despicable behaviors), or, maybe…. I could spend my energy elsewhere, trying to be the best mother I could be.

This was the only place I had my power. This was the only place I could make a difference in my children’s life. The more I look back on the years I spent in litigation on the first divorce, the more I realize that it simply wasn’t worth it.

I will never return to a loveless marriage, and I will never go back to my ex-husband, but what I learned out of the 6-year hell of litigation was that eventually all those angry bitter feelings go away and you are left with the reality of…what purpose did it serve? What purpose did it serve the kids? What message did it send the kids? What kind of skills did we teach them in building healthy relationships? What messages did we send to them about love? Family? Resilience? Forgiveness?

Or are we still stuck in our self-centered mind, defensive, offended, and bitter?

Sadly, addiction is a disease that has the power to completely wipe out any rational thinking. Addiction is the escape hatch from accountability and responsibility. It’s so powerful that it can kill your opportunity for ever really feeling any kind of meaningful loving relationship and it will tear at your soul with guilt, shame, and regret. But deep down inside that sad and confused soul is someone who just wants to be loved.

I realize now that so long as I see my husband as an enemy, my behavior and attitude toward him will reflect that. Deep down, I do genuinely fear the safety of my baby when in his custody. I worry about the exposure he has to my husbands endless line of prostitutes and escorts, his over consumption of alcohol, driving under the influence, and his reckless gambling. I genuinely fear for my baby’s life, physical, and psychological well-being. But like it or not, California Family Law generously puts the children’s lives equally in both parent’s hands, and in this case, I have no other choice but to pray to God that he will be ok… My power, unfortunately, does not lie in trying to force California Family Law to change their policies. It lies in being the best role model I can be for these kids.

One day, I hope to have the same cooperative, supportive, co-parenting relationship I have with my first husband with my current husband. Sadly, my husband doesn’t have to be cooperative or feel the same. He can continue to be, think, and believe what he does. We cannot control a lot of things, and that can be VERY SCARY and uncomfortable a lot of the time.  That is an extremely difficult pill to swallow, especially as a protective mommy. But I have hope that regardless of what my husband chooses to do in front of our baby, love will endure. Hope will endure. Goodness will endure. I have no other choice but to hope. The sooner I can take my part of this co-parenting role into a positive place, perhaps it will pave the way for the other parent to follow. And even if it doesn’t, I will have set an example for my children.

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Here’s a picture of my first husband and my baby, the son of my current husband, at our Annual Easter Egg hunt.

When it hurts just enough…

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From birth to 15, my life was spent looking for acceptance. My father was a functioning alcoholic and my mother MIA. We were financially well off, but my clothes were worn, tattered, and filthy. As a child, I was abused both physically and emotionally. The pain of feeling neglected, abandoned by my mother, not having any parental affection, and so ashamed and embarrassed by my appearance and fear that people would find out about my situation at home, I kept my head down, stayed quiet, and rarely spoke unless spoken to. For 15 years I grew up thinking my voice was not important, my thoughts were worthless, and my life had no value to myself or anyone else. After a series of traumatic events, I attempted suicide twice and was hospitalized. I was diagnosed as depressed and put on medication. I hated that feeling of being on medication. I couldn’t have ups and downs. It was all just…blah…

There was this little spirit inside me that demanded I fight for my freedom, so I did. I decided that I didn’t want to feel blah. I wanted the opportunity to feel ups and downs and to deal with them. So I stopped my medication, did some research, and fought like hell to be free. I started an exercise program, changed my diet, changed my circle of friends to positive supporting people, and started doing things that inspired me. I have never needed medication after that. I’m not saying depressed people reliant on medications should stop their medications. All I am saying is that it was a personal choice that I was able to make and follow through with.

When I was 30, although I was no longer “depressed” I always felt a little anxiety when in social situations. The lack of self-esteem and fear of rejection from childhood was so strong that my tendency was to shut down and avoid social events at all costs. People called me “shy” and an “introvert”. I had liked those labels because it gave me an excuse to not have to get out of that comfort zone. Yet it was so lonely and I didn’t want to feel lonely. So I decided I was going to stop having this social anxiety and just start saying hi to people and make conversations and go to social events. Similar to when I was a teen, the transition was hard. It took so much work and determination (and a few rejections) but I was absolutely, positively committed to bettering my life. As a result, I made tons of friends, tried things I’d never do, and am free from social anxiety.

There are tons of examples of how I saw something I didn’t like about myself, or felt insecure about, and decided I didn’t want it anymore, and determined to change it. But the key to achieving it all was simply determination and a changed mindset.

Here’s a story (not sure of the author) that reiterates my point:

One day, a child was walking down the street and saw a dog on a porch that was just sitting there, whimpering, whining and moaning. The child was curious as to why he was whimpering, so he went and knocked on the door and an older woman came out and said, “Can I help you?” The child said, “what’s wrong with your dog?” The older woman replied, “What do you mean?” The boy went on,”he’s sitting here moaning and groaning.” The older woman said, “Well, he’s actually sitting on a nail.” The boy was startled, “What! Your dog is sitting on a nail!? Why doesn’t he get off?” The older woman replied, “Well, it just doesn’t hurt him enough.”

I loved this story and is one of the reasons why I was able to turn my life around. I was in pain. For years. I was in so much emotional pain I thought it was worth it to end my life. I hated that pain and I didn’t know what to do with it. I had no adult role models, and no one even noticed that I was suffering deeply inside. For years, I did all kinds of manipulative tactics to get people to notice me, give me attention, validate my existence, show me some affection. I wanted people to prove to me that I was lovable. I don’t say this because I was not lovable. I say this because I didn’t feel lovable and was always looking outside of me, desperately, for someone to take on that job of loving me. NEVER in all my years had I thought that I could be the first person to love me…

It hurt so bad, but I stayed on that nail for a long time. If I whimpered loud enough, someone would surely come to my rescue! If I moaned deep enough, someone would surely feel pity for me and give me the attention I wanted and needed. If I cried and whined about my sad, sad stories, someone would swoop me up and save me from my woes and loneliness… I had hoped.

And it never happened. And the pain just kept getting deeper and deeper.

There is a way out of suffering, and it isn’t through something outside of you. It isn’t found in others, it isn’t found in food, drugs, alcohol, sex, anger, fear, and violence. There is a way out of suffering, and it isn’t through preoccupation, distraction, social media, your cell phone, and definitely NOT located in simply working harder towards your goals (yeah, you read that right…).

The only way out is through
and because the problem is within,
you GOTTA GO WITHIN.

I spent years and years in therapy. I looked actively for positive and loving mentors, and I took their advice to heart. I tried things I didn’t think would work. I read things I didn’t fully agree with. I kept an open mind. I did things that made me feel like a fool (like meditation circles). I had to get immensely honest with myself, intimate with my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. I had to learn to be humble and say sorry. I had to own my mistakes and make amends when possible. I had to get vulnerable… I did the work required to find what I needed to free myself from suffering and inner turmoil. I had to fight my inner demons, the ones that were screaming distraction, to take the easy way out and blame others or expect others to change.

You see, when I finally took personal responsibility for my life, my goals, my happiness, AND MY PAIN, I had found freedom. Being accountable for who you are, where you are, what you are, how you respond, what you think and feel… it’s an extremely empowering and positive place to be. You can be that dog sitting on the nail, complaining about how bad it hurts… or you can look deep inside yourself, and do whatever it takes to turn that inner turmoil into inner peace. BOTH of them are not easy. BOTH of those paths probably come with some discomfort. But if you wanna stop suffering… get off the nail.

After that is the healing process. Healing is hard work. Healing is NOT distraction and forgetting how bad it hurt. Healing is not “F*** him! I don’t care!” It means cleaning up the wound, so that it is not susceptible to future contamination or infection. It means figuring out why the hell you wanted to sit on that damned nail for so long anyway! Honestly! Why!? And then, CHANGE your thinking, your daily habits, and behavior.  Commit to it. Commit to yourself

The whole moral of the story is this: THIS is YOUR life. Literally, only YOU can decide how bad you want it to hurt and how much longer you want to suffer before you… (gulp)… gotta own it and change.

 

Everyone Can Be a Winner (Even the “Losers”)

The new audio book “The Book of Joy” about Desmund Tutu and the Dalai Lama (by Douglas Carlton) came out and I’ve been listening to it on my long commutes to and from work. This morning they spoke of the famous “Golden Rule” (treat others how you want to be treated) but expanded on it. The topic was about how suffering often leads to joy, and those that have little suffers, tend to complain more and not have much joy. They spoke of how those that suffer (and grow from it) tend to be more capable of maintaining calm in the midst of chaos, and it is this calmness that helps others find calm as well.

Then something clicked when they said, “You must LONG for the best of the other as you want the best for you…”

This meant that deep inside your heart, you had to genuinely wish for the other what you had genuinely wanted for yourself.

To clear myself from any resentment and negative feelings about the loss of my marriage, I have been praying every morning and night for my husband. Although he has left me, I pray that he gets everything he wants, and that he has lasting inner peace, profound joy, and an abundance of unconditional love. This thought did NOT come natural, and for the first few days, it was just “fake it till you make it”. My anger and hurt were too strong for me to actually feel that sincerely. Now, several weeks in, I can say I truly do wish that he receives everything he could possibly desire, and that he is head deep in inner peace, full of joy, and receiving true unconditional love. Why? Because he needs it!

Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman, in their book, “Love Your Enemies” explain it this way:

“Love wishes the real happiness of the beloved. It is a partner to compassion, which wishes the beloved not to suffer. If you think about it, it is highly rational to love our enemies, with LOVE defined as wanting them to be really happy. They are only our enemies because they think of us as preventing their happiness. If they become really happy without having to get us out of their way, then they will not bother being our enemies anymore. The more happiness they feel, they might actually come to love us….or at least leave us alone.”

Yes… This is what I wanted. If he couldn’t love me, at least I could hope that his happiness would be so overly abundant that he would no longer wish to hurt me, verbally attack me, and continue hurting himself and exposing our baby to his sex, alcohol, and gambling addictions (and the emotional negative repercussions that spew out of them). If he was truly happy, would he even want to have those dangerous and hurtful addictions? I bet he wouldn’t…

This thought process, connected with the “Golden Rule” got me thinking: If my husband saw me as the enemy, someone who had taken from him what was so important to him (to get a green card) was there some way I could some how get out of that “enemy spot light” he held me under? What in my behavior was contributing to his thinking that I had literally ruined his life? Granted, there are some things that just won’t change, like his narcissistic thinking that actually believes that me choosing divorce instead of staying in a sham marriage and accepting his cheating and lying was somehow an unloving thing for me to do. That aside, there had to be some way in which my choice of words, or my “method of communication” was coming off, to him, as insulting and offensive. Could there be a way in which we both were “winners”? I.e., can I say what needs to be said in a way that he doesn’t feel like I’m attacking him?

I’m not sure of the author, but I love the quote: ”

“I’m responsible for what I say, not for what you understand”

While this opens the door for me to say what is in my heart, it still remains a very hefty burden. We should always be mindful about what we say. Sometimes it’s not necessary. Sometimes it is not helpful. And sometimes, while we may believe it, it may not be absolutely true. Taking responsibility for our words, being honest with our intentions, and being able to identify what really needs to be said, and what can be left alone, we can then communicate with our best intentions and then leave the interpretation to the listener. If you get a “bad listener” (someone who is always defensive, deflective, or reactive) you have to just let it go. You did your best. If you get a good listener, even if they may take offense, the conversation opens up for a genuine understanding and hopefully, reconciliation.

Unfortunately, my husband is less than skillful in the listening department, but that only means that I can choose to be more skillful in the “delivering necessary messages” department.

Since our separation, my baby has come back from his father’s home sick 3 times. Once with the flu, once with Pneumonia, and once with a fever/cold. While my husband blamed it on everything but himself, my gut reaction was to blame him for not being more careful about where he took the baby, proper hygiene, his choice to refuse my baby my breast milk, and basic parental negligence. Is there a loving way of saying that? NOPE!

Instead of saying:

The baby got sick AGAIN. Every time he comes home from being with you he gets sick…you really need to pay attention to keeping him away from unhealthy places, people, and be mindful about proper hygiene…and for god’s sake, give him my breast milk! I worked hard at pumping all of that!

I could either say nothing and just take care of the baby, or if I really wanted to make it clear that the baby was sick, I could say:

Just wanted to let you know that the baby has a fever. I will take the weekend to let him rest and recover so that he will be healthy and ready to play the next time he sees you.

Here’s another quote I love:

“Since enemies engage our energies of anger and fear,
our main weapons against them are
wisdom, tolerance, compassion, and love.”
-Sharon Salzberg & Robert Thurman

In thinking about how much I long to feel respected, loved, and supported, what greater opportunity to show respect, love, and support!! I was always cringing when my phone went off, hoping, praying, begging the universe that it not be ANOTHER negative and hateful text from my husband… Yet, I too, was equally guilty of sending less than loving, self-victimizing messages. So there you have it.

“You must long for the best of the other as you want the best for you…”

WIN-WIN!

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The Little Soul & The Sun

Once upon no time, there was a little Soul who said to God, “I know who I am.”

And God said, “That’s wonderful! Who are you?”

And the Little Soul shouted, “I’m the Light!”

God smiled a big smile. “That’s right!” God exclaimed. “You are the Light.”

The Little Soul was so happy, for it had figured out what all the souls in the Kingdom were there to figure out.

“Wow,” said the Little Soul, “this is really cool!”

But soon, knowing who it was was not enough. The Little Soul felt stirrings inside, and now wanted to be who it was. And so the Little Soul went back to God (which is not a bad idea for all souls who want to be Who They Really Are) and said,

“Hi, God! Now that I know Who I am, is it okay for me to be it?”

And God said, “You mean you want to be Who You Already Are?”

“Well,” replied the Little Soul,” it’s one thing to know Who I Am, and another thing altogether to actually be it. I want to feel what it’s like to be the Light!”

“But you already are the Light,” God repeated, smiling again.

“Yes, but I want to see what that feels like!” cried the Little Soul.

“Well,” said God with a chuckle, “I suppose I should have known. You always were the adventuresome one.”

Then God’s expression changed. “There’s only one thing…”

“What?” asked the Little Soul.

“Well, there is nothing else but the Light. You see, I created nothing but what you are; and so, there is no easy way for you to experience yourself as Who You Are, since there is nothing that you are not.”

“Huh?” said the Little Soul, who was now a little confused.

“Think of it this way,” said God. “You are like a candle in the Sun. Oh, you’re there all right. Along with a million, gazillion other candles who make up the Sun. And the sun would not be the Sun without you. Nay, it would be a sun without one of its candles…and that would not be the Sun at all; for it would not shine as brightly. Yet, how to know yourself as the Light when you are amidst the Light -that is the question.”

“Well,” the Little Soul perked up, “you’re God. Think of something!”

Once more God smiled. “I already have,” God said. “Since you cannot see yourself as the Light when you are in the Light, we’ll surround you with darkness.”

“What’s darkness?” the Little Soul asked.

God replied, “It is that which you are not.”

“Will I be afraid of the dark?” cried the Little Soul.

“Only if you choose to be,” God answered. “There is nothing, really, to be afraid of, unless you decide that there is. You see, we are making it all up. We are pretending.”

“Oh,” said the Little Soul, and felt better already.

Then God explained that, in order to experience anything at all, the exact opposite of it will appear. “It is a great gift,” God said, “because without it, you could not know what anything is like. You could not know Warm without Cold, Up without Down, Fast without Slow. You could not know Left without Right, Here without There, Now without Then.”

“And so,” God concluded, “when you are surrounded with darkness, do not shake your fist and raise your voice and curse the darkness. Rather be a Light unto the darkness, and don’t be mad about it. Then you will know Who You Really Are, and all others will know, too. Let your Light shine so that everyone will know how special you are!”

“You mean it’s okay to let others see how special I am?” asked the Little Soul.

“Of course!” God chuckled. “It’s very okay! But remember,’special’ does not mean ‘better.’ Everybody is special, each in their own way! Yet many others have forgotten that. They will see that it is okay for them to be special only when you see that it is okay for you to be special.”

“Wow,” said the Little Soul, dancing and skipping and laughing and jumping with joy. “I can be as special as I want to be!”

“Yes, and you can start right now,” said God, who was dancing and skipping and laughing right along with the Little Soul.

“What part of special do you want to be?”

“What part of special?” the Little Soul repeated. “I don’t understand.”

“Well,” God explained, “being the Light is being special, and being special has a lot of parts to it. It is special to be kind. It is special to be gentle. It is special to be creative. It is special to be patient. Can you think of any other ways it is special to be?”

The Little Soul sat quietly for a moment. “I can think of lots of ways to be special!” the Little Soul then exclaimed. “It is special to be helpful. It is special to be sharing. It is special to be friendly. It is special to be considerate of others!”

“Yes!” God agreed, “and you can be all of those things, or any part of special you wish to be, at any moment. That’s what it means to be the Light.”

“I know what I want to be, I know what I want to be!” the Little Soul announced with great excitement. “I want to be the part of special called ‘forgiving’. Isn’t it special to be forgiving?”

“Oh, yes,” God assured the Little Soul. “That is very special.”

“Okay,” said the Little Soul. “That’s what I want to be. I want to be forgiving. I want to experience myself as that.”

“Good,” said God, “but there’s one thing you should know.”

The Little Soul was becoming a bit impatient now. It always seemed as though there were some complication.

“What is it?” the Little Soul sighed.

“There is no one to forgive.”

“No one?” The Little Soul could hardly believe what had been said.

“No one!” God repeated. “Everything I have made is perfect. There is not a single soul in all creation less perfect than you. Look around you.”

It was then that the Little Soul realized a large crowd had gathered. Souls had come from far and wide ~ from all over the Kingdom ~ for the word had gone forth that the Little Soul was having this extraordinary conversation with God, and everyone wanted to hear what they were saying. Looking at the countless other souls gathered there, the Little Soul had to agree. None appeared less wonderful, less magnificent, or less perfect than the Little Soul itself. Such was the wonder of the souls gathered around, and so bright was their Light, that the Little Soul could scarcely gaze upon them.

“Who, then, to forgive?” asked God.

“Boy, this is going to be no fun at all!” grumbled the Little Soul. “I wanted to experience myself as One Who Forgives. I wanted to know what that part of special felt like.”

And the Little Soul learned what it must feel like to be sad. But just then a Friendly Soul stepped forward from the crowd.

“Not to worry, Little Soul,” the Friendly Soul said, “I will help you.”

“You will?” the Little Soul brightened. “But what can you do?”

“Why, I can give you someone to forgive!”

“You can?”

“Certainly!” chirped the Friendly Soul. “I can come into your next lifetime and do something for you to forgive.”

“But why? Why would you do that?” the Little Soul asked. “You, who are a Being of such utter perfection! You, who vibrate with such a speed that it creates a Light so bright that I can hardly gaze upon you! What could cause you to want to slow down your vibration to such a speed that your bright Light would become dark and dense? What could cause you ~ who are so light that you dance upon the stars and move through the Kingdom with the speed of your thought–to come into my life and make yourself so heavy that you could do this bad thing?”

“Simple,” the Friendly Soul said. “I would do it because I love you.”

The Little Soul seemed surprised at the answer.

“Don’t be so amazed,” said the Friendly Soul, “you have done the same thing for me. Don’t you remember? Oh, we have danced together, you and I, many times. Through the eons and across all the ages have we danced. Across all time and in many places have we played together. You just don’t remember.”

“We have both been All Of It. We have been the Up and the Down of it, the Left and the Right of it. We have been the Here and the There of it, the Now and the Then of it. We have been the male and the female, the good and the bad; we have both been the victim and the villain of it.”

“Thus have we come together, you and I, many times before; each bringing to the other the exact and perfect opportunity to Express and to Experience Who We Really Are. And so,” the Friendly Soul explained further, “I will come into your next lifetime and be the ‘bad one’ this time. I will do something really terrible, and then you can experience yourself as the One Who Forgives.

“But what will you do?” the Little Soul asked, just a little nervously, “that will be so terrible?”

“Oh,” replied the Friendly Soul with a twinkle, “we’ll think of something.”

Then the Friendly Soul seemed to turn serious, and said in a quiet voice, “You are right about one thing, you know.”

“What is that?” the Little Soul wanted to know.

“I will have to slow down my vibration and become very heavy to do this not-so-nice thing. I will have to pretend to be something very unlike myself. And so, I have but one favour to ask of you in return.”

“Oh, anything, anything!” cried the Little Soul, and began to dance and sing, “I get to be forgiving, I get to be forgiving!”

Then the Little Soul saw that the Friendly Soul was remaining very quiet.

“What is it?” the Little Soul asked. “What can I do for you? You are such an angel to be willing to do this for me!”

“Of course this Friendly Soul is an angel!” God interrupted. “Everyone is! Always remember: I have sent you nothing but angels.”

And so the Little Soul wanted more than ever to grant the Friendly Soul’s request. “What can I do for you?” the Little Soul asked again.

“In the moment that I strike you and smite you,” the Friendly Soul replied, “in the moment that I do the worst to you that you could possible imagine ~ in that very moment…”

“Yes?” the Little Soul interrupted, “yes…?””Remember Who I Really Am.”

“Oh, I will!” cried the Little Soul, “I promise! I will always remember you as I see you right here, right now!”

“Good,” said the Friendly Soul, “because, you see, I will have been pretending so hard, I will have forgotten myself. And if you do not remember me as I really am, I may not be able to remember for a very long time. And if I forget Who I Am, you may even forget Who You Are, and we will both be lost. Then we will need another soul to come along and remind us both of Who We Are.”

“No, we won’t!” the Little Soul promised again. “I will remember you! And I will thank you for bringing me this gift ~ the chance to experience myself as Who I Am.

” And so, the agreement was made. And the Little Soul went forth into a new lifetime, excited to be the Light, which was very special, and excited to be that part of special called Forgiveness.

And the Little Soul waited anxiously to be able to experience itself as Forgiveness, and to thank whatever other soul made it possible. And at all the moments in that new lifetime, whenever a new soul appeared on the scene, whether that new soul brought joy or sadness–and especially if it brought sadness–the Little Soul thought of what God had said.

“Always remember,” God had smiled, “I have sent you nothing but angels.”

by Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations With God

The Ability to Flow Through Hard Times

A friend of mine reached out to me in despair after being dumped by his girlfriend of 7 years. Worried she was seeing someone else, his life suddenly went from successful world-famous dancer to “I want to quit everything and move far away.” He suddenly lost all focus on his upcoming dance competition and drank himself to oblivion every night for several months. His nights were filled with hatred and bitterness, suddenly painting an evil picture of the woman he had loved for so long. In his mind, she was a monster. Underneath all that pain and anger, we all knew, was sadness for the loss and pain from disappointment. He said it was easier to drink away his sadness than to deal with the pain of being left by the woman he loved so much. He called a few months later and said he realized he was an alcoholic and needed help. I suggested therapy and recommended an amazing AA group in the area. He went a few times, but he quit because the work it took to heal was exactly that- WORK. I do love my friend dearly, and sadly, sometimes inner work isn’t for everyone. He suffers even to this day. Drowning his sorrow in distractions, anger, and alcohol. This story is far too common, and it breaks my heart to see my loved ones suffer so much.

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Flowing through hard times is hard, and the reason it is so hard is because our instinct is to run from pain. No one wants to feel pain. An angry tiger coming after us is certainly a realistic fear of possible pain. To not run from that would be insanity. But what does the pain from heartbreak feel like? Does it tear into our skin and make us bleed to death? Does it sever limbs from our body as we lie helplessly on the ground? While in a moment of emotional distress, we may be convinced that that is definitely what it feels like, in reality if we really took an honest inventory of the actual pain from heartbreak, it is (fortunately) much less physically painful than being torn to shreds by an angry tiger.

Unfortunately, however, our mind perceives heartbreak (or potential heartbreak) the same way it perceives a vicious lion attack: DANGEROUS!! We are so afraid that the feelings that come with heartbreak will literally KILL us that we run as quickly and as far away from it as possible (and sometimes we even turn around and attack those that we feel are breaking our heart). Instead of processing our feelings, we stuff, drown in addictive behaviors, deflect and deny all those feelings of sadness, loss, grief, and unrequited love, burying them deep inside a dark pocket called “unforgiveness” thinking that we have escaped the threat of pain. In reality, packed up inside our hearts, it slowly eats away at our hope, joy, trust, and inner peace. Whenever we sense those feelings of loss, sadness, or anger creeping up, we repeat the process: drown, deny, deflect. These unattended feelings and emotions end up making us weaker and less able to handle “hard times”, eventually killing us slowly over time. Instead of getting stronger, better, happier, we get weaker. To put it bluntly, it’s a self-inflicted wound.

Now, I can’t speak for everyone out there, but the thought of me being the main cause of my suffering is very unsettling. Who wakes up in the morning and says, “Ya know, today is a great day to suffer. I think I’ll  make myself suffer just a little more today than yesterday!” But we all do it, and it comes so naturally, because to do the inner work it takes, to hold the pain and unwanted feelings from being hurt by another, is inconvenience, uncomfortable, and undesirable. It doesn’t give us the immediate satisfaction and sense of accomplishment like counterblaming, deflecting, or distraction. This is where delayed gratification is so important. We can either put off our immediate need to escape discomfort for the sake of obtaining inner peace and lasting joy, or we can take immediate gratification by pointing the blame and hating, but suffering long-term consequences, which typically include heavy emotional burdens and a negative energy that permeates your body and soul and follows you around in all your relationships (professional and personal). It’s all a choice.

So instead of thinking, “is this person deserving of my forgiveness?” think, “how do I want to demonstrate inner strength in handling my own life?” Think, “do I want to prove how resilient I am, demonstrating my skills in flowing through  all kinds of life situations? Or do I want to allow  all the worst parts of life to take up a large portion of my livelihood, clouding my sense of happiness and purpose in life, causing me much emotional baggage that will end up pouring over into all of my relationships?

The truth is, you can cope with a  lot more than you think you can, so long as you resolve to. You have the capacity to handle all kinds of situations. Be brave. Someone once told me: “The degree to which you have forsaken your own drama is the degree to which you are available to others.” So be the change you so desperately want to see in this world. How is anyone going to learn how to overcome life struggles if no one is willing to model it?

So flow… it’s the best gift you can give yourself and others. It takes work, but it takes so much less work than the alternative.

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Sending Love…Instead of Hate

I came to realize that when I held negative feelings or thoughts toward another person, I began to suffer. I felt pain. Heartbreak. Sadness.

Yet nothing inside me wanted to feeling anything more than that, toward the person that had hurt me the most.

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So the longer I held on to those negative feelings, the deeper they grew inside me. The sadder I felt. The lonelier I felt. But what was worse, was that his behavior never got better. In fact, it got worse. And the worse he got, the more bitter I got (you can see where this goes, right? Nowhere.)

I began to take a step back from my own personal experience and thoughts toward this person and tried to put myself in his shoes. This man was clearly suffering. Yes, I too, was clearly suffering. That meant we had something in common. If we were both suffering, was I contributing to his suffering in any way? I definitely could identify how he was contributing to my suffering. What I hadn’t realized was that a lot of my suffering from his actions was the beliefs I had about them. I thought they were personal.

What would happen if, instead of seeing his behavior as personal, saw it as a “lack of skill in dealing with his suffering”? What would happen if, instead of muttering hateful words about him, I said a small prayer for him? Dear God, bless his heart. May he know peace, kindness, compassion…

It didn’t take away the fact that he was responsible for dealing with his suffering in a more skillful way. It didn’t justify his behavior or make it “ok”. What it did was to help me take it less personal.

If I were him, with all his experiences in life, would I make the same choices? Would I feel the same? I don’t know, and that is a fact. All I did know was that he was dealing with it the only way he knew how.

Why do we do the things we do? Why do we choose the way we choose? I believe it’s because all of us, no matter how good or “bad” we are, simply don’t want to suffer. So we make choices daily, hourly, and sometimes by the second to avoid suffering in search for joy.

Sometimes our choices hurt others. Sometimes our escape from suffering comes at the cost of other’s pain. We, too, are just as guilt of causing others pain.

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We will never have the ability to make people change, or learn better coping mechanisms so that they can stop doing what we don’t like (and if you try, you will constantly subject yourself to more suffering, which is insanity), but what we can do, and where our power lies is directly in how much negative energy we put into ourselves and onto others based on circumstances that are completely out of our control.

When it is raining, you can curse the sky, but the rain doesn’t care. It still rains. How you feel about it and what you choose to do in the rain is your choice.

Life Sucks…But Not All The Time.

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“Life Sucks…” was my initial thought after a few months after I made the decision to stay married to my sex addict husband. The idea of staying committed to a man that was psychologically incapable of refraining from infidelity sounded like insanity.

Learning of the endless betrayals, it is tempting to make some serious judgments about him, leading me to a great amount of bitterness, hatred, resentment, and thinking he is the lowest piece of scum on this planet. When I go “there”, there is no one (in my mind) who could be more sick, delusional, disgusting and mean than my husband.

Nearly three years into this insanity, however, I’d have to admit there have been more good times than bad, more laughter than tears, and more kind words than bad. But when it gets bad, it is baaaaaaaad, and in those moments, it feels like the level of badness far outweighs the level of goodness.

There’s this truth about life, however, that will always remain so long as we are humans on this Earth, and that is that although we make every effort to pursue and obtain a life of happiness, peace, and drama-free days, life is always changing, full of disappointments, loss, pain, and betrayal. It doesn’t matter who you are with. And while we can pick and choose who we spend our lives with (yes, we always have the choice and freedom to leave any relationship), we will always be presented with problems.

That’s life. And yeah, it sucks sometimes.

It’s easy to forget, though, that it doesn’t suck all the time.

Being married to an addict sucks (I don’t think there’s a soul in the world who would disagree with me), but that doesn’t mean my life sucks. What I’m coming to learn is that assuming life will always present challenges, how we grow through those challenges ultimately results in our strengthened ability to navigate through those challenges. I’ve learned more and grown more (spiritually, mentally and in so many other aspects) being married to my husband than at any other point in my life. Admittedly, when things are going great, I don’t grow at all. It’s very comfortable and I like to go to auto-pilot mode.

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I was in my ladies bible study last night. We had discussed the issue of lying and how lying was seen by God as equal to all other sins (I’m not trying to bring up a discussion on this, so please don’t tell me this is not true. I get that enough from my husband). I had told them how my husband kept lying and excused himself saying “at least I’m not doing really bad things like killing people”. I thought that if he saw that lying was not insignificant but actually very bad, he would stop lying (or at least try to be less dishonest).

One of the ladies stopped me and asked me about my own sin and how that compared to his. Ouch… That was like a slap in the face to reality. If I am saying that all sin is equal in the eyes of God, how can I complain that my husband’s sin is greater than that of my own? Am I saying that I am sin-free? I want to say that I am, but we all know that isn’t true. If all sin is equal, who am I to put the spotlight on his sin and off of my own? I wanted to say “well, at least I don’t repeat my sin like he does!” but it all goes back to “Who’s inventory am I taking here?”

Addiction is no joke. It’s got some serious consequences and it hurts people in so many ways. He’s got a ton of issues that he has to work on. But part of my “sin” (in addition to being super judgmental and holding an attitude of superiority) is me trying to act like God. When he sins, I feel justified in intervening, insisting on sharing my “insightful wisdom”. After all, his behavior does directly affect me, our marriage, and our family. That’s my excuse- my rationale for keeping the spotlight on him and off myself.

If I do put the spotlight on myself, I realize that although he makes choices that do hurt us, that doesn’t mean that I can’t work on my own issues and support him while he works through his. Maybe he can even support me as I work through mine. It’s no fun, for sure. Saying it sucks is far from being an understatement.

I have to remind myself often, “this is not personal…this is not personal…” even though it feels VERY personal. Oh how life sucks…sometimes…

But, not all the time. Assuming challenges never go away so long as we are human beings on this Earth, it is important to make the most of it. Some prefer pissing and moaning about the transgressions of another, because they are either too blind or self-righteous (like me) to believe they have issues to work on themselves, or they are Jesus/Buddha/Muhammad. I’m willing to put all my money it’s the former.

Yes, life can suck. Really, really suck… But serenity comes when we accept the things that we cannot change (and unfortunately, my husband and his behavior falls into that category). What I have learned is that, although I am perfectly justified to leave, since I have chosen to stay (for now) I have two options on how to make the most of my time. I can use this limited time on earth to focus on the transgressions of others, searching, controlling, and manipulating them to be, act, and say things the way I think they should (guaranteeing I will forever be disappointed, sad, angry, bitter, hurt, living in fear, insecurity, and darkness. There is no end.) OR I can spend this limited amount of time on earth focusing on my own issues (i.e., how I can be a better person, a better mother, better friend, a better driver, a better pet owner, a better money-spender, more honest, more authentic, more sensitive, etc.,) there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. There is a sense of hope. Faith. Happiness. I feel like progress is being made (even if it’s just me). There is healing. There is freedom. There is life.

Shame: When We Feel Unworthy of Love Only Because We Don’t Feel Loved

Shame: How has it impacted your life?

That was the question on my homework for one of the classes I was taking. When I first started the class (specifically focused on shame) I have to admit I was always angered at the word. I had no shame. Shame was bad. My husband, yes! He must have a ton of shame! But not me…

And then I began really working on myself. Shame took on a whole new meaning. I couldn’t identify it still, but shame slowly started to show itself to me in small things like, “how could I have been so stupid to not know he was cheating and lying to me for so long!?” to “I am a horrible mother for allowing this person in mine and my children’s lives.” I started seeing shame in my value as a person. Maybe I’m not sexy enough? I’m not fun enough. I’m not pretty. Do I smell? Am I too bossy? Do I expect too much from him? Am I a control freak? Maybe I caused this? Maybe I pushed him away. I should try harder. I don’t do enough for our family. I don’t appreciate him enough. I don’t make him feel loved enough. I need to change…”

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And every time I changed to meet his needs, he stayed the same. More acting out. More lies. I would tell myself, “I must have not tried hard enough.” So I would knock down every healthy boundary possible, ‘hoping that this time he would change. He would stop cheating and lying. He would get better in his addictions. And the more boundaries went down, the more acting out occurred. I nearly went mad to the point of extreme hypervigilance.

That’s when I hit rock bottom. I knew I was full of shame. I was embarrassed. I was humiliated. It all happened when he left me and the kids. I knew he was acting out and I was set on stopping him. I sent texts to all his friends, family, Facebook, even the police. I tried exposing him for the sick person he was… And then it hit me… If he is sick, what does that make me?

I spent 3 whole days desperately trying to locate him so that I could get him to come back home, thinking that I could somehow convince him how wrong he was and how much he needed to change.

It didn’t happen.

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What started out as 3 days missing turned into two and a half months of separation – and two and a half months of me getting enough space from the insanity to clear my head and focus on what the real issue was: Me.

But not “me” in the shameful sense I had before – thinking that I was flawed or not good enough, but surprisingly realizing that I had subconsciously tried to take on the role of “God”. All my step work – all that powerless stuff, turning my will over to God…all of it never made sense until that moment.

My life, I realized, was perfect. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was perfect. I realized that “perfect” didn’t mean “to my liking” but “according to God’s will”. As I slowly started to release my tightly clenched fists from the outcomes of my husband’s choices and opened my hands, mind, and heart to my “higher power” I finally felt a sense of peace.

Instead of manipulation, passive aggressive communication, and threats, I used prayer. As I began developing a relationship with my Higher Power, I came to realize I was worthy. I was good enough. I deserved the best.

I also realized that I didn’t need my husband to prove I was worthy of love. I had all the love I needed, in so many forms, in so many ways, and from so many people. And although it would be ideal to have my husband be the man I wanted him to be, he is perfectly the man he is.

I’ve learned that shame leads us down a dark path of constantly hurting ourselves and others. Shame leaves us feeling lonely and desperate. Shame leaves us confused about who we are, and rips from us our identity. It leaves us grabbing desperately for anything to fill our emptiness.

My husband reaches out sexually. My parents turned to drugs and alcohol. I reached out for external things like…my husband, codependent behaviors, and hypervigilance/control.

I came to understand that we are not our behaviors and what happens to us does not define us, nor does it put a value on us in anyway. God is working in my life, in my husband’s life, in everyone’s lives, perfectly. We make mistakes. We alter our direction. But the moment I try to steal the wheel from God’s hands, I know I’ve fallen back into my codependent behaviors.

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“Shame” is creeping up again telling me I need to fill an emptiness by forcing someone else to make me feel better about myself. Realizing I am whole, valuable, and loved helped me let go of the false notion that someone had to do or be something or someone I wanted them to be in order for me to be happy.

Has my husband changed? Nope! But I have! And my happy days far outnumber my sad days now.

How to Deal With Shame: Identify it. Own it. Process it. Let it Go.

Playing Bad Cards

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We are all dealt our own unique cards in life. Some people get a good hand. Some get a crappy hand. But in the end, when the game is over, we all end up in the same place (dead). So how do I want to spend my time until then? I.e., how do I win with the crappy cards I was given?

Pissing and moaning about the dealer? Holding resentment towards those that seem to have gotten the better hand? Steal their cards? Cheat? Drink myself to oblivion or dive into other addictions so I don’t have to feel as bad about my crappy hand?

What if I have fun and play my best, no matter how crappy it may seem? I might not beat the others by wiping them out but I will win by finding joy that AT LEAST I can play.

I might find joy in the game simply by learning, growing, making friends, sharing our “secrets” to the joy-finding approach.

IN the end, I might even realize it wasn’t a game of me vs you or even me vs the cards. Maybe it wasn’t even a game.

Some people like to stay sitting at the table, hoping for a better hand. I admit, I was one of those people thinking that if I stayed in the game long enough, maybe my luck would change. Now I’m starting to realize there was only one player at the table and it was me! Life is too short to stay there!

Who is making all these rules anyway? Who assigned the value of the cards? Who decides if the cards in your hand are even crappy or not?

It’s time to live!