Category Archives: Healing

Why Stay?

A friend of mine going through a similar situation I was in asked me, “why stay?” I hadn’t actually thought deeply about why I ended up staying for so long even after I realized the truth about my husband. Here was my response:

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Why Stay…? I asked myself that for 3 years. Even after separating several times, and wanting to get back, I kept asking myself, “what is it that makes me want to stay or go  back? What was it in this relationship that I was hoping to get that I couldn’t get elsewhere?”
In the beginning, what I thought I was after was unconditional love. I wanted to “be” unconditionally loving. I wanted unconditional love too, as my family of origin resulted in me struggling with feelings of abandonment, neglect, and lack of feeling “worthy”. I tried to “prove” I could make my marriage work, and that I was such a good wife that he would miraculously change from his “evil ways” and come to me with revelation that I was his true love and would then become my hero, my perfect husband…if I “loved him” enough…then he would love me enough…
I confused “unconditional love” with “unconditional stay”.
I look back and laugh at myself now, because in all honesty, I had never once thought, “I can truly love and accept this man unconditionally, exactly as he is, right now.” My mind was always thinking of who he “could be” and what our future “could look like” if only he would change…
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As I got further along in my recovery (12-steps for codependency), and started taking responsibility for my life, feelings,  and happiness, I started seeing the benefit of staying in the marriage wasn’t so much that the relationship was turning out in my favor (it was certainly not!), nor hoping he would get sober and become the man of my dreams (definitely never happened), but that *I* was becoming the person of MY dreams. I was starting to see things about myself that I had never wanted to acknowledge. I was healing parts of myself that were neglected for so long. My blurred vision of reality was starting to become clear. By staying in the marriage, I was able to use the triggers as “opportunities”. I call them AFGOs (Another F-ing Growth Opportunity).
When my husband did something that triggered me, I noted it as an AFGO. Pretty soon, I got pretty skilled at dealing with all the AFGOs (being married to an addict, AFGOs are always in plentiful supply!).
My addict husband unknowingly served as the catalyst for me to break through my limitations by destroying the very foundation of my existence, and from those burning embers, I was to rebuild myself. The greatest relationship I had ever had- who knew!?- was with a sex addict, gambling addict, alcoholic. He tore up my precious ego, challenged the ideas I had of myself, and exposed my personal flaws that were keeping me from claiming my true potential… and the whole process hurt like hell…oh it hurt like hell…
Unknowingly, this man took all those ideas and expectations I had about life and pried them from my death gripping hands, forcing me to to become vulnerable. The fight stressed me, shredded me to pieces, and pushed me to my limits…finally fallen to my rock bottom, I had only two choices…Stay down or grow up! I had to grow up.
Still, I stayed. But this time, my choice to stay was no longer about the relationship. It was no longer about getting anything, or of any outcome. It was about taking my AFGO and running with it, to use it to my full advantage. I was determined to overcome this.
Dr. Wayne Dyer says people like this are like turds that won’t flush. We keep flushing but they’re still there! You keep trying and trying and they’re back again. Instead of being upset every time they do or say something, eventually, I realized, I had to learn how to allow their presence without letting it get me into a crazy mess. Once I figured that out, I was able to leave the relationship. He had nothing left to offer and I had nothing left to give.
I wouldn’t change a thing about my past. To this day, I honor him. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

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.

Salt and Water

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The amount of love we can have is determined by the spaciousness we allow in our heart; how we relate to the stuff that happens to us in life.
 
Imagine taking a very small glass or water and putting
into it a teaspoon of salt. Because the glass is so small, the teaspoon of salt is going to have a big effect on the water.
 
However, if you put that same amount of salt into a much larger body of water, such as a lake, it will not have the same intensity of impact, because of the vastness and openness of
the container receiving it.
 
Even when the salt remains the same, the spaciousness of the
container changes everything.
 
We spend a lot of our lives looking for a feeling of safety or protection–we try to change the amount of salt that comes our way, and sometimes think we can avoid it. Ironically, the salt is the very thing that we cannot do anything about. Life changes and offers us repeated ups and downs.
 
Our true work is to create a container so immense that any amount of salt, even a truckload, can come into it without affecting our capacity to receive it.
 
Salt and Water By: Sharon Salzberg, Loving Kindness

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!

Uninvited Guests and Their “Gifts”

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Who doesn’t love it when someone comes to their home bearing gifts? Whether they were invited or not, if someone comes to my home with a present for me, I want to welcome them in and serve them my finest tea! What a thoughtful gesture! The kindness should definitely be returned!
But what about those uninvited guests that bring gifts that you aren’t quite sure you needed or even want? Even worse, what if they didn’t bring anything, or brought you something that made you uncomfortable!? Can you still be grateful? Can you still show the same kindness?
Circumstances in life are like guests in our home. The good circumstances, like landing an awesome job, or getting a promotion, getting married, winning a competition, having a family, etc., are usually welcome and invited. While they come with hard work, the gifts they bring are usually joy and happiness (just to name a few). The bad circumstances, however, like losing a job, getting rejected, getting divorced, etc., are not as welcome. In fact, they are oftentimes violently rejected. We can take it quite personally and offensively. What we easily forget in those times is that although we may not have wanted that circumstance, it is still a gift.
The wrapping it came in may seem horrendous, but what if you took that gift graciously and unwrapped it? Play with it. See what you can do with it. On the outside it seems pointless, but if you give it a chance, you might be surprised at the real gift inside!

Some people sit around waiting for circumstances to change so that they can finally be happy…They throw away all the gifts from their uninvited guests, mumbling, grumbling, waiting for them to leave already! “Well, I didn’t invite them,”  “I didn’t ask for that,” and “They should know I don’t like that or need that…” They sit there in their misery celebrating only when guests bring them gifts that they like and appreciate- things they “think they need”. Anything else is NOT welcome.

I have a friend who is always laughing and joyous, and way back when (during my divorce) I spoke to him of my woes, he would always say the most annoying thing, “Just be happy!”

I would get so upset when he said that. I would think, “but you don’t understand what I’m going through! How can I be happy when such and such is happening to me!?”
His response was always the same: Just be happy!
For the longest time, as much as I cared for him I secretly resented it and wondered if he was really not happy and just putting on a show about being happy. I would secretly look for clues as to his unhappiness. I saw him go through loss and insecurity but he would just float through it as if it hadn’t phased him.
I began to assume, he must be a fake! How could anyone be that happy in times of trouble?
I justified my sadness saying, “When crappy stuff happens you’re supposed to feel crappy! You’re supposed to talk about it and process the emotions! I WILL be happy! Just not now…” When my uninvited guest (a.k.a. “circumstance”) leaves…
Then I realized… Being happy isn’t dependent on circumstance. Happiness doesn’t come and go. It’s always there. It’s always inside. Every day is a welcomed gift, even if it comes disguised in something that looks like something we don’t want or need. We just have to choose, daily, if we want it or not. If we are willing to unwrap it and use it.
Circumstance is the uninvited guest, and whether that guest brings you a gift you want or don’t want, it is always a gift.
Unwrap it. Find the blessing.
And if you can’t find the blessing, say thank you anyway.
You will understand what its purpose was for later.

Forgiveness is a Process

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Forgiveness isn’t something you do. It’s a process you actually have to go through. Sometimes the process is short and can end with a simple “I’m sorry”, and sometimes it takes a long time.

Give yourself a break. If you are struggling with forgiveness, you don’t have to feel bad. Even paper cuts take time to heal. If you’ve been stabbed in the back, of course it’s going to take a lot longer to heal that one.

Daily Reminder: Forgiveness is a process.