First, I’d like to offer a heartfelt “Thank You’ to all of the people who took the time to reach out and tell me how much they enjoyed last week’s blog post, “Giving Myself the Gift of Creativity”, as well as my 4-minute music-video memoir, “A Perfect Blessing”. It is so gratifying to know that so many people are able to relate to what I write (or create) and I’m happy to know that you are inspired enough to share it with others. That is, most definitely, what it’s all about and I hope that we will all continue to find ways to make our lives that much richer by creating and sharing the deepest parts of ourselves in ways that make our hearts open and our spirits shine!
Today, I’m back at Rooster (my fave place to write), and, unlike last week’s post, I know exactly what I’m going to write about. I spent the better part of yesterday in an emotional email exchange with…someone…and gradually descended into an intense, somewhat irrational yet, very human, state of ANGER. Grrrrrr.
As I sat in the bath at the end of the day, listening to Snatam Kaur’s soothing mantras, I knew I had to go deeper and explore what was beneath the anger. That familiar feeling in my chest, like a hot lump of clay, just hanging in the place where my heart usually is, definitely had more to tell me about what I was feeling. I had identified the anger – that was the easy part – but I also knew that I had to give myself a moment to address the vulnerability that was underneath it. Yuck…
I guided my attention within, to do a “focusing” on the “lump of clay” feeling. The “felt sense” I got from it was that it was quite dense and was extending vertically, like a rod. The more I felt it, the more uncomfortable I got and, even though I desperately wanted to cry and let it go, the tears would not come.
So, I sat and soaked for a bit longer. Finally, I remembered what I tell my clients to do all the time: “Allow yourself to acknowledge the feeling as Vulnerability. Name it. Say: ‘What I’m actually feeling right now, underneath the surface feeling of (anger, sadness, anxiety, etc.) is vulnerable“. This invites the nurturing part of you to emerge, so you have a safe place to feel it…without judgement or expectation.”
And, before long, there I was…in the “soup” as I call it. What I found inside was sadness, shame, regret, and… an overwhelming urge to apologize.
I should back up a bit and say that, in this email exchange, I was very honest about what I perceived to be happening between the email recipient and another person we’re both close to (which was the topic of our exchange). Everything I said was coming from a place of caring and concern, on my part but I did not try to “sugar-coat” it, as I may have in the past. Because I happen to know a little bit about relationship dynamics, especially this one, I tried to express what I felt and observed in an objective manner. But since I could see unhealthy dynamics playing out (which are similar to the email recipient’s and my own history), and my buttons had definitely been pushed, my “flight or flight” response was on high alert. Looking back on the exchange (because this kind of directness, with this particular person, has traditionally been way outside my comfort zone,), I was wondering if I had crossed a line.
Sitting in the bath, I realized that, even though (at the time) I had felt empowered by my courage to speak honestly in those emails, and my ability to (mostly) keep my own defenses in check, I was now feeling remorse for possibly having gone “too far”. What followed was the lightening-bolt realization of how much shit I have taken from certain people (the email recipient, especially), how often I have been taken for granted and how, in honoring my commitment to practice forgiveness and compassion as much as possible, I continue to reach out and offer my help – again, and again, and again. And I STILL feel like I am the one who should be apologizing! Huh?“Just once”, I thought, “I’d like for one of those people to treat me with the same selflessness, respect and thoughtfulness as I treat them. Just ONCE!!!!”
That was my “poor me” moment. Totally valid, but not exactly helpful. I indulged that “other” part of me just long enough for it to help me put things back into perspective. As you will see, from the quote I just thought of on the way to the washroom, the kinder, compassionate and, dare I say, wiser part of me is guiding me, once again…
“When we offer our gifts to those who do not love themselves enough to accept them, they end up getting thrown back in our faces”.
That pretty much says it, I think. We have to take responsibility for where we put our energy. Some people just aren’t in a place to appreciate the gifts that we offer. (Feel free to appropriate said quote for your own purposes).
So, moving on, I asked myself (still sitting in the bathtub), what do I need right now?
I scanned the possibilities… reaching out to this friend or that…writing about it…meditating, etc… and the thing that came to mind, which opened my heart and found my tears, was the need to share my vulnerability on a very deep, DEEP level. Unfortunately, this is something I have never been able to do with anyone except a long-term partner and, to be honest, it has never really gone that well. The truth is that, in our society (let alone my own partner relationships), very few people have the skills required to offer a safe enough space in which to do that and it takes repeated experiences of being vulnerable and not being judged, for that safety to develop on its own. And since I don’t have a partner right now anyway, it poses a bit of a dilemma. I’m surrounded by amazing friends who are always there to listen and offer support and guidance, but this is different and it’s pretty scary. Hopefully, I’ll feel safe enough to do that one day but, for now, it isn’t something I’m ready for.
But then, the surprising answer came to me… What I wanted, in that moment, was simply to have my sister, Rory, living within walking distance from my house, so I could go over and have a glass of red wine with her and… unravel.
Why Rory? Its simple. We’ve been through some heavy shit together that almost destroyed our relationship but we went away, licked our wounds, did our work, swallowed our pride, stayed vulnerable and worked it out. Our relationship is complicated, but we let our love for one another guide us and we never gave up on each other. Amazingly, what I have just discovered, is that she is the safest person on the planet, for me, right now. Who knew? :) She’s on the other side of the country, but in that moment, just knowing that she was my ‘safe person’ seemed to help me tremendously.
This morning, the email exchange (with the same person) continued, but I was able to trust myself to respond in a way that is true to who I am. No apologies, and certainly not completely objective, but still with as much compassion as I believe every human being deserves.