Gratitude, Joy, Oneness, Service, Purpose and Meaning (Day 1104 – Day 1130)
I wrote a post a few days ago. I wrote it. Published it. Re-wrote it. Unpublished it. Re-wrote it again. Published it again. After about an hour, I took it down for good.
The old post was about the narratives we tell about our relationships. I realized that there are always at least as many stories of relationship as there are participants to that relationship. The story continues to change, as we change. And, the further away from the event we get, the further away from the Truth we get. We all re-write our history, in order to make meaning of the seemingly senseless pain we endure, to maintain our ego and to take back the illusion of control of a chaotic world.
I’ve been thinking about the way that some of us tend to push one another’s buttons in a relationship. If it is a relationship where one or both parties withhold or react to having their buttons pushed, rather than getting still and focused on their inner compass and being able to respond to a situation in an assertive and direct way, before either have reacted, we can quickly lose our bearings as if we are trying to follow a compass that is being pulled by the magnetic poles of withholding and reaction.
When the young man ended our relationship in December, people told me to focus on myself. It was impossible, for many months. I had been so blindsided that I couldn’t make sense of it. Somehow, if I could make sense of it, then the world would not be a dangerous place where chaos ruled. I never did make sense of it, though my head looped around and I googled everything I could find to try to explain his behavior. I found that trying to make sense of someone else is a pointless exercise. We really are here to make sense and meaning out of our own lives.
After several months of being sick of going in circles, I decided to resurrect what I had buried in the relationship – my inner compass. Instead of trying to figure him out, I focused on me. Why had things gone so wrong for me and what did I do that was unhelpful in getting my needs met?
I did this in my spiritual work. I painted about it. I wrote about it. But with two steps forward, I would fall back one step again, and try again to understand him instead of trying to understand how it made me feel and what I wanted to do, as a result of it. I kept trying to navigate from the landmarks of our relationship that he left behind instead of navigating by my inner compass.
In desperation, I threw the whole thing into the fire and asked to be purged of it. I was fed up with it.
But I hadn’t resolved it.
The embers of that broken relationship did not stay in the fire to be doused and buried and purified by the fire. I stirred the embers, and they floated up on the wind to burn me, once again.
I had been abandoned by him, yes. And, I had survived. But then I fooled myself that the next ‘right’ thing to do, was to reach out and propose that we be friends. I was not changed enough to manage my responses to having my buttons pushed and developing a friendship with someone who had treated me with such little regard – in the absence of his making amends and altering his behaviour – was a fatal act of self abandonment.
When we met again, I was observant and cautious. He asked me to open up and I didn’t listen to my small voice say – ‘I don’t feel safe to do that yet.’ I took the leap, before I knew if it was safe (it turned out that it wasn’t) and I abandoned myself again, at the side of the lake and got into the kayak with him.
The waters that seemed clear as we left the shore quickly grew murky as they always had been.
In a few weeks, things spun out of control again and nothing was making sense. I found myself spending more time wondering: ‘What is going on here?’ than I spent on getting clear about how I felt about what was going on. I had stopped navigating by my inner compass.
There is a phrase in orienteering and hiking that says even though we have a compass and can triangulate our bearings from the landscape and a map, it is far better to STAY on course and stay found than to get lost and need to find our way back. Within two days of not heeding my own compass, I was lost. Old patterns resurfaced and with the best of intentions, conscious response gave way to unconscious reaction on both our parts. It was ugly in the end.
In our last meeting, I headed for one compass bearing and I had the map to get me where I wanted to go. But love and compassion for another can sometimes make us abandon ourselves, if we don’t have the same respect for ourselves that we expect others to show us. One might say he abandoned me, and yes, he did that, again. But what is most important for me to learn is that I allowed that to happen, by abandoning myself. Neither of us could keep our bearings and in a panic, we both reacted.
I learned that the worst abandonment we can feel is when we abandon our own wellbeing for that of another. Once we do that, we are lost and we will resort to our primal instincts to find our way home. Primal instincts may be what we want to leave behind but what we’ve left behind is ourselves. Autopilot takes over, so that we survive. Sometimes, people get hurt in our drive to survive.
I’m grateful for this lesson.
I’m grateful for The Work of Byron Katie. I don’t know that she is for everyone, or even for me over the long haul. But this weekend I listened to her and found she helped me to turn around old stories and re-examine them. And, I’m grateful for the work of a relationship counselor from Chicago, whose U-Tube videos helped me to see the pattern that I keep looping back into.
The hook of that pattern grabbed me so quickly, completely and left me reacting without conscious choice. And yet, when I trace back the events, I see that I lost my ability to be conscious and choose my response when I abandoned myself and kept abandoning myself – even when I had moments to take my bearings.
I’m grateful for the words of a friend who re-counted a tale of a visit with her long time teacher that never happened. Her teacher had called and said that she just wasn’t up for it. My friend was disappointed but grateful that the teacher had not pushed herself and then had resentment that would ruin the weekend for both of them. This hit home.
On my last weekend visit with the young man, I was exhausted and I didn’t feel I’d been treated with respect in the lead up to the weekend. I didn’t feel he was honoring his conscious agreements with me and most worryingly, I didn’t feel that I was hearing the full truth of what was going on, the impacts of which were bearing down on me. This left me feeling a way I don’t want to feel, in my life. Instead of calling off our visit, I went ahead with it, and I abandoned myself and how I really felt about everything. Everything went to hell in a handbasket from there.
There is joy in getting to the crux of the matter by working through the events that led up to and precipitated the ugly encounter. The joy is in finding that the needle for magnetic north points right back inside ourselves. We are not at the whim of a chaotic universe. The chaos ensues when we abandon our true north readings.
The first ending between us was accompanied by a lot of blame directed at me. The second ending had a lot of blame directed at him.
In reality, we are both to blame for not being true to ourselves and not being forthright, truthful and kind about what that meant for ourselves and the other. We each have our flaws, and it really isn’t in anyone’s interest to recount those. Nor is it in either of our interest to judge one another for the way we behave. What is in my interest now is to recognize that we push one another’s buttons and neither of us currently has the skills to stop reacting when that happens. In that Oneness, we are both flawed and ugly and infinitely and intrinsically loveable.
The relationship with the young man was a hard one and was also meaningful. I have learned from this episode, and now, in order to be of service to all those with whom I am in relationship, I must get clear about how I want to feel in relationship, and what my non-negotiable ‘must haves’ are (respect, forthrightness, keeping agreements etc), and what are non-negotiable ‘deal breakers’ (lies, addiction, criminal activity etc) for me. These are the markers on my inner compass that I need to honor, and my role is to keep my attention on my inner bearings as it calls to me and directs my course towards fulfilling my soul’s purpose – both in and out of relationships.
This is my personal task as we head into our fourth year of gratitude practice. Nobody said this journey of 10,000 days of gratitude was going to be easy. I expected a lot of growth and transformation from the path. And, transformation is not always pretty.
I don’t condone his disrespectful behavior, but there are always at least as many sides to the story of a relationship as there are participants to that relationship. Whatever the absolute truth of the relationship, I can say that I am grateful that the young man came into my life because I learned so much from being in relationship with him. Mostly, I learned that everything changes when I honour myself, first.
For what are you most grateful, today?