Signs of healing

Yesterday I attended a games night with my husband and daughter. It was held in the home of a member of a club we’re involved with.

I had a fabulous evening. D & A said they did too. Our host was gracious – the other attendees were friendly, and up for a laugh.

I was nervous prior to leaving the house. So nervous that I scoured the internet for hot tips on how to socialise. Admittedly, I regularly research this kind of information – without getting around to the actual socialising part though.

There were a number of concerns running though my head, but as it turned out none of them eventuated. Upon waking today I realised that this games night was the first social gathering I’ve attended since beginning my recovery from abuse 15 months ago – and the experience this time was significantly different from my past attempts to relate with people.

What was different?

I didn’t feel the need to apologise for my limitations.

The host knows about my medical condition, so when she began offering me drinks and food (I have a very restricted diet and take my own meals and electrolyte solution out with me) I confidently stated that I was fine; she didn’t need to offer me any food or drink or else I’d just be declining all night. Done & dusted. I made light of it, the host didn’t seem phased… and that was all the ‘illness talk’ I found myself needing to engage in all evening!

I spoke up.

Pretty quickly after arriving I settled down in a comfy spot on the floor (upon two big pillows I took with me) and engaged in conversation with the other attendees. I didn’t rely on D to speak for me. I experienced the sense of being an individual, unique person with my own voice. One rather opinionated woman screwed up her face at me and mildly mocked me a time or two. In the past this would have triggered a shut-down shame spiral, but last night it didn’t get to me; and I can honestly say I enjoyed the woman’s company.

I gave myself permission to be wrong.

Somebody brought along a box of cards with brain teasers written on them. The attendees of this gathering were all very intelligent people. A question was read out and as everybody sat hesitant to call out an answer, I just went ahead and did it myself. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve kept my lips zipped on an answer in the past while I’ve waited for somebody else to say it instead. To top it off, the person who read the card began to reply that my answer was incorrect, but then realised they’d gotten confused and my answer was actually right. In that moment when I heard my answer was incorrect, I felt completely at ease with myself. Previously, another shame-spiral would have ensued. Last night I didn’t need to be correct about everything, in order to feel ‘worthy’. What a beautiful thing!

I listened compassionately to my body.

Just after 9pm I noticed that though I desired to stay for hours longer (and D & A probably did too), my body was at the point of requiring rest. I quietly informed D and the three of us gathered up our things, thanked our host, and said goodbye to the rest of the crew. On the return car journey it became apparent that my body had only just been holding out – I was fast asleep by the time we pulled in at home. I thought there would be regret about not pushing myself; for missing out on hours more fun. Instead I feel thankful to have reached the point where I can tune in to my body and find a healthy balance – one that will possibly enable me to spend more time socialising overall. I think D & A recognise this as well, and neither of them showed any sign of begrudging our early-ish departure.

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Perhaps the main difference in my experience of socialising last night compared to past attempts, was that a lot of my shame triggers have been dismantled. I had hundreds (if not thousands). Shortly after ceasing contact with my mother I wrote down a list of personal shame triggers relating to femininity alone; the list covered pages.

It’s maybe impossible for a person whose psyche is littered with such triggers to work on healing them one by one. So what has changed then? Why is my shame dampening down across the board? I’ve considered this question, and believe my healing can be attributed to the self-compassion and mindfulness practices I’ve engaged in for the past 12 months; particularly Metta (or Loving-kindness) meditation.

I like myself now, and so believe I’m likeable. My shame isn’t so regularly triggered because I relate to life from a foundation of loving myself. These changes make socialising a whole lot easier and a whole lot more enjoyable.

Since stepping out onto this path of healing about 15 months ago, I’ve been delighted to find that at certain points I come across signs giving encouragement:

“You’re on the right path”

“Keep going – you know the way”

Last night’s experience was another such sign, cheering me on.

I am deeply loving this journey.

 

May each of us find our own healing path. 

 

 

 

 

 

Compassion with expectations attached

On Wednesday the woman I employed to clean our home visited for the third time. I spent part of Wednesday evening butt-shuffling around, cleaning the floor and other parts of the house left dirty. I’ve had quite a few people come and clean my home over the years (prior to the government cutting home support funding); Wednesday evening it dawned on me that a competent cleaner can do a far better job in half the time of the one I’d employed. I needed to let this cleaner go.

The idea of ‘firing’ my cleaner made me mildly nauseous. Online I went – how do other people go about carrying out this task? I was met with story after story of fully grown adults who simply couldn’t find it within themselves to terminate employment of an incompetent (or sometimes downright dodgy) cleaner. Not very helpful…

Upon reading a post from the perspective of a nanny, I decided not to lie to T (the cleaner) by saying I couldn’t afford to employ anyone right now etc. Instead, I decided to be assertive, honest, yet compassionate. I didn’t mention my opinion of T’s cleaning, and gave her an ‘out’; a way to save face. I thanked her for her work but explained that I required ‘a different kind of cleaning service to suit my needs’ (T could only visit bi-weekly, for 3 hours at a time – obviously not suitable in every situation). I ended the message in an upbeat, no-harm-no-foul way.

A while later T responded. She wrote twice how ‘very happy’ she was to not have to come and clean in my home again. T went on to talk about how she didn’t do a good job cleaning (something which I had not even alluded to in my email) – because of me. It was my fault that she had not cleaned any part of my house properly, because I was at home whilst she cleaned and it made her uncomfortable.

She knew from the get-go that I would be home as I’m mostly house-bound. I never interrupted her cleaning, and couldn’t even say what she’d done or not done around the house (until after she’d left and certain things became obvious) because I was doing my own thing here on my bed as she worked. I always thanked her sincerely when she finished up.

T’s response to me hurt. A gnawing anger settled in my gut.

In the past I would have written a self-righteous response to T’s message. I’d have bounced the blame back at her; pointing out all the ‘holes’ in her story, and letting her know how I’d had to go around the house on Wednesday evening cleaning up the dirt she left untouched – thereby defeating the purpose of me, a disabled person, paying someone to come and clean the house in order to take a bit of the load off my shoulders.

I didn’t respond to T’s message. That’s not to say I let her defensive response go, though. Because my anger had no ‘outlet’ I began berating myself for being such an idiot. I employed someone who effectively took me for a ride, and then blamed me for it. Why did I not spot potential issues during our initial meeting? Where did I go wrong? Why am I such a sucker? Why do I let people walk over me? Should I respond and give T a piece of my mind?

Nope. I didn’t respond, but kept trying to figure out why I couldn’t let go of the anger and frustration.

I eventually realized that I felt annoyed because the ‘compassion’ I showed T in my message to her, the careful consideration of her feelings – wasn’t reciprocated in T’s reply to me. I felt as though I put in a lot of effort to spare T’s feelings and she just dumped a pile of blame and bullshit on me in return.

Where I went wrong is that the compassion I showed T can’t have been true compassion. My compassion was actually an act of control; I felt that if I treated T with a certain level of consideration, then a kind of unspoken contract would be formed between the two of us. ‘I don’t screw you – you don’t screw me’. When T didn’t ‘live up’ to her side of the contract that I’d subconsciously attempted to create, I felt affronted. 

So this is where I’m at. I obviously need to develop my idea of compassion and compassionate action. True compassion doesn’t expect nor demand a certain response from others.

I’m going to give myself credit for two things though:

  1. It only took 3 visits for me to face up to the fact that things weren’t going to work out with T, and to take action. In the past I would have continued smiling nicely when the cleaner visited, then cursed them under my breath later whilst I struggled to fix up the house. I’d have paid for an inadequate service indefinitely – paralyzed with fear about speaking up.
  2. I did not and will not respond to T’s defensive message. Even though my idea of compassion needs some work, the fact I have no desire to respond to T shows growth. Baby steps.

 

When it comes down to it, I’m glad that this experience has highlighted something I needed to become aware of. How often does my compassion have strings attached? I’ll be on the look-out.

 

 

 

 

 

The benefit of being a receptacle

Why do many of us abused as children continue to partner up with, and befriend those who project their own hang-ups onto and into us?

Lately I’ve been pondering friendship. I’d love to experience true and safe friendship. It doesn’t have to be all deep & meaningful. I’d just like it to be reciprocal, and real. Why then, do I consistently make unhealthy choices when it comes to relationships?

Firstly, I realised I don’t really make choices about relationships. Not active choices. I passively accept whoever shows an interest in me. Many times I’ve been religiously preached to by friends. Many times I’ve been belittled and manipulated by friends. Many times I’ve been used by friends as a feel-good stopgap when nobody else was available. Many times I’ve been viewed as a ‘charity case’.

These are not the sorts of friendships I wish to continue.

Mostly, I’ve had relationships with people who lack boundaries and project their own issues into me, the wide open empty receptacle. It really hurts to be the disposal unit for other people’s crap. Not only do I have to deal with my own insecurities and self hatred – but theirs as well.

‘So why do I do it?’ I asked myself – and finally, an answer arrived:

 

I have (unconsciously) allowed others to project into/onto me, because doing so gives insight into their true feelings and motivations. Having this information about my abusers afforded me a degree of safety during childhood.

People who project leak data that I use to gauge my own security at any given moment. For this reason, I continually steer toward people who lack boundaries and who don’t emotionally self-contain.

Self-contained people engender an unknown quantity that I fear more than I fear outright abuse.

Fear of the unknown is the main barrier to me forming relationships with healthy people.

 

How to embark upon new and healthy relationships then, when I feel safer with the usual unhealthy dynamics (remembering that ‘safety’ is a large motivation of most abuse survivors)?

I think my goal of beginning healthy friendships is going to require my bravery, implementation of self-soothing techniques, and a conscious willingness to abide with the discomfort of the unknown.

It will require me to let go of ‘filling in the gaps’ of a boundaried relationship with catastrophic thinking; just because the other person doesn’t leak their emotions, anger, and hatred all over – doesn’t mean that they’re hiding ill intent.

I need to build faith in myself, my fundamental likeability, and my capacity to cope with all sorts of situations.

It’s time to be braver and try a different way of relating with others. It’s time for me to turn towards people who exhibit healthy boundaries.

 

 

 

 

poem-wear

Powerful words and imagery.

Shawn L. Bird

Remember how you’d mock him

tell us his weaknesses, laugh about him.

Remember how you voiced your petty irritations

in every letter or conversation?

He would never utter a word against you,

as you wore him down, year after year.

Water on stone.  Cutting through bedrock.

And now she writes constant words of joy in him,

gushes over him like a waterfall,

and he pools around her with pleasure.

It’s a relief to see his happiness, someone appreciating him.

I watch and wonder whether you wish you’d chosen

better words, or whether you savour being alone?

.

.

.

I could have written this about so many people I know or know of.  It’s such a common pattern.   One sows seeds of one’s own destruction.

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The weather is beautiful today

with soft light

and raindrops like diamonds

falling

falling

falling

to earth

nourishing the plants