Grace

The last weeks have been full of high highs and low lows. They have been so far apart in their emotional impact they really couldn’t have been any different. It’s been hard and happy and so exhausting.  My people though? My people have been amazing. I already talked about the highs in my last post, so let’s talk about the lows. I finally signed documents to take F to court after months of asking for mediation. I’m beyond disappointed that this is where we’ve come to.  I’ve been asking him for mediation for so long. All his messages are full of manipulation and anger. It’s so hard to deal with. And yet, I still reach out over and over and try to get him to change his mind. It’s my exercise in futility as I try to get what is best for my kids.

The most recent chapter of the conflict with my sister came to a close last week with a court date and not entirely the result I wanted.  Turns out I can’t protect my children from her because she hasn’t treated them badly enough. At the very least, I won’t have to have contact with her for the next two years. I guess that’s something.  This loss, however, had me feeling pretty shitty in general. I tried and failed, which isn’t a big deal, but in the process, I hurt my parents, two people who have done nothing but support me and love me.  I put exactly how much she had hurt me out in the light and it wasn’t enough to protect those who matter most to me, my kids. And F and W were there to watch the whole thing.

Predictably, F started stirring up shit within a couple days.  More manipulation about extracurricular activities and arguments about getting my kids in counseling.  Seriously, why would anyone ever restrict permission for their children to get counseling when they are going through a nasty divorce?  Well, F, of course. We are in the middle of a nasty conversation that largely involves him accusing me of doing things that I haven’t done to distract from the fact that his kids don’t want to go to his house and that they have been talking to me quite openly about what happens at his house and none of it is positive.  I have called him out on that, after he made thinly veiled accusations about my children seeing a genital piercing I have and it being inappropriate and accused me of intentionally alienating my oldest daughter when I told her what I had told him that she had said to me. That’s right, it’s that confusing and convoluted.

So much of this is old news. F stirring up shit.  Manipulating the stories to serve his agenda. The loss in court last week had me questioning myself and my decisions.  Was I making the right decisions for my family, especially my kids? Was it worth the emotional impact to me and the stress and hurt it caused? A long list of very accusatory and manipulative emails from F added to that.  While I could see what he was doing, he totally used what he knows of my insecurities and my triggers to throw me further into doubt. Of course, I didn’t tell him that, but that was the net effect. The result of this is that I haven’t been able to sleep very well.  I wake up a lot and can’t get back to sleep because my brain won’t shut of. When A, P, or T have been in bed with me, I’ve been attached to them. Apparently have an innate need to feel protected and cuddled as a result. I have nightmares. Horrible nightmares involving awful things happening to my children and the people I love.  I’m exhausted.

Add to this that it is my busy time of year and I’m drowning in work and I’m just done.

I’ve been living with this stress and not really understanding what the actual twisty bit was behind it until it hit me on my commute to work this morning.  I sent the most recent awfulness to G knowing that she would be the only person I know who would read it and not go directly to blaming F and his assholeness, but would understand that underneath I was feeling a lot of pain and doubt.  I knew she would get it and understand that what I needed to hear was not that he’s a dick and to ignore him and take away his power, but that I needed to feel all the horrible feelings, sit in them, know what they do to me, and let go of them so I could move on.  I need to feel those horrible doubts so I can take away their power. Knowing that she would get it, I sent her this:

“It has me questioning everything.  And feeling like every decision I make and action I take has to be perfect.  I hate that he is so horrible to my kids. And I hate that I haven’t been perfect in responding to the way he treats them. And I hate that I haven’t been perfect in responding to them when they talk to me about things.  And I know perfection isn’t possible, but it’s not possible to be human and make mistakes when co-parenting with someone like him. And I hate that I can’t protect them. He isn’t “bad enough” to warrant losing the kids.  He isn’t good enough to deserve them. I hate it all. I hate the way he manipulates things to get to me and I hate that I respond to those things every time and doubt myself and my parenting ability and that I’m doing the right things for my kids.

And I hate more than anything that asking to put my kids in counseling took a conversation like that and I still haven’t got permission, when I know damn well he won’t be taking the kids to counseling himself.  

Heartbreaking is the only word for any of it.”

This afternoon, I had a good catch up and quick visit with one of my best work friends.  She commented that I look exhausted. That the pictures I’ve been posting on social media are great, but that she can see in my eyes that something more is going on with me.  So I filled her in. Among the many things we talked about was how being kind is so important to me. Living a life where I choose to understand where people are coming from and forgive them for their mistakes instead of condemning them for being human.  She said something that really resonated with me and may have been the thing that I needed to hear. She is often very complimentary, and she is an introvert with a need for a lot more alone time than I do. She always says: “You have 4 kids, 2 jobs, 3 partners, close relationships with many friends and your family, and a very active, successful career.  I don’t know how you do it all and still make time to laugh and enjoy life.”

Today she said all those things and then said: “Everyone deserves grace.  But you, you do all those things and you are kind and supportive and generous and acknowledge that you are human.  You deserve grace most of all.”

I don’t know if I *deserve* grace any more than the next person, but I know that grace isn’t something I’m going to get from F. That I’m going to continue to be put under a microscope and he will continue to criticize my actions or inaction as he sees fit.  He can only live with the gravity of his actions if he makes me out to be worse that he is. If he’s criticizing me, he doesn’t have to look within himself. But I need to give myself the understanding and forgiveness that I give others. I need to forgive myself for being human, for being fallible, for being imperfect, for being myself in the world where everyone wants all of us to be someone else.  

I need to give myself the grace that I give others.  Forgive myself my imperfections. This is hard to do when my kids face the consequences.  So I’m going to sit in these feelings and take away their power. Gracefully.

 

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Overwhelmed

The last week has been a bit of a blur and my emotions have been all over the map.  I’m pretty clear with everyone I talk to online and then meet in person that I want a relationship. I’m not that interested in casual sex and while I don’t need to follow a traditional relationship escalator, and in fact, I don’t want to, in general, I do want to explore connections and let relationships evolve. So when I had a great first date last week that ended with, hands down, the best first kiss I’d ever had, I was sure it was going to go somewhere.  Imagine my disappointment when a couple days later he told me that he thought it would just be physical and he couldn’t date me seriously when I had two other boyfriends. He went from real interest to real disgust pretty fast.

F is playing games with child support and extracurricular activities and everything in between.  He’s using the children as weapons and criticizing pretty much everything I do. He’s taken it upon himself to declare that my financial choices are wrong and that I don’t care about the kids enough. It’s disgusting. In the meantime, my kids never want to go to his house, are completely wound up and melting down when I get them back, and are suffering due to his power struggles and manipulation. At the end of last week, I was so done. I was in a terrible head space, feeling stuck, was hurting, and had a whole pile of self-pity to add to it. But I did a thing. I reached out. I was vulnerable while I was hurting. I got acknowledgement and love and a whole lot of therapy from just writing out what I was feeling in that moment. My extremely vulnerable message to G started with the back story about all the crap that F is pulling. Then I got to the actual emotions behind what I was feeling. I was writing from a position of being really raw and actively hurting and desperately trying to process so I could get a break. I think the number of times I use a version of “overwhelmed” is a great clue as to exactly how overwhelmed I was. Here it is:

And all of these are completely legitimate reasons for me to be angry and hurt and frustrated and everything in between.  But I’m so sick of the underlying stress and the peaks in between caused by him. I need a literal break from F and his antics.  But his behaviour is escalating because he’s grasping for control. Up until recently, I was pretty pragmatic about it all, but now the emotional responses are coming hard and fast.

So I’m working through those. And they suck. Because no matter what I know logically about F and the awful person he is, I still have higher expectations of him and just can’t wrap my brain around how awful and hurtful he’s being.  I’m disappointed. I’m sad, I’m shocked and I’m fucking overwhelmed.

And part of the reason I’m overwhelmed is I’m understanding that these emotional responses are connected to the same baggage as that I was unpacking when A and I were fighting a few weeks ago.

How my emotional response to hurt or stress is to go out guns blazing or feel like I’m too much trouble and to roll over and just give in.

Add to that understanding that my issues with vulnerability and actually talking about my feelings when I’m not highly emotional are all linked to this too – I have this internal dialogue that I don’t want to be too much trouble for my partner/friends/loved ones.  I have this internal dialogue that those same people resent my needs or think negatively about me.

The realization that these things all fit together is huge for me.  But it’s overwhelming as fuck because there are so many feels to feel to get to the place where I can even figure out how to prevent my emotional responses from running the show.  I have so many feels to feel before I can fix my internal dialogue and recognize my worth when I’m going through an emotional period (I’m great at the logic and reason part when I’m not in a period of emotional stress – I get how awesome I am, but really, I need the support and love when I’m having a hard time too.)

And as I feel all the feels, I’m having a really hard time.  In the end, each event, or feeling is associated with either the understanding that I was a victim and so powerless to prevent the bad communication and passive aggression and hurt caused to me.  (For example, one of the things I was working through feelings was a time when I was 9 and one of my dad’s friends said something to me in a rude way, and I was hurt and embarrassed and got angry and told the person he wasn’t nice and my dad told me to stop making such a big deal about it and to behave better and get that it was ‘just a joke’.  And I want to be physically ill at the fact that this was the way my dad behaved as a parent my whole life and the broader effect this event and many like it have had on the rest of my life.) So that’s the defeat.

Then there’s the other part that is that my years of conditioning to people not actually acknowledging my feelings and feeling like a burden was to go in full guns blazing trying to win without regard for how the other person was feeling.  To use blunt force traumatic words to win, because that’s the only way I felt like I was heard. So I hurt a shit ton of people through the way I was communicating to them, regardless of whether they were the people who were participating in making me feel worthless or not.  And even then, even if it was someone like F or my dad who were the biggest culprits in the horrible communication and passive aggressive manipulation and the inability to recognize my feelings and love as valid, valuable, or something worth considering, I hurt them too. So there’s this overwhelming guilt and embarrassment that I wasn’t able to recognize my own role in all this and that I hurt people I loved too, because the only way I knew how to be heard was to win.

And all of this is overwhelming and hard and so fucking pervasive in every minute of every day right now and I can’t shut my brain off long enough to reset or remember that I have so much good going on that this is just a period of time I need to go through and process.  I know it logically, but I just need a fucking break, but the only way I get the break is by riding this wave until it’s processed and breaks on its own.

And so it’s hard.  And it’s hard to talk about, because when I talk about it, it feels like I’m giving it all more power than it should have and it becomes real and scary and I hate being vulnerable.  And that’s because I wrap being strong and powerful and independent around me like protective armour. But that’s all wrapped up in my inappropriate responses and bad communication and it’s an illusion that has allowed me to justify treating people badly when I was covering up my pain.  And it’s so much. So fucking much.

And that’s my thought tornado right now. It’s a storm in my brain that is really scary and hard to deal with right now.

I typed this out while working at my second job, sniffling out tears as I wrote.  I was not in a good headspace and it was not a practiced or thought out expression. It was about as raw as I get.  G, knew exactly how hard it was for me to type that out.

This was her response:

I get exactly how that feels
Please know that you are loved, you are never too much when you are being vulnerable and open, I want to hear everything you have to say
The bravery and strength needed to process and change how you meet your need for connection, especially when that was formed from an emotional drought of a parent,  is almost crippling.
And you are brave, and loved,  and amazing.
Here’s what I know
when you share your struggle with those deserving of hearing your story you will feel seen, heard, and loved. And a little bit of the weight will be gone

Because instead of playing out your old ways of getting your needs met you’ll be playing out your new healthier way of being vulnerable and getting the love and support you need

You deserve to be met with love and understanding.

I couldn’t respond anything other than:

You are such an amazing friend. Thanks for hearing the real problems behind my info barf. I love you.

G didn’t fix anything.  She just acknowledged my feelings as valid. Told me she understood. Offered me reassurance. There were no platitudes or offers of solutions. Just understanding. She completely got me.

I spent the rest of the day pretty miserable.  Overwhelmed with the emotional stress of all the self-work I needed to do.  Recognizing how I needed a break and dealing with the stress of some pretty awful coworkers that just made the day worse.  Generally feeling sorry for myself, worried about my future, and feeling a little defeated. I was in what I summarized as “an uncharacteristically grumpy mood” to anyone who noticed, which was everyone, because I wasn’t at all myself.  

I hugged the shit out of my kids when I got home.  I sucked in their love like I was starving. I warned A that I didn’t know who he was going to get when he came over.  I’m not entirely sure who he got. He got a girlfriend who wasn’t interested in feeling any more hard feelings and was actively numbing her feelings with wine.  I talked a bit about what was going on, but it didn’t flow or feel right to me. At some point we just fell into ourselves and all that pain and overwhelming feeling just disappeared.  It’s kind of like that with us though, we exist as a couple together and although the world still exists, we don’t always have to navigate it together. We can just be in our own world and that was what happened that night.  We drank more than we usually do, talked and laughed and reconnected, and then had super hot drunk kinky sex until ridiculously late. We slept and woke in the morning and had super hot loving vanilla morning sex and I made him coffee while he showered and he went home. Somewhere in that time, I stopped being overwhelmed. I reset and was able to tackle the things that I was feeling.  Not all of them, because baggage like this takes time, but I was able to deal with the things that were immediately bugging me and set them aside.

The rest of the weekend was amazing.  I spent so much time with my kids, enjoyed a great meal with them and my parents, and got some things done in my house.  I ended the weekend with the new guy I’m dating, who should probably have a letter, so I guess that makes him “P”? A gave me ‘rules’ so that by the time P arrived for our date I basically threw myself at him and we ended the weekend with a really damn hot date.  It was a fun way to cap off my amazing weekend.

Today I was back at work. I was doing some of my favourite things, chatting with my favourite coworkers and just having a general blast.  I’m still feeling the feelings, but this weekend helped top up my tank. I’m feeling better able to cope with the stresses that are hitting me and work my way to where I want to be.  I’m not happy with where I am, but I’m not overwhelmed either. I’m resigned and determined and facing it all with a much braver face. And I have some pretty great people helping me along that journey.

 

More on emotional responses

The other day was A’s birthday.  Sexy grandpa is 46 years old and received from me one lunch and ample jokes about his advanced age and trading him in for a younger model.  I have no doubt there will be repercussions for my teasing. Totally worth it.

We always have widely varied conversation and on thing we were talking about was people owning their own shit. Mostly, this came from the newest round of bullshit that F is dishing out, the all around douchey “I’ll fuck with her financial security by messing with child support payments” version.  I said that as frustrated as I was, I actually feel a little sorry for him. The thing is, he has to live in that head of his all the time. The one that tells him that he’s a victim in everything, that is so full of anger and depression, the brain that allows him to think it’s OK to fuck with financial security of the mother of his four children. That can’t be a good place to live.  

We all know people who are like this – unaccountable for their own actions, continuously blaming others for their behaviour, who have no capacity for self-reflection.  A mentioned people in his life that are that way and I said that it was exactly how my dad was. Those strong emotional reactions that were never grounded in any kind of fact, but were continuously being the victim and blaming others.  A commented that it’s amazing that I’m not the same way given where I came from. The thing is, I am. I react really emotionally to almost everything. I have a pretty intense internal dialogue that likes to derail things. I’ve just learned that my visceral response to things can’t be trusted.  I know people who live and die by their “gut feelings”. I ignore the hell out of mine. No, this isn’t true, I don’t ignore them, I try to understand them. I ask myself a whole lot of questions about why I feel those things. What are they rooted in? Where are the originating? Is there a more logical explanation to account for the thing that I’m reacting emotionally to?  Yes is the answer. Always.

I wrote not long ago about how I like to be in contact in between dates with my partners.  This touching base is actually really important to me. It’s how I anchor myself in between our amazing dates that are full of connection.  I have a hard time with the transition from an amazing overnight date where we are just totally together to a few text messages the next day.  If I don’t get to see a partner after about a week since our last date, it’s challenging for me. So the texting part becomes important. I love the “good morning” and “goodnight” texts.  The thing about this form of contact that works for me is the idea that they are thinking of me too. It reinforces my importance to them.

I try to be cavalier about the importance of this communication to me, but the fact is that this is where my emotional responses highjack me most often.  If I haven’t heard from a partner all day or they haven’t responded to a text, I get a bit antsy. I start thinking that I did or said something or that the shoe is about to drop. I get how unhealthy this is.  I get how absurd this is. This is just and example of the emotional responses that I can’t trust. I know, logically, that I am not a burden and it’s not even about me. My partners have busy lives and careers and other things going on.  I counteract this response in a number of ways. The first is just reaching out. I will send a “proof of life” message. I will send a kissy face. I will just send a message asking how their day is going. I get a response and that is usually what does the trick for me.

I also recognize that the communication is just important to me.  However, it doesn’t need to be long messages and a complete conversation, sometimes it just needs to be a reminder of “us”.  So a lot of the time if I’m thinking about how awesome a partner is, they’ll get a kissy face or quick message in the middle of the day just because I’m thinking of them.  It doesn’t have to be because my emotions are highjacking me in the background. It’s not a constant thing.

This is one of many emotional responses I have.  Just an example. I think we all do this. Our experiences and background colour how we react to everything.  Some people are aware of their emotional responses and manage them. S has a healthy relationship with her gut responses so she doesn’t have to mistrust them, for example.  Currently, I’m working on my own emotional responses. Trying to let myself bathe in the emotions to feel what it is about them that I need to feel so I can move on to much more logic and reason.  This was a huge realization the other day when F decided not to pay child support. Despite knowing who he is and how he will manipulate things in an effort to get control, I still respond emotionally every time.  My emotions are complex, they involve disappointment, anger, hurt, incredulousness, sadness, and defeat. The stress is intense and has me wanting to lash out and hurt him back, which I know better than to do. I get physical symptoms of fear and defeat. It’s awful.  So, on the second of this month, when I woke up without child support having been sent, I was heartbroken. Despite knowing who F is. Because I was responding emotionally. So instead of getting angry and lashing out or being defeated and sad, I sat in my feelings. I felt the defeat, anger, disappointment, sorry, rage, hurt, and everything else that came to me.  I realized how much I have to let go of those feelings and not let them affect me, because I don’t want those feelings lying to me and dictating how I respond. I want to respond appropriately to the situation. Always.

So what this means is feeling all those feelings.  Really exploring them. It’s like exposing the lies to get to the truth in a mystery.  What I hope will happen is that with time I’ll react with logic and reason without the emotions to ignore first.  I hope that letting them in, seeing what they have to say, and then getting rid of them will help me develop a relationship with my emotions that mean I’ll know when they are actually good for me.  Basically, I need to rebuild a trusting relationship with them.

It strikes me as so strange that I never realized all this before.  It’s only been since I removed F from my daily life that I’ve been able to uncover some interesting aspects about the way I react and then communicate.  Part of the process is working through the feelings that I have about how absurd my visceral reactions are sometimes. It’s multilayered emotions. S made a joke about me being a bit of a bull in a china shop.  Sort of: “Look OUT! I have emotions! They will be processed!” It’s kind of true and a little embarrassing. I feel sorry for the people close to me sometimes as they sit by and watch me deal with all this stuff or sometimes get in the line of fire as I process.  Thank goodness they love me and are there for me so faithfully. In the end, it’s all work I have to do myself and I’m aware of it. In that sense, I think I’m ahead in whatever crazy game this is.

Feeling all the feels

A and I had our date on Friday.  We talked. It was hard and awful and if I never have an argument with him again, I’ll be a happy girl.  I think we’re good now.

One of the things that came out of our argument was a lot of great people in my life volunteering to be my 5-point harness.  I have a list of people to rely on, so that at least next time, I will have more people as my backup. Lesson learned. One of my coworkers who is a close friend offered to be a member of my 5-point harness and asked only if he could be one of the shoulder straps and not the crotch strap.  Fuck did I laugh. I was so thankful for that laugh in that moment after so many days of anger and sadness.

The thing I’ve been working through for the last few days is feeling all the feels with regards to my newly uncovered baggage.  This is so fucking painful. Unpacking years of indoctrination, unhealthy communication, and poor processing isn’t easy. There’s a whole lot of feeling things that are terribly uncomfortable to feel.  So basically, I’m being a complete asshole to myself. The pain is the kind of combination of acute pain like being stabbed in the heart with chronic pain in the background. The chronic pain for me is a giant lump in the throat that is the kind of sadness that you want to run the hell away from.  Am I painting a good picture of where my head is at? Don’t want to be inside my head? Me neither.

What is swimming around is a whole lot of thinking about every time I felt like I was too much trouble for a person I love.  Towards the end of our discussion the other day, I tried to tell A how scared I really was in the background of my anger and disappointment. I’m not sure I explained it well, as really, it’s not a conscious thought more than a really heavy feeling.  It wasn’t until afterwards that I understood why I was so scared, so in the context of retrospect, it sounds a bit irrational. But that’s really the point – it’s my past lying to me about what is really going on in reality. A’s response was: “Why would you think I would break up with you because of an argument? Love, I’m not going to break up with you because of an argument like this.” This, of course, was meant to be a reassurance.  In the state I was in that night though, it just reminded me how complex the baggage I’m carrying is. I just felt broken.

So, I’m working through all the feelings. Times I brought innumerable concerns to F and he was so defensive he attacked me for the way I felt.  Times I asked for something I needed and his needs superseded mine. All of those times towards the end of our marriage where he threatened divorce if I expressed my concerns over him and W and their relationship. The time I told him I loved him and that I wanted to work things out and that I was sorry and he told me he didn’t care how I felt.  I’m working through the fact that two weeks before D dumped me without warning, I asked for something I needed and thought it was an example of excellent communication and asking for what I needed and then he dumped me without warning. What did I do with that? I took the fact that I asked for what I needed when I was in the peak stress of my life and I decided that I was too much trouble for him. That I wasn’t worth enough to support me through all the stress in my life.  It goes farther back. To past boyfriends. To my dad. To childhood traumas. I distinctly remember one of my dad’s friends cracking a joke about me that hurt my feelings and my dad laughing along. I remember saying that what he said was mean and my dad telling me to not cause trouble and to stop being so sensitive. I was nine years old.

I remember all the times I expected my partners to blame me for being sad, angry, disappointed or frustrated.  Where I lashed out at them in an offensive defense because I thought that was how to win. Where I literally browbeat some of them into submission because I didn’t know how to establish boundaries about appropriate treatment and I responded so angrily that I looked to be the aggressive one. Sometimes I was. I think about the number of times heightened emotions clouded my ability to see the person I was talking to and their real motivations or compassion. Where my fear, anger, and heightened emotions had me reacting in similar ways to how I reacted to A this week. How many people I love that I hurt because of it.

I’m so sad. Sad that I let people treat me so badly.  Sad that I treated people I loved so disrespectfully. Sad that all this bad communication created an expectation of such horrible behaviour from others and a bizarre idea of what appropriate behaviour was for me.  I’m sad for all the pain that I’ve suffered for so long for not being aware of this. I’m sad that I know all this and I have to work my way through it.

What it means is feeling so much pain.  Letting the feelings in, bathing in them, seeing them for what they are, and letting it all go.  It means digging up some things I’ve pushed really really far away and down really really deep. So the hurt and the sad are probably going to take a while to make my way through.  

One of the things I did when I realized why I had reacted so strongly to A the other day and had all this baggage to unpack was ask G to remind me to slow the fuck down and think. Understanding this all is one thing. Processing it all while I’m not emotionally charged is one thing.  Remembering not to default to my instincts when they are lying to me is going to be the true test. I don’t want to ever hurt myself or someone else because of what others have done to me again. Ever.

So I hurt.  I feel the feels.  I realize that each one I process means getting rid of pain I’m holding on to. So in the end it shouldn’t be able to return and cause me pain in the future.

But fuck me, does this suck right now.


 

I wrote this a few days ago. Since then, life has been stressful and hard, but there have been so many reminders of the love I have and the amazing people who I have in my life.  Processing is hard and it’s slow, because life doesn’t stop while I work through a lifetime of emotional trauma. I have so many people who care about me who have my back. In the end, I am loved by people who would never intentionally hurt me which means I’ve already broke an important cycle in my life.  This is why I can heal now, because I’m not just living with the pain and surviving.  

No longer livid – forgiveness

The post before this is about a huge issue I had with A.  This is how the rest went.

Well, the response I got wasn’t what I wanted and I got really mad.  There was a lot more to the message, but the last paragraph read: Just maybe this is not about you, but about my capacity at the moment. I get you’re hurt and feel like I’ve let you down, which I can accept, but your lack of understanding and empathy for what I’m dealing with daily, is also a let down. I’ll accept the blame as I should have checked, but the lack of a reminder rests with you.” I was seriously triggered.  I felt blamed. Victim shamed.  Attacked. Lack of empathy? Seriously?  I spend so much time thinking about him and what’s going on in his life and actively trying to figure out how best to support him and be who he needs.  It felt like I was being attacked for having a feeling. I felt like he was excusing his behaviour and somehow he was blaming me for him forgetting and not being available to me.  

I got mad and he got mad back. We both went to bed angry.  I drank a bottle of wine, watched a sad movie and cried for hours. Hurt, sad, angry, defeated, disappointed, and everything in between.  Devastated. After so long, to finally have our first real argument and to be so very crushed by the whole thing. I spent a lot of time thinking about ending our relationship.  Trying to figure out what I needed to happen so that wouldn’t be the decision I made. I have not once, in the entire time I’ve been dating A, thought about ending our relationship.  This time, I looked at absolutely every angle about what life would look like if I did.

At some point, drunk and soaked in tears, I realized that I had two choices.  Break up with him or move past this and forgive him. What I realized, looking at all the things, was that I absolutely didn’t want to end our relationship.  That meant I had to figure out a way to forgive him. There was a whole lot of wondering if he’d forgive me, or if I was too much trouble.

I had to figure out how to do that.  Angry, hurt, and sad, crying and soaked, I wrote out a lot of my feelings.  Thank god I didn’t send them to anyone, but it helped me put together facts.  That A didn’t intentionally hurt me or risk my safety. That I love him and want to work it out.  That I don’t lack empathy for him. That he doesn’t understand how much I worry about him. I was able to ask for some things I need.  

I sent a rather long thesis of my feelings and needs to him and waited after I saw he read it.  What I got was this: “I’m so under water right now, I can’t even process an appropriate response.  I’m just over my capacity. I love you.”

That “I love you” calmed me more than any other “I love you” I’ve ever received.  That’s also when I finally started to clue in that I had done a few things really wrong.

First, despite both G and S trying to tell me that what A was actually trying to say in his original response that made me so angry, was that he’s just not coping with life right now.  He has too much on his plate between his job and his personal life and that he was sorry for what happened, but I needed to understand the why. I completely fucked up understanding the why. When I read his message, what I read was “You don’t deserve to be upset, it’s your fault, I’m not at fault because I’m stressed and you just don’t get it.”  What he meant was: “You’re right, I should have checked in and I’m sorry, please understand what I’m going through right now and forgive me.”

I fucked up royally and only read things that hurt me and made me angry.  It’s important to understand why, and when I figured it out, my whole world opened up and I understood so much about myself in that moment. My past was lying to me and all I read were those lies.

I’ve had a lifetime of people who don’t take responsibility for their actions and are very manipulative – my dad, F, my sister.  A lifetime to learn that bad communication is normal. What this looks like is when they have hurt me and I’ve brought my feelings to them, instead of acknowledging my hurt, whether there was intent or not on their part, they attack me for being hurt. Literally criticize me for my feelings. These in and of themselves are horrible things, but this was my normal for 40 years. I literally didn’t know that functional communication involved people acknowledging each other’s feelings and apologizing.  I didn’t do that either. I would go into every emotional conflict with guns blazing trying to win. I remember vividly the first time I brought an issue to a friend and told her something she said to me the day before hurt my feelings and she responded with “I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, what can I do to make this right.” I didn’t know people could do that. It completely disarmed me. That was about 8 years ago.

Fast forward to last year, all the turmoil with F, him pushing me harder and harder as I insisted that he respect my boundaries, and me being pushed to my limit and responding in anger because I had zero coping skills or ability to withstand his inappropriate behaviour. It was bad. That’s when I realized how unhealthy the “normal” I had been taught was. I stepped away from F, but I was still dating.  A has been the person who has helped me the most. Every single time I’ve brought an issue to him, he’s totally acknowledged my feelings and apologized. It’s the most disarming thing, still.

I clearly haven’t healed from the heartbreak of my past though.  No matter how functional my reality, I can’t hide from the messages my past is sending me.  This part of me is so broken. I’m logical until I feel strong emotions, then those emotions block so much of my reality from view.  

This is what happened this week with A. When the truth hit, it hit like a ton of bricks.  Not just that I was misreading and very hard on him for his response, but all the horrificness that went through my brain that night afterwards.  See, after I sent A a scathing response, he responded that he wasn’t able to deal with it or fight with me. Instead of reading what he meant, I interpreted what he mean to be that I wasn’t important enough to discuss things with.  As I drank my wine (world’s not at all best coping mechanism) I let a whole lot of fear take over my thoughts. I cried so much. Within minutes of realizing, despite my anger, that I wanted to find a way to forgive A and move on, all I could think about was how I was so certain that he was figuring out the best way to end things with me. The sense of loss was overwhelming. The sense of not being enough, being too much trouble, being a burden or a pain in the ass was all-encompassing.  I cried so hard for so long, not because I was angry at him. Not because I was sad we were fighting. Not because I was hurt that he risked my safety. Because I was so sure I was too much trouble and I’d lost the most amazing relationship I’ve ever had.

This is why that single “I love you” was so meaningful to me.  The sense of relief I felt was palpable. It literally shut off that horrific internal dialogue (that wasn’t a dialogue so much as just a panicky feeling).  I told G about how that happened and she just said “Why? Why would you think that he stopped loving you because of an argument?” I laughed and told her I was already processing the realization of how unhealthy that was.  I realized that what all those years of being attacked for having feelings did was cause me to feel like I was trouble. That my feelings were invalid. That I just cause problems for those who love me when I bring my concerns forward.  That I’m too much. 

So, my baggage was lying to me all over the place. It’s like a size 2 dress saying “you’ll look good in this” and then putting it on and realizing you look like you’re stuffing mashed potatoes in a plastic grocery bag.  Reality fucking stinks. But the lie stinks too because it hurts you so much. All that passive aggressive bullshit taught me that I’m not worth the trouble. Let me make this clear: I know I’m worth every bit of the trouble, but as soon as my emotions heightened, I lost sight of reality and let familiarity envelop me in lies.  My past didn’t let me read the reality behind what A was trying to say and it didn’t let me recognize the love and commitment we have. It let me feel anger, pain, and sadness instead of the love, respect, and security I actually have.

I want to rid myself of this baggage.  Unpack the shit out of it and put it away.  Shove it far far far away. Then G made the most salient point.  I need to feel all those feels. Recognize the feelings for what they are, acknowledge them, and then let them go so I can figure out what the things I should really be feeling about my reality are.  I know my emotions lie to me, so I rarely go with my initial response to anything, except when those emotions are strong and severe. So this is what I need to work on.

After realizing all of these things and understanding them about myself, I’m emotionally exhausted to the point where I’m feeling physical symptoms of that exhaustion.  The intensity of my anger, hurt, and sadness was immense. Then the realization that I was so fucking wrong and the disappointment in myself that I responded the way I did and the drive to apologize to A for being so hard on him even when my original anger was so justified knocked the wind out of me.  Then realizing how broken I still am and how much work I still have to do defeated me emotionally.

G said something that reminds me how much of that baggage I’ve unpacked, even if I’m slightly overwhelmed by how much more I have to do. I may have reacted emotionally when I tried to talk to A, but the fact is, I was in control enough of my emotional reaction that I didn’t fight or flight it.  I didn’t go on full attack and I didn’t run away. A year ago, I would have ended the relationship without ever having talked to him. Yay for progress.

Tonight we have a date.  I need to see him and touch him and hold him so badly.  I don’t know what’s coming, I just know that we are both exhausted from the stress of this week.  I just want to reconnect, however that happens, and hope to lose the residual emotion that’s hanging on.  

 

Livid

“I’m livid. As in hurt and angrier at you than I’ve ever been. To me this is trust issue topped with an icing of “that’s how important I am”.

Nothing happened. No intent was there on your part. But in the end, if I had needed you as my safety net, you wouldn’t have been there. Because you didn’t care enough about me to remember.  What could have happened runs through my mind. What if you had checked your phone at 9 pm and not had a message from me? Would you have thought it weird and would it have triggered the memory? Or would you have thought nothing of it? At what point would anyone even notice I was in trouble?

I put my safety in your hands because I trusted you. I thought my safety was important to you.

You broke that trust. A trust that I don’t easily give. And I feel pretty unvalued with the excuse of forgetting.”

This was my morning greeting to A today.  Not something I wanted to send, nor something I’m sure was fun to receive.  

Yesterday, I had a date.  It was great first date and now I find myself in this great position where I actually have multiple people I want to spend my valuable time with.  But this isn’t about that.

I’m a woman and as such, meeting men on the internet necessitates some careful thought into date locations and safety and check ins with people who love me to make sure I don’t become a skin suit (not a real fear, but safety is important and I’m making light of a serious concern).  What I do is send all the information about the person I’m going out with, including pictures, names, and contact information as well as date location and time to someone who will care whether or not I check in.  When I was married, it was F who I would check in with during my dates. For a while after I separated, it was G. Somewhere along the line, it became A.

I’m fortunate.  I’ve never had a situation where I feared at all for my safety, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have preventative measures in place.  It would be like not wearing a seat belt on a road trip. You may survive, but you should probably take the precaution either way.

The key to this arrangement is that the person who is my safety net has to actually get the check in messages or, more importantly, NOT get the check in messages and take measures to make sure I’m safe.  

Yesterday, my date started at 5.  I checked in at 6:32 to say I was good.  I checked in at 7:36 to say the date had ended.  Then at 8:08, I saw that the messages were still unread.  I laughed and wrote: “Thank god the date was good and I’m not panic messaging you to save me.”  Then I thought about it and realized what a huge failure of my safety system this was. So at 8:49, I said: “Next time I think maybe you should tell me if you’re not actually available.  Because, you know, you’re the only person I gave any information to about my date tonight.”

At 9:11, he finally got the messages.  I got an apology and the excuse of leaving the phone in his car during Tango lessons.

Then a simple request from me: “Maybe next time tell me?  Because I can tell other people who will actually get my check ins.  Or not.”

(Because having someone actually verifying that I’m safe is REALLY FUCKING IMPORTANT.)

His response?  “Like I said, I’m sorry.  I totally forgot you had date tonight.”

My safety system completely failed.    

There was literally no one who would have noticed if something had happened to me.  He forgot I had a date. He may have got home, gone to bed, and never noticed I hadn’t messaged.  When would he have remembered that I had a date? If something had happened to me, at what point would people start worrying about me?  When would phone calls start being made and police notified? The seriousness of the potential answers to these questions terrifies me.  Yes, nothing happened.  But that’s not reason to be OK with the safety system not being functional.

So obviously, my seat belt failed.  So I need to turn it into a safer model.  A 5-point harness as it were. So next time I have a first date, I’ll create a group message with multiple people who care if I check in and make sure to message there.  So someone knows I’m OK. Or multiple someones know I’m not.

In the meantime, I’m so angry at A I don’t know what to do with the emotion.  There’s no way to fix this one. It’s a breach of trust and a big one at that.  But on top of that, even with the error of leaving the phone in the car, he admitted to forgetting about the date.  So I trusted him to do something important and it was so unimportant to him that he forgot to do it. What this translates to for me: I was was so unimportant.  

So much now rests on how he responds to my message.  I’m pretty sure that he knows his response is important and he is thinking about it during his normal busy day. The biggest problem is that there’s no way to fix this.  It can’t be undone. So how he deals with it is really important, at least to me. In the meantime, my mind is swimming with “what ifs” and possibilities about how this conversation is going to go.

And my heart hurts.    

Choosing to be happy

I’ve been completely devoid of inspiration for writing lately.  There was a ton of drama a couple weeks ago caused by W. It amounted to a day of stress all told and a lot of knowledge about people who I thought were my friends who weren’t followed by love and support from so many people who are my tribe.  So, I chalked it up as a reminder to not respond to her manipulations and that I can’t begin to counteract or anticipate or fight her version of crazy because I just don’t think that way. So, I’ll go on being me and not really worry about her.

As always, I’m impressed by A’s ability to acknowledge my feelings without compromising his values.  A few weeks ago he dropped on me last minute that he wouldn’t be staying the night after I was all snuggled in and ready to crash.  It was my fault for making the assumption that he would be, based on the fact that he’s stayed over every date night since January. I was quite shocked and hurt by this sudden news and didn’t exactly hide my disappointment (seriously, I completely lack a poker face anyway).  The next day, after processing a bit, I realized I just needed to ask him to give me a little earlier notice and I’d be fine. So I did. A, being A, just apologized for not giving me more notice and then the next Friday let me know a couple days before that he wouldn’t sleep over.  Problem solved.

Last night I did a presentation at an event that had me a little nervous and a lot of friends and family supporting me in the audience.  I brought A as my date. It’s the first time he’s seen me do anything even remotely professional or related to my career. It was amazing to have him there, in a way I hadn’t realized.  We have the most amazing dates and almost all of them involve only the two of us. I would never change this. I would choose a date that involved us lying in bed for hours, cuddling, chatting, laughing, and connecting alone every single time.  What I didn’t realize was how these awesome dates isolate us and our relationship from the rest of my life. Most of the other important people in my life haven’t even met A, let alone spent any time with him. It was pretty cool to have him temporarily step in to the larger part of my life and be my partner outside of my bedroom instead of on the periphery.  In fact, it meant a lot to me that he was there, even if he criticised my “ums” and “OKs” while all my other people were telling me how awesome I was. 😉

Today, I was talking to S about how she and I both are just generally happy in our relationships.  How we accept our partners for who they are and enjoy what we get and give in our relationships. Neither of us really ever complains about our partners, we just accept them for who they are and what we have.  In fact, we are both great at deciding to really enjoy the little positive things and disregard the things that are missing.

I’m not talking about major glaring red flags or abuses or the “big” things.  I’m talking about some of the things that could make things better, but really don’t matter that much. We choose to let small things that touch us mean wonderful positive things, which means we are just comfortable and satisfied in our relationships.  

This brings me to a meme that was posted in a poly group I’m part of.  

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My initial response is “HELL NO!”  Don’t get me wrong. I get that jealousy is an important and real emotion that deserves discussion and support in a relationship. I’ve been jealous and had amazing partners that helped me through it.  I’ve been the partner that attempted to help my partner through jealousy. But the thing is, spending hours reassuring a partner isn’t my thing. While I can and do offer reassurance in situations where it is warranted, the idea of ongoing and continuously dealing with jealousy issues has me wanting to run the other direction and not only give up poly, but give up relationships.  To me, the idea of spending a bunch of time having to reassure a partner or two because they aren’t owning their emotions – trying to understand the roots of their feelings, attempting to communicate them effectively, and working on discovering what will help them deal with their issues and then asking for what they need – drives me crazy. The fact is, my emotions are not caused by someone else. They are my emotional responses to an event and they are mine to process, work to understand, and then communicate with my partners.  This extends to my partners, who also need to own their own emotions.

What I realized is that part of owning my own emotions is choosing to be happy.  To take the happiness that my partners bring to our relationship. S and I concluded that part of the reason we are so emotionally competent is the we don’t get upset by perceived missing little things, we choose to see the positive in the small good things.  We choose to be happy. We choose to see what our partners are trying to give us, not what we are missing. We concluded that being happy with being loved the way your partner can and wants to love you is the good choice.

This is part of why we are people who don’t need big gestures of love or expensive presents (not that I wouldn’t happily accept these things) to feel the meaning and connection in our relationships.  It’s why we let things go. There have been a few things that have happened recently in both of my relationships that have bothered me initially that I realized were things that I just needed to accept, move past, and not worry about.  They aren’t things that are festering away in the back of my brain, they are just things that, while they initiated an emotional response, didn’t dignify me continuing to devote emotional energy to them. Choosing to be happy falls into the general category of respecting my partners, accepting them for who they are,  and being true to myself at the same time.