And the Sun Shone In
Wow. Sometimes the light comes from the most unexpected sources. My brain is buzzing with what I've learned, all in the course of one day, and how I went from crushing devastation to strength and bliss within an hour. The details will remain vague because I'm not interested in 'outing' anyone or blaming anyone, so I apologize if the vagueness is irritating. This isn't a tale of woe or of revenge. I'm telling this story for those of you who are in difficult situations, who don't feel like things will ever get better, who are stuck in self-blame or in blaming others for situations that cause you grief and pain. For those of you trapped between love and a hard place. Until last Thursday, I felt trapped, too. And then a light, delivered by a most unlikely fellow traveler, clicked on.
The story starts with a situation that I've been in for a couple of years. There is love there and also conflict, confusion, and tears. For years I've twisted myself into a pretzel and bent over backwards, forwards, and all ways to make something right that really didn't work for me, with someone who really - at his core - didn't want what I wanted, but that I desperately wanted. I cried over it, despaired over it, ruminated, ate my own heart out, got angry, got desperate, threw things, raged, made accusations, blamed myself, blamed others, lay in bed more than once in a stew of confusion, grief, and loss. God, I wanted this so badly, more than I've ever wanted anything. To get what I wanted, I tried hard to be sweet, forgiving, open, and understanding. I stood by, trying to be patient, absolutely sure that things would change once a certain situation worked itself out. I meditated, envisioned my heart glowing with a white light and enveloping the people in my world. I did magic, blessed charms, burned prayers and sage, made an altar, did lovingkindness meditation to towards all those involved, prayed for all of us to find joy and happiness in our lives. I even tried to let go, to move forward, to cut the bonds of attachment, but I kept going back. Through it all, what I really wanted, was to possess this thing that seemed to be the answer to all my prayers.
Through the whole thing, I tried so hard to be consistently patient, kind, sweet, and forgiving. I tried to rise above the pettiness and low meanness that popped up around me from time to time. I tried to tell myself I was above the drama, and that it wasn't me, but 'them', that created it. But no matter what I tried, for some reason, I kept acting badly, kept doing things that filled me with shame and regret. I had rage attacks, for weird reasons that made no sense. I got upset over miniscule things. In my heart, I tried to keep love and kindness and openness ascendant, but what kept coming out of me was pettiness, jealousy, anger, and judgment. It was so strange, like trying to speak to someone and finding your words coming out as gibberish, even though they're clear as day in your head.
No matter how hard I tried to rationalize this situation and make it OK, no matter how hard I tried to be the model woman, to be wonderful and calm and everyone's friend, it always backfired. People seemed to hate me. They gossiped and sniped and made bizarre accusations. People I had helped and tried to be kind to turned on me. I found myself in a situation I've never known before: surrounded by people where I didn't know who was my enemy and who was my friend. And I thought I deserved it, on some level, because I had behaved badly at certain times. I had lashed out at people, had attacks of anger, fought, wrote ill-considered e-mails, made accusations, snapped at people. So I decided that these people hated me because I was flawed and damaged and had made too many mistakes in their presence. I believed they were right to dislike me.
And I kept on trying to make the situation work for me, to try to be even better and sweeter and nicer and more forgiving, and I started to develop gratitude that someone I cared for still cared for me even though I was so damaged and troubled. I lost so much of my self-respect that I was actually grateful to have what I had - even though it was far from what I wanted and deserved - rationalizing that nobody else would want me because of my craziness. And the more I tried to be kind and open, the more the opposite came out of me. In desperation, and hating the needy, untrusting, unbalanced person I had become, I prayed to the Universe to please show me what to do, to show me the path away from all this pain.
The answer came from an unexpected place. One day last week, when I was drenched in pain from things that were happening in my life, I got caught up in a drama, where I made some accusations in an e-mail to someone who had been in my social circle and clearly had some issue with me. I believed wholeheartedly that I was doing the right thing by keeping this person out of our circle, because I believed she had wronged myself and a friend. I tried to make the e-mail sound fairly objective and straightforward, but basically I was acting on the word of someone else who was untrustworthy. Yet another mistake, I thought to myself, after I sent it. Why am I always such a screw-up?
She wrote back, an e-mail steeped in bitterness, hatred, and contempt. She called me horrible names. She accused me of horrible things, and made herself out to be blameless. But most importantly, she told me things about the situation that I was in that, despite the nastiness of her tone in general, I believed as soon as I read them. Though perhaps some of the facts of the letter may not have been true, or may have been distorted, I believed the spirit of it instantly, because it felt true. In my thank-you e-mail to her, I told her she had "bitch-slapped me into reality."
I was stunned, crushed, devastated. The situation was not as I had thought. I saw evidence that someone I thought was my unabashed supporter had said cruel things about me to people we both knew, some who were my friends. Suspicions I had long held but tried to rationalize away seemed true now. Doubts I had had over the years made sense to me now. Feelings I had that I thought were my own craziness now seemed not as crazy. I realized that the two of us had often had exact opposite experiences, even though we were together. Everything fell into place.
I cried in long, choking sobs, with my office door closed, too broken to even think about driving home. I called my best friend and cried to her. And in the middle of the conversation, it was like a someone poured a soothing balm onto my aching heart, and the pain left me. I felt relieved. I felt free from the situation that had been chaining me down for so long. Though some of my realizations were not very positive about someone I cared for, and some were pretty damning of myself, I felt no anger or self-blame, only release. I walked on air that evening, feeling no bitterness or regret or sadness, only sympathy for all of us in the situation, bemusement at the actions of people I had trusted, and gladness that I was more free of it than I'd been in 2 years.
But I couldn't figure out why I felt so good. I should have felt crushed, betrayed, angry, bitter, and resentful. But I didn't. I felt like I had been in a twilit room, filled with creeping shadows and half-hidden figures, and someone had turned on the light. The reason, as near as I can tell, is that the e-mail finally forced me to see what was happening, forced me to let go of a fantasy that I had been holding on to about who I was in the context of this relationship, who the people were around me, and what this situation meant. Everything I had thought was going on, every hope I had clung to, every bitter disappointment I had struggled through, was all based on a fantasy that was never true, that was all created out of a desperate, primal need I had to be wanted, loved, and held. Perhaps realizing that things weren't always as I had thought them - that I had been naive, in a certain sense - had the effect of banishing all of the assumptions that I had been making for the previous 2 years, and in seeing through the assumptions, I realized the truth: That my fantasies of what had been going on were false, that the pedestal on which I had placed certain people was make-believe, and that even my holier-than-thou beliefs about my own pure motives weren't true. And it freed me. It freed me to see those around me for who they are and not for who I think they are or who I want them to be; it freed me to live a little bit bigger in my own self, without feeling like I need to be different to please others.
And it solved riddles and answered questions I hadn't even known I had asked. Puzzle pieces finally fit together. I had felt so crazy for so long, and all of a sudden I didn't. It all made sense.
A friend suggested that my acting out had been my inner knowing - which knew things weren't quite what they appeared - trying to get my attention. That my intuition had been right all along, and because I tried to ignore it, it kept coming out in these acts of rage, insecurity, and fear. That sounded right to me because, though I've always had a temper and have occasionally overreacted out of anger, I had never acted so badly as I did in this situation. This simply wasn't me. I was a different person in this situation than I was in every other part of my life.
After I received the e-mail, I sent one back thanking her. I felt so grateful to her for pulling the wool from my eyes. Her response to me was to call me a "moron who thinks she's enlightened or something." When I read that, sitting at a patio table on a warm evening, drinking a glass of wine, I had a visceral feeling of the pain that she was in, and I felt an intense sympathy for her. May she - and all of us - be open to the light that comes from unlikely sources, and widens our understanding a little bit.
I now feel like I've found myself again - the person who was lost for almost 2 years - probably even longer. I feel strong enough to put my life back in line with my integrity and values, to go back to self-care, to remember what's important to me, not just what's important to someone else. I feel like I walked through an underworld and came out of it into the light, like the Chilean miners.
The lessons I'd like to impart from this experience are:
1) Trust your gut, even - especially - when you don't want to.
2) If you find yourself in a situation where you keep acting in ways that aren't in line with your values or how you usually are, consider that your intuition is trying to force you to take a deeper look at the situation that triggers these behaviors. If you feel like a situation is making you crazy, it probably is; it's probably not you, it's what's happening around you that's the problem.
3) Get to know your own projections, fantasies, and dreams about things in your life that are important to you. Realize when you're making it up - and most of us are making it up a lot of the time.
4) Cultivate open, nonjudgmental awareness as the key to bringing contentment and strength in all areas of life. When you absolutely know the real you, and can be relaxed enough to let others be the real them, without judgment, then you will know peace.
5) If you are struggling and feel that it will never get better, practice this: What if, just for a moment, everything really was OK just exactly how it is? See if you can relax your judgments, expectations, worries, and hopes even just for a split second, and see how it feels. Is it possibly to come from that place of peace and nonjudgment and make the decisions that are right for you?
6) When faced with a difficult decision, go inside and ask for help - from God, from Buddha, from the Universe, from your spirit, from whomever you pray to. Ask them to show you the answer. I did, and everything became clear.
7) if you, or anyone in your life, thinks they know all the answers, that's a sure sign that they don't.
Namaste, be well, and take good care of yourself!