Someone You Can’t Live Without

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Crazy as this sounds, finding validation within, is a real struggle for me. I tend to rely on directives outside of myself, hammer down my needs, willingly give up my power in order to avoid conflict. I’m a nine on the enneagram chart, this is the peacekeeper type, I’ll just “peace out” if need be rather than causing a ruckus over my latent desires. This was the matrix I grew up with, deeply ingrained, an era where women were encouraged to be seen and not heard.

The confidence to do what is right for me is difficult, in fact as I’m writing this sentence I feel not only guilt, but fear.

Due to a series of unfortunate events this idea has been reinforced over the years. It was near the turn of the century, I was struggling with a stubborn illness, when a close friend called to see if her family could stay for the weekend, as they were passing through town.

At the time, I had four teenagers living under my roof, a husband who traveled for business, I was enrolled in graduate school, planning a 50th anniversary event for my parents, which included a seven day cruise with the entire family. Scrambling to pass my comprehensive exams, plan a high school graduation party for my oldest, and prepare the family for a vacation that required cruise wear. I was burning the candle at both ends, half way through a second round of antibiotics, and just beginning to believe I was going to live.

I would normally rejoice over a friends request for shelter, but I girded my loins, over-explained my illness, and gently declined the request. The relationship changed, it was as if my refusal to offer hospitality (which is extremely important to me), was a reflection of my feelings, not a condition of a lingering illness?

It happened, and it scared me, not scare, but scar.

Is this how we teach people (unintentionally) that their needs are not important? It’s natural to resist unexpected changes but what have I learned (yes, I’m in the slow group)?

  1. When we ignore our intuition to say “no,” or fail to accommodate our own needs, we invalidate the voice within, it gets quieter, not louder, and before long we are no good to anyone, as if a reed in the wind, we automatically bend to the demands of others.
  2. Making rash decisions is never good (this is my downfall), look at all the facts first, get quiet, consider the possibilities, seek advice if necessary, then name the decision, and follow through with confidence.
  3. Acceptance is difficult for me when someone alters the plans, but time after time I fail to trust what IS happening, over what I want to happen. More often then not the alteration made for a better fit.

Brené Brown reminds us that we cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

I failed to tell my friend the truth, I needed help, I was hanging on by my fingernails, dropping balls like a bingo machine, and deathly afraid of letting people down, maybe then she would have not only understood, but empathized?

Is guilt the culprit when relationships shift in this way? Guilt is such a powerful force and when I sit with her I usually learn something about myself.

How to repair the damage, mend the fence, because as I learned at a recent conference on forgiveness, living with peace in our hearts requires an unlimited amount of forgiveness. As Jesus claims, we should forgive each other “seventy times seven times,” a number that symbolizes boundlessness. However, even though he preaches boundless forgiveness, he does not indicate whether or not forgiveness has conditions?

Something to ponder when I can’t sleep?

  • When someone acts in a harmful way towards you, but does not seek forgiveness, repair, or repentance, is forgiveness even required?
  • If forgiveness is asked for and granted, does that oblige one to fully redeem the perpetrator (especially if the crime is grievous), and welcome them back into your life?
  • Can you forgive someone for sins they enacted against someone else?

Does it matter if it is someone you can’t live without?

When we change who we are in order to belong we deny the one person we can’t live without. Ourselves. Why did I stop writing for years? Was I looking for permission? Or worse, blaming others for my own insecurities? Maybe forgiveness starts with myself.

I still struggle with feelings of guilt associated with the time I spend writing. It’s an occupational hazard for writers, who would rather write then eat, which is good because we don’t get paid. Thank God for my day job, it’s validates my existence, well that and my charm. Brené, my new BFF says, “if we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” Understatement of the year.

My husband said to me just yesterday, “you were sitting on your butt for hours doing nothing,” when I complained about his participation in preparing for a recent family dinner. It’s true, I was sitting on my butt for hours, but I was writing. This time I silenced my guilt, and used humor to deflect the criticism, which was really his attempt to shift the focus from him to me, and it worked. I believe he may come to regret those feisty words as they have become my favorite tag line. This is why writers are so desperate to make the New York Times Best Seller List, to validate all the time we spend sitting on our butts, doing nothing.

The first book I ever wrote hibernates in a file on my computer, it’s called Under Reconstruction, but it helped me come to the realization that story is a powerful tool for change, especially when I’m trying to redefine my own issues. Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story? If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky, claims Brené Brown.

This is an excerpt from Under Reconstruction

I am clumsy, wear glasses, occasionally drink too much. I think Shakespeare may have been a girl, who like me messed up the laundry, lost time when writing, and secretly didn’t care. 

I wake from dreams with questions but eventually realize I’m still sleeping. It was the coffee that brought me back and maybe the egg, hardboiled, broken. Every day I say I’ll clean out the games cupboard, it’s a lie, I straighten the forks instead. 

Did God underestimate the treachery of her own creation? Jesus knew, he forgave us anyway, and I think that’s why we remember him.

I want this home to be remembered, to drag them back from the world, as if my umbilical cord were some sort of bungee, I want my words to linger on your mind, to tuck you in when far away, and you can’t sleep. 

Do your eyes see what I see husband, try harder, put your head next to mine.

Do you smell the coffee on my breath, there’s a full pot, I’ll pour you a cup, because I want to be someone you can’t live without.

I’m realizing something new every day in this workshop organized by Seth Godin. I am the only one who knows what is right for me. I’m ready to captain my craft, create my own wake (love that word), aim for the unknown, I might be late my dear friend, but I’ll get there.

I’mLiving in the Gap, drop by anytime, these thoughts are jumbled, they will be for the next 90 days, as I scramble from workshop, to class, to sitting on my ass doing nothing.

Anecdotes:

  • “You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.” Brené Brown
  • “People may call what happens at midlife ‘a crisis’ but it’s not. It’s an unraveling. A time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you are supposed to live. The unraveling is a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of what you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are.” Brene Brown
  • “You don’t write a novel out of sheer pity any more than you blow a safe out of a vague longing to be rich. A certain ruthlessness and a sense of alienation from society is as essential to creative writing as it is to armed robbery.” Nelson Algren

 

14 Comments

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  1. This post resonates so deeply with me, especially with my illness. It has changed a lot of my relationships (most for the worse) but most especially has forced me to accept the vulnerable self–not the invincible myth I had carefully cultivated. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kara! I’m so sorry you are dealing with such overwhelming challenges right now! And by the way people are the worst! If there is anyone you want me to tackle that’s not supporting you I’m your girl! None of us is invincible, we need each other, let me know how I can help! 💞

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great post. So many wonderful insights that I could relate to. You are on your own journey…time to savour all of it, especially the sitting on your butt for hours part. How else will you instill stillness and let the words shine through. May I ask which Seth Godin workshop you are attending?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Julie, thanks for the solidarity and encouragement! I’m grateful. Love having your approval of extensive “butt time” 🙂 I’m taking an akimbo course offered by Seth Godin called the creatives workshop! It’s been challenging but I’m connecting with others and learning a lot! Thanks for the lovely comment! C

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  3. Hi Cheryl, I am so glad to finally read your blog. Sitting on my butt (or bum, as we say in the UK lol) for hours doing nothing is to blame. Or, I could call it spending agonising weeks writing out a proposal to submit my memoir to agents…and that funny little thing we call writing which just so happens to take over our lives. Oh how I resonate so deeply with your post, Cheryl. I am so glad to meet you through Charli and our FB group. Thank you for sharing your heart; you are not alone! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sherri for your generous comment! I feel your presence, writing can be so isolating, and like you say the need to write is overwhelming. Thank you for standing with me, I too have enjoyed meeting you on FB, and look forward to our engagement! C

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What an engaging, thought provoking post. Your writing continues to grow. Each time I read this, I was driven in a different direction. Initially I thought I would do a breakdown of whether you truly are a “peace maker,” or if that is just a façade. I sense you could be as tough as nails, either protecting grandkids, kids or your parents back in the day. I am trying to visualize what is left of the nurse who did not have the results of your mom’s blood test, or forgot to refill one of her medications. I pity the fool. I kind of chuckle when I think of your timidity. Ha!
    However, I really wanted to get into buried guilt/ regret, and also, the true meaning of forgiveness. To start with, it is now clear why you and Larry allowed us to visit. A thanks and shout out to your friend from years gone by. On a more serious note, how do you deal with having done something in the past which unintentionally soured or ended a friendship. You were clearly at the end of your rope, and really didn’t have the capacity to play host to visitors. What happened is either a failure to adequately communicate, or a miss-match of values and priorities, or more likely both. Perhaps you did not quite point out well enough that at that moment in time your life was a train wreck (probably because you tend to stay on the positive side.) If you indeed laid it all on the line, then maybe you are better off with more understanding friends. It’s probably not important to really figure out why it happened, as that ship has sailed. Unless, it helps you feel less bad about it. If there is any residual guilt, put it in the garbage disposal, grind it up and say bye. I have 3 events in my life where I have regret about how things turned out, and I was left with just feeling bad. Sadly, there are no do-overs. I could share these with you but of course I don’t have your courage and am not the author of blog dealing with the travails of life. I suppose publicly writing about it can help alleviate guilt and bring closure, but of course I lack the bravery required to bare my soul.
    Forgiveness. For forgiveness to be of any value, it needs to be sincere. It does more for the person doing the forgiving. There should be no strings attached, and no they are not required to be let back into your life. However, forgiveness is always better after you have extracted vengeance. 😊 Yes you can forgive people who do not ask for forgiveness. They probably need it the most. Do you need to forgive yourself for getting away from writing all those years? NO! Let see…raising kids, finishing your education, teaching, and the list goes on. Not enough time in the day. There is a season….Sometimes life gets in the way of living. (Unless I am missing the point, and you are regretting not writing as a career choice.)
    Love Brene Brown. She is right when she says that “we cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known.” To have real love, you need to expose the real true inner you. You have to be willing to risk true emotional pain. I like her pretty cool quote “I believe that you have to walk through vulnerability to get to courage, therefore . . . embrace the suck.” Words to live by.
    I chuckled while reading this sentence. “My husband said to me just yesterday, “you were sitting on your butt for hours doing nothing,” when I complained about his participation in preparing for a recent family dinner.” So many ways to look at this. Was this a complaint about you spending time writing? Was this a way of showing you that you both need time to unwind, and yours may take hours but mine happened to be while you were prepping for company? Sort of a people in glass houses should not throw stones. Was this a “I never complain about your time spent doing what you enjoy and now you should give me a little slack kind of comment?” Anyway, I hope you both can come to a Separate Peace (great novel), so to speak.
    I really enjoy following your life’s quest. Remember what Hemmingway said, “ There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
    Hope you and yours stay healthy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Michael, thank you for diving into this one. I feel like my posts are a little scattered, unfinished, thematically challenged these days as I dividing my time between this workshop and blog. You were able to skim away the fat and get to the essence of my sprawling narrative. My initial thoughts started with the issue I have with disappointing others even when it’s to my own detriment. Like declining a request for hospitality when sick, I’ve decided my approach is maybe off? Regardless is tends to not go well. I can tell myself I don’t care but I do.

      The forgiveness piece sort of jumped aboard like a hobo. I started thinking about the differences in what is forgivable and why. We’re reading The Sunflower in my classes and the entire 100 page book is about a Rabbi who is asked to forgive a brutal Nazi guard who is dying. The idea that you can forgive someone for harm enacted on another is an interesting question?

      I think the part where I try to figure out where my responsibility lies with the decision not to
      write was an internal exercise. You are correct that the demands on my time were many but I still could have done it? I did do writing for the newsletters and publications for schools, scouts, church and that satisfied for a while. I was hoping this would get people thinking about the things they love to do but for reasons unknown have been putting off or avoiding?

      Glad you enjoyed Larry’s little comment about my inactivity when writing! He is not going to live that one down! I’m considering having a t-shirt made.

      So glad you’re still enjoying the posts. Makes me enormously happy, I always enjoy your take on things. Hope you are avoiding the virus? Currently we have both Larry and Kelley working from home until further notice. They’re crowding my sit on my butt for hours time. Miss you guys!

      Liked by 1 person

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