Change

Change

There was a time when I swam every day. Diving into the cool water, adjusting my goggles and stretching into the stroke. Glug glug glug, breath. Glug glug glug breathe. Back and forth. Counting the yards. Thinking of nothing. I swam for hours.

I didn’t know it then, but I was trying to swim away from my life. After I swam I would eat a 3 Musketeers and ride the bus until it brought me back to my starting point, then I would get off the bus and walk home.

At this time I was in a relationship with someone I fondly refer to as “the meanest guy in the world”. We worked together at a job I didn’t like and every day after work he would call and ask me to come over. I hadn’t yet learned how to say no. So in order to avoid him I would swim and ride the bus. On the occasion when he did catch me at home, I would go to his house and stay for hours, then walk home across town much too late in the evening for my early morning shift. (I also had a hard time saying, “I have to go.”)

Now that many years have passed, I understand that the relationship was hard to let go because he would be just nice enough to keep me coming back. When he thought he had me he would be the meanest guy in the world, and when he thought he was losing me he would be the nicest guy in the world. I also wanted to be with someone mean.

Being with someone mean gave me permission to be mean. We would have shouting matches where I would say all the mean things I had been saving up. All the tension I felt would be released. Shouting until my face throbbed had a cathartic effect on me, if only momentarily.

He was also kind. And when the meanest guy in the world is kind, you cling to it. I clung to it. And despite all the times I told him to leave me alone, and I never wanted to see him again, he always called a few days later, laughing and joking and pretending like nothing had happened. And when someone acts like they want you that much, it is hard to be mean.

So I swam and I rode the bus and I ate 3 Musketeers (a candy bar which I never liked much and still don’t, but that kind of sums up my life at that time); and eventually, after so many afternoons of me not being home when he called, the meanest guy in the world called me in the evenings. Then he resorted to stopping by for a friendly visit. His visits always left me feeling glad I didn’t see him more often. Eventually I moved and didn’t tell him. I haven’t seen him since. But he did come to me in a dream once.

In the dream he talked a lot about nothing. He told me he was gay now. And he complained about the abusive relationship he was in, and how they kept breaking up and getting back together, and how this time it was final, and how his boyfriend was such a jerk. And I knew he was the same as he ever was. I hadn’t missed a thing since we lost touch.

Years later, I suppose I can say all that swimming and bus riding really did take me away from the life I didn’t want. I swam away from the need for drama, or the idea that drama was interesting. I swam away from the belief that pain made me deep and romantic. I swam toward a life that is peaceful and beautiful, where I am free to be kind. A life I wouldn’t have been prepared for in the past.

P.S. I am now married to a very kind man. I told him if we had met years ago I would have been mean to him then because I felt the need for one party in every relationship to be cruel. If I had been with him in those days, I would have been the cruel one. He responded by saying, “I would have let you too.”

A farewell to prison

Dear Ego,

Thank you for all you’ve done over the years.

I know you tried keeping me safe, you even tried saving me from life. You kept me in fear. You kept me hidden. You kept me from breathing. You kept me in pain. You kept me in prison with you as my sympathetic guard. You even let me outside sometimes all while telling me how cold and frightening the world is. Your descriptions were so real I felt the cold, I felt the fear. I didn’t want to be free in that scary world. I wanted to stay safely in prison where my jailer took care of me.

You, my ego, my jailor, are a great listener. You sympathize, understand, and support all of my fears. Silly me didn’t realize I was only repeating your lessons back to you. You convinced me prison was safe by showing me a cold empty world in which I was afraid to live.

But all of that was a lie. You lied to me, ego. The cold empty world is the prison I’m living in with you.

My senses are dead because I experience no opposition. The food is all the same. There is no delicious because there is no bitter. There is no captivity because there is no freedom. There is no warm sunshine because there is no cold. All this safety amounts to no safety at all.

This prison has been my normal, but there is a whole world of opposites I am ready to explore. Safety is not holding my breath in a prison cell with my eyes squeezed shut, hoping the world will be different, but afraid it will change.

Safety is experiencing the world and knowing everything will be okay. Safety is knowing I can handle everything the world offers. Safety is knowing I don’t have to absorb anything I don’t want to. Safety is faith and trust. Safety is loving without needing its return. Safety is allowing myself to be cold because I know I will be warm again. Safety is breathing in the air of freedom even if it smells bad or makes me cough. Safety is knowing that my strength, with God’s,  is enough to thrive in this beautiful free world.

Safety is knowing that even if I get hurt, everything will be alright and I can heal in this life or the next. Safety is knowing that no one can truly hurt me without my permission. I am safer without you and your lies, ego.

I know you pretended to care for me but it was only to serve your own purpose. I am feeling a little angry and resentful towards you, ego, but freedom is forgiveness so being angry just keeps me as your prisone. I don’t love you, ego, but I don’t have to love you to forgive you. You can keep your empty prison but I won’t be coming back to it.

Goodbye, ego, this is the last day of our acquaintance.

As I walked away from the prison and the small, cold square of sunshine it offered, where everything had been the same, I knew now everything would be different.

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Metamorphosis

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In the last three days I have started three posts and not finished any of them. Today I am starting a fourth.

Once upon a time I was skinny, then I gained weight, and then I lost weight, and then, recently, I gained weight again.

I knew I was on the heavier end of the spectrum, but I didn’t know how heavy until I weighed myself yesterday for the first time in two years. Lots heavier. I was shocked and upset by the number on the scale. For the rest of the day I thought about my weight. The truth will set you free, right? But I didn’t feel free. I felt upset. I never thought I would weigh that much again.

I had done so much emotional work on myself and expected the weight to melt off when I hit the right emotional issue causing it. Apparently I hadn’t hit it yet. Apparently I was fat again. Apparently my self-worth was wrapped up in a number on a scale. But I couldn’t help it. I wanted my body to look great, feel great, and fit nicely into my clothes.

I knew all the stuff people say: “Love your body as it is.” “Exercise and eating right make you feel better.” Blah blah blah. That is easy to say when you are losing weight and feeling good about yourself. But what if you are feeling fat? What if you are gaining weight and don’t fit your clothes comfortably anymore? What if you look in the mirror and say, “Yuck!”?

I thought about all these things yesterday after the scale incident. I thought about what I could do to lose weight, exercise more, eat less fat and sugar. And I felt the same futility I always do when I’m feeling fat, diet and exercise are a suffocating struggle that yield very little result, leaving me feeling helpless once again.

Eleven hours later, as I prepared to undress for the night, I saw my body in my full length mirror. “Not fitting,” I said. “My body doesn’t fit me. My body doesn’t fit my clothes. My body is not beautiful. I feel heavy and ugly.” I avoided looking at my body as I undressed, but then I remembered gratitude.

A while ago I discovered the power of gratitude, but recently I have been working on feeling grateful for everything, especially when something upsets me. I find something to be grateful for within that thing and then my whole perspective changes. But here I was, being ungrateful to my own body. How cruel of me.

I undressed all the way, then stood in front of the mirror. I looked at my body. The first word that popped into my head was, unacceptable. I have always told my body it was unacceptable. My mid-thirties body had lumps and bumps and discolorations and scars. I looked at it and said, “You are perfect. Thank you for being perfect.”

My body sighed and said, “Thank you.”

“Thank you,” I said again. “You are perfect.” I said it again and again. “You are perfect. Thank you for being perfect.” With every thank you, my body released tension. That was all it needed. It didn’t need diet and exercise to lose weight so it could be loveable. It needed to be loved right now. Loved and thanked for all its hard work.

As I thanked my body, it transformed before my eyes. What looked like a frumpy unacceptable body before, was suddenly beautiful and perfect.

Thank you for being perfect, body. I love you.

Part one: The destruction

So far this blog has been bits and pieces from the past and present. Now it is time to tell my story from the (hypothetical) beginning.

One day when I was in the eighth grade I tried describing my feelings to my mom. “I’m not upset, not angry, not nervous, but uncomfortable and I don’t really know why.”

“You’re anxious,” my mom replied.

“Yes,” I said, feeling satisfied at having found the perfect word. “Anxious.”

“I get that way too,” she said.

I clung to that word for years. Anxious. It explained so many things. It described so many of my indescribable feelings. And yet that small word failed to capture the enormous control it held over my life and the intense fear it gave me. Fear of breathing. Fear of moving. Fear of feeling. Not to mention getting dressed, talking to people, or leaving the house. Basically, I was afraid of being alive.

Everything I did was based on what other people wanted me to do, because, if left to my own devises, I would do nothing. If my husband wanted to go to the races. I would go to the races. If my mom wanted me to help her build her business. I fully supported her and gave her my time. Eventually, when I got tired of something, I whined a lot and stopped giving myself to it. This started people saying, “That’s Liesel, she hates everything.”

I forced myself through life, getting sick a lot and quitting lots of jobs, and all the while wondering what was wrong with the world that it was so immovable and made me so miserable.

Several years ago I left my husband. I saw him as a monster and blamed him for all my misery.

When I left my husband I wasn’t planning our divorce, I just didn’t know how to stay with him anymore. I needed a break so I could recalibrate and I didn’t know how to do that without lots of drama and emotional pain.

Being married took all my feelings from all the years and magnified them a thousand times. If I had been looking at stars through a telescope before, marriage put me inside a star. A burning, painfully hot star that felt like death.

While separated, I continued my relationship with my husband and living apart helped us cool down a safe distance from each other whenever things got too heated.

Without a place to live, I rented a room from my friend, Chandra, and moved in.

Chandra, a licensed therapist, was studying to become a Rapid Eye Technician (RET)  at the time.

Twelve years before, while getting my Bachelor’s degree, I came home for a weekend and my aunt was in town getting certified as a Rapid Eye Technician. She wanted to practice her stuff of me.

I was pretty weirded out by the whole thing as I sat in a chair and she pulled out a wand. But I loved my aunt and went along with her voodoo as she waved her plastic stick and described my birth from a script. I just sat in the chair breathing and blinking as she directed. I imagined what she described and went through the motions, not feeling much, until she started describing my early childhood years.

My aunt faded with the wand and the chair, and I stood looking down on my little-girl self. I might have been four five or six. My little-self looked right back at me. She stared intently into my eyes as though she wanted to say something but didn’t know how. We looked at each other for what felt like a long time. I loved her so much, but she wasn’t concerned with that, she had an important message to give me that she couldn’t articulate, so she simply stared at me, willing me to read her mind.

The session ended and I was back in the room with my aunt again. She smiled and asked me how I felt. I said I felt good, but I wasn’t really sure.

Several days later, back at my school life, I stood in the middle of the kitchen waiting for my muffins to finish baking, and suddenly I understood what my little-self was trying to say. She had been hurt and she had never told anyone. She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t even understand what happened with the babysitter that day. She only knew that what happened made her feel angry and scared and angry, so angry. And powerless.

I understood enough about psychology to know that remembering was a big step in the healing process, but I wasn’t sure what to do with this memory. I saw a therapist, but felt that she was hurting instead of helping, so I stopped after the second visit. But I held this memory of the frightened, angry, wounded child I was, not wanting it to define me, or use it as an excuse, but using it for understanding when strange feelings or behaviors came up. As the years passed, I put the memory into my purse, not knowing how to heal from it yet, but figuring I might use it later.

Twelve years later, as my life collapsed around me, I moved in with Chandra who was studying Rapid Eye. RET had changed my life before, and it was about to change my life again.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and that has made all the difference

Perhaps you remember my post about a certain guy. You can also read about him here.

Two nights ago I dreamt we met through a mutual friend. She introduced us and within minutes we were yelling at each other. I was still so angry at him, and at me for caring about him. Then we stopped yelling, and started talking. I asked how he fared in the years we’ve been apart. He started talking like he always did, non stop, full of drama, laughs, and obsessions, but he couldn’t hide his misery, he was a wet cat of misery. Then he mentioned his husband.

“Oh, you got married?” I asked. We had been talking a good long while without him ever mentioning a husband.

“Not for long,” he said. “He’s abusive. Seriously. He is the most abusive person I’ve ever met, and I’ve known lots of abusive people, and he’s the one I marry. Ha ha! Jokes on me I guess. But we’re getting divorced. Tomorrow hopefully. I can’t stand one more day with that monster.”

Over the years when I had thought about my friend, I had assumed he would be unemployed and married to a no nonsense respiratory therapist whom he resented and loved, while spending most of his days stalking celebrities on the internet, and acting cool in chat rooms.

And despite his insistence that he was straight, I knew he was attracted to certain, tall, muscular men with “piercing” eyes. But because he was so determined to be straight and live a straight life, I assumed he would. However, I was not surprised by his husband. I was also pretty sure he gave as much abuse as he received.

As he rattled on, never pausing to hear about me, (not that I cared to share), his phone beeped.

“Uch, it’s him,” he rolled his eyes, and stood to leave. “He wants me to meet him at the fourth of July celebration,” he said.

I was only surprised by how unsurprised I was. Of course he would marry an abusive man, of course, he would always talk about ending the relationship, but never actually do it. Of course he would never even pursue the movie career he always wanted. The only thing he pursued were people who wanted to get away from him.

“I’m not going to meet him,” he insisted. “We’re just going to be at the same place. I probably won’t even talk to him. I hate him. Give him a taste of his own medicine.”

And he left, texting all the while.

I woke up feeling like we had met through our dreams. I was glad he came. It was nice not being angry with him. And now I don’t have to fear meeting him in real life, he’ll do all the talking like he always did. In a way, nothing has changed. In another way, everything has changed. Its all part of the journey. I guess.