I believe God and I read the Bible. There’s a lot of good information in there. There are some things I do not understand at all and there are some that are so challenging I wonder if I could ever do them. One particularly challenging action is loving my enemies. Related to my “I’m Back” post, I have been working on going beyond forgiving people to actually letting go of the bitterness I feel toward them. This has been incredibly hard. It’s easy to want good for my children, my grandchildren, my husband, people who are nice to me, people I don’t even know…But to truly love and want good for someone I have been hurt by or am angry with, well now, that is perplexing! When I am dealing with enemies, I want nothing to do with them. In my darkest moments I sometimes hope they drop dead (on their own, not by my hand; and yes, I really do think that way sometimes…not proud!).
Lately, I have been turning a corner toward loving and wanting good in the lives of people I haven’t wanted to love. This has been an elusive experience for me most of my life. It feels good to love and not harbor hate. I believe staying away from ruminating on the bad parts of these relationships has helped. All that tail swishing I learned from the horses through equine therapy is really paying off! I am not pretending nothing hurtful happened, I’m just not letting it rob me of joy or snatch my love for people.
I’m experiencing this breakthrough today. I take steps forward and steps back so I’m not saying I’ll never harbor icky thoughts or feelings towards others. What I can hold onto is knowing I’m capable of this previously unconquered thought shift. I will find my way back to it again because I know the way and it feels so much better than hate! 🙂
My neighbor has a home in Morehead City, NC. A fun little beach cottage she and her husband just finished remodeling and it sits right in the path of Hurricane Florence. We chatted at the mailbox last night about holding things loosely and doing the next right thing. Often when faced with some sort of adversity we may freak out, which doesn’t really help us at all. Other times we may try not being bothered in the least, which isn’t actually real. Either option is an extreme and extremes don’t tend to be beneficial.
So what does balanced look like? It’s when we are aware of the emotional impact of whatever is happening but we don’t allow the situation to own us. In my neighbor’s case, she feels the sadness of what might happen but recognizes she doesn’t actually know yet so she is holding some hope that perhaps things will be fine and if not she will then deal with it. Her words, “I’m taking the next right step.”
Closer to home, Anna (my daughter) is going through chronic rejection of her transplanted lungs. I’m focusing on what we know now: she’s fine, she’s humming along living her life even though she is well aware her lungs are failing. This is a slow progression for the time being so no action is necessary at this time. Anna understands this balance of living in reality but not letting her emotions take control. From her blog post in July:
“…yet as with all my fears they turn out to be not so bad and the things that suck are things I never really saw coming. Trust me I know from experience God really meant it when he said “DO NOT BE AFRAID”. There really is no point, it does nothing but get us all worked up, steal our present moments and lock us in a box of fear. Everything I have ever been afraid of happening that has happened was actually okay, there was no reason to get all worked up. And yet God also knew what he was doing when he said it over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over …. okay you get the point. Not being afraid is something I have to constantly remind myself. My latest mantra is the little bit of the song “don’t worry, about a thing, cuz every little thing is gonna be alright” and it is true!”
“Every little thing is gonna be alright” doesn’t mean everything will turn out as we want it to, but whatever it is, we can grow through it step by step.
My last blog post was on June 21, 2018. Over the last two months I have written the beginning of many posts but none felt right. I try to write about my own experiences and weave in a useful tool for you but I just couldn’t find a way to accomplish this that sat well with me.
I unravelled earlier this summer. I could feel it happening and I knew I needed help knitting parts of myself back together. I see our journey in life as layers. When I first embarked on my healing journey in 2005, I looked at parts of my life and childhood for the first time as I sought clarity for why I was in such a mess. Thanks to the help of counselors, coaches, EMDR, Shadow Work, and various experiential groups I healed many wounded parts. But I wasn’t done. I often tell my clients our work is not a one time experience where we find “perfection” and then we’re good for the rest of our lives. We’re more like rehab projects. You do all the work to get the house that’s falling apart shored up and looking good but over time the paint peels, the carpet frays and things need to be mended.
I went through a major overhaul between 2005-2008 as well as several tune-ups in the years since. These are just new layers that need work. I discovered some devastating aspects of my family of origin. From my perspective it seems we do not always have each other’s back through thick and thin. We were raised to be independent, like islands. As long as we are all just humming along, not being real, we’re good. As soon as we do or say something that is against a person or idea, we’re shut out. The phrase “blood is thicker than water” is not true in my family. In full revelation, I have been both the recipient and offender of this approach.
To heal, I spent my summer in the company of human and equine therapists. Yes, horses have been part of my therapy! I am not a horse person and have limited experience with them. As I looked into equine therapy, I felt tears rise to the surface and thought, “I really want to try this”. Since then, I learned that horses do not do well alone. They need the herd–their family. What irony or is it fortuitous!?
Most of my work has been on setting boundaries (1400+ pound horses are intimidating!) while simultaneously seeking to understand as well as accept others’ messiness. This is not generally a huge issue for me in most arenas of my life. With family, it’s become a very painful issue. I’m still in process on this. I work daily to swish away negative and unhelpful thoughts like the horses swish flies with their tails. I’m focusing on loving others as is. I’m in process. I don’t have this all figured out nor do I execute it in every encounter.
I’m grateful for my unravelling; the closer I stay to my humanity, the more compassionate I am with my clients. It also opened up my understanding of equine therapy (it is not just about brushing and riding horses…I did neither of those) but about bringing in their way of partnering with me in my healing process. I’m grateful for my four legged therapists – Three Socks*, Pierced With Light*, Guinness, Samwise and of course, Courtney (my two-legged therapist). 🙂
*Not their real names. I took the liberty to name them when I didn’t know what their real names were. When I learned their real names, I liked mine better! 😉
June 21, 2018
Oh my what a divided world we live in! I am not on Facebook regularly but I was perusing it this morning. Such hot debate over immigration. As I read people’s posts and comments, it was clear, yet again, hatred is ever present. We get stuck in this “all good or all bad” mentality. I know that one…sometimes I get stuck there, too. When we so hotly disagree with someone we see that person as all bad. Does that solve anything? Doesn’t it turn us into the very being we don’t want to be?
The challenge is to allow others to have their view. To see them as people who possess the capacity for good and bad, just like me. When someone says something I disagree with, the healthy, integrated me, looks at this person as a whole. I can step back and say, “Hmmm…you have a view that is antithetical to mine. I want to demonize you so I feel better about myself but that isn’t accurate. What’s true (the majority of the time for the average human with whom I interact) is you likely want good. We just have different views of how that is accomplished.”
When we begin to see a person as a whole with good and bad, we can then seek to understand their view. We can ask questions versus making assumptions. To find out more about their philosophy. To find our common ground.
We want positive change in our world. We want love to overcome hate. Let’s start by seeing the good in others (especially those we disagree with!).
May 24, 2018
One of my favorite self-care activities is going outside and listening. I hear birds. Just writing that sentence brings tears of joy and a smile to my face. My neighbors have bird feeders that attract all kinds of birds. I get to hear them sing. They have different songs but all together it really does sound like a symphony, a work of art. It leads me to think about all of us. We each have a part to sing in the song of life. Individually we can contribute something to this planet that brings joy. Sometimes our fear of being noticed or not being noticed, stops us. The birds are not affected by whether or not they have an audience. They just sing.
What about you? Do you live out your authentic self whether anyone notices or not?
May 11, 2018
Angry with anyone today? Think about the things the person is doing that contribute to the anger you feel toward them. Then think about this: Sometimes we are so quick to point the finger at others and forget to look within. Is there something you might be doing that is contributing to the situation? Perhaps in other areas of your life are you doing the very same things you are angry at the other person for? Maybe…maybe not.
When we get in our self righteous stance, we sometimes forget someone else might be angry at us for something we have done…or not done. When I am really angry with someone it’s easy to list all of the reasons why I am justified. Another thought occasionally finds its way into my mind, “You know, Karen, people are probably angry at you right now for something you may have done.” That thought stops me for a moment. It softens me.
Sometimes our anger is justified but even in justified anger we can get really hard and unloving. It turns into bitterness that can eat us up from the inside out. It’s ok to be angry but bitterness is not good for us or anyone around us.
Is there an area in your life where it might be helpful to soften the intensity of the anger you are feeling? To recognize you aren’t without fault in this life? The softening might give you a healthier perspective of the situation. At the very least, it will be better for your emotional and physical health.
PS I’m working on this, too!