“Is it possible to live so defensively that you never get to live at all?” – Rachel Naomi Remen
A long time ago I read my horoscope and there was a line that said something like- You know you can’t own love, right Aries? Years later I still hear it in my head. As much as I know it’s true, I feel like I’ve been trying to own love my entire life. An impossible task, one that ends in heartache every time. I am the Hector the Collector of impossible tasks.
I have a thing with being in charge. When I’m being the boss, when I’m the owner, when I’m the one with The Plan, I feel safer. I think when it comes right down to it the only person I truly trust is. . . me. That doesn’t feel healthy though. I think to be a loving human being in the world you need to put your trust in others too. And I do to certain degrees with certain people in my circle of trust. I’ve been working hard in therapy on this. I’m at the place where I need to let go of the pain my Dad caused me by breaking the trust I had in him. Some might argue that place of letting go was years ago but I’m on my own journey here and can’t let anyone but me dictate the pace.
I was reading “The Book of Awakening” this morning and Mark Nepo wrote about this Zen saying:
A man raised a baby swan in a glass jar, but as the bird grew it became stuck in the jar. The man was caught now, for the only way to free the thing was to break the jar, killing the swan.
He talked about how we can jar ourselves- in an effort to protect ourselves we put ourselves in a jar of distrust but our hearts grow like the swan. He said, “Too often, we can contain our way of being within our way of surviving.” It left me thinking about my survival techniques, so many of which are no longer working for me. Like the way I put so much pressure on myself to always have a plan so that nothing can go wrong. I know why I do this- because growing up in an alcoholic home things felt really unstable and in my effort to change that I became the girl with The Plan. I grew into a woman who feels constantly wound up tight, stressed out, and like a failure because there is no way in hell I can always have the answer. I know this logically, not intrinsically. Or the way I push people away because they disappoint some unattainable high standard that even I can’t live up to on a good day. Or how I “punish” people who don’t do what I want though they have no idea what I want because it is only in my head and so far I have not met a mind reader.
My list of survival skills is an embarrassment of riches. I’m trying to not be too judgmental but it’s not easy. These are out-dated coping mechanisms and realizing they do not work for me is progress. I’m at that place where I can tell when I’m falling back on one of them. In therapy the other day I said something to the effect of, “I am done being like this! Help me change.”
Letting down my defenses opens me to vulnerability. I no longer have my emotional armor to protect me. I don’t have my manipulative devices to trick myself and others into thinking everything is fine when it is totally and absolutely not fine. I’ve sat with the sheer panic of being seen emotionally naked and tried to not use my old cover ups. My mind screams: WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! PRETEND YOU AREN’T HURT YOU IDIOT! But I keep breathing. And breathing. And waiting for the internal freak out to subside. All I can do is this. And love myself enough to know I’m moving on to something better. And have a little faith in other people to show up for me if I let them.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” -Serenity Prayer