04 August 2015

And rain will make the flowers grow

Not too long ago, my life was a mess. i was in the midst of betrayal trauma. i had so much fear that other's decisions would be made in deception and fear and that i would miss out on something amazing (and all my promised blessings and all my potential) because of it. The fear made me co-dependent; i felt that if i could CONTROL everything around me (including other people) then i could control the outcome and my future. This is crazy making. But i didn't know better. And you only know what you know.

As i have discovered amazing recovery tools (Camp Scabs, Togetherness Project, 12-Step, a sponsor, Brene Brown, Connexions Workbooks) i have learned about shame, codependency, boundaries, fear, and vulnerability. Working on my personal inventory for step four of the 12-step programs opened my eyes to the patterns in my life--both my destructive behavioral patterns and the faulty core beliefs that were ingrained into me from my childhood and on up. i learned that i have control over my own actions and reactions and have control over nothing else. i memorized the entire serenity prayer, wrote words of affirmation all over my home, read many a strengthening book and talked to everyone and anyone about the things that i learned.

As i accrued knowledge, i simultaneously realized that i am powerless but NOT helpless. i also learned that simply learning was not enough. i knew that i had much knowledge. i sat with all my information for a long while and even doled it out to other people. Perhaps my life was not quite as crazy, but i was still staying way too often in victim mode, going into shame, and creating unhealthy relationships (even if they were a little less toxic or more subtle in their toxicity than before). In order to effectuate change, i needed to apply the information. 

It was going to take a lot of work.  

Brene Brown said, “What we know matters but who we are matters more.”

It has been a lot of work to change who i am. Of course, i am still me (albeit a calmer, stronger and healthier me). And of course, i am still changing, still learning and still growing. The shame still comes in at me. The co-dependency still knocks me down sometimes. However, now i recognize it sooner and i have a whole load of tools with which to work in order to get back up again and get myself out of shame. Here are some specific things i have done/am doing to improve:

Deeper connected prayers. i recognize that God is at the center of my recovery and needs to be at the center of my life. As soon as something or someone else takes over the center position, i almost instantly lose my serenity and my balance. The best way that i have discovered to keep my focus on my Father has been to spend time with him--specifically in prayer.

Being vulnerable with Mr B. It's terrifying being open with someone--telling him when i'm hurting or sad, clarifying what my expectations and needs are, and sharing my hopes and desires. The scariest part has been speaking my shame to him (and then trusting that he won't rescue me but will walk with me through getting out of it myself). For example, sharing the insecurities about my self worth, admitting every time they creep in to whisper at me, and talking about where the doubts originated and why they aren't true. It's very vulnerable and i know that it potentially leaves me open to be hurt. It is also healthy and healing and worth it--it leaves me open to connect deeply.

Practicing meditation. i have been introduced to kundalini yoga which is known as the yoga of "self-awareness." Through the meditation practices, breathing exercises, the mantras and the music (which i listen to often) i have felt a sense of serenity and peace permeate my home and life.

Actually setting boundaries. The first time i set a boundary, i was so nervous. What if they are offended? What if i'm just being mean? What if they break it? Since i've practiced more and more, i have learned that my responsibility is to keep myself physically and emotionally safe. If i need something for my safety, i need to set a boundary--it is not mean. If they are offended, that is their shame and their responsibility. And i need to set boundaries with consequences that i am willing to keep should it be broken. i learned the format: "When you....  i feel....  i need.... i am willing to.... If you break this boundary, then i will...."

Now when someone has been texting me every 15 minutes for a week from 5am until midnight in order to "keep her out of depression," i can comfortably respond by saying "i understand that you are going through a rough time. i am willing to help support where i can. And i also need you to know that when i receive texts late at night, early in the morning and at work, i feel distracted and overwhelmed. i am happy to text you support and encouragement when i am not at work. And i need you to not text me between 10pm and 7am. Those are the hours in which i study, meditate, sleep and run (my Jennifer time). If i receive texts during those times, i won't be responding until i am off work or after 7am." Previously i would have felt that it was my responsibility to rescue her or i would have felt like a horrible person (shame) for setting a boundary. Now i recognize that it keeps me healthy and it helps me surround myself with other healthy people.

**Side-note: i've also learned to stay out of my own shame when someone sets a boundary with me. It doesn't mean i am a bad or horrible person or that they don't care about me. It is just them being honest and open with what they can or cannot do emotionally or physically.

Staying emotionally honest. This ties in perfectly with vulnerability and setting boundaries. Before i can do those things, i have to be completely emotionally honest with myself. i question my motives (for example "Am i setting this boundary to try to control someone/something?") It forces me to look at my emotions and delve into why i am feeling them (for example "Am i angry to cover up that i am really ashamed of my behavior?") It forces me to truly get to know myself--to see myself as i really am, the ugly stuff and the good stuff.

Surrender. i try to live by the serenity prayer. Surrender for me means turning over to God the things that i cannot change and over which i have no control (which is EVERYTHING except for my actions and reactions). So when something is bothering me and i can't let it go, i have to take the following three "surrender steps": 1- Call and tell my sponsor what i am surrendering 2- Write it down on a piece of paper and shove it in my Jesus box 3- Kneel down and pray aloud, telling God that i am surrendering and giving the issue to Him and asking Christ and the Atonement to take care of it so that i can let go.

Finding purpose. Right now this is my purpose:

i still often get that hated question (that i am sure i will get for my entire life): "If you had known what would happen, would you have gotten married?" That's not a fair question. It never will be. Because i DIDN'T know. And how could i know what i would have done? But more and more i grow confident in the best answer that i can think of:

"i went through so much pain. Pain i thought i couldn't bear. It was the worst storm of my life to this point. i hope that i never have to go through pain like that again. It still stings sometimes. AND i am who i am because of it. i love who i am. i would never want to go back to who i was. i would never want to give up what i have learned and what i have implemented."

Would i have learned and grown without that rainstorm? Maybe. It doesn't matter because the rain came. i survived. i am learning to be grateful for it in my own way. 

The rains will always come. Sometimes they will be gentle summer rains and sometimes cold torrential downpours. i hope that i can always take advantage of the rains...dancing in it when it's gentle enough and, if it's harsh, at least appreciating the flowers that will grow in its after effects. Because, like the Arab Proverb says, "Sunshine all the time makes a desert."

playing in the rain

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