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This Ostara comes on the heels of an extremely trying winter. A breakup, health issues, household stress, and the constant feeling that nothing I attempted to nurture would ever thrive made it almost impossible to focus on much of anything at a time of year that is generally when I’m the most productive. As we approached Imbolc things began to lighten just a bit, but it was enough to give me enough hope to ride the waves that seemed to be carrying me way deeper than I thought I could find my way back from.
Then I was asked to be a voice. I was invited to speak to a small group of women about my experience and the lessons learned doing Good Girl and how my life has been changed by it all. I talked for a long time, and I’m sure I said a lot of useful things, but the one thing that stuck out in my mind was the very first bullet point.
Healing is not a one time event.
Let me repeat that. Healing is NOT a one time event.
Well, hell, guys. For a year I’ve been beating myself up because I thought I was failing, convinced that all the progress I thought I’d made was a lie, when really I was learning how to live again in a whole new way. I needed to cut myself a little slack and acknowledge how far I’d actually come, even if it seemed like I’d been stumbling and bumbling my way through most of it.
I tried to keep that in mind as Ostara approached, and yesterday as the sun rose around my plane I felt it filling me with a new energy I’ve never felt before, and it dawned on me. I haven’t been failing all winter. I haven’t been fallow. I haven’t neglected my seeds. For the first time in my life I went deeper into the dark season than ever before, and when I emerged I was truly transformed. I was taken to the brink, and yeah, I had to die a little to really complete my chrysalis. What Ostara brought me this year was not just new light or new growth but new life, new eyes, and new breath.
Is all the stress and pain gone? No, that’s real life. Healing and lessons and growth don’t wait until it’s convenient for mundane life, but the choice is mine to focus behind me on the cold darkness of winter or look ahead of me to the bright warmth of the coming seasons. The dark will return as the wheel turns, but I know I can not only survive it but pull from it the lessons of my deepest fathoms.
No, healing is not a one time event, and I don’t in any way believe it’s all over, but along with that healing I have grown to a new level of awareness and empathy, of intuition and intensity, of passion and power. I have claimed my place in the universe. I am ready to use the stardust with which I was born.
Lughnasadh always brings an interesting energy with it. While Lugh won a lot of trials in his life through sheer skill, some of that skill was humour and wit, and there is never a shortage of humour or wit in the messages that come through this time of year. But what else? In honouring Lugh we remember the funerary games he organized for his foster mother, Tailtiu. We play games of skill and celebrate our respective talents. We dance, sing, enjoy the life energy of summer thriving around us. Now let’s incorporate the celebration of Lamas, the first harvest. Traditionally the first grains would be used to make bread to bless the occasion as the community came together to enjoy the bounty of harvest. Sometimes bread was baked in the shape of the Green Man in honour of the sacrifice he gives so that we may thrive. In all of this there is a theme of both celebration of the light and recognition of the dark as we begin to notice the days shortening, reminding us to be thankful for the harvest that will sustain us in the coming winter.
In my practice I’ve used it as a time to cleanse and bless my hearth and home, fortifying our household for the year to come with the rich energies of summer. This year I took a deeper look at that practice. Yes, I will probably still cleanse our home and reinforce our crystal grids, but the more meditation I’ve done the more thought I’ve given to the “hearth” in my life. While my tangible household is a brick and mortar place, my home is transient, my family scattered between the coasts, farther once I incorporate metamours. So what of this tribe? What of our hearth? How can we be cleansed and fortified for the year to come?
The beautiful thing about our Ohana is that everyone, no matter how far away or how little involved, brings something to the tribe. We each have our strengths, skills and talents that enrich the energy of the whole. There is not a single one of us who doesn’t work hard and strive to really experience life in their own way, and this energy finds its way to the core of what makes us strong as a unit. Those skills and strengths become our grains, and with some nurturing and encouraging, those talents flourish. Through their harvest we begin to manifest our best selves, and we become the bread men of Lamas, ingested to feel the blessings of the very earth that grounds and holds us. So, the hearth? The hearth is community, fired with our dedication to each other. It’s love, support, and solidarity, but it’s also sacrifice. We each give at one point or another so that the others may thrive. When each of my partners’ family becomes my family, and we weave a web of compassion and love, we become a strong tribe. Through that web we feel each other’s joy and pain. Through that web none of us can starve no matter how cold the winter might get, and because we’ve got Lugh on our side we do it with the flare of laughter and maybe some smartassery. Ok, a lot of smartassery.
Aloha, and Blessed Lughnasadh
Go now, celebrate your talents!
Twenty years ago I learned a veritable tome of lessons, some of which I’m just learning now, and it seems unbelievable to me that I can look back at anything in my life knowing it happened twenty years ago. My mom taught me a lot about life while she was alive, and I’ve mentioned that before. She taught me compassion, strength, and determination. She taught me to seek adventure and levity in everything, to make people laugh whenever you can, and to live and love with all your heart no matter how scary the world feels. She taught me to trust my instinct and eschew advice that doesn’t feel right. She taught me to be myself.
What my mother’s death taught me was open honesty. You never know when the last time you say “I love you” or “good morning” or “good night” will be the last. It’s made me vulnerable at times, and I’ve had to learn to accept when it’s not reciprocated, but hey, another lesson, right?
But you see, it also taught me some less than positive lessons. At twelve years old I was already well aware that I was different. I didn’t have many friends, my anxiety and depression were already in full swing, and I’d already thought about suicide more times than I can remember now. I needed help, and I was constantly told I was wrong, broken, or worse…that I was fine. I was fat, I was slow, and I was constantly missing the mark. At twelve I had already had at least one nervous breakdown, I was scared of losing everyone I loved, and I had been proven correct. At twelve I discovered my intuition and empathy in the worst way, and I hated it, so at twelve I learned to hide. I learned to expect the worst. I learned to expect to be alone. I learned that change is terrifying. I learned to build walls, and forgot all those lessons about love and life and laughter.
When I started the Power of One it was immediately pointed out to me that when I’m uncomfortable or anxious I smile. It’s a skill I developed at a very young age, but I imagine I perfected it at my mother’s funeral. Since then it became a crutch I used to get me through parts of my life I felt I could not navigate, and it began to cloud the genuine me. I’ve been lucky enough to have people in my life who could see through the fog and find that genuine me, but for most of my life I haven’t been able to see her myself. I’ve merely been relying on the testaments of others who tell me they see her, like a fairy tale buried deep inside me. As the lessons from my mother started to actually take root and as my intuition and empathy refused to be ignored, life got harder, and the more I stayed inside my walls the more the fires outside tried to cook me out. I tried to let myself be vulnerable…to the wrong people at the wrong times. I tried to be happy…all the time, and ended up holding in the pain and sadness until I couldn’t, resulting in some pretty spectacular meltdowns. I tried to be strong and independent…and all I did was feel more like a failure.
In the year since I seriously started putting effort into my transformation, I’ve worked on being open without being overbearing, happy without using it to cover up when I’m not, and to know when I can be strong alone and when I need to reach out for help. Not all has gone according to plan, but if my mom’s death taught me none of this other bullshit, it taught me that life doesn’t care about your plans, and unpredictability brings as much serendipity as it does tragedy, and the only control I really have is how I choose to react to it, process it, and move on with my life. Losing my mother was not the first tragedy I’d faced in my life, but it was the first one I felt like I was facing alone. The truth is, every situation we face in life we face alone, even if we have the strongest support system on earth, because we’re the only ones who can do the internal work it takes for real survival…and real living.
Love you, Mom. Thanks for still teaching me. after all these years.
Go now, keep learning..keep living….
I was told to write out what I would say to you if I could tell you how to make a relationship work with someone with BPD, someone like me. For some of you it’s too late. The damage is done. I’ve hurt you irreparably, broken trust, and shattered security. We’ve already reprogrammed our relationship to be what it can despite those things, and I deal with the wave of sadness that hits to think of all the things I lost by not being able to tell you what I needed, by not knowing myself. Each and every one of you has asked me what I need from a partner, but even as much as I’ve grown in the last couple of years, I couldn’t put them into words until they were worded as advice for someone else. If that isn’t just the portrait of BPD, I don’t know what is. My hope is that this can clarify some things, maybe starts some dialogues, and definitely give us some blueprints on how to move forward and forge stronger, healthier bonds.
Sometimes I need reassurance that I’m important, and I have said this over and over again. I don’t need to be your top priority, but I do need to be one of them if you’re going to call me a partner. Sometimes I need a little extra attention. Nothing grandiose. Just a reminder that I’m loved. It’s never that I don’t believe I am, but it’s nice to hear, see, feel it from you. I need random messages and occasional outpourings of emotion from you, not constantly, but I need it not to vanish for weeks at a time.
I need you to hear my words not my tone or body language. I need you to believe my words not take them as passive aggression or sass.
I need to feel secure, and when i ask for clarification on what seemed like a small action to you, I need you to not take it as malice or suspicion. I’m just trying to understand. Sudden changes in tone, behaviour, or levels of interaction will be internalized if I can’t mention them to you and get them out of my head, which is running through every reason why it’s all a sign you’re about to leave me. I’m not saying these changes aren’t natural or understood, especially when something is happening in your life. I’m just saying I might ask.
I need you to talk to me. I need you to let me talk. This all boils down to communication. I’m going to overthink things, and getting it out helps. Weird things cut deep sometimes, and all I need is to mention it so it doesn’t fester. I need to know we can have an open dialogue without you lashing out at me. It helps me stay calm and rational.
I need you to know I worry about pushing you away. I worry about being too complicated. I worry about being misunderstood. I worry. Mostly I worry about whether or not you’re happy with me, whether you’re still happy with me, whether you stay because it’s become routine.
I need honesty, even when I might not like it, because I need to trust that you will tell me the bad things along with the good so I don’t constantly wonder what you’re thinking but not saying.
I need balance. I need you to trust me to handle my issues on my own first before you swipe in to try and fix it, but I also need you to know that if I’m reaching out to you I’m at the end of my rope. I don’t want to add to your stress, and I’m doing what I can and taking steps every day to do it better, but I can’t always do it alone. It took me a long time to be able to ask for help, and if I do it means I trust you with my life and my heart. Please understand this.
I need you to know my triggers. I’ll never ask that you avoid them, because part of learning to cope with them is getting used to processing them, but I do need you to be a little sensitive to the aftercare if you’re going to trigger issues. I need to know I’m safe having a reaction to things with you.
I need you to give me some control. I need to feel competent. I need to feel like you believe I’m competent. I need you to not be condescending. I’m an adult, and I’m fully aware of what’s happening and what I need. When I feel like I’m being coddled, babied, or invalidated it triggers everything, and I forget I’m strong and stop trying. I need to not stop trying.
I need you to be clear, patient, and observant at times. Especially when it comes to your needs and issues.
I need you to trust me to adjust my behaviour when I am wrong. I need you to trust me to understand when you need a little space, but I need you to eventually come back from that space. I need you to trust that nothing I do is malicious, and help me be a better partner. Lastly, I need you to trust me to be doing everything I can to be a better version of me every day. I’m not happy being this difficult to live with. I’m not complacent in it. I’m not making excuses.
This is not a list of things you have to learn to do for me. This is a list of things we can learn to navigate together.
I don’t believe we are stuck. I believe things can be improved even after years of unhealthy habits. No, you can never really start over, and there will always be old wounds, but healing is a powerful thing, and all of my relationships are strong, or we wouldn’t be in them.
I’ve done a lot of my own reading and research, but maybe it’s more helpful from a voice that’s not mine…
Which is why I’m here. I was asked whay advice I would give to a partner of someone with BPD. This is what I said.
Go now, feel.
New relationships give us all sorts of opportunities. A new partner means all these new frontiers to explore, don’t they? Suddenly we’re interested in couples Wii bowling tournaments and Faberge egg painting, and we make all these plans like they’re blueprints for this new relationship. Then reality sets in. Wii bowling happens on a work night, and neither of you can paint a fence let alone a hollowed out egg. Instantly there are all these unmet expectations. Now throw in the fact that this is a new person you’re learning, and no matter how many times you’ve dreamily cooed the phrase “it feels like I’ve known you forever” it’s been two months, and you’re still learning to communicate and exist on this planet together. This is where hopes get let down, miscommunication runs rampant, and because NRE has the happy gauge turned up to High Octane, these small disappointments feel world ending. Sometimes they feel relationship ending.
This is where real life has to interfere for the relationship to survive, and as comfort levels are established we must be willing to let some of those expectations be set aside for a rainy day, reshaped a little, ot even just released back into the wild. Maybe you buy a Wii and bowl at home. Maybe you take a Vino and Van Gogh class one weekend, get smashed, and paint nothing put stick figures and butts. Maybe you find something else that excites you. The key is to adapt, because at some point the letdowns get bigger; it’s a fact of life that no relationship, yes even yours, is perfect. If you can’t handle the reality that your partner hated the recipe you learned because she said she likes lasagna, how are you going to survive when you find out she whistles in her sleep and keeps you awake, when the perfect night out you planned in your head ends up on the couch in pj’s because one of you had an awful day, when tears are in her eyes because you weren’t even aware you’d done something hurtful? These things will happen, and these little compromises on expectations build the foundation for a relationship that can sustain them.
I’ve said it before. NRE is a roller-coaster, friends, and sometimes one partner gets off the ride before the other. What then? You will never survive this blow if you’ve let every other changed expectation tear at you. This is where the true strength of a relationship is tested. This is where you find out what you can do together, and once again you adapt. This is where love and compassion can mean everything. This is where reaching out and the little things that define your relationship are imperative, because they’re so easily left behind when the ride is over.
There is no other message here. Just let that one sink in a bit.
Go now. Hold on tight.
When I was a kid there was a portrait collage on the wall of my grandparent’s home. My grandfather lost most of his brothers to war, and they spent many meals with us in stories from his childhood. These are the uncles I never got to meet, but men I felt connected to through my grandfather’s words. Who he never mentioned was the brother who survived in body but lost his mind, but I knew the story, and it haunted me for a long time.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and I’m on an Honor Flight with a man named Georgie who spends three hours telling me about his life experiences. I’m in awe and humbled that of all the things he could be doing, he’s talking to me. He tells me about the loves of his life, of his kids, his jobs vacations and friends he’s lost. He talks little of war or service until we’re less than an hour out, but when he does his words are powerful. He speaks to me of honor and compassion. He speaks to me of the decades he’s spent watching strong men eventually defeat themselves. In the end he tells me to remember those whose sacrifice has been forgotten, and I think of that forgotten brother on my grandparents’ wall.
In my life I have known so many of those “forgotten brothers”, and I have felt the loss of each and every one of them. Yes, there were friends and family members who never came home, but there were also those who did only to kill themselves shortly afterwards, to never quite find a way to grasp life again, to lose everything to one addiction or another. Then there was love I didn’t know how to handle, a decision I couldn’t make, and my future forever changed by the loss of my own “forgotten brother”.
So, this morning I took a walk through the part of my past I don’t generally see these days. It’s not that I avoid it, but it’s become a part of a life that doesn’t even seem like mine anymore, so I let it quietly lurk in the background of my memories. But today I took a walk, and the images became vivid enough to touch. Maybe it’s because I’ve been in a dark place, or maybe it’s fresh loss. Maybe it’s just life’s way of reminding me where I’ve been in my life and why I keep moving forward, that these moments in time, and yes, these people, are still very much a part of me and each and every one of them is fighting for me.
I don’t tell his story often, and it’s not one I’m prepared to tell today, but today I honor him and all the forgotten brothers and sisters.
Go now, reflect and remember.
We are taught as a society that anger is bad. Angry children are punished instead of taught to process, angry men are destructive, and angry women are irrational. We learn to ignore it, to bottle it up, to fear it, and this leads to a breakdown in communication and emotional presence. But anger is not the enemy. Anger, like any other emotion, is defined by how we respond to it and process it.
Even just a year ago I would have turned the first time I got angry as a new partner into fear that if I expressed it at all he’s walk, and past experience has taught me that anger makes me a monster, a selfish bitch. Crazy. Both of my parents got very quiet when they were angry, and I have inherited that behaviour. When I’m frustrated I get snappy, but when I’m genuinely angry I shut down.
Our challenge as adults in relationships is to deal with anger instead of letting it push us apart, right? How do we do this without the emotional toolbox we should have been given decades ago? How do I process and communicate my anger without getting passive aggressive, hurtful, or adversely, detached? How do I help my partner not feel like he needs to be on his defense? These are not questions I have answers for, and they stir up the fear that I’ll merely succeed in pushing him away from me, but staying angry doesn’t help anyone.
Go now, use your anger
This past weekend was a hard lesson for me in healing. I let anxiety win, and it was……quite the spectacle. What happened behind the scenes was even worse. I convinced myself I was a fraud. I convinced myself I was worthless. I convinced myself there never had been hope for me. I looked back at the work I’ve done over the past two years and felt like I’d been lying to myself. Then I removed myself from the situation and remembered what it felt like standing on that stage by myself without anyone there to help me. The power I felt in telling a part of my story. The shift I felt inside me when I stopped fearing the unforeseeable and took hold of what’s mine. My life. That was not a lie. That could not have been false.
I’ve written a lot about healing and the way my life has changed since my experience with Good Girl. What I have not written about is the backsliding. What I haven’t written about is the doubt and the fear that the healing was some delusional fantasy that anything has changed. What I haven’t written about are the mistakes we make, because after decades of making the same ones over and over again, these are new, terrifying mistakes. It’s so easy to wonder if the change was worth it, because the demons we’re accustomed too are much easier to quell than new ones that might try to manifest in our lives. The answer is yes, it’s worth it. All of it, and the mistakes don’t unravel a single bit of it.
We’re told healing is hard. We’re told it’s a process. We’re told it’s painful. We’re never told how much maintenance it requires and how much of an adjustment it is to our daily lives. We have this idea that healing makes everything better, filling our lives with sunshine and rainbows and cute little kittens. What we don’t realize is that healing is NOT a panacea. It doesn’t make anything go away, it just gives us the resources to deal with it and to navigate new challenges that arise in a healthy manner. It doesn’t change learned behaviours. It doesn’t erase anxiety, depression, PTSD, or physical illness. It merely gives us better moves with which to fight and an understanding of how to fix what we break. Healing is not curing. Healing is taking something we once let run our lives into the ground and use it instead to fuel us to keep thriving.
The reality is that while healing is an internal process it requires external maintenance in ways we never experience when the stakes are low. My lesson wasn’t just painful for me; I hurt someone I love. It’s up to me to face that, do what I can to repair it, and do the internal work to ensure it doesn’t happen again. In the past it either wouldn’t have been healthy enough to matter or I would have just logged it with the other good things I let myself ruin. In the past few months it’s become more apparent where the healing could not help me because the problems I have are biological, so I’ve had to bite the bullet and admit there are things I can’t fix without medical help…then actually seek it. These things are no longer buried under me. They’re out in the open, they’re manageable, and they’re in the way of the life I want to live. Lastly, I have recognized things in my life that I was once passionate about but no longer serve that quick fix need in my life. There’s been a twinge of nostalgic panic as I begin to let those things go to focus on what’s really important in my life, but I’m decluttering and setting new goals.
You see, healing is a battle cry that screams “you no longer have power over me”. You won’t win the battle just because you’ve healed, but it will give you a fighting chance.
So, in 2012 I wrote this, and wasn’t I cute. Go ahead. Read it. It’s still valuable information, but it merely skimmed the juvenile surface of a much more mature problem. Also, note my almost defiant optimism that what we now know as The Vanishing Act would not, in fact, be a disaster. Ok, so Hubby may have been right on that one, but now this is the evidence he needs every time he thinks a new relationship is a bad idea. I’m surprised there’s not a commemorative plaque on the wall to mark the day in history.
This started out as a post about the balance between having compassion for the growing pains my existing partners experience when a new partner is added without letting it completely destroy my NRE. Then it morphed, as I began to have more and more conversations about compersion, not only with my partners but with friends. Here’s the Quick Guide to Compersion. Or at least what I understand of it.
Compersion is unconditional. It can’t only exist when you’re being doted on just as much as the new partner. It can’t only exist if my NRE is exactly like it was with you. It can’t only exist if you’re in some other way occupied. It compersion isn’t there even when you’re having a hard time processing the new relationship you’re lying to everyone, including yourself.
Compersion doesn’t mean not questioning. If you have concerns you still have to voice them rationally. If you have disagreements you still have to work through them. You’re allowed to ask for compromise or whatever you need to process, but compersion requires you to handle it like two adults who love each other. Isn’t this what it’s all about? Aren’t you together because you love each other?
Compersion doesn’t invalidate growing pains. You can still have your process, you just can’t use it to be a shyte to everyone else. You’re more likely, in fact, to get the extra attention and compassion you need if you’re not. Compersion means understanding and putting the happiness of your partner in the forefront, but it does not mean sacrificing your own well-being. It’s your responsibility to address it before it becomes a big scary issue, a fight, or resentment, not your partner’s.
What this all boils down to is love, respect, compassion, and balance. In a relationship, shouldn’t those things exist already?
Go now. Demand your balance.