In response to all this, we’ve both been doing our own personal work through this period. We’ve been actively reaching out to our support systems and using these current fears (and the old stories and uncertainties triggered by them) as a way of expanding our capacities to live with greater ease, even in these challenging times.
But towards the end of last week, even though we’d been given a bit more breathing room, I found myself increasingly anxious – feeling weary and irritable. You remember those resiliency practices I wrote about recently? In retrospect, I recognize I’d been needing to lean into them even more – but at the time, with all the balls I was juggling, I was just paddling as fast as I could to keep myself afloat.
And you know the stories of drowning people who reach out and try to grab onto others – often putting these people at risk of drowning too? In my humanity that’s what I did.
Bruce had actually come to a place of feeling more grounded and hopeful, and in my anxiousness, I really wanted to feel his comfort and support. It was a stretch for me to reach out and be vulnerable, especially when I was aware that he didn’t have a lot of reserves. For all kinds of understandable, even if still not life-giving reasons, my tendency has been to be over-responsible in trying to protect and care for others. Still, I also remembered the part of our marriage vows where we said:
I knew to be in integrity with them, and myself, I needed to risk sharing them. But, here’s the tricky part. When I asked him if he could hear what was percolating in me, though I knew I was feeling scared and anxious, what I wasn’t conscious of was how desperate I was feeling for him to respond and support me.
After checking in with himself, he agreed, and as we sat together the words and emotions tumbled out of me. As they did, instead of responding as I’d hoped, his familiar defensive patterns were triggered. And as that happened, I fell back into my old patterns of thinking “If I just explain what’s happening to me clearly enough, he’ll get it. He’ll hear my heart and my need and reach out!” Reminder note to self – NOT TRUE!! When our defensive patterns are triggered it’s our signal to others that we don’t have the bandwidth to hold ourselves, far less give to anyone else.
In fact what happened was that we both realized we weren’t in a space to come back into connection then. So we took some time apart.
After a couple hours, I reached out again. This time, I shared up front how tender I was feeling. I let him know I really wanted him to join me in that tender heart space. He knew he was there, but his hold on it was tenuous. Still, we both decided to risk it.
Again, it didn’t take long for my rising desperation to trigger his protective, defensive shell to re-emerge. In truth neither of us remember my ever feeling and being so emotionally overwrought. I felt so at risk. At the same time, the part of me that’s committed to respecting and honouring both of us knew I needed to stop pulling on Bruce.
But if you know me at all, you know how much I value community. This was not a moment for me to be alone, I knew I needed support to come back home to me. And in that moment, I reached out to my friend Aline – both for loving support, and to see whether there was something I was missing.
After listening to me share what had been happening, and affirming what a challenging space we were in, she said “At this moment, other than being with the parts of you that are feeling so sad and scared, I don’t see that there’s anything more for you to do here, Maralyn. There’s nothing to fix, it’s about being with what is.”
While what I really wanted was a magic wand to make things all better, there was at least some part of me that knew she was right! And then she wisely suggested I might go for a walk.
So that’s what I did. And while I was walking, I clicked through my phone to see what I could listen to. The first thing that caught my eye was an old video from Matt Kahn. “Ah, yes,” I thought, “I’m not sure what this one’s about, but let me try it!”
You know how I talk about being supported by Life? This was definitely one of those the-resource-coming-just-in-time moments. As I walked, I listened to the first 11 minutes of this one – twice! The second time I listened all the way through. And then (to really anchor it in) I went back to those first 11 minutes.
I hope you’ll check it out. Even if you don’t need this now, it may be a good resource for you to have in your back pocket for sometime when you do. If you’re not familiar with him, Matt Kahn has an unusual way of speaking, but in that moment, it was exactly what I needed to hear. His words spoke directly to the deep pain in me – that part of me that was desperately looking for love, and thought that Bruce was the place I needed to have that love from.
(SPOILER ALERT!) the whole first 11 minutes were wonderful and soothing, but below’s the part I heard that though nothing changed externally, everything shifted inside me … it came at about the 7:15 minute mark. (All emphasis below is mine.)
“The answer to every question is loving yourself more, not less. And one “I love you” at a time, one loving acknowledgement at a time, you begin to see that in a universe of endless questions, love is the only answer there is. And it’s not knowing love is the only answer, it’s being the loving answer in existence that knows love is the only answer by living out that answer … by loving yourself throughout every unexpected moment.
No matter how questionable anyone’s conduct is, their questionable conduct is only pointing you to the parts of your body that deserve more love not less. And in order for you to be the one that recognizes that everyone deserves more love, not less, you have to realize the love you deserve, that only you are here to provide you. Your journey is answering the question of life, with love as the only answer in existence … that you pour into your beautiful, Divine heart-space. And through the heart that you love and adore, all things in existence are transformed as one.”
It’s not like this was new or news. I’d listened to this several times before – I’d put it in my phone! Though we’ve never met, here he was, being community for me – right when I needed it, reminding me about things I knew to be true, but couldn’t in that moment access on my own.
The other thing that made the difference here, in these exquisitely painful moments (in my life, and between Bruce and me) was that though I didn’t like them at all, I’d have been very happy to have skipped these uncomfortable parts, there’s enough of me now that is clear that everything I experience is here to support my evolution – and I don’t have to like it! Even in those moments that I can’t see how that’s so, rather than going to shame or blame, to the extent I can, I ‘simply’ choose to surrender to what I’ve come to know as this deep truth. Sometimes, like this week, doing that is incredibly painful – AND, as I access the courage to do this, it’s also the fastest path through. And those times when, in my humanity, I don’t find that courage? They become further invitations for me to love myself.
So the cautions of this cautionary tale? Actually, perhaps they’re more accurately a desire on my part to normalize any similar experiences you may be having. And maybe a reminder for you like they were for me, of some practical steps that can support you if you find yourself in similar challenges now – or put in your back pocket (or your Evernote file) for use at some future time. Either way, thanks for being on this journey with me! Knowing I’m not alone, that I’ve kindred spirits around, makes an enormous difference.