In Part 1 of Navigating Rogue Waves, I shared my gratitude for and appreciation of the greater sense of ease, trust, openness, new learning and intimacy between us that Bruce and I had discovered, as together we faced the rogue wave of his being laid off three days after his 65th Birthday.
This truly was an unanticipated treasure we unearthed as we faced the many challenges this layoff presented. Even here in the midst of challenge, I had the sense that we were moving closer to the living the vision of RICH Relationships that I’ve felt in my bones possible, and I felt the delight of that. At the same time I’ve been clear that this has been a tender time of big learning for both of us. We’re each in our own way being stretched, and invited into growth.
And one day “it” happened … the lid of the treasure chest slammed shut.
Especially the first time this happened, while I know that contraction often follows expansion, that our lives are filled with cycles, and that all feelings flow and ebb, this was a very painful experience. As I’ve said before, Bruce has his own journey here, and I’m thankful for his willingness for me to share my parts of our experience. This was certainly one that called me to notice what was happening in and around me.
One of the resources I’ve appreciated on this journey is this beautiful invitation from Clarissa Pinkola Estes. She asks us to pay attention in each moment to which part of the essential balance between being the rock (standing and holding), and being the river (flowing and releasing) is needed.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes wonderful image and words of invitation to ask and apply as needed –
do I be rock here, or river?
As I’ve been paying attention I’ve noticed 3 different situations in which we’ve had this sudden shift from greater ease and openness, to a slamming shut or closing down of that intimate connection show up:
- that first one came in a moment when we were feeling open-hearted, connected, playing together with the treasure. Out of the blue, something happened triggering a protective reaction in Bruce. In that moment he first said something painful (truthfully I can’t now remember what) and then quickly drew back inside, and closed himself off. It felt like the lid of the treasure chest I’d been so appreciating playing in slammed shut. I can still feel that sense of surprise, shock, and disorientation. And through the pain in my heart, the fear in my gut, and the tightness in my throat, I heard myself saying something like “Wait! What?! That didn’t just happen did it?! After all we’ve accomplished together you’re going to go back to that old pattern?! I thought we were past that!” Definitely not my most enlightened moment, but a very human one
- in another instance, there was a moment when I had not been paying close enough attention to nurturing me, and was feeling vulnerable. In turning to him and the treasure chest of our connection for support, I discovered he was in a similar space, and wasn’t available to give me the support I wanted. The lid of our shared treasure chest was shut. Again, in those first understandable moments of human reaction I felt disapointment (but I thought we were in this together!), fear (where do I go now?), and even a touch of resentment (but you promised to support my wellbeing …)
- and the third pattern I’ve noticed have been situations when I can tell Bruce is feeling challenged, and so I’ve been there for him the best way I can, staying open to connecting when he’s available, playing in my own treasure chest – you may remember my word for 2018 is ALIVENESS! And as he is navigating his own challenges he says or does something that triggers me. Again here I’ve felt the surprise, shock, pain, disorientation, and those inner voices – “what just happened?, haven’t you noticed the way I’ve been supporting you?!” … and along with that my own (understandable even if not helpful) impulse to slam shut the lid of your treasure chest to him – in my hurt to lash out at him, or pull back into me.
All of these are such understandable human responses … so what can we do next?
While this isn’t something we can control (it’s happening, it sucks, and we’d never intentionally choose it!) we’re NOT a helpless victim! We CAN influence what happens next. Here are some things I’ve found helpful to remember:
- Whether the treasure chest in question is your own, the other person’s, or a shared treasure chest of learning and intimacy, trying to force open the lid – coercing yourself or the other person is at best disrespectful, won’t ultimately bring us what we want
- As much as you can, remember RICH – be Respectful and honour both yourself and the other, acknowledge and allow for the degree of Intimacy that’s appropriate in the moment, tap deeply into your Courage, and honour the Humanity of everyone involved
- As Clarissa has invited us, as you anchor into your courage, discern as best you can whether this moment is calling you to be the rock (and stand) or be the river and flow
- Another resource I’ve found deeply resonant, and helpful is this Susan David TED talk The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage – well worth the 16 minutes
And of course, finding and nurturing your relationships with kindred-spirited community is an essential resource of those committed to walking this path of expanding our capacity to find our SEA legs, and navigate the rogue waves we encounter in life. The day that first really painful slamming of the lid of our treasure chest happened, I had the gift of already having in place gatherings (one virtual, and one in person) with two different communities, and a call with a dear friend and colleague, all of whom held and supported me in love, and in possibility.
The expectation (and experience) that I’d be safe in speaking, and the confidence I’d be heard, met, and held with care allowed me to become even more fully connected with the whole range of emotions I was feeling. This being more connected to my own heart allowed me to continue to receive all the support being offered, and in return offer this to Bruce, so that by the end of the day we’d experienced another big shift. We were back in heart connection with each other.
This isn’t about getting things ‘right’ and nobody breathing too hard in case we mess things up again! It’s a practice, and as we engage it we become more skilled – both in the holding ourselves in these big emotions, and in coming back home to ourselves so we can once again open those lids that had been slammed shut.
We are tender-hearted human beings, and it’s always amazing to me how quickly ‘Treasure Chests of Intimacy’ can be closed. I’m thankful for the path to re-opening them is there as well! If you’re looking for a community of support as you find and strengthen your SEA legs, do yourself a favour and reach out. You can connect with me by clicking here.