30 July 2013

You're overreacting! Am I overreacting?

Street Art


A few weeks go Pete and I were in the car on our way home from an afternoon in the mountains with the kids.  Conversations that go badly in the car are torture, because there is no escape, nothing but uncomfortable silence holding you hostage when someone disengages from the conflict.  There is also no privacy to process feelings or cry it out. 

"This is exactly why I didn't want to tell you this."  Pete said to me when he could see I was upset. The words, his demeanor, everything said to me

"There was only one appropriate reaction to what I just told you, and it was not the reaction you are having." 

This bothered me quite a bit, so much in fact that I later expressed to Pete how it wasn't right for him to only accept one emotion from me.  That no matter what his behavior, I was entitled to feel whatever feeling came to me. And a little empathy might go a long way.

A couple of days later I let each of my kids pick one of those pouches of pureed fruits and veggies for a snack.  In the car I distributed them, and then we were on our way.  In a matter of seconds my oldest child realized I'd given him the wrong snack. He fussed and whined about it and I found myself saying to him

"Get over it kid! I made a mistake, chill out.  Let it go! Stop making a big deal out of it."

Facepalm.

Hypocrite.

**************
It used to be that when Pete said I was overreacting it would spiral me into self-doubt.  Was I overreacting?  Now when Pete says it to me I just get pissed.  But I still find myself asking that question all the time. And here's where it's brought me.

Overreacting just means that the original behavior doesn't justify the magnitude of the response.  Right? Well, how can anyone, myself included, possibly be the judge of what behavior justifies any given response?

First of all, actions and responses can't be put in a vacuum; they can't be made isolated events unaffected by history, circumstance or mood.  For example, say I blow my top when the toddler poops in the bathtub.  A frustrating action indeed, but probably not enough to merit a motherly meltdown.  But suppose that was the last in a series of events that tested this mother's patience at bedtime. 

The fact is, I just REACT.  At some point I allow the feelings to all come out and I think my energy is better spent giving place for those feelings than fretting about whether or not the feelings were an appropriate response.  They just were the response.

This sex addiction world has caused extensive self-reflection and discovery that has molded my core beliefs.  And one of those beliefs is that feelings matter.  I should "honor" them.   If Pete, or someone doesn't like my reaction, I am happy to leave them to their own tools and coping mechanisms.  But my reactions are a huge opportunity for learning about what's going on inside my kooky head.  Why did this hurt so much? Where is this anger coming from?

It's absolutely possible that my reactions include some behaviors that are inappropriate.  Violence, cruelty, and manipulation are never acceptable.  In fact, I'm a firm believer that I can hone my response skillzzz so that my reactions don't include any of these unacceptable manifestations of my feelings.

But levels of hurt, disappointment, and anger just are what they are.  I can't measure them to determine if they are too much or too little.  It isn't helpful to compare them to anyone else's reactions.  It is certainly not okay for someone else to tell me that my pain is too much, my grief too severe or my frustration excessive.  Nor is it okay for me to dismiss any one else's feelings in response to the disappointments they face. 

(Side note: I think as a mother I am allowed, after offering love, empathy, and an apology where necessary, to help my children keep their disappointments in perspective.) 

I don't intend to let the demons of overreaction haunt me.  I'm coping with what has been given me, I'm making the best of the cards I'm dealt.  Take it or leave it,

it is what it is. 

24 July 2013

Insanity Returns


Morocco - Cavallo13
I had a horrible nightmare last night. I was at Pete’s office and there were pictures of Jennifer Aniston all over his walls.  But they were photographs, like he knew her personally and he had developed them from his own camera.  There was a third person in the room with us, but I can’t remember who it was.  Pete was pulling the pictures off the wall and it felt awkward and embarrassing in the room. He made some jokes about it, and then he randomly poured his paper cup of root beer on my shoes.  The next thing I knew we were at home, talking about the pictures.  I was lying in bed and he climbed on top of me.  He started groping me.  I begged him to get away, to leave me alone but he just laughed and told me to “lighten up.”

When I woke up I couldn’t stop the sobs from coming.  My response was visceral and I felt violated and abused.  I cried my tears into the pillow for a few moments and took deep breaths until my mind accustomed to reality and I fell asleep again. 

Pete has never been forceful or abusive.  That is not in him.  He doesn’t operate from power or brute strength.  I have no blame toward Pete for that dream.

It is my subconscious I blame.  And my subconscious blames my conscious.  And my conscious blames my insanity. 

I have to let go of the fear.  I have to.  Insanity would have me believe that the worst case scenario is even worse than my conscious can imagine.  Insanity would have me believe that my circumstances are incapable of offering me peace and a meaningful, joyful existence.  I’ve been letting insanity hang around too long.  Insanity wore out her welcome. Again.
 
It's not easy to shrug off the kind of pain that comes from a dysfunctional marriage. And I have no intention of shrugging off any of my pain.  But I know I need to work through it.  The only way is through. And on the other side of the pain is the place where I can start to feel gratitude and joy again.  The place where I banish Insanity and all her drama, and allow myself to feel optimism and appreciation.  The place where I make a key lime pie and attempt to practice vulnerability.

23 July 2013

Conundrum


Saatchi Online
Two years ago Pete and I concluded that he had an addiction to pornography.  He took a couple tentative steps toward recovery and I jumped right in.  Adamant that I was only trying to fix myself, and not him, I embarked on my recovery journey.  It has been life changing and I’m no longer the person I was.  But in the last couple months I’ve felt confused. 

“What the heck? After everything I’ve done in the last two years, why is my husband still looking at porn and masturbating?”

I’ve set boundaries and enforced them. I’ve set them and buckled on them.  I’ve seen a therapist, I’ve attended 12 step meetings and worked program.  I’ve done a 30 in 30 and I’ve had various sponsor figures.  I’ve been on a forum and Facebook, I’ve met other WoPA in real life.  I’ve read books and articles.  A new bank account.  Pack-up-and-leave with the kids for the weekend.  Opened up to friends.  Asked for blessings.  Doubted my faith. Found it again.  Detached in a million different ways.  Sexual abstinence.  Sleeping in separate rooms.  Counsel with the stake president. 

“What the heck? After everything I’ve done in the last two years, why is my husband still looking at porn and masturbating?”

I’ve given advice to other women to “Put their foot down”.  No more enabling.  No more tolerance.  No more acceptance of this unacceptable behavior in my marriage.   I’ve gathered evidence and watched Pete’s valiant (at times) efforts at recovery.   

The next logical step is separation right? It’s the only “boundary” I haven’t tried, right?

The truth is, I don’t want a divorce.  The truth is I don’t even want a separation.

I guess the awful truth is, I AM willing to live in a marriage with pornography. 

This makes me feel weak and pathetic.  It makes me feel like I’m enabling his addiction.  This makes me feel like a hypocrite. 

I used to boast that I would no longer accept a mediocre relationship.  And here I am, openly admitting to you that I am accepting a mediocre relationship.  And sadly, at this point it’s worse than mediocre.  It is sapped of connection, vulnerability and affection.  It is apparently the only safe way Pete and I can coexist in this addiction infected marriage. 

“WHAT THE HECK? AFTER EVERYTHING I'VE DONE IN THE LAST TWO YEARS, WHY IS MY HUSBAND STILL LOOKING AT PORN?”

19 July 2013

Building my house of Confidence


Credit

My therapist suggested I study cognitive distortions.  As Fancy Nancy would say “That’s just a fancy way of saying negative thoughts.”  Everyone has cognitive distortions, we all have erred thinking, but the psychologically unwell, like myself, have these thoughts at an incapacitating level.  These thoughts keep me from being emotionally healthy. 

There are dozens of identified cognitive distortions but one that I’ve found to be a habitual practice of mine is “PERSONALIZATION.”  There is great irony in that term because just about everything in my life feels personal except psychology vernacular. 

Personalization is when I make everything about me. 

I have an old friend from childhood who has done some impressive things with her life.  Both personally and professionally she serves humanity worldwide and advocates for women in particular. She is also a wife and mother and I have confidence she fills those roles well.  She periodically posts pictures on Instagram of her international travels to exciting places, where she does genuine, good work for people.   I find that after I see these posts instead of appreciating her efforts for the greater good, admiring her ambition and skill, and feeling happy for her life experiences; I feel jealous, depressed, and painfully inadequate. 

All of the sudden the inspiring work of a gifted soul has become about ME, and my insecurities.  Her success means my failure.  Her accomplishments are superior, mine inferior.  All of this making her worth to the world greater, and my worth less.  Worthless.  
My boys are obsessed with all things Star Wars, including the Weird Al rendition of "American Pie" titled "Anakin." I have it memorized.  Lately I've been thinking about how it is interesting that Yoda felt Anakin wasn’t qualified to be a Jedi because he sensed fear.    I’m sure he sensed Anakin’s insecurities, pride, anger and desire for power, but the ultimate deal breaker was fear. 

Fear is a sneaky thing.  It masks itself as low self-esteem or ego.  It is disguised in jealousy and even artificial confidence.  But without a doubt I know my personalization comes from fear. 

Fear of being fundamentally less than others.  Fear that my contributions are less valuable.  Fear that if people don’t perceive me as kind, then that means I am not kind. (Or intelligent, or successful.)  

I imagine a world without those fears.  I dream of a world where all the amazing things other people do enhance my joy, rather than detract from it.  A world where I do not fear other’s perceptions of me because I have an internal and abiding understanding that I can contribute and my existence is worthwhile, in spite of my shortcomings.  But even underneath my house of confidence and reassurance, in my mind’s eye, I construct a foundation of knowledge that I have inherent worth.  It is neither less than those whose lives seem to exceed mine in value, nor is it greater than those whose lives deliberately or incidentally destroy my perceived value. 

It just exists.  It is the opposite of fear.  It is profound personal acceptance and peace.  It is not influenced by the behavior, attitude or accomplishments of others.  It is liberating.  It gives me freedom to act, to live, to be vulnerable, to make mistakes, and to love others in spite of their mistakes.  It is my mantra. 

I AM ENOUGH. 

So why the heck can’t I believe it?

12 July 2013

Suffering

I made this myself as an experiment in graphic design. Don't mock.

There is a woman my mom knows, a mother of young children, who fought cancer and finds herself healthy again.  This woman is wealthy and attractive.  She lives in a house my mom thinks is ostentatious and drives new and expensive cars. She works hard to make herself and her children look well dressed and lovely.  They are all lovely.  But my mom felt like her struggle with cancer and the possibility of death would have changed her priorities and caused her to be more focused on "important" things.  (Church service, kindness, etc.) 

"Trials aren't an automatic cure for human frailties and shortcomings.  They don't automatically make saints out of those who suffer them."  I said to my mom. 

(Thinking of myself and my seeming inability to overcome my weaknesses despite my exposure to pain.)  

For that reason, I have a deep admiration for those who are profoundly changed by grief. Julie is perhaps the finest example I have of the refining power of grief.  I've mentioned her before on my blog.  I've never met her but am consistently inspired by her healing words and authentic writing.

Sunday would have been her sweet Jonah's third birthday.  In his memory she is asking/encouraging anyone whose heart inclines them, to be especially kind or loving that day. 

Read more here

I think I'll give each of my kids 30 minutes of my undivided attention on Sunday and make a couple phone calls to great-grandparents as a tribute to Jonah's legacy. 

If you have the opportunity to share the love, go back to Julie's blog and tell her about it. I'm sure she would love to hear. 

10 July 2013

Camp Scabs Idaho - Update

Isn't this rad?

The venue is booked and the dates are set.  (September 27-29)

For more details go here to Scab's blog, or click on this link to her Camp Scabs page. (You will find info about who is invited, how much it will cost, and what we will do.)

I am so excited about this! For anyone driving or flying into Boise from out of town, plan to arrive close to 1:00pm on Friday.  The location is a couple hours drive from Boise but will be scenic and I can guarantee we will talk the entire way and it will fly by. 

This is not a complicated operation.  Please don't be intimidated or shy about coming.  We are just two friends who met the same way you and I meet, right here online. 

Please email  CampScabs at Gmail [dot] com if you are interested.  We will send out more details to everyone individually via email. 

08 July 2013

Diarrhea of the Mouth

Credit
I haven't felt much like blogging lately. 

"Maybe I just don't have anything to say." I said to myself.

Who am I kidding? Jane always has something to say.

I really liked Alicia's post today.  I have no answers.  I have no passion to share the answers I don't have.  All I can share is my story.  And this is my story today.

After 48 days of sobriety, diligent recovery efforts, and "present" living, Pete slipped.  And then he relapsed.  The day before a vacation.  Again. 

Before the porn and masturbation, there was that ugly conversation, where he blamed and victimized and minimized.  With each word I took deep breaths and tried to escape my body and watch the conversation as a detached third party.  Tension built in my jaw and shoulders as I braced for impact, but I made a valiant attempt to validate some of his feelings.  Desperate to engage me in his chaos he pushed. He dangled. I bit. 

In my head I cussed at myself. "DAMN IT! YOU LET HIM BEAT YOU AGAIN!" I wanted to say it out loud but instead I sobbed and asked him to leave me alone. 

The next day he hated me.  It was like a steam that evaporated off his angry body.  I laid out some boundaries.  He acted out. I followed through on a boundary and it felt empowering and peaceful.

Days and "slips" later I floundered and doubted my boundaries.  There was no peace.  There was no empowerment.  I felt lost and confused.  Where were my answers now?

***************

For years of my life I built a reservoir of faith.  I deposited and deposited, I paid my premiums so that when the flood of doubt came I could cash out my spiritual insurance.  The last few months I have withdrawn every last penny from that account. 

It's been so easy to withdraw from God.  My crisis of faith gave me the perfect excuse to ignore all faith promoting exercises.  It's been easy to cuss and rebel.  To surround myself with other rebels and I took a sick pleasure in mocking the pious and religious.  It felt cathartic and I started making deposits of apathy in the account that covers my soul. 

Only twice in the last six months I have felt close to God.  At church in Hawaii and in the Arizona sun with Yoga Amber.  But otherwise I have been content to muddle in negativity and cynicism.  I was too proud for sacred things and tender feelings. 

And now I am empty.  My spiritual well is dry and I feel no lasting peace.  Last week when I found myself discouraged and confused I tried to pray.  But between me and God was a mountain of spite, doubt and the ridicule I'd indulged in.  My own shock and shame at my pride prevented me from feeling any kind of inclinations of the Spirit. 

Somewhere along the line I bought into the world's view that righteous means self-righteous, and religious means intolerant.  Fools trust God and intelligent people solve their own problems.  Personal conviction is narrow-minded and idealism is na├»ve.  Strict moral codes are unrealistic and obsolete.  Contemporary thinking is not based in faith, but rather in science. 

I admire you Alicia, and all my other friends who take their relationship with God seriously.  My friends who seek genuinely for spiritual improvement, who have endless trust in God, who set goals for being in places that will strengthen their faith.  I especially admire those who don't take spirituality for granted, and particularly anyone who has relinquished their faith and then found it again with humility and recommitted zeal. 

God bless you all.  And God bless me.