What my marriage taught me: about fear

Fuck Everything And Run. Sure. That’s what comes to mind for many about fear. Unless in the whole flight or fight drama of it all, you can’t do either. You are stuck. You are paralyzed. The fear of the event makes you indefinitely immobile. Incapacitated. Despite your strength, you just can’t move. The idea of doing anything about it scares you to death because you have never been in this exact situation. Well, hardly ever anyway.  This one is different and you just can’t move. No.Matter.What. Until you do. Finally.  That’s what this post is about. Part of the nitty-gritty details will make its way into a longer story, but I am going to start small. Because I’m still a tiny bit in fear. How safe is it  to write about this? I am breaking through fear to just say: What the hell, I am going to take a risk.

When I was finally off on a fun impulsive  3-4 day vacation to the Bahamas, I had absolutely NO clue  the guy I was seeing at the time would propose marriage.  I am not sure he know. Was he even my “boyfriend”? Because I had told him I did want to get married (some day). Because he needed a woman to take care of him. Because he was bored? I will never know. I never got that closure. But that’s okay. That’s not what this is about. This is the second chapter of my relationship with this guy. I should have closed the book and put it on a high shelf after finishing the first chapter. Better yet, I should have donated the book to Goodwill or something for some other desperate 30-something woman to open up, ripe for seduction.  However, maybe I was that desperate woman. Waiting for marriage and someone to want me. I am pretty intelligent. I had a good job. I practically majored in psychology, so HOW DID I GET HERE?

I was pretty sure  a snowballing effect of fear started when I accepted his marriage proposal. In fact, I will go as far as to say the fear started  long before when I never thought I would get married at the late age of 39…. the fear of being unloveable. I guess as I write this, I realize my own fears set the ball rolling and his actions in the Bahamas and forward just compounded  the idea that fear would take on a different species: the fear of being alone again. So no matter what happened, the physical fear seemed real and relatable. But it was no match for the real fear that simply left me in my tracks.

It was easy enough to tell (some of my) friends the physical fear I felt because I knew would get sympathy about being stuck in a bad situation. There was plenty of fear based on my physical environment (never an assault upon me, ever) so that’s what I told my friends. The OTHER fear, that I couldn’t verbalize or put into words yet, I still felt in my core, but I was NOT ready to be honest about. Maybe  there is  that undeniable shame for me,  in the fear of being alone and unloveable. I was  surely not going to admit such things, even if I could verbalize those  feelings or identify those moments of   palpable loneliness. Better to say  he threatened me  in the Bahamas. Better to say he got into rages that ended up with broken items and refrigerators turned inside out. All true, all scary. Unfortunately, when I finally had to leave 1.5 years later, I realized my fear of physical safety was only part of the total fear I carried with me.

My lesson: I had no idea I had this internal fear that followed me everywhere, before AND after my marriage. I was justified in my fear for physical  safety and until I left him (he forced me out despite my weak attempts to seek counseling with him), I had absolutely no clue about the real fear.  My marriage was not in vain. Its been teaching me things all along. I had to hit rock bottom in an emotional abyss in 2010, crying daily, to even realize the fear had nothing to do with him at all. That really sucked. I will be completely honest. That sucked. It would have been so much easier to say his rage and unpredictable moods were enough to be fearful about. They were pretty bad and he would argue that I was never in actual danger, but I was pretty scared. Those stories will come later and the   detailed process of my story will become more evident. I had to move forward. I had to get UNstuck, UNparalyzed, UNhelpless. I moved back to Colorado in 2010 and started up a job. And I got right into therapy, which was really translation for a biweekly cry/drama/trauma session. Whatever.It.Takes. I am still working on becoming unstuck and out of the fear cycle. It’s a long process.

For now, suffice it to say, my fear is my own to deal with. That’s really what my marriage taught me: I think now it can be a matter of Face Everything And Recover. Recover from the lowest point that I have ever sunk, defended as the years of 2009-2010.

Depending on how honest you are with yourself, you may find yourself in the middle of your own long journey!
Readers: What did you learn from your marriage? Whether you are currently married, divorced or widowed, what did the actual process of living with the person you tied the knot with teach YOU?  Please leave your comments and I would love to read and respond!

 

Have a great rest of your weekend!

Music Pairing: Personally, I listened to the Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (Sarah McLachlan) and most songs spoke to me, particularly, Fear (surprise), Possession, and Hold On.

I could have probably listened to Depeche Mode or Nine Inch Nails for that matter (okay maybe NOT Nine Inch Nails this time!)… However, Yaz’s Upstairs at Eric’s could have really worked.

 

 

 

My Apple watch tells me to breathe so I press “dismiss” OR: How do I make time to breathe, much less meditate?

So there. I disregard healthy reminders to breathe. I do self-care, but it seems more haphazard than it had been earlier in the year. The “Breathe” app magically appears with a “ping!”, gently nudging me that I need to take time out of my busy life to remember me, to breathe, to take a time out. One minute. That’s all Apple asks of me – a mere and measly minute. So, of course,  I promptly press dismiss. I do occasionally press “start” when I have nothing else I should be doing. I must take this time out to literally remember to breathe.  How did I meditate for 15-20 minutes once upon a time and now I can’t be bothered to breathe?! Where are my priorities?

Let’s get back to basics. My new years resolution will be to breathe intentionally as much as possible throughout the day. I would like to work up to getting back to meditation, but seriously…how can I hope to meditate when I can’t even take a minute to breathe with purpose and exhale everything toxic and inhale new life.  Let’s take one thing at a time. I’m going to start with breathing with intention at least 3-5 times a day.  Why don’t we begin there and see what happens?

Meditation is a whole other beast and my mind needs to learn to exhale the toxic crap with lists of shit to do and reminders about dry cleaning pick ups and bills to pay. Yeah, I need to exhale that crap before I can  hope to meditate.

Please leave a comment if you have any good tools or tricks to remember how to take a time out, even for a minute!

 

 

FOR MY LOYAL READERS: My series on what my marriage taught me will commence soon! I promise you that and look forward to sharing my experience.

 

 

 

 

 

Good secrets, bad secrets…: My introduction to a three part series on what my marriage taught me

Are secrets okay? Are we only as sick as our secrets? Why do we keep secrets? I feel that sometimes we keep other people’s secrets and some of our own to preserve a bit of privacy and dignity, some self-respect and a dash of mystery.  We keep secrets about  arriving baby gender, relationships (of any type), opinions on work, money and politics.  We do this to keep the peace and keep our opinions and personal history to ourselves. Is there anything wrong with this?  Other times, our secrets aren’t based in any nobility.

Our other secrets are not based on dignity, respect or privacy.  These secrets  build upon each other, slowly growing till they get so big. Then   airing out  these well-kept skeletons is so daunting, it’s scary. Super scary. If we wait long enough, the secrets create a solid icon clad wall. The wall is fused with pride, fear, and  insecurity including financial and emotional. To get through this from the inside out we have to be strong. SO strong.  This is the part that can really suck. Like.Really.Suck.  We can’t expect others to get in if we can’t even get out. These are the secrets that make us sick and poisoned inside. Poisoned by the pride that makes us feel that we are better than you. The toxic insecurity that makes you NEVER as good as.  These secrets that destroy us. Unless…..

Unless we can talk or write or get out alive. This is why I want to write about what my marriage taught me. I can write about it.  I want to share it because if it gives you pause, if it makes you think about how you view  something sour and wretched and awful, then I say thank you. I have done my job writing this three part post series:

Part I: What my marriage taught me about my relationship with money

Part II: What my marriage taught me about fear

Part III: What my marriage taught me about me and future interpersonal/romantic relationships

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I am going to ask for your input, your experience,  how your last relationship prepared you for the next one!
Stay tuned!!

Happy holidays, part deux

So I was asked by someone, with whom I shared my last  post topic : “so what does offend you?”…..

Hmmm. I think this is more dicey. It’s easy to see I am all easy-going with this holiday greeting crap. I am  easy going there and happy to be so. I do get offended, but I think it needs to be more personal. So, lets ponder. If someone says “Merry Christmas” and they don’t know me, I am not offended as no  harm was meant by it. There is no dig, no ignorant slam against a group of people, no attempt to make a joke at someone’s expense. It is simply a greeting of kindness and sharing joy.

There is a time to be thick-skinned and a time to be offended and take action. There is a time to let things go. But when something pisses me off about some joke told by some ignorant jackass (male or female) aimed at a group of   people, it’s hard  for me to shut up. I know  of Asian and Jewish comediennes who make fun of their own and it is funny up to the point of self-deprecation. The problem is the pushing  of the envelope. I am not offended by women talking about sex, graphically, in comic detail. I find it more offensive when men do it. Why is that? So, just to be clear I am not talking bout racist comments and slurs passed off as jokes. I am talking about WHAT OFFENDS ALYSSA?  A proper list should be made! Here we go:

  1. ignorant Jewish and other ethnic jokes
  2. shitty parents
  3. people who cheat and/or lie ( stealing the right to truth from their loved ones, so yes, offensive)
  4. male comedians telling graphic sex jokes (women don’t bother me and I recognize the irony of this double standard)

Okay this is a short list. I am stumped. Things irritate me much more than truly offend me, hence a short list.

One person that has NEVER offended me is John Lennon. I heard a Beatles song during the writing of this post. I am compelled to include a photo I took in Central Park 4-5 years ago.

 

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Thanksgiving

I want to tell you something really fantastic about Thanksgiving. Something that makes us all inspired.  Something about  our gratitude and good fortune when we eat our turkey and other food in excess. Some of us watch football all day. I don’t, but hey, there it is, a great day off to eat a ton and watch football in the middle of the week.  I absolutely know, at the least, I have the privilege of good fortune  and good food and a roof over my head during m post divorce Hell (five years to be exact, six if you count when I had to leave my home).  I know friends and family have helped immensely. And that’s an incredible start to my Thanksgiving story.

It is in those simple times in my life  that I asked for  help and received it with unconditional love that i am most humble and grateful. It is  during those 364 other days of the year that I have depended on loved ones to hold me up during hard times. It is those days that I felt the most thankful.

I have to remember when we string each of the days, some tougher than others, we get something pretty awesome called LIFE. It’s not always fair. Its not always right or just.  We fall in love. Out of love. We feel wronged. We feel awesome and vindicated. But this is the deal:

We are feeling. Which means we are alive and get to start over the next day. And that’s pretty cool. We can be  thankful for that, right?  For me this is an affirmation. I am going to repeat this  affirmation for the next 48 hours and every hour after that, because really, we can NOT take this amazing life for granted.  This is NOT  a Debbie downer post. Not at all. I just want to stay humble and grateful for this life we are given every day. Sometimes that’s hard. Sometimes I feel entitled to more than just the notion of being alive. Maybe sometimes I feel I deserve something really awesome, above and beyond what I have worked for. Then I get right-sized and my ego gets bruised. A little. And I begin again. Humble. It keeps going like that.

Please let me know how your Thanksgiving week is…the anticipation of it, family angst, relationship angst, whatever it brings: Bring it on!

 

 

 

 

Humility comes free with every break-up

As I realize clearly that my last several weeks of posts about that most recent past relationship were written in an authentic anxious frenzy of nerves, fear, and insecurity, this should come as no shock.

I need to get back on track. I need to return to me. I must clearly identify the triggers that sent me into an indeterminate tail spin born from red flags BEFORE the tail does, in fact, go spinning. I realize  my  mounting intensity in the last year has sabotaged me from different opportunities, different  paths. I would say that’s all fine and that’s just “who I am”. Except that it is NOT who I am. Not.At.All. At least it’s not the best version of myself. I’d like me back, thank you very much.  I think we all deserve to become a better version of ourselves. Am I right?!  It is truly the hardest battle. I think I survived the atrocities and Hell from 6 years ago on adrenaline and fumes. That was hard, but not impossible.

Now, I recovered from that Hell all proud and full of newly found and well counseled strength. I didn’t need to worry about my past anymore. I deserved to move on, right? Problem is, I left the future in the rear view mirror. I left it lying in the dust. I gave that horrid history  a kick in the ass. I gave that road to Hell no respect. Then the Ego returned. Even after a plague fell on my heart and I thought I would remain humble for an eternity.

I realize I am a strong person, with some definite unplanned imperfections. I need to be far more honest   (maybe even excruciatingly brutal)  with myself to minimize the needless suffering I endured the last few weeks. When a friend used this term after she read a blog post of mine, I thought it was harsh. It wasn’t. It was actually said with love and within minutes I could see that. I need to take action. Now.

 

So have you experienced humility that was temporary, but you thought it would last you a life time? Years later, you forgot your struggle. You didn’t stay true to who you are?

 

When I first started my blog, I posted this pair of jeans; you all told me to keep them. I did. I should have looked at them more frequently. They are a reminder of that humility:Blue Jeansimg_0516

Tell me about it. I want to know.

Thank you!

 

The Long Term Bullying Effect?

I am  pondering more on how  and why I react to the anger and blame of others. I have just started to see that sometimes, perhaps I am just conditioned to accept the blame and anger poured out on me. I may be inconvenient, dramatic. I may need something from you. With all of this being said,  I know who I am. I understand the importance of the integrity, character and ethics I was raised to incorporate into my daily life. I don’t manipulate you or cheat on you. I won’t lie to you. Is  it  that why I am a target for people who just  feel the need to blame someone and it seems easy to blame the nice one, the one that sees the best in people. The one that will forgive you, because maybe, you just had a bad day.  This week, I had thoughts for the first time in a very long time about the bullying that went on during my elementary/middle school years. My thoughts turned into a theory this time. I had never once thought the bullying when I was a kid had anything to do with relationships I have now, especially the romantic ones. Where’s the connection? Is there one? I mean, after all, I grew up and become a professional after college and grad school How would my grade school recess misery translate to any anxiety in my current relationships, period?

Long ago, I was wearing the target. In grade school. Everyday. On the bus, in the school yard. In class. The target was super-sized, before super-size even existed. Bright colors and all. So obvious. I had no social skills, no game, not much going for me. Last one picked for teams in  gym class. That one. You know who I am.  I was called all kinds of names (“reject”, “retarded”, “loser” were a select few repeated daily). Jokes played and humiliating tricks weekly.

For all of those who read this and say “toughen up, thicken your skin” to a child bullied,  why should an innocent child thicken their skin due to the rudeness and abuse from other children?  You may say that the child will have to learn this eventually beyond the school yard, so start now. That’s awesome. If you recognize there is an unsavory situation, such as a child being bullied and that’s the primary solution an adult can summon up, I worry. Why not give this kid some coping skills, or help them with dealing with a hard situation. There are MANY poor solutions that create a bigger target for the child, like obvious protected status. This is a precarious and difficult situation for the child. Use caution and pay attention.  There are a few other things I have heard back in my youthful days that swept child bullying under the rug:

  1. Boys will be boys.
  2. Sticks and stones…
  3. “if he’s mean to you and teases you, that means he really likes you”

From experience, I can tell you straight away that these little cutesy phrases are not helpful in the moment. I am not convinced  that violence is the answer either. Believe me, there were many times I wished I knew how to fight. I  wanted those kids bloody, vulnerable and asking of mercy at recess; fantasies of revenge and actual violence really don’t answer the problem either. So what do you do? You grow up and you take it. You take it every single day. You stop crying because your feelings were hurt.You stopped crying a long time ago. You may even start believing what they say. That happened to me. I can only speak of myself. I absolutely do not speak for other adults bullied as kids. I would love to hear from them!

Once high school began (new school, new people, new start), adolescence hit. People started to make fun of me and talk about me, but this time it’s behind my back. I know I was awkward. I didn’t know how to converse with others. I know I couldn’t really relate well to anyone.  I can imagine a great many reasons why they may have even made an effort and given up, because I may not have even recognized their effort(s). A singular sentence, a hello…. and I probably dismissed it because I didn’t even know how to respond.  My experience from 3rd to 8th grade left me little raw, I guess.  At least, in high school,  they were trying to not make me feel like nothing in front of my face, for the most part. Behind my back is much better. Right? Yeah, I am not sure either. I heard about the behind-my-back talking from only one person; who knows it if is even true. So I made a plan for college. I would CHANGE me.

College started in the mid 80s for me.  I never did get to develop those social skills to make it through sorority rush, but by then,  I really didn’t care. I met lots of cool independent students and a lot of fraternity brothers. The fraternity crowd  seemed to love to give freshmen girls (at barely 18,  I was still a girl) tons of attention and  a selection of 20 flavored schnapps.  That is a whole other issue, I will address at some point soon. The social experiment  during my four-year undergrad degree could take up tons of space on this blog site!  It was a million years ago, or at least close to 30 years ago when I started that journey. I became stronger and I developed a personality; I had a bit of adjustment issues there, but I developed a bit more of my identity.  Isn’t that what the college years were for? I learned to laugh, assert myself, have fun, and smile. I learned to make some really good friends. And I was lucky to have them.

Today, I am looking back and thinking.  WTF happened? Did the childhood bullying decrease my self-esteem and increase my tolerance for emotional abuse to the extent that I tolerated it from my ex-husband? Can I stop the level of inappropriate anger aimed at me simply by walking away? Already, I have stopped tons of inappropriate behavior from so many people who want stupid sexy stuff and sexy talk on dating sites or at bars. I tell them that’s not appropriate and I kick them to the curb. That’s easy. The bullying was done in school when no one liked me and it was very unpopular to openly admit you were really friends with me or hang out with me outside of school. So its harder sometimes to recognize a similar brand of emotional abuse coming from the very people who tell me they really like me or even falling in love with me. If they loved me, they couldn’t possibly be treating me badly?

 

So I ask:

I am not so sure. I just don’t know anymore. What do you think? Is the long-term bullying effect possible? Even in very subtle undertones? You never know until you are sitting there feeling rejected like you did in third grade.

By the way:

This bullying subject is not likely to go away for me. It’s a concern I have for kids today that suffer from a different type of insidious bullying: Cyberbullying.  I will address this in the future.

My blog is about relationships. Any kind. I have been focusing a lot lately on the romantic one I was in ( but no more!), but its important that we consider all different relationships to figure out the best harmony and balance for ourselves.