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Love and Obligation and Duty

Why did the Hero flush the toilet? …. Because it was his duty.

Sorry.

Blame my kids and Wreck it Ralph for that one. I can’t even think the word duty without an inappropriate smile any more. I was already immature. You would think having kids would help that. Nope. Made it worse.

I have been thinking seriously though about why I do what I do. Examining some tough thoughts, like what is love, is love real? Or is it only obligation? Do I need love?

So I think we lump many things under the love umbrella that are human needs.

I think love is actually acceptance, validation and respect. I don’t think it means feeling happy, feelings come and go. Except maybe peace. Does peace go with love? (probably more to it than this – but that’s what I am talking about today)

I think we do need acceptance – in some form. We need validation. We need acknowledgement of our existence and our journey. I struggle to give and receive that in real life, but the internet has provided many platforms that makes it possible. Love is not exactly involved with this. I care about the people I interact with but I am not sure love is the right word.

How do you know you love someone? And is it a different type of love defined by the different types of obligations?

This is probably confusing and not making much sense. I will try to give some examples. I loved my parents. I thought this was a love without end, a love that should exist, that had great meaning and defined me and them, bound us in loving obligation to each other. But –  they always had the right to withdraw love and I did not. I had to earn it. I constantly tried to prove myself worthy. I did not have acceptance or validation. And I know now, that love I was seeking, never existed at all, a fabricated universe concocted to control me. Love should not include control. Parents guide, not control.

Okay…

So what about Hubby? Is this love? This dance of power, control, seduction, confusion, manipulation, irritation, fear, dissocation, isolation, secrecy, and lies? There has not been acceptance and validation here either – on either side.

Love also means respect.

And that has been missing here too.

I am not saying we don’t care about each other, help each other, try to do things right. We have a deep sense of obligation, honor, and duty. We are good people and care about and help many people. But it isn’t enough for a marriage. It isn’t right.

When I think about my kids, it is entirely different. I think that is love. I feel acceptance, validation, respect – in both directions. I hope that is what they feel. We listen and support each other. We encourage each other. We accept our faults and oddities and work our days around them – we are accommodating. I don’t feel like a frustrating freak with them. I feel like me.

I guess that is why this blog is so important to me. Yes I want to get my story  out there, talk things through, reach those who are silent. But I think this is me. This is my voice and I want it out there. I want it to exist.

Because generally I don’t ummm exist. I plod along in a vacuum, or alternate reality. Even when I am present, not dissociated, I often don’t feel fully here. A spacey surreal feeling that keeps me cut off from everyone, unable to feel love even if offered. And so I examine thoughts like this. Am I loved? Do I love? Is it a real thing anyway? Do I need it? Will I always feel like this? Do my kids feel loved? Is this my attachment disorder talking? Do others feel like this? Should I give up trying to fix this and accept this is how I am?

I am reaching acceptance of myself, that I am different. That I may slowly change, but that I don’t want to count on this change to happen. I would rather accept myself the way I am, and surround myself with people that accept me the way I am – or be alone.

The acceptance I receive online and from my children feels like enough. I don’t feel lonely, even though by most people’s standards, I suppose I am alone. I feel better alone, with emotional distance from the people in my life that do not accept me.

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I took a three hour walk (yes 3 hours!! I can walk for 3 hours now! My back and leg are getting so strong!) in the forest last week, taking photos of the fall colors. I was alone on this walk, but I felt fuller and more alive than I have in weeks. Everything in the forest was so alive, I could feel the energy, hear the wind in the tree branches, hear the birds, the squirrels scurrying. I saw fungus and vines thriving on decay. I saw dead trees full of woodpecker holes. I saw and felt the life, the survival, of the creatures there.

Why do I feel more loved, safer, content – at peace – alone in a forest? Should I keep fighting this feeling or just go with it? Accept this, do what feels right, enjoy my peace without guilt, stop trying to make friends that I don’t want, stop trying to feel love I don’t feel. Just stop. And just be.

 

 

Isolation

I have been isolating myself again, or still. It seems to be getting worse, and I don’t care any more. Being social is no longer a goal, short term or long term. I am not going officially hermit…yet. Though I would if I could. The only thing stopping me from slipping away into my own world is my kids. 

As I near the end of my therapy program, I have done some even deeper thinking than usual if that might be possible. I am thinking I am done changing to be accepted or make others happy. (Except my kids, they are always the exception and I will endure whatever is needed for them) If others don’t find me acceptable I am finding I don’t care. I prefer to be alone and at peace. I have no need or desire for friends. I am done trying to force fit myself into some model that works for others. I am content being invisible. It is only when I try to fit in that it pains me when I cannot. I have never enjoyed what others enjoy, even when I am included. Shopping is a tortuous necessity. I know nothing of fashion and dress for comfort and function and value. I hate wasting money. I feel most things most people have is a waste of space and money. I admire beautiful things but feel content to visit them in nature or museums, no need to own them. I have no need for touch or affection. I would prefer no one ever touched me ever again. I continue to adapt, to try to be okay in a world that disagrees with me on nearly everything. Everything I am ‘supposed’ to be, I am not. I am done trying. I won’t run away or become the eccentric oddball everyone talks about. No, I choose door number 3. I shut up. Keep to myself. Try not to bother people and try not to let them bother me.

Same house, worlds apart

I’m here, he’s over there, same house, same room, same sofa, worlds apart.

confused and lost in translation. what are you talking about. I don’t understand. Give me an example.

We know it hurts to use certain words like “you always….” and yet and we always use those words

Sometimes I’d rather say nothing at all in stead of risk you misunderstanding me and having to get on the wheel of pain round and round we go again

but nothing is ever on your on mind

everything is fine??

 

 


Wow – I found this draft in my folder, dated “a year ago” sometime. Sadly the words are still true.  We are not being good to each other. We barely tolerate each other. We attend couples counseling every week but nothing changes here at home. We are so on edge, so impatient, we can’t listen to each other. At some point I stopped looking in his eyes. Sadly I can’t recall when, and when I pointed it out last night, sadder yet, he hadn’t noticed. I stopped because the intensity of looking in eyes, anyone’s eyes, is too much for me to bear, and his are the worst. Too much stress, tension, pain, anger. Too much history there. I actually wondered if I became autistic with all of my eye avoidance, but it reflects my fear of intimacy, I understand it now. I glance at faces to get a quick read on expression, then away again or I get sucked into those emotions, it is too powerful without my shield. The counselors stole my shield, I used to be numb and now I feel it all. But I feel it less if I don’t look directly at others. And I feel protected, like I am hidden in plain sight, if my eyes are not making contact. I feel in control. I need that now, whatever and whenever I can get it.

I try to hope that one day Hubby and I will talk openly with one another, but I really don’t believe this is possible, not completely. I am too afraid to trigger his defense mechanisms and have him lash out at me. Or almost as awful is when I share something and get back silence or a grunt. I know he is trying. I am too. We care about each other. Why is it so hard to just talk?

Self responsible

I read an amazing book that has really helped me think differently. It is supposedly a marriage book, but it is so much more, or it was more for me.

The book is Everybody Marries the Wrong Person: From Infatuation and Disenchantment to Mature Love, by Christine Meinecke, Phd.

It introduced me to a concept of being self responsible. It is a radically new way for me to think and operate and simply makes so much sense! I kept saying “huh?”, “No way”, “what the..” and “woah” as I read it. Being self responsible means being accountable, independent, compassionate, and free. I say free because I think many of us feel stuck or trapped in a relationship’s bad patterns. This book offers a way out that does not have to end in divorce or going no contact. 

Firstly, if you were raised by wolves, I mean narcissists and psychopaths like me, you have no idea how to be self responsible because you are over responsible. I have always made everything for everyone around me my problem, my fault, my job. It has always been my job to make everyone happy. It is my fault if they aren’t.

Now I have been learning this is not true, but this book actually gives examples for why and how to adopt different behavior. The personality theory and brain science adds to the whole interesting factor and breaks up the advice bits.

I highly recommend this book. It is not what you think it is from the cover, and I love that the self responsible behavior benefits everyone, not just married couples. I think if every human was self responsible the world would be a much more pleasant place and therapists might be out of work.

Connection and Communication

“It’s easy to feel uncared for when people aren’t able to communicate and connect with you in the way you need. And it’s so hard not to internalize that silence as a reflection on your worth. But the truth is that the way other people operate is not about you. Most people are so caught up in their own responsibilities, struggles, and anxiety that the thought of asking someone else how they’re doing doesn’t even cross their mind. They aren’t inherently bad or uncaring – they’re just busy and self-focused. And that’s okay. It’s not evidence of some fundamental failing on your part. It doesn’t make you unloveable or invisible. It just means that those people aren’t very good at looking beyond their own world. But the fact that you are – that despite the darkness you feel, you have the ability to share your love and light with others – is a strength. Your work isn’t to change who you are; it’s to find people who are able to give you the connection you need. Because despite what you feel, you are not too much. You are not too sensitive or too needy. You are thoughtful and empathetic. You are compassionate and kind. And with or without anyone’s acknowledgment or affection, you are enough.

— Daniell Koepke

Reminded me of Simon Garfunkel, Sounds of Silence

You’re too young for a cane

You’re too old to be this clueless, or insensitive…

You’re too stupid to walk at all…

Those are the things I want to say, but I of course never do, when seemingly harmless strangers approach me as I’m walking along.

Today on the way to therapy a nice older lady holds the elevator door for me to get on. Then gives me that look of pity and the ‘awwww’ sound of pity as she puffs out her lip watching me slowly make my way. As soon as the doors close she says, “sweetie, did you fall and break something? You’re much too young to have a cane”

I tried to smile politely but I’m not sure it worked too well, and gave her the short answer that I have a bad disc in my back. I did not make eye contact and turned away hoping she would know I really don’t want to discuss it.

The whole time I’m thinking was I too young for a wheel chair at age 12 then?  How about the walker and braces? Is it really impossible for someone to imagine I’ve had a spinal cord injury most of my life? That being 39 does not grant me a free pass to great health?  I wonder what age is too young for migraines?  Hell, what age is too young for abuse?

Yeah, I suppose I’ve through many things that I’ve been too young for according to the wild assumptions of others.

Please don’t make assumptions and dumbazz comments to people. Please do offer to hold the door for me and wish me well. I appreciate the help when my hands are full with my binder in one hand and cane in the other. I will actually hope you have a good day too instead of muttering what a sheltered buffoon you are.

Personal strengths and tendencies

I’m looking for something that stays constant throughout different circumstances, and I thought about strengths and talents rather than broad areas of personality. We own our strengths, and can choose to use them within the behavioral framework of our personality. I stumbled upon a useful book, not new- but new to me, called Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. It points you to another assessment, this one based on 34 areas of strengths. Like the Myers Briggs, I don’t choose to use my time or money taking the actual tests, just read the material and descriptions and sort it out for myself. If you want to shell out the bucks for the test, go for it.

Now like I said, I was hoping for constants when I started my quest for strengths, but many of these 34 areas are definitely personality behaviors, and disappointingly could change situationally. But this is a good start to my end plan of where I want to bring all of these personality areas and strengths together along with the maladaptive schema and show how it all works together, in my case works against me at times.

I’ll summarize the 34 themes and ideas for action from the book here, but the book has some really great suggestions for how to use each strength, pitfalls to look out for, and how to work well with others with that strength, so I’d recommend actually reading it yourself, found mine at the library.  I truly enjoyed reading this book and playing around with these theories, as I’ve been so focused on specific student skills for the past decade, common core, math and reading skills, this is fun for me to get back into people skills like this and feel like I’m back in college.

Strengthsfinder areas:(alphabetical – I underlined the ones I feel I have personally)

  1. Achiever: Driven to achieve, an internal fire burning inside you pushing you to do more that rekindles after each achievement, always living with a whisper of discontentment as you work towards the next goal or challenge.
  2. Activator: Impatient for action, ready to start, ready to do something. feel you are judged not by words or thoughts, but only by actions.
  3. Adaptability: Live in the moment, expect detours, very flexible and spontaneous.
  4. Analytical: Prove it, show me. I will prove it to you. Armed with data and connections, root causes are revealed. Tend to be logical and rigorous. You love raw data because it has no agenda and the patterns will always emerge.
  5. Arranger: Enjoy managing complex situations with many variables and can easily see the best solution for schedules or other configurations.
  6. Belief: Your core beliefs affect your behavior and give your life meaning. This demands you find work that meshes with your values, work must matter to you.
  7. Command: You impose your view on others, are not frightened by confrontation, you may intimidate people or they may be drawn to you to lead them
  8. Communication: You explain, describe, host, speak, present, write. You hunt for the perfect phrase, you paint word pictures, you inspire others or move them to tears
  9. Competition: You must outperform your peers, and you must win
  10. Connectedness: You feel things happen for a reason, and that people are all connected in spirit, part of a larger picture, and that no one should be harmed or exploited
  11. Consistency: You feel people should be treated the same no matter what, no special privileges because of connections or backgrounds
  12. Context: You look back to understand the present, the presnt is unstable, a confusing clamor of sensory input, and only by analyzing the past can you see the blueprint and make sense of it all,
  13. Deliberative:Careful, vigilant, private, you know the world in unpredictable. you sense the risks underneath the surface and rather than deny, you identify, assess and reduce. you are fairly serious, and plan ahead. you identify dangers and place your feet deliberately instead of running through a minefield willy nilly.
  14. Developer: You see the potential in others and feel that no one is yet fully formed, everyone is a work in progress. signs of growth in others are your fuel. others seek you out for help.
  15. Discipline: your world needs to be predictable. your world is ordered and planned. big projects are broken down and you focus on timelines. you dislike surprises, you are impatient with errors.
  16. Empathy: you sense and feel the emotions of those around you as though their feelings are your own. you are able to see the world through their eyes. you may not agree with them or feel pity – that’s sympathy, not empathy, you just feel what they feel.
  17. Focus: Where am I headed? you need a destination and get quickly frustrated without one. You set goals and evaluate if your actions are leading you towards these goals or if you need to revise.
  18. Futuristic: wouldn’t it be great if…always dreaming and looking ahead to something better, a better, team, a better product, a better world
  19. Harmony: You look for areas of agreement, and feel little is to be gained from conflict and friction. while others are in heated debate, and in your opinion useless, debate, you hold your peace until there is a way to be productive
  20. Ideation: delighted and energized by ideas and looking and things in new ways, always looking for new connections, labeled as creative, people say “how did you think of that?”
  21. Includer: Expand the group so as many people fit in as possible, accept everyone and draw them in, you are warm and inviting, avoid groups that exclude others
  22. Individualization: intrigued by the unique qualities of each person, focus on the differences, impatient with ‘types’ because each person is so special
  23. Input: you collect things, objects or information, facts, books, quotes, dolls, whatever interests you. you read to acquire, not to refine and learn. trouble throwing things away.
  24. Intellection: like to think, enjoy time alone in reflection or musing or learning, introspective. you ask yourself questions and have a constant mental hum.
  25. Learner: you love to learn, the content does not matter, it is the process of learning that is exciting, the first steps of mastery. you may not need credit, degrees, the learning itself is important to you
  26. Maximizer: your goal is excellence, not average. you want to focus on what you’re already great at and make it the best, not be wellrounded
  27. Positivity: quick to smile, energy, enthusiasm, quick to praise others. you celebrate every achievement and know it is good to be alive
  28. Relator: you are pulled towards people you already know and people similar to you, comfortable with intimacy and closeness, you have strong trusting friendships
  29. Responsibility: you take psychological ownership for anything you commit to, you can’t live with yourself until things are right, impeccable ethics, everyone knows you are dependable and will get it done. willingness – often take on more than you should.
  30. Restorative: You love to solve problems. energized when encountering breakdowns, enjoy analyzing symptoms, and feel greatest when faced with complex unfamiliar problems.
  31. Self-Assurance: you have faith in your strengths. confidence in your abilities and in your judgment. no one can tell you what to think, you have final authority and no one intimidates you.
  32. Significance: you want to be significant in the eyes of others, you want to stand out and be known. you need to be admired, credible, successful. pulls you up away from mediocre.
  33. Strategic: sort through the clutter and find the best route. you see patterns where others only see complexity. you play what if scenarios, evaluate all paths and obstacles, then move forward.
  34. Woo: winning others over. you enjoy the challenge of meeting new people, connect easily to others, strike up conversation with anyone

So I underlined 17/34 of these strengths, which at first seems to be too many when the assessment will actually give you your top 5 for $9.99. I’m not sure how this works, since to me many of these are so closely related and fall into groups. I’ll group mine here to what makes sense to me and give them a title for how they work together. This is not how the book or assessment is built, this is my own interpretation building off the core strength that the book lists.

1- GET IT DONE – Achiever, Focus, Responsibility, Self-Assurance, Discipline, Belief: This is what keeps me going, my internal fire, my drive to succeed, my drive to help others, my need to not just overcome but to excel, my search for meaning and purpose in daily life, my intolerance for greed and laziness, my self-loathing at perceived failures, my impeccable ethics and unrelenting standards for myself and others.

2- FIGURE IT OUT – Analytical, Context, Deliberative, Strategic: This is how I understand, find the patterns, zoom in and zoom in see the details and the big picture too, see the dangers, all the dangers, assess them, and decide which path is safest, which path allows for growth with the most safety too, seek to control my environment by applying knowledge of the past to the possibilities of the future, always planning, always adding more data and reframing theories.

3- THINK, LEARN, CREATE – Intellection, Ideation, Learner: This is how I approach the world – with my head and thoughts first, action later. I enjoy and spend hours in my own head, thinking, turning thoughts around, playing with words and phrases, writing stories and poems, reading, surfing the web for new words, stories, new thoughts. New ideas bring me joy and excitement and energy, my own idea or others. I can make connections, see things others don’t, juxtapose and visualize, entertain myself with a blank wall in front of me, a vivid imagination always on the loose, but also ready to absorb large amounts of new info, if its new I want to learn it, new software, new music, new technology, new theory, new thought I want to learn it, love it, own it, roll in it, toss it around, connect it to other thoughts, make it into something and then show people

4- GROWTH – Futuristic, Developer: This is why I’m never content in the here and now, I am always dreaming of the bigger and better future for myself, others, my family, and the world. I’ve always been this way. I look around and I see a million ways to instantly improve the room, the lesson, presentation, the school, the chair, the building, the playground, the highway, the car, the book, and the people. I naturally see the easier way and want to show others – if you just do it like this instead…I ask why to see why we do it this way to build on this to do it better. I want to save money, do it more quickly, I hate wasting anything. I look around and I see potential, that nothing is ever done, ever. so I am always unsettled, wanting more.

5-PEACE – Empathy, Harmony: This is why I am often so quiet and listen 90% of my time with people, unless I am scheduled to speak. I feel the need in others to get attention, I feel their loneliness, feel their pain, feel their grief, feel their sorrow, frustration. I also feel their happiness, joy, sexual energy, fear, uncertainty. Sometimes I feel someone elses’s feelings so strongly I confuse it for my own at first, it can be overpowering. I need to protect myself, and I have learned to stay quiet, learned to not react quickly, learned to observe and let events play out. When others enter into futile debate, especially repeated debate each time we meet, I sit there silently and let it pass to preserve harmony. I am tuned in to the feelings of a room whether I want to or not, so I can get bombarded with sensory overload in a crowd, or if too many strong emotions, like when my children are crying and upset and I need to retreat to a safe physical or emotional distance. I then choose my words carefully, if I am still at peace that is, and can restore harmony to an upset room. When I’m already vulnerable and my child is disappointed, hurt, sick, etc, it is unbearable for me to add his pain on top of mine and I can no longer regulate and keep the peace. Hoping to learn this skill, as emotions are my biggest strength and downfall too.

I’ve been trying for a week now to complete this area with real life examples of how I use these strengths both for and against me, and I keep getting swept away in the emotion of the memories. The words don’t want to be written here, or maybe I’m not sure which examples to use out of so many in my lifetime. I keep typing and erasing, typing and erasing. I finally got something down. This was a super useful exercise for me. Next post I will connect my thoughts to the schema books I’ve been reading.