Tag Archives: fear

Why I Might be a Bully.

crow pie

I am eating humble (crow) pie today.

“Crow is presumably foul-tasting in the same way that being proven wrong might be emotionally hard to swallow. The exact origin of the idiom is unknown, but it probably began with an American story published around 1850 about a slow-witted New York farmer.”

A few months ago, I manifested someone into my life who has offered me the gift to look at my reaction to—and association with—aggression, anger and verbal violence.

Enter the adult bully.

That this person offers me anger, aggression and verbal/emotional violence tells me that it must be time for me to take a look at the same in myself.

Granted, this person was (and is) pointing the aggression at me, and they have also been inviting me into their drama to play some passive aggressive, personalized head games starring yours truly—games that I have recognized and refused to play (at least, so far, and thank God).

And I’m not happy—or proud—to admit that it has taken me several months to understand that even in this case, the anger and aggression really have nothing to do with me.

For many months I saw the behavior as personal and specific to me—and saw myself as some kind of poor victim to that aggression. It’s easy to assume the other person is just being aggressive, devious and mean, to assume it’s personal and that I am the victim.

It’s handier, easier and makes me look wonderfully non-violent, innocent and spiritual, doesn’t it?

Superior martyr much?

Two weeks ago, before I started this specific mental quest, I would have told you that I was not a violent person. I cannot say that now, after only a few days of self-examination.

I took a look/meditation and assumed my fearful reaction to anger originated from being repeatedly exposed, as a child, to a particularly nasty variety of instant, unpredictable, rage.

But unfortunately that’s not the whole story.

I also found a co-dependent part of me that not only accepted the anger and saw it as normal, but would take on the anger as deserved—encouraged it and even welcomed it—to keep the aggressive person from feeling too guilty about being a bully.

Ew. Sick. Enable much?

When I closely examined my reaction, I found that I am sometimes, even as an adult, afraid of anger—often more like terrified. I run or freeze—if not physically, then mentally. I get afraid. I disassociate. I can’t think, be myself or talk intelligently.

I even panic, without trying to show it outwardly, of course, because I have learned how inappropriate it is, as an adult, to run from a confrontation.

By association, I also freeze up around anyone who is loud, bossy and putting off confrontational, aggressive energy. Someone who I perceive might, without warning, suddenly turn into a bully (product of that “instant, unpredictable” thing).

Even if it’s not pointed at me, I get nervous and jumpy just being in the general vicinity of said person or behavior.

And please, how does one handle an adult bully?

I got online and searched for posts about it. Most of the articles dealt with adult bullying in the workplace, which wasn’t very helpful, as this person is not in my workplace.

Anger as Protection for Vulnerability

A couple of weeks ago, as I hunkered into the task of unearthing and healing this issue for myself, using the tool of writing, I speculated:

“They (the aggressive ones) might do that as defense, a habit, so therefore they must feel threatened in some way. Do they have a need to always be stronger and more threatening than everyone else, and to “prove” that right up front by always being louder and more aggressive than the people they address?

I’m pretty sure they aren’t aware that they come across that way. Or maybe they want to come across that way to scare off would-be attackers?”

All of this made me wonder if I give off aggressive vibes without being consciously aware of it—if I have something in me that feels so unsafe that it must automatically and instantly “put up its dukes.”

After finding the origins of that personal button and then speculating that aggressive behavior might be the product of what started as protection, but might now be habit, I reluctantly asked the Universe/God to (gently!) tell me how I might be showing up in violence—how I might be a bully.

Because sometimes, after the panic and to cover up any vulnerability, I meet anger with anger—warranted or not—because it seems somehow safer.

The Universe didn’t take long in coming up with examples of my own aggression.

Within just a couple of days, and with someone I dearly love, I realized (after the anger and argument) that I had been in an emotional shame spiral but was not conscious of that and had tried to make them feel guilty instead of owning and working through the shame.

To my disappointment, the anger and blaming came easily, informing me about the habitual, unconscious, knee-jerk nature of it.

The vulnerability that would have been required to admit to feeling shame was too scary. It also meant that I would have had to admit that I am flawed/unable to handle life/weak/wrong/scared/imperfect—insert your favorite inner critic’s usual harangue word here.

The next instance was another form of using anger to protect my vulnerability—only this time it was passive—and theretofore subconscious.

While being (good-naturedly) teased about something, I began teasing that person in return. But it felt horrible, like an argument, almost—like a contest of some sort, a competition.

When I paused to dig at the feelings coming up, I realized I was feeling embarrassment and shame again. I was surprised and shocked to find I had knee-jerked into “teasing” them about something I unconsciously hoped would shame them so much that they would stop teasing me.

Wow. So much for non-violence, huh?

To say I am embarrassed by my own thoughts and behavior is a drastic understatement.

So, after all the embarrassment and shame at having not allowed the embarrassment and shame in the first place—and how I handled it so dysfunctionally—I am beginning to move forward again.

My usual remedy: First, I give myself time to get over the shame. Next, I briefly explain and apologize.

If I’ve thrown this awful brand of angry, blaming defense at you at any time for any reason, I apologize. Please forgive me.

Third? That’s the hardest part: I have to continue to monitor myself and change this defensive, negative, violent, angry habit and behavior by allowing myself to be human, flawed and vulnerable—to admit this to you, myself, the World—while I am so fearful in that moment when it’s happening, instead of angering-up.

Meanwhile, Back to My Private Bully.

And how do I now handle a bully—or even just a loud, aggressive person—that person who may not even be consciously aware, like me, that they are projectile-vomiting aggression on everyone around them?

I stand, the half-eaten slice of humble crow pie in hand, ready to offer understanding, even as I am also ready to stop offering myself up to be their enabler and victim.

“Don’t shrink; don’t puff up. Just stand your holy ground.” ~ Brene Brown

Because perhaps they too have a part in them that feels so very unsafe that the first, instinctive, habitual, most important thing to always do is throw all the defenses they’ve got at it—at everything and everyone around them.

“The proper pairing of wine and food can heighten one’s appreciation, but in the case of eating crow, wine selection becomes even more critical.” ~Wine for Eating Crow

And I am ready now, please and thank you Universe, to step out of this specific karmic production.

A version published at elephant journal.

Photo courtesy of Artisan Vineyards.

Yeah, I’m Not Your Girl for That.

DeathtoStock3Resentment has nothing to do with the other person or situation.

It has everything to do with me and how I am not taking care of myself, how I am asking/allowing/training others to treat me, how I am not respecting myself.

But it usually takes me a while to remember this. So, I grouse around, resentment brewing in me, being a jerk, treating others unkindly (or secretly trying not to) in my blindly self-imposed, co-dependent fog, until I remember from whom the resentment originates.

Me.

I can be a people-pleaser if I am not careful—to my own detriment. I can get myself into situations where I am going full-tilt for too long, trying too hard to please too many different people, not remembering that I’m an introvert, not mindful that my internal self-care meter is dipping dangerously low into the red, depleted, zone.

I have been so over-giving, over-caring, over-eager, over-“perfect,” (over-over-over it!) that I have made myself physically sick with exhaustion.

I find myself very logically, very (what I can justify as) practically, thinking things like,

“Sure, I can take on one more responsibility. I can do one more thing for you. I can go out one more night in a row. I can contort myself, my brain and my life to figure out how to make this work for absolutely everyone, how I can keep everyone (but me?) happy. I can stay up late again working to get another order finished (the weekend isn’t that far off; I can sleep then).

“I can put off taking care of myself one more day, one more week. If I can just make it to X, I will be able to rest then, able to slow down, able to recharge. I can make it. I’m strong. I can tough it out.”

Because I want to be nice. I don’t want to disappoint. I don’t want to let anyone down. I want to be Super Woman. I want to get everything done—leave no loose ends. I want to be that person who is nice and generous and kind and lovely and gentle and strong and capable and independent and insert more superlatives here—all the time—without fail.

And look good while I’m doing it, too, damn it!

At first, shallow, please-love-me, let-me-impress-you, look-at-my-military-corners glance, I quite self-deceptively think I am somehow helping my relationships and myself by doing this overextending thing.

Then I find myself treating them and myself unkindly, resenting them. I’m short with them, quick to anger, quick to treat them disrespectfully and dismissively—like they have somehow caused the problem and deserve to be treated thus.

I feel put upon and overwhelmed. Can’t they get their needs met elsewhere? Why are they expecting me to be everything to them? Can’t they read my mind and know that I’m tired? Why are they asking so much of me?

Because I’ve trained them to—duh.

And of course they have no idea this is happening—how would they? I’m Super Woman. Super Woman doesn’t get resentful. She doesn’t ignore her own boundaries and self-care. Super Woman has got it goin’ on—all the time. She does it all—in a single bound, no less.

My question to myself should be, though:  Why am I allowing myself to do more than I am reasonably and self-respectfully able to do? Why am I allowing society, the harsh judge in my head that sounds a lot like my father, old habits, my fears of inadequacy, etc. to dictate my life and schedule to me?

Who’s really in charge here? And why am I blaming the person/situation I’m resenting, for fuck’s sake?! They aren’t expecting too much from me. They may not be expecting anything from me.

But I am.

I have somehow set myself up to be superior to, and co-dependent with, them in some way—their savior or babysitter or main source of support/entertainment/etc.

I begin thinking they have put me on a pedestal or something, so this must be their fault—when really it is me that has put me there on their behalf and in my arrogant (needy much?) imagination.

As the fog begins to clear, I realize that they have done none of this. They are just doing what I have trained them to do. They don’t necessarily know I’m suffering. Do I need to be needed so badly, then? Because it can be nothing but arrogance and/or fear, in my opinion, that gets me to that point.

It is so arrogant and disrespectful of me to assume that person can’t cope without me. It is arrogance that assumes they are depending on me too much and can’t take care of themselves. It is with arrogance that I pull away from them, assuming they will be too disappointed to bear it, and I will somehow seem like the bad guy who let them down.

They will be angry at me. They will cling to me. They will be disappointed in me. They will ask too much of me and be desperate. I will fall from my arrogant, exalted position with them.

And they will see that I am human and fallible—weak, even. When Brene Brown asked women what they feared most, women said they feared being judged as not good enough—not able to keep all the balls in the air at once.

The answer from men:  To be perceived as weak or lacking in any way.

Because the only thing worse than someone getting a peek behind my wizard’s curtain and seeing that I’m not able to be everything for everyone, all the time, that I don’t always have it figured out, that I’m not always so calm and “Super?”

The only thing worse than that is them seeing, at the same time, how ashamed I am at allowing myself to be so “weak.”

If they see that, they will know I really am not Super Woman. I have flaws. They might feel sorry for me. They might assume I am inept and incapable. Those flaws could be so bad that if anyone knew about them they could never really love me. They might just decide I am too flawed to be worth their time and effort.

So when I begin treating those around me resentfully, testily and without generosity and kindness, I need to remember that I am the problem here—not them. They may not have done anything to be treated so disrespectfully. And they may—but that still doesn’t justify my bad behavior toward, or even my bad thoughts of, them.

In my case, it is a simple fix. I just have to remember to do it—even when it means telling someone no. I have to take care of myself first, or I will be unable to take care of those I love. And taking care of me usually simply looks like staying home, being alone and relaxing for a day. It’s not complicated.

I know I don’t require a week’s vacation to recharge—when I remember to recharge regularly, when I don’t allow it to get to the stage where I do require a week on the beach somewhere out-of-country.

The thing that finally bursts this bubble of fear and/or arrogance around me is when I withdraw to recharge and no one notices—or if they do, they don’t care, or they don’t mind. In other words, their “dependence” on me was just one more car on the Grace Crazy Train.

And it involves trust. I need to trust that they will understand my need to recharge. I need to trust that they will not think poorly of me if I reveal my flaws and humanness to them. Trust them not to assume I am so flawed that I can’t be trusted to know when to retreat for my own good.

But you know what? Even if they do notice, even if they are upset that I am no longer available for them in such an overextended, please-need-me-that-much, notice-how-perfect-I-am way, it never serves any healthy good for anyone involved that I would put myself and them into that dysfunctional position in the first place.

Why would I want to foster and reinforce resentment in me toward those I love simply because I can’t say no? If I truly love them (and myself), I would want to keep our relationship clean and healthy—free from my Crazy Train crap.

First published at elephant journal.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.

Fuck Vulnerability.

1stphone6I didn’t want to be at the mercy of someone else so easily—nor at the mercy of my own, willingly open, heart.

“…to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen, to love with our whole hearts even though there’s no guarantee, to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of kind of terror when we’re wondering can I love you this much, can I believe in this this passionately, can I be this fierce about this, just to be able to stop and instead of catastrophizing what might happen—just say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable, means I’m alive.”
~Brene Brown

Some days I don’t know if I can “dare greatly,” “live my vulnerability” and “choose authenticity.” I think I’ve failed miserably today at this thing I am calling my new, vulnerable, wholehearted life.

In fact, I think I fail at it a lot.

And if that shame-vulnerability goddess, Brene Brown, had been within range today… well, let’s just say it would not have been pretty.

I found myself thinking about the “slug fest” she spoke of having with vulnerability in the early years of looking at shame. “Vulnerability pushed; I pushed back. I lost the fight, but I won my life back.”

I went into fear this morning over an email, got right again quickly with the person who had sent it—oversight, human error, totally understandable and not even in need of forgiveness it was so innocently written/sent, but then spent most of the day beating myself up that I had gone so easily and quickly into fear and doubt.

Where is my trust and faith? Where is the “center” I speak of so self-confidently (so arrogantly?) when all is well, when I have not just allowed a simple email to peel me back to the quick? Have I learned nothing, then?

Where was my head and heart? Why, when things come at me seemingly sideways, do I still assume the worst? It’s one more item on the list of things I like least about myself.

I sat there, carefully reading the email over and over, wondering how I could better interpret it, trying to read the very best into it, assume good intent—and finally ended up just flat out failing, just giving in to the pain it provoked.

I sat at my computer and cried.

I am embarrassed to say that at that moment I did not want to address that email at all. I did not want to do my usual and attempt to speak not from a place of fear but try and find a kinder and more careful place from which to ask for clarification.

Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Go directly to—anywhere but here—just go!

I simply wanted to flip the sign on the door to my heart to “closed out of business,” do a quick, well-executed about-face and run—run right out the back door and not stop—ever.

And I can still see the view out that back door. That door opens out onto a depressing, wide, flat, dry plain of land with a sunset oranging and pinking its way to sleep. There are single, spaced, lonely highline poles with one thick cable suspended, scalloping off into the distance across that plain, the poles growing shorter and skinnier and finally merging with the blinding orange somewhere unseen, way off near the arc of the Earth.

I wanted to be on my way to that beckoning arc, a small, dark, indecipherable speck from here in all that flat orange glow. I’m pretty sure my mad sprint to reach that illusive, ever-retreating, seductive arc could continue the rest of my (at this point, short) life if I let it.

I didn’t want to be at the mercy of someone else so easily—nor at the mercy of my own, willingly open, heart. Wanted not to be so easily bruised. Wanted to not be so vulnerable as to be available for such abrasions.

I found myself thinking things like, “Why am I doing this to myself? Why?! Isn’t it easier to just close off and not be openhearted, not put myself in this position?”

Because sure, to dare greatly and be authentic and open is to be available for great love and depth from others and the world in general, but holy fuck(!), it also means we risk the possibility of great pain too.

To live so openly, so close to the bone, so vulnerably is a mighty risky. It is not for the faint-hearted, that’s for sure—not even for the wise. Most days I’m not sure I can conjure the guts, the courage (the foolhardiness!), to get up and do it all over again.

I could try and go back to the old self I was before I started this journey a couple of years ago—closed off, unavailable, solitary, withdrawn (read: miserable). I could try living half-assed again.

As much as I hate being in this vulnerable, fear-relief hangover I’m squatting in right now writing this, I’m also pretty sure I’m ruined now for the old me, pretty sure I’d always be looking over my shoulder in that lonely marathon to that horizon, always wondering what I’d missed out on, who and what I’d given up, what I could have had.

So I think that means (thank gawd the math is simple, at least) for better or worse:  I’m in.

“I know vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness. But it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love…”
~ Brene Brown

A version published at elephant journal too.

It Takes One Person to Die.

stormyweinermay2013

Wouldn’t it be more about the dying person and not the living at that point?

“As I lay dying, the woman with the dog’s eyes would not close my eyes as I descended into Hades.”
~ Homer, The Odyssey.

My female Dachshund, Miss Weenie, turned 12 years old in January of this year, so she’s an old lady weenie dog. I can call her that only because I am an old lady now too. Dachshunds don’t live as long as some dogs, so I’ve really begun to worry about her in the last year or two. The vet is not really able to help her out much.

She is just getting old.

She’s a bit wheezy and overweight (even though she doesn’t eat much), and she doesn’t get around as easily as she used to. I built ramps for the bed and the deck a couple of years ago to help ease her life some.

She was gifted to me as a puppy on Valentine’s Day by my, then, husband. She remains one of the very best gifts I have every received. She was my first dog as an adult. We had dogs on the farm when I was a kid, but they were big dogs that stayed outside, although I loved them completely.

She has always slept on the bed with me (she with her weenie dog “brother,” Stormy). They both burrow under the covers every night—even in summer. Lately, she’s been having accidents—from both ends—sometimes on the bed.

I’ve always had two good mattress pads expressly because I had a daughter, cats and dogs and know that a middle-of-the-night bed clothing change is sometimes necessary with so many bodies. Lately, it’s been a challenge to keep them clean and ready.

I used to be a CNA working in home care. Every time she soils the bed, I think of the bed-bound folks I used to take care of. Just like them, she requires a lot of cleaning up after at her age.

I keep telling her to just do whatever she needs to do, that I love her no matter what. When she is ready to go, I don’t want her hanging around, in pain, because my fear of losing her is holding her here in physicality.

I will miss her more than I can possibly understand right now, but it would be much worse to have her not go when she needs to.

Today, as I sat on my bed with my laptop writing, I noticed she was coughing and trying to clear her throat. I looked over at her to see if she was okay (and to quickly pick her up and whisk her off the bed if need be), and I experienced such a profound feeling of helplessness looking at her old, knobby and weary body and cloudy eyes.

I asked her if she was okay, and we made eye contact. As I watched my sweet, sassy weenie dog coughing, I suddenly though of my daughter—my only child. My daughter is grown now, doing her own thing, living her life—and this is as it should be.

The thought came to me, that this is how my daughter is going to feel one day about me.

She is going to look at me, making messes on the bed every day, in my old age with my cloudy eyes as I’m circling the drain, and know there is nothing to be done for me except to release me. She will feel helpless too.

And I began to cry, because I did not want to be the cause of my girlie ever feeling helpless like that.

I remember when my mother’s mom, Big Mama (yes, I was raised in the south), was dying. I was living in Berlin, Germany at the time and was not there when she passed.

My mother later spoke of spending those last days with her in the hospital and how she would periodically ask, “Momma, do you know who I am?” Because she couldn’t tell if she was lucid or not just by looking at her.

She said Big Mama responded each time with an impatient, disgusted look and with her characteristic spunk, “Of course I know who you are, Sissy,” using my mother’s nickname from childhood—given to her by my aunt Linda who was born after my mother.

“Because I just had to know,” my mother explained with such a desperate look on her face. I remember wondering about her desperation. What would it matter, exactly, even if she didn’t remember?

Wouldn’t it be more about the dying person and not the living at that point?

“It takes two people to make you, and one people to die. That’s how the world is going to end.”
~ William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying.

Would it somehow diminish me if my mother, on her deathbed, could not remember who I am?

If she were fading in and out, test-driving the spirit world to be ready when she finally decided to call it complete, would I expect, need, her to remember me?

I’m not sure I would expect her to be concerned with me at all, as I should think she’d be awfully busy orchestrating her own exit.

Would it make me feel desperate? I’d like to believe I’d feel okay if my mother didn’t remember who I was on her deathbed. I wonder, though.

And what about my own dear Chickabee, my daughter? Will she be offended or upset or sad if and when I am casting off my humanness, my bodily control, and I’m making messes too, just like Miss Weenie, in the midst of rehearsing for my return to spirit, that I cannot remember her sweet, lovely face?

Because that thought brings tears again and a sort of deep, wild pain starts up in my chest. I cannot stand to think, for even one second, of somehow forgetting my own girl-child.

Maybe that is what’s so desperate about it. Maybe my mother was thinking not about being forgotten, but about the possibility of forgetting.

Originally published at elephant journal as As I Lay Aging

Grace is a Certified Hypnotherapist and Registered Psychotherapist in Ft. Collins, CO, USA. She gracethanx2013.3sees clients and facilitates Divine Feminine Hypnotherapy workshops for women. She’s a flaming, Earth-loving, tree-hugging, save-the-bees, believes-in-faeries, bike-riding, card-carrying, spiritual but not religious, hippie cowgirl liberal poet—yep, they do exist. She writes for The Scarlet Orchid and elephant journal. You can find her blog here and her creations here. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

unkempt

I don’t want to be kind
and nice
today
my usual
thoughtful
so careful
not to offend
self

fearful even

I want to BE
like my hair
LOOKS
todaygrace hair

unruly
untamed
lopsided
asymmetrical
weird
careless
unkempt
Real

in company of fear

my body is afraid
leaking fear
grief
anger
all over my life
it remembers

I wake
dreading consciousness
memories
my face briny again
still always surprises me
my body crying

without my permission

waking
I feel sadness
slipping away to hide
he takes fear with him
and together they slide furtively
around progressively deeper
narrower
corners
seeking shelter
until the darkness returns
digging in
until they can leak out again

where is that well
the source
why can’t I ever find it
fill it up
empty it
I try and follow them
around those blind corners
alleys close with thick darkness
that feels like walking through
coagulated blood

the body limps
around always questioning
has PTSD
jumps at the slightest cosmic burp
wondering
fearful of knowledge
wanting to remain blissfully ignorant

body
I am here now
you are safe

and every morning
yoga stretch-stitches
me sweetly back
to myself
closes gapfull
watery swellings

to shade my eyes with love

she reached up to shade my eyes with love
to shield me from myself
to distract me
to remind me
to take me as quickly as possible back to kindness
to turn me away from that twisted dark road
I was staring down
preparing myself once again
for that mean journey

and her arms from there dropped and enclosed me so easily
so naturally and softly
that I never even questioned them being there
never wondered at being held so sweetly
so gently
feeling the violent soft strength of her
by such
a wild
beautiful
creature as she

she held me back to me
so firmly
and resolute into the curve of her neck
that I turned my head
wanted to rest there in her richness
and depth
the scent of her summer skimmed skin filling me up
and drawing me down into her undertow

but my cheekbone began to rattle against her collar bone
and my mouth skinned back tight into the skull’s
timeless gaping grin of grief
my teeth jumping against her throat
sloshing liquids
my body doing that silent diaphragm stutter dance

and then I was afraid to pull away from her
afraid she would see the hideous
raw skeleton I had become against the calmness of her compassion
how she had split me open so easily
so quickly so simply
had distilled me down to elements

salt
oxygen
snot
water
bone
time

then without pulling away from her
but finally still again
and with no small amount of fear
I set my worn carpetbag upon her heart’s table for unpacking

it sat there but she did not look at it
she knew its contents
did not need to actually see

I pulled out fear first
a small squarish package
wrapped in thick new crispy brown paper and knotted with twine

as I placed it upon her table
she picked it up and began to work silently at the tight knot
never looking at me
giving me that privacy
the next gift

she knew I would not join in helping her
with a knot I did not want undone
so instead I reached into the bag and pulled out shame next

shame was a stack of slices
bound with frayed-ends twine
another knot
unlike fear in its stiff newness
it had no wrapping and was old and worn
the little square slices curled at the corners
like a bound stack of old flat used dry tea bags

each thing in the bag was set upon her heart’s table
some things expanded upon their exit from the bag
growing bigger once brought out into the light
she reached for each
opened each
careful not to tear
not to haste
with practical deft hands and kind breath
incanting over each
eyes moist with understanding
she gently set each one free
of its bindings

standing rigid scared timid
eyes wrinkled shut
afraid to look at the mess I’d made on her generous table
afraid to breathe
afraid to be seen by her

she placed her cool hand on my jaw
waited
silent
and the calm melted my sight back
even reached my heart
I returned to find her smiling eyes
looking into mine
which she then turned toward the once laden table

and to my great and grateful! surprise
found that each mean thing
had just flown away
launched
into love
under her care-full breath