Tag Archives: forgiveness

From Death to Forgiveness.

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I have a few things that I can’t seem to forgive.

I live with these things bumping around in here—bruising and hurting—have lived with them a long time—some longer than others.

I, like Brene Brown—who says she worked on forgiveness for 10 years—have been letting the notion of forgiveness steep inside me for a long time, mulling it over, periodically pulling out my still-needs-to-be-forgiven incidents to see if I can fit a square peg into that round hole once more.

I was relieved when I heard her say she had been rumbling with forgiveness for ten years. I was beginning to lose hope for myself and forgiveness, beginning to think we would never hook up, never even be able to be in the same room together. To find out that someone else had also been struggling with it for so many years, put me in good, albeit stubborn, company.

I am aware of the famous quote: “Holding on to anger and resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” I know I should forgive. I know it only hurts me and not my forgivees. I want to forgive. But I just can’t seem to make/let it happen in some situations.

“In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die.” ~ Rev. Joe Reynolds

So, a few mornings ago, when I once again heard Brene tell the story of how she had worked on forgiveness for 10 years and then heard her pastor in church say the “something has to die” line, so that the pieces finally fell together for her, I found myself wondering if maybe that was the piece that was missing for me too.

I felt some hope—mixed with dread at the thought of death and grieving—that forgiveness might be possible for me. So what is it that needs to die so that I can forgive?

Three days later I was still thinking about the dying and trying on the grief that must necessarily follow death. I didn’t want to grieve. But I thought Joe and Brene might be correct. I think I might have to let something die in order to be able to forgive.

There are incidences from the past that still bring up pain and anger, even though I understand why the person did what they had to do. Is that forgiveness, the understanding of the cause? Or maybe some form of forgiveness? When I agree with them and see their point and am even kind of glad they did it that way, but still feel the pain it caused me at that time?

Maybe I don’t understand what forgiveness really is. A quick search brought up:

Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), pardoning (granted by a representative of society, such as a judge), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship).

I am finding that there is in me a small, hard-to-pin-down, part that thinks my lack of forgiveness provides me with something useful and justified. It provides me with a type of book/place mark, a reminder, of sorts.

By hanging on to the resentment, pain, anger, etc., so that it brings up the pain every time I think of it, I don’t ever allow myself to forget to protect myself against such instances. I think, after many years of working on this for myself, that that is what lack of forgiveness means for me.

And indeed, to let go of my pain and anger, almost seems like a betrayal of myself. Because if I succeed in letting those place markers die, mourn the loss and manage to be able to forgive and move on, don’t I leave myself wide open to further pain and possible hurt?

If I forgive that person, then what defense do I have to stop them from harming me again? What reminds me that I must keep my guard up against them and those like them?

And why do I think that my defensive stance would stop anyone from hurting me again? That’s not going to stop anyone from offending or harming me. It’s just stopping me from living fully.

Lack of forgiveness holds the pain that never lets me forget—and never lets me rest. And I am tired; I want to rest from this lifelong vigil.

Lack of forgiveness also allows me to feel superior to the offender. Even if I never say it out loud, I get to think things like, “Well at least I never did that!” when I somehow hurt someone else. So apparently, I have degrees/hierarchies of offense, and if I judge their offense/faux pas as worse than mine, then in some sick, convoluted way, I win.

Is it a simple tit for tat, then, for me? I can’t let go because I might need that pain for ammunition some time in the future to use against them—even if it’s only in my own mind?

Wow. Yuck.

So, more determined than ever to resolve this lifelong dilemma after those lovely discoveries, I am still exploring what might need to die. After much thought this last week and after watching Brene’s video several times, I think it is ideas I hold that have to die.

Here’s the first list:

  1. The idea that those who love me will never hurt me.
  2. The idea that I will always be able to avoid hurting others.
  3. The idea that people who hurt me are always wrong.
  4. The idea that if they do hurt me, they must not love/like me.
  5. The idea that anyone who hurts me is against me and is out to get me and must be my enemy.
  6. The idea that anyone who hurts me is doing it deliberately (it must be personal).

Why has it taken me so long to realize and face the fact that it is not possible to never hurt anyone?

Sometimes we must make difficult, hard-won, unpopular decisions based on our ethics, morals, obligations and beliefs. When we make these decisions, perhaps choosing the lesser of two (or more) evils, we can expect that not everyone is going to like our decision. And we can also expect that our decision may hurt someone. That someone may be a person we dearly love, respect and admire—someone we are close to.

I cannot ask anyone, even someone I carefully love, to go against what they know is right for them, in order to keep from hurting me. I just can’t justify that in any way—even when the pain it might cause may be bumping around in here for years afterwards.

Enter Death. Grief. Pain.

Hopefully followed by Forgiveness and Release, those two bedfellows who travel closely, gracefully and mercifully together.

The elephant journal version: I Can Never Forgive You

Communicating with Men.

DSCF4131Why would you read these posts? Why would you do these things? Isn’t this anti-feminism?

When I get these questions from clients, my first response is always: Are you happy with your life/relationship(s) as is? If so, you have nothing to worry about. If not, what have you got to lose in learning how to respect and communicate with the men in your life?

In this post, I discussed the timing of inviting your man back into love. In the post before that one, I wrote about some differences in men and women’s brains and why it’s important to offer your gift of love, why it’s important to invite your man back into his heart and belly—back into love.

In my last post, we looked at some specific techniques to get your man out of his head—out of his driven, focused, “work” mode—and into his heart and belly, where he can share in love, where he can get a break from the driven, obsessive energy of masculinity and where he can notice and appreciate your feminine energy.

If you followed some of the instructions in that last posts, now you have his attention.

Now that you’ve got his attention and focus, how do you communicate with him most effectively? We’ll cover some of those ideas in this post.

Remember, his brain works differently than ours—not “less than” and not slower and not more shallowly—just differently. Learn the differences and begin to respect those differences.

Just because his brain works differently than ours, doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with him or his brain or the way he thinks. You can choose to be angry or upset or hurt by this, or you can realize he is a man with a man’s brain and you can work with it, being respectful of how different he is

Please leave your prejudices behind and stop rolling your eyes at him (or behind his back). Be respectful and kind. See him and men and how their brains work as a lovely new land to be explored. Be willing to learn and enjoy—bring your sense of adventure.

“Be mature. Be kind. Be honorable. You will never regret taking the high road no matter what happens.” ~ Steve Horsmon

Get in the Same Zip Code

The reason he doesn’t respond to you sometimes? Because you haven’t gotten his attention, so that he can switch “boxes” in his brain. He is not ignoring you. The way his brain works makes that impossible.

Don’t just yell out the back door, “Dinner’s ready!” or “Your brother’s on the phone!” and expect him to respond. He is focused out there, doing his guy thing.

Go out to where he is and do this first. Then tell him the information. He might be irritated at the interruption, but be respectful enough to know that the way his brains works makes being in physical proximity to him necessary, and he needs that from you.

Being in the same zip code is especially important if you are conveying significant information—meaning you are talking about something that’s important to you and that you want him to remember.

Don’t walk off, or start doing something else while you’re talking to him. If it’s important, convey that by staying right there and keeping eye contact. Put your phone away, close the laptop, wait until you’re not cooking or sorting bills. Tell him, “This is really important to me.”

Make an Appointment Ahead of Time

Men need to be able to switch into the appropriate box in their brains. Be kind and give him a chance to do that. Let him know ahead of time what you want to talk about and set an appointment. Put it on his calendar.

Ask him, “It would make me so happy to talk about this with you. Is this a good time?” If he says no, don’t take it personally, simply ask, “Okay, when would be a better time? How about Wednesday after dinner?” If that works, get it on both of your literal calendars, so that he has a reminder.

Men are goal-oriented and are driven to accomplish those goals. When you get on his calendar, not only does he have a reminder, you and that discussion are now a goal to be accomplished.

Remember, don’t be offended by the way his brain works, learn about it, respect it—use this knowledge to promote peace and ease between the two of you.

He will be so much more open to giving his attention to you if you respect his needs. Tell him what you want to talk to him about—don’t keep him guessing and nervous. There’s nothing respectful about that.

Remind Him Nicely

You will have to tell him things more than once—remind him. That’s just the way his brain works. He is always so focused on right now, that he is unable to think ahead in that moment. He needs to be reminded—kindly.

Alison Armstrong suggests something like this. As you are both waking up and getting out of bed, say something like, “Wow, only four days until my birthday! I am so excited this year!”

And then maybe the day of, “Happy birthday to me, the birthday girl!” as you smile and hug him. He gets to celebrate right then and there with you, and you have reminded him kindly.

Tell him What you Need

Women need and like to talk and rant out loud. We just do. That’s how we process and figure out how we’re feeling about something. That’s how we understand and make sense of our world.

“I believe that when women stop emasculating men, men will give us everything we ever wanted…”   ~ Alison Armstrong

Don’t expect him to be your girlfriend. Don’t expect him to be able—or willing—to talk to you like a woman would/does. He shouldn’t be expected to learn and then execute that.

To insist he do that is actually a subtle form of emasculation. When you refuse to let him talk to you like a man talks, you are demanding he be a woman, and you are saying there is something wrong with him being and talking like a man.

If this idea doesn’t sit right with you, pushes buttons or otherwise pisses you off, think of the opposite.

Think of just how pissed off you’d be if a man refused to talk to you until you “cool off and become more rational”—in other words, until you can communicate more like him, more like a man.

Men can get overwhelmed by all those words if he thinks you need him to fix it. And most men are fixers—it’s a guy thing. If you need to just rant and talk out loud and just need him to listen, say so.

Try something like, “Baby, I really need to just vent/rant right now about this. Could you just give me the gift of letting me talk it out? I don’t need you to fix anything. I simply need your ear.” And when he does this for you, let him know how happy that makes you!

Learn to Listen

But learn to listen not like a woman needs to be listened to, but like a man does. You know how we talk together, ladies. We finish each other’s sentences, exclaim out loud to empathize and talk over each other in our excitement and intensity, sometimes gesturing wildly and emphatically.

Ask a question of a man and then put an invisible piece of duct tape over your mouth and just sit and wait and listen. You will get the most wonderful, deep, incredible answers. It is beautiful.

While he talks, let him know he still has your attention, but without interrupting—just nod or make small sounds. Remember, men focus on one thing at a time (I am so envious of this!), so don’t derail him by being too verbal in your responses while he’s talking.

Then after he stops talking, use Alison’s 10-second rule: after he stops talking, wait. Wait another 10 seconds before saying anything or asking the next question. Give him time to add on to his original answer if he chooses to.

In stressful/critical situations, men often like to take the information/question you’ve given them and then want to process and come back to you with their answer or their condensed version of what is needed.

They often will want to give you just the end result of their analysis rather than talk it all out and come to an out-loud, verbal decision right in that moment.

I know it can be difficult to wait for him to do this—especially in the middle of an argument or uncomfortable confrontation, but he really does need to do this.

Be patient and kind and respect that they want to bring you their best answer, their best selves, and that is why they are requesting your patience. Trust him (and maybe call a girlfriend in the interim and get her to talk you down off the ledge while you wait).

Just the Facts, Ma’am—Keep it Short and To-the-Point

When you need something other than just to rant, choose your words wisely. Focus on efficiency. Men can get overwhelmed by all the words and emotions coming out of us, and when men get overwhelmed, they tend to want to retreat to their “nothing box.”

That’s not how they communicate effectively. Their brains work quickly and comprehensively, taking in information in big, often visual, chunks. They don’t need or want all the fluff. Help them help you by sorting through all that ahead of time.

A good rule of proverbial thumb: talk sticky stuff out with your girlfriend(s) first, then take the boiled-down reduction to your man to discuss.

Tell Him the ROI (Return on Investment)

Get his attention and tell him what the ROI is for him if he listens to you.

Try something like, “When I feel listened-to and heard, I am able to relax and concentrate on you and on having a good time with you. I will be the normal, happy woman you know and love. I will have more confidence. I will be easier to live with. I won’t feel crazy and isolated. You will be my hero for listening to me rant/talk/emote and being my support. I feel like I can go out and conquer the world when I know you hear and respect me by really listening to me. I love that feeling of knowing you have my back and that we are a team this way. I’ll want to connect with you more deeply. I’ll want to have sex more often.”

Why Men Don’t Tell you the Truth

“Men are not devious like women—unless backed into a corner, men will always tell the truth and say what they mean.” ~ Alison Armstrong

If you find out your man has lied to you, the question you might think about asking yourself is not “Why is my man a liar?” but rather, “Why does he feel backed into a corner? Is it because my reaction to this in the past has been not very pleasant, so he is avoiding that again, perhaps? Do I emasculate him on a regular basis in this type of situation, so that he needs to avoid that?”

And remember, many men pretend to be vulnerable, and don’t tell us the entire truth, so that we women don’t kick the emotional shit out of them, according to research by Brene Brown.

I’m not saying a woman is responsible when a man lies to her, I’m just saying that in an otherwise, seemingly normal, relationship where lying is unusual, these might be questions to think about. And it might be time to learn how, as a woman, to respectfully sit with and honor his true, deep (scary!) vulnerability.

And gentlemen, why are you lying to her? Is it because you don’t want her emotions, her femininity? Is that too scary?

“One of the deepest feminine pleasures is when a man stands full, present, and unreactive in the midst of his woman’s emotional storms. When he stays present with her, and loves her through the layers of wildness and closure, then she feels his trustability, and she can relax.”     ~ David Deida, The Way of the Superior Man

Do You have a Great Ask?

Alison Armstrong, who has studied men for over 25 years, encourages women to use the Great Ask with men. Figure out what you need instead of just complaining first. Then ask him for that. Example: “I really love birthday parties. Could you plan a birthday party for me this year?”

Then ask him, “Now what do you need from me to make this happen?” Then put the invisible duct tape over your mouth and wait and let him tell you what he needs from you.

He may need to be reminded nicely, or he may need you to tell him more about what kind of party you want. He may need you to witness him putting it in/on his calendar, so he has a reminder.

Then do that for him, so as to help him get you what you need/want. That is the Great Ask.

“When we share our emotions with our man, it inspires him to protect and help us. Share the specific emotions and then ask for what you want/need, ‘When we don’t get enough time together, I feel sad and I miss you. I would love to have more quality time with you. And what do you need from me to help make this happen?’” ~ Alison Armstrong

Is this manipulation?

Some folks will see this information as manipulation. And indeed, if that is your motive, then it is manipulation. And some will recognize it as the informed route to the relationship that they have always wanted to have but either didn’t know how, or didn’t have the courage, to do.

Tony Robbins talks about how you don’t just want your partner to be a fan, because satisfied fans/clients leave. He says we should create raving fans of our partners, because raving fans just keep coming back for more. It’s the difference between worshiping and loving someone.

We’ll talk more about whether this is manipulation or not in the next post.

A version also published at elephant journal.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.

The Autumn of Grief.

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I couldn’t keep from crying; the sadness kept coming in ever-increasing, confusing waves.

I had biked to work in the morning as usual, only to have to leave work after a couple of hours.

The transition into Fall has been triggering sadness and regret in me, but I couldn’t get a firm grasp on why it was so intense this year. My usual bike ride to work that morning was filled with tears and feelings of dread every time I looked up at the changing colors of the leaves on all the trees.

I found myself avoiding looking up at the trees—the exact opposite of my usual joyful practice.

Autumn used to be my favorite season, but in the last few years, I’ve noticed my reaction to the season becoming progressively sadder each year.

I’ve been obsessed with death and dying for the past few weeks. I even completed my Five Wishes, Living Will and shared it with my daughter. And while I recognized I was obsessed, I couldn’t figure out why, even though I was constantly searching for the answer.

I hadn’t been sleeping well, and when I did get to sleep, I was waking up too early and couldn’t go back to sleep. I love sleep, and I usually sleep a lot, so the sleep deprivation that was piling up was no small problem.

I could barely express my need to leave work, I was so overcome with grief and sadness. When I left to go home, I took my usual bike route down by the river, thinking it would assuage the grief and comfort me into healing as it usually does.

But I discovered that was not the case that day. In fact, as I squatted by the moving water, sheltered from view from the bike trail by the high, sandy riverbank against my back, I found the grief multiplying, and I was growing more desperate. I felt panicky.

With my face against my knees, I sobbed seemingly endlessly, my body jerking and pulsing with the those deep, silent sobs that rhythmically shake the entire body, and I was grateful for the river’s rush and roar to cover the noise of my loud, ragged, intermittent, desperate inhalations between those silent bouts of shaking.

I couldn’t seem to stop crying; there seemed to be no end to the sadness. At one point, some autumn leaves fell into the water in my line of sight, landing on the water to be whirled downstream by the river. That’s when it hit me. My sister’s death—her murder—twenty-three years ago, had occurred in autumn.

But how could this be effecting me so severely now, so long after the fact?

I suddenly and spontaneously began experiencing the shock and grief I remember going through when her murder actually happened all those years ago. I felt the panic at not knowing how I could continue life without her. I felt the hopelessness at knowing I would never see her again.

I found myself angry at the leaves for changing color and falling. If the leaves would just quit fucking falling, all would be well! I was sure of it! I cursed the leaves, yelling at them as I stood there by the river to stop falling, gawd damn it!

We had plans together; she couldn’t be gone yet. We had always said we’d live near each other and raise our children together. We’d run them all outside each morning to play and then just hose them down at the end of the day before herding them back inside for the night, not really keeping track of who was where—just as long as everyone was happy and fed, healthy, sleeping and loved at the end of the day.

We said we’d grow old together, and sit out on the back porch, drink iced tea and gossip, laughing at the memories of our early, wild days—the copious amount of alcohol consumed during our college years, the basketball and football games in high school, cheerleading, almost burning the new gym down, growing up on the farm, hoeing cotton, sitting in the sweltering heat under a swamp cooler shelling peas to get them all frozen and canned for the winter with all the women in the extended family, riding horses, showing pigs and lambs at the stock shows, riding our bikes down the dirt road to visit the two Keith boys and play 2-on-2 baseball with them.

Everyone always knew that whoever had Mickey on his or her team would win; it was just a historical fact. But we also knew Murray, the younger, funnier one, on the other hand, would elicit more laughter. Which one to choose? It was the usual pleasant dilemma.

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We’d grow old together and have way too many cats and maybe we’d even die together on that back porch, sitting in the shade and just nod off back into the infinite again, keeping each other company even then.

At the river, the panic growing ever stronger, I was beginning to worry it would never stop—the same sensation I had those 23 year ago. Some sane part of me recognized I needed help, but I was unable to focus, so didn’t know from where it would come. Panicked, it was getting more and more difficult to herd my thoughts in a good, positive direction and think; I was getting desperate.

And suddenly I knew where I needed to be. Fortunately, it wasn’t far away either. I jumped on my bike—tears, snot and sobs still all flowing freely and headed for church.

My problem was this, though: I did not have a phone or a watch, so I had little idea of the time. It was a weekday morning, and I knew the office hours, but didn’t know the current time, didn’t know how long I had squatted there by the river.

So I didn’t know if the office was still open or not—didn’t know if anyone would still be there. I tried not to think about the possibility of it being empty already—that only brought more panic.

I just pedaled—and bawled.

At one point on the way there, I was surprised to hear my own voice and realized I was praying out loud like I was repeating some sort of chant or a rosary of sorts, “Pleasestillbethere. Pleasestillbethere. Pleasestillbethere,” repeatedly and over the top of sobs, loud, jagged in-sucks of labored biking breath and wiping snot on the back of my gloved hands.

I met plenty of people—in cars, on foot and on bikes. I was careful to avoid eye contact at first, but then lost all semblance of propriety in my desperation, gave up caring and continued chanting/praying and crying.

I’m certain I was scary. I’m glad no one stopped me. I was incoherent by then anyway and couldn’t have explained anything to anyone.

I finally reached the church and felt relief flood through me to see Peggy and Leane’s cars still there. I dismounted and ran in, calling for Leane. When she looked up from her desk at me, a stray, coherent thought wormed its way to the surface, and I knew my wild, hysterical state would scare her.

I didn’t want to scare her, but the only thing I could think to say as she ran to me to take me in her arms was, “Madi (my daughter) is okay,” just before she enfolded me.

Then all hell really did break loose, because I finally felt safe enough in her arms to soften enough to allow it an opening—to let it come get me and take me away.

I wailed and sobbed and cried, and the pain and intensity of it doubled me over into her body, my chin on her shoulder, as she took the weight—both emotionally and physically.

As Leane held me, I remembered how at the news of her death, we had traveled to my parent’s house and then to the funeral home. And I saw my sister in her coffin for the first time. At my reaction, Joey, her husband, grabbed me and kept me from falling. I realize now he was expecting that, had stood there for that very purpose, ready.

He held me tightly and securely as I cried and struggled against him, unable to cry politely at the sight of her marred face, by the attempts to stitch her freckled-face beauty back together, showing the scars that would never heal, never need to.

It was not easy to look at, but I remain grateful that I got to see her lifeless, scarred body. I needed to see her that way to be able to believe it, somehow.

I knew he understood my reaction to seeing her. His sad, determined firmness as he supported and held me told me this. I knew he was already in the place I was just entering.

Did he feel, like me, as if he had failed her? I was the big sister; it had always been my job to protect and shield her from harm.

I felt like I had let her down; I hadn’t been there when she needed me.

My mind returned to the church office as a part of me registered that someone else was there with Leane and I. Someone had come to help and had their hands on me, one hand on my heart in front and one in back.

Whoever it was held tightly, pressed hard. I needed that pressure. Needed the support. Needed the strength to hold me together, because I felt like I was flying apart, little pieces of me spinning off and out in all directions.

I could feel that person breathing deliberately, pumping that breath and energy into me through her hands, through her prayers. They shuffled me in this manner to Peggy’s office and sat me down, still holding me, still breathing for me.

It was only then that I realized it was Peggy breathing for me.

Finally, the panic and depression lessened some and I looked up at them and tried to explain. They sat with me, quietly and sweetly, listening to my memories and stories, asking gentle questions—just absorbing—letting me work my way back to something like normal for me.

I eventually ran out of stories, memories and energy; I felt dry and used up—empty and exhausted. It was a blessed feeling to be so empty after having been way too full of grief. I thanked them; I can’t express enough gratitude to them for their kindness and love and patience.

I rode home somehow—I don’t remember the journey—curled into bed and slept for three hours.

A friend called me later and when I told him what had happened, he suggested I had been ambushed by grief. I had never heard that expression before, but instantly when he said it, I knew it described my day—in fact, it described the slow sneaky ambush that had been approaching for several weeks and had only finally just pounced. I could see it in hindsight.

Saturday I called my daughter and told her I was basically useless, but that I wanted her to come to lunch anyway as we had planned because it had been so long since I’d seen her.

I needed groceries and wanted to wait until the crying stopped that morning before going, but it never did, so I ended up going to the grocery store and walking around shopping while bawling still.

I didn’t know what else to do. How was I supposed to do my life? How am I supposed to do my life?!

While doing research on the subject of being ambushed by grief, I must admit to not finding a lot of information. But I came across a blog that describes it thus:

“Even as I write now, I continue to learn that grief is not a short-term spiritual, emotional, mental and even physical struggle that you just “get through”. Perhaps, this will be a lifelong journey until I reach my eternal home.”

Another one:

“You will be ambushed by grief. Count on it. If you have ever experienced any sort of loss or heartache in life, grief will surprise you from time to time.

Sometimes you can come to expect it, and then you’re somewhat prepared. Sometimes not.”

How am I supposed to do my life now? How long will this continue? Will this happen every Fall? I am trying to honor this grief and my sister by allowing myself to feel the emotions that perhaps I never allowed myself to feel before.

Why else would they return so strongly, so insistently?

I don’t understand it, but feel I must respect it as best I can and just somehow continue to walk through it. I am grateful to have such a wonderful group of friends to help with this trek.

Have you experienced a grief ambush? How did you handle it? Does it continue to happen? Is there any way to prepare for it?

A version published at elephant journal.

Why Women are Attracted to Bad Boys and How to Fix That.

kissing coupleAs women, we cannot fault men who are too “passive” if we are living from our own masculine energy.

“Bad boy” is defined by the Urban Dictionary as:

“A young man who has many characteristics of a naughty boy: he’s independent and willful; he does what he wants when he wants; he doesn’t follow trends, they follow him; he often looks scruffy, but hip; he’s not looking for trouble, but there’s a sense of danger about him. For these reasons and more, he’s irresistible to women. He’s a heartbreaker with five o’clock shadow. Humphrey Bogart was the original badboy.”

James Michael Sama gets into society’s categories and writes:

“Bad boys are ‘supposed to be’ kind of jerks who never really treat you right, and nice guys are ‘supposed to be’ guys who are silly putty in the hands of the woman in their life, obeying her every beck and call.”

Traditionally, “bad boys” seem to be those men who don’t treat women well, and despite that, and some people think, because of that, they tend to attract more women than gentlemen (or “nice guys”) do.

I say there’s more going on here than meets the proverbial eye.

David Deida talks about it when he explains (paraphrasing an audio of his) how firstly, women desire masculine men—men who are predominately on the masculine end of that masculine-to-feminine spectrum.

He gives the example of a woman who is married and where the masculine-feminine polarity has gone wonky in her marriage so that she is most often carrying the masculine energy, and who gets excited and is attracted when she sees the rough, black leather-clad biker gang (the classic, probably over-used, “bad boy” stereotype) ride into town.

He continues about how she may be surprised at this attraction and instantly tries to dismiss that she is attracted to “bad boys” while being “happily” married, but then also can’t quite make herself forget about those bad boys either.

She’s attracted because she craves polarity.

It is only through this polarity that attraction—the spark—happens between people. If she is carrying masculine (or more neutral) energy most of the time, it would take a very strongly masculine man to make her feel feminine again, to create the polarity she craves. It might take a “bad boy.”

Any of my female clients who complain about only attracting passive/feminine men, has to sit through my own story, as I tell her how important it is to look at her own energy first.

As women, we cannot fault men who are too “passive” if we are living from our own masculine energy. Because of course we are only going to attract passive men in that case—or attract men who more easily go to the feminine end of that spectrum when in the presence of masculine energy.

The polarity is always going to instantly happen whether we are conscious of it or not.

There are reasons the Masculine and Feminine are constantly balancing, gifting and polarizing each other. Each needs the other. Like the poles on a magnet, like repels like and opposite poles attract.

So no matter who holds what energy, the polarity is going to happen. When a woman lives from the masculine end of the spectrum, she is going to attract people (male and female) that are on the feminine end of the spectrum.

And there is no right or wrong place to be on that spectrum, but when a woman is talking about only attracting feminine/passive (read:  who don’t initiate things, who don’t take charge) men when she also proclaims to only want masculine men, I always tell her to look at her own energy first.

Because I believe the reason women are attracted to so-called “bad boys” is because they are attracted to the very masculine (albeit, perhaps also, destructive) energy that bad boys exude.

There is also a belief that “nice guys finish last,” meaning, that women will always be attracted to the bad boys first and foremost. But I think the problem is not about manners; it’s about the polarity.

So to put to rest the idea that women like to be mistreated by so-called “bad boys,” I want to point out that women just want to be with a masculine, take-charge sort of man.

And I also want to point out that that is not going to happen if the woman is already on that masculine, take-charge end of the spectrum.

So the fact that women are attracted to bad boys doesn’t mean they want to be treated badly or are interested in being abused. It means they are in search of masculinity.

And they may be in search of and attracted to strong masculinity because they have, for many reasons, become masculine in order to deal with life. My own masculine energy was something I wore as protection—as the result of an abusive childhood. It was totally an unconscious situation—as it usually is for most folks.

The remedy?

I think the remedy is to find your own comfortable place on that masculine-feminine spectrum—and to also realize you will attract the polar opposite of that. If you are comfortable with both of those ideas, you’ve got nothing to think about.

If, on the other proverbial hand, you are not satisfied with one or both of those ideas, it is time to take a look, not at the other person, but at yourself.

Because you are responsible for and can only change yourself.

So ladies, if you want to attract strong, masculine men and you’re disappointed that is not what’s happening, you might want to have a look at your own energy. Where are you on that spectrum?

Rachel Jayne Groover, the author of Powerful and Feminine (a book I highly recommend—as well as her workshops), provides a quiz to see where you fall on that spectrum. She has found that most women with this issue in their life tend to be more neutral rather than actually masculine.

Polarity might not be the only factor in play, but it’s a good place to start, in my (experienced – yikes!) opinion.

Please understand, too, that this energy affects every part of your life and all of your relationships—not just the romantic ones.

Does this mean you may have to take a look at why you are mostly masculine most of the time? Yes.

Might it be difficult? It might.

And you can do it. You are worth the digging, the time and the work it might take.

You will, most probably, not like some of the things you find out about yourself. The good news, though? Once you’re aware of it, you can change it. Don’t let shame get its claws in you and hold you back.

One of the scariest, most embarrassing and shameful things I found out about my own former, protective, masculine self was how I used to need to emasculate men to keep from feeling so vulnerable and unsafe with them.

Once you become more aware and learn how to find and hold your own spot on that spectrum, you will begin to notice everyone’s energy and begin to recognize where they fall on the spectrum and how it has the potential to affect you.

It becomes possible, then, to make conscious decisions about where you want to be, energy wise, so that you are not instantly pulled out of your comfort zone by someone else’s energy.

You will be able to place yourself anywhere you choose on the spectrum— consciously, responsibly and respectfully—for everyone involved.

This will also keep you from gravitating toward those (very few) men out there who really are bad and who might actually not treat you like the queen/goddess you truly are.

And gentlemen, are you so totally confused and fed up right now with this whole issue? Can’t say I blame you.

Take heart, though, as James Michael Sama writes:

“Women don’t want someone who sways too far in either direction. Women want a man who is adventurous but also stable. They want a man who is going to challenge her but also support her. Who is going to empower her but also protect her. Who is going to seduce her but also respect her. A man who is going to provide for her but also not take away her independence to do so herself. A man who is going to make her feel sexy, but also make her feel safe.

“A lot of men are probably reading this thinking about how complicated it sounds – but I don’t really think it is. I think it’s relatively straightforward: Don’t be a pushover, and don’t be a jerk. Find a middle ground. Keep your pride as a man and also do what it takes to make the woman in your life happy. You are not her servant, and you are not her boss. You are her equal, her teammate, her partner in a relationship; and she needs to be able to see you that way.

“You don’t have to be a bad boy or a nice guy, you can be both. Challenge her, seduce her, empower her. But also love, honor, and value her. That is what she wants.”

A version also published at elephant journal.

For Whom I am Grateful

justme.jpgI am just me, and what makes me more is you. My cup runneth over from the blessings of all of those present in my life.

The Daughter

I am grateful for my daughter and her beauty—inside and out. Her humor, strength and grace astound me. Her intelligence humbles me; that she is rocking graduate school is like a dream-come-true for this momma. I love her compassion and sweetness, her healthy boundaries, the way she is strong and soft all at once.

I love the way, a few weeks ago, when I suddenly went into a shame spiral while we were talking and told her so, she knew, instinctively, that the thing to say was not something like, “Oh, it’s okay. Don’t go there. You shouldn’t feel that way.”

She knew just to sit with me; she knew the thing to do was just actually join me and let me vent. She didn’t try to fix it, and she didn’t try and shame me into not feeling shame. She has earned the right to hear my shameful stories.

The Man

I am grateful for my man, who constantly amazes me with his kindness, his willingness to go to vulnerable, scary places with me, his courage. I love how he lives from his faith, from his heart, from that vulnerability, how he walks his talk, how he doesn’t take my BS and let me pull him out of his clarity, his integrity.

He is, all at once, the most masculine and the most available, vulnerable man I have ever known.

I love how he accepts me and doesn’t try and change me, how he lets me cry when I need to, knowing it’s just a way I clear myself out. His dry, intelligent humor cracks me up and keeps me surprised and laughing.

I am grateful for how he remembers important things about me and my life. I love his thoughtfulness, how driven, focused and trustworthy he is. I love the way he lets me need him and how he allows himself to need me too.

I am grateful for his support, how he held me for hours and let me cry (sob) when my sweet kittle boy died. I love the way he takes care of things—including me.

I love the way he takes responsibility for his self-growth and his life, letting me do the same. I love how we gently pull each other up to the next highest level of ourselves when we’re together.

I love the respect and adoration he shows me. I love that he lets me adore him. And I am so grateful for his kisses—they are epic.

The Guyfriend

I am grateful for my friend who when I emailed him, venting, telling him I was angry at someone, replied, “Sorry about you feeling jerked around. Let me know if you want me to beat him up. In the meantime, just lean into him and take no shit. I’m happy to talk about it if you want.”

I love the way he supports and champions me in my self-growth and in my life—professionally and personally. I appreciate the way he answers my man questions so easily and quickly. I love how he lets me help him out too with his woman questions.

I love the sweet, brotherly love I feel from him, letting me know that he’s got my back. I love how he makes me laugh—at life, at him, at myself. I am grateful for how he is always giving me “gifts” from the Cosmos—in the form of synchronicities and great timing; I am grateful for his relationship advice. I call him my relationship guardian angel.

I appreciate that he is such a role model for me in my professional life. I love how he allows himself to be real and vulnerable—while still strong and masculine.

The Girlfriend

I am grateful for my girlfriend who makes me laugh so hard I about pee myself. I love the belly laughs and guffaws that happen when we are together. I am grateful that she allows me to be my crazy, wild-ass, multidimensional self when we’re together.

I am so grateful that she trades hypnotherapy sessions with me, allowing me to process my shit with her fine, strong support.

I love the way she allows me to talk to her and rant and how she gently leads me back to myself each time, leads me to aha moments that are blinding in their simplicity, as we laugh some more at their realization.

I am thankful for her grace, and at the same time, her bawdiness—allowing us to meet there in that powerful, vulnerable, soft center. I am so grateful and honored that she trusts me with her hypnotherapy sessions in our trades.

The Church Ladies

I am grateful for my “Church Ladies” group of women. We get together about once a month for movie night and to laugh and drink wine/tea. I love that they allow me to be my vulnerable, silly, sometimes sad, self at our gatherings and at church when I see them there too.

I appreciate how one of them, to my statement of “I’m scared,” just took my hand, looked into my eyes and said, “I know you can do this. I know who you are. You can do this.”

I’m grateful for the movies that uplift and inspire us. I am grateful for the soulful, insightful discussions that come from our movies and time together.

The Supplement Angel

I am grateful for my friend who is also my supplement angel, who in her wisdom and knowledge is helping me heal my gut issues. I love her gentle, kind way of being so strong.

I love that she is unafraid to be real. I so appreciate all she has been through that assists her in assisting me and others to wellness.

My Angel Sister

I am grateful for my sweet, Angel sister who trades Reiki sessions with me. I love the way she gently slaps me back to my senses with her wisdom and humor. I love that we have found so many past lives together.

I appreciate that I can trust her with anything and everything, even when I don’t want to. I love hearing her sweet, soft voice in her lovely accent calling me “my dear” with that lilting rolled “r.”

The Weenie Dogs

I am grateful for my weenie dogs. I love the way they are always happy to see me—even when I’ve been gone most of the day and into the night. They keep my feet warm in bed at night, keep me company, amuse me with their antics and comfort me in my bad times.

The Work~Play

I am grateful to my clients—both volunteers and otherwise—because I am always learning from them. I love all the ladies who take my Feminine Essence classes; we always bond and grow together. Those moments are priceless to me.

The Divine

I am grateful to the Divine One—all forms thereof—for holding me sweetly, patiently—even when I think I don’t want to be held. For the Goddess, for taking me into your soft, strong arms and rocking me gently to sleep and comfort and then back awake again, to myself and to the beauty that is now my life.

The Dance

I am grateful to everyone who has ever danced with me. I love dancing, and if you have ever joined me in that joyfulness, I thank you. Thank you for asking me to dance, and thank you for saying yes when I asked you to dance.

The Past to the Present

I am grateful for all that has gone before—people, circumstances, friends, lovers, challenges, lessons, gifts—because they have made me who I am, and who I am is good enough. For all those I didn’t mention specifically: Thank you. I am grateful for you.

The Blessing

Your presence in my life blesses me. My cup runneth over. I have an amazingly happy, wonderful life—because I have done lots of work to make it that way, but mostly because of you. Thank you.

Who and what are you grateful for?

I hope the answer is varied and abundant and fills you right up to the brim and over.

A Past Life Regression – Finding a Soul Mate.

 tombstone2

I entered the lifetime behind a donkey sliding down a narrow, steep winding pathway on the side of a hill. It was hot, dusty and dry and daytime.

Dry, white, chalky rocks and pebbles of all sizes were clicking and rolling downhill all around and under us as I attempted to push the donkey down the hill.

My dear sweet friend Sikh (pronounced “Seek”) was pulling the donkey. He had hold of the rope that was tied around the donkey’s neck.

The donkey was sitting in the path, refusing to move. I was bent over, my body shaking with laughter, my hands under the donkey’s butt, my face necessarily pressed into his shaggy fur to get a better grip underneath him, lifting, heaving, pushing and cussing—but mostly laughing.

I was laughing so hard that I wasn’t having much effect on the donkey.

Sikh was looking at me over his right shoulder with his usual, disgusted look reserved for my antics, and that was what I was laughing at. His dark eyebrows were drawn up and together in his characteristic scowl of disapproval. He was angry with me for laughing, but I couldn’t help it. It was just too funny.

It became even funnier when I suddenly remembered the donkey’s name. It was a word that literally meant “stubborn,” but was also used figuratively as a particularly nasty expletive.

Sikh’s sweaty, dirty face was so dear to me as I looked at it over the donkey’s back for what seemed like the first time in a very long time. A part of me wanted to sit down right there on the rocky path and cry with relief and gratitude at getting to see him again. I felt a sad longing for him, like we had been apart for forever.

A part of me, though, was laughing at our donkey predicament on the narrow path—and the look on his face.

Hypnotherapy can be like that. One part of the brain is processing the inner events that seem to be in the present but that are actually the past lifetime.

Another part of the brain is kind of watching from a distance, processing information from the vantage point of the modern, true present lifetime, where we are sitting in a hypnotherapist’s office doing a past life regression.

Sikh always had that amusing effect on me. He was the serious, cautious one most of the time. I was the crazy, funny one—always the person to think up some daredevil, dangerous stunt that was likely to get us killed—or at least in trouble.

I loved Sikh like a brother—or even more so. How to describe the love I felt for him? I trusted him completely. I felt so much affection for him in his seriousness. I felt somehow responsible for him—for his happiness.

We were friends—young boys, dark skin, dark eyes and dark hair. My name seemed to be something like Anand. This was all happening in some vaguely hot, dry, “foreign” place.

We were taking some sort of drink (wine?) back to his house where there was a gathering of some sort. We were late because of this stupid, stubborn donkey, and we both knew Sikh’s father would not be happy at our lateness.

The Hypnotherapy Session

I had readily agreed to be a volunteer for a friend who was training to be a hypnotherapist. She was a novice at that point, and we started the session with the intention of doing some committee work.

So she began by doing a standard progressive relaxation induction. At some point, however, my brain jumped suddenly into this lifetime with me laughing and pushing a donkey down a hill behind Sikh.

I tried to ignore the donkey and Sikh and follow her instructions, and somewhere along this mind path I had picked up my Inner Advisor (IA) too, so when my friend asked me if I was standing at the committee room door and was ready to go in, I turned to my IA and asked, “Should we tell her or should we go into the committee room?”

My IA smiled, feeling like an accomplice in some crazy conspiracy, and told me to tell her where I really was.

“Uhm…that’s not where we are…”

I felt some anxiety come off her as she calmly asked, “Okay…where are you?” I could tell she was just trying to kind of roll with it even though I could also still feel her anxiety.

I began laughing then and told her where I was and what was happening.

She began to ask more questions to ascertain the reason for the sudden jump into this lifetime. A part of me was curious about that too. Mostly though, another part of me was just so happy to be with Sikh again that I simply wanted to stay with him and experience the joy of getting to see him again.

We finally, with much sweat, cussing and laughing (on my part), got the donkey and its cargo to his house. There were happy people everywhere—inside and outside the house.

His father was nowhere to be seen, but his mother acknowledged our arrival and thanked us, sending us off to have fun there too. No one seemed to care that we were late.

Indeed, a part of my brain realized, there had been no actual time limitation. This same part of my brain went on to analyze this lifetime the way my young boy self, actually in that lifetime, never had.

Sikh was a worrier—sometimes even creating dark drama where there was none. He was analytical and logical—pessimistic most of the time, contrasting starkly to my love of fun, frolic, mayhem and laughter.

I loved him anyway—maybe even more so because of all of this; he was my best friend.

When Sikh’s mother sent us off with a smile and head tousles, I began to feel a profound sadness, because this gathering was reminding me of another gathering at this same house—a gathering in that lifetime’s future.

My friend was continuing to ask pinpointing questions, and as she did, I began to know why I had come to this lifetime. I suddenly wanted to not be there anymore.

“I got him killed,” I began to cry. “It was my fault he died.”

“No, no, no, no, no; it can’t be true—no.” I was sobbing, heart-broken, guilty, inconsolable.

It seems in that lifetime that I was always the one breaking the rules in the name of creating fun. I was the one who had come up with our usual MO, something we had been doing all of our young lives.

We had this understanding, Sikh and I, that whenever we were sent on an errand, we knew we would dash about the errand as breakneck as possible, because that would give us more time, away from our families and homes, for goofing off—for finding interesting things to amuse us. If we got the errand done quickly enough, no one would know we also had time for a detour or two.

This is how I got Sikh killed.

My mind fast-forwarded to the evening when Sikh’s father sent us on an errand that would take us past a small lake we liked to swim in. When we heard the directive, we looked at each other and knew the drill.

Laughing, we took off running, already turning a deaf ear to the, “be careful” and “go straight there and come straight back”—the usual send-offs from our mothers.

To our credit, we nearly always accomplished our errands before detouring. It was no different this time. We accomplished the delivery of Sikh’s father’s message, then we raced to the lake on our way back to Sikh’s house.

We stripped down to skin and jumped in—couldn’t have wet clothes convicting us upon our return home.

And after one of his dives, Sikh did not surface.

It was beginning to get dark; the sun had already set some time ago and the light was fading. I dove time after time—frantically, crying—snot and tears mixing with the lake water.

I screamed his name; I cursed him for not appearing; I begged him to show himself; I bargained with god; I prayed; I ranted at him, the gods, myself, almost drowning myself I was so exhausted.

I finally gave up diving and ran to his house, bursting in upon the group, naked, wild and crying.

We were searching in the black water, candles and lanterns of some sort on the banks and held high by family members and friends—many more had joined us.

Finally, one of Sikh’s older brothers brought his naked body up and out of the dark lake.

The women set to wailing at this sight and their mother fell to her knees when presented with this affront, this horror. His limp, blue body was so small and deflated in his brother’s arms.

The contrast between the two bodies, one small, blue and still, the other so large and vibrant and colorful, was obscene and shocking.

I felt a weird, sick anger at his older brother for being so alive while Sikh was so still.

I also felt the guilt settle squarely on my young shoulders in that lifetime with me standing on the bank of that black lake. I felt it sink in and grow roots. I had caused this. It was my fault.

Sikh would never have done anything like this without my suggestion, or more to the facts, my persuasion, because I had nearly always had to talk him out of his doubts, out of his worry at detouring from the normal, sane plan.

So I had jumped into this lifetime to observe and disassemble this guilt.

As that lifetime progressed within my friend’s pointed questions, I began to learn that no one blamed me for Sikh’s death. I was able to feel his parent’s emotions, and I felt only sadness there—both for his death and for their loss—but also for my loss. They knew how close we had been.

As I processed, as she asked me questions, I began to feel guilt’s grip on my throat loosen and then finally fall away. I felt my breath settle lower in my belly; I asked for Sikh’s forgiveness, sending it out into the Universe. I felt only love and warm regard in answer.

I felt me forgive myself. I sent my love for Sikh up and out, hoping it would find him somewhere, in some lifetime, some timeline.

As my friend was finally counting me back up and into the present there in the office, my Inner Advisor turned to me and said with a smile, “He is returning to you this lifetime. Get ready.”

And my heart went into a wild, wiggly dance of joy, gratitude and anticipation at this unexpected and welcomed news.

I’m Done with Getting Beat Up

cryingangel

Do not mistake my silence for acquiescence, agreement or approval.

Do not mistake my silence for lack of depth or reasoning skills.

Do not mistake my silence for lack of contemplation on the subject.

Just because I am silent, does not mean I haven’t given it serious thought.

Do not mistake my silence for lack of courage to speak up, either.

It is because I have given it so much thought, that I do not speak. Has it ever occurred to you that I thought very seriously about confronting you and for quite some time, but from having known you for several years, I realize you not only will not take it seriously, you will use it against me passive-aggressively for months, and perhaps years, to come?

You will attempt to make me feel guilty about speaking up and hurting your feelings—no matter how kindly and conscientiously I say it. I have learned this. Perhaps you have me trained?

Yet you say you welcome feedback/conflict. I do not agree. You take it badly and immaturely, using it against the other person, making them feel guilty for daring to think and say out loud, that you are not perfect.

When you ask my opinion, and I decline to contribute, have you thought that there are many reasons why a person may not want to talk? And many, or most, of them have nothing to do with you? And that no one is obligated to share their reasons for silence with you?

You relish being the misunderstood martyr—the quirky genius. You seem to think the immature, quirky behavior is cute and distinguishes you as unique.

I see it as dysfunctional. And it is anything but unique. It is quite boring, in fact. Go sell it somewhere else; I’m all full up here.

Life is short. I don’t have time to babysit your dysfunctions.

My assessment results come back, and they say I am an “avoider,” because I do not confront others around me when the median would.

“We tell our vulnerable, shameful stories to those who have earned the right to hear them.” ~Brene Brown

That is because with history as my guide, I see when it will not do any good. I can see it will cause more issues than it resolves.

I do not believe in asking someone to change for me. It has never worked, and I think it is arrogant. I also know that when I look at how difficult it is to change myself, I know it is impossible to change anyone else.

That leaves me in a place of ignoring you—or of leaving. I have to decide for myself if and which of these violates my self-integrity or not. I must weigh the good with the bad and make a decision about how that impacts me.

Is it that I don’t trust you to change? That I think I know you so well that I can predict your behavior? Maybe. Perhaps I am enabling you. Maybe I am being arrogant in assuming I know you that well, thinking I can predict your behavior.

Perhaps I see the futility.

I have seen that you have seldom (if ever) changed your behavior or your way of thinking when anyone else has brought you anything but praise. At best, you tend to ignore anything you don’t want to hear—even as you send out evaluations and ask for honest feedback.

Perhaps I am lacking in trust. Perhaps I am just old and have known a lot of people. Maybe I have trust issues.

Maybe I am simply a coward, walking around in my justifying skin.

Or maybe I just pay attention.

You are welcome to continue, what I define as, your dysfunction, in your world. I have no need to bash against the dysfunctions (that serve as armor) you have built around your heart in self-protection in any attempt to reach you in there.

I’m done with getting beat up in that process.

I seek always to come from a place of love and respect. And that necessarily must include myself first. I am the only one responsible for taking care of me. If I don’t do it, it will not be done.

Ahimsa (non-violence) begins with the self.
~ Gandhi

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-Planet, 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.