Tag Archives: whole heartedness

In 2012 I Broke up With my Boyfriend, my Church and God.

eatpraylovebook

I give the book, Eat Pray Love, so much credit for so many things I’ve undertaken in the last few years.

During 2012, it became my solace, my confidant, my bible, my comfort—the secret sanctuary where I sobbed those deep, body-hiccupping, snot-flying, eyes-screwed-shut, mouth-skinned-back-into-the-ugly-crying-skull, sobs and alternately laughed in my new-found happiness.

I carried my well-loved-abused copy everywhere I went (even when I knew I’d be unable to stop and read it), a talisman against my own fear and doubt—a validation and sacrament for the necessary hurricane of changes I was offering up to myself.

That year I broke up with my boyfriend, my church, and my God. I rewrote and redirected my life, Eat Pray Love as my companion and witness, as my poetic Sherpa.

When the book was published, I quite sullenly and self-righteously read it, only because so many were raving about it. It pissed me off—all that raving. I’m so pig-headed that I won’t admit when someone else has written a great book with great ideas—simply because they aren’t my ideas, and it’s not my book.

I rolled my eyes at everyone asking, in that excited, insistent tone of voice, if I’d read it. When I admitted to not only having not read it, but also to having no plans to ever read it, I had to listen to them launch enthusiastically into their list of reasons why I should go immediately and get a copy and begin reading it while standing in the checkout line.

I am stubborn—and stupid in my stubbornness. If you tell me I should do something, I will avoid that very thing—avoid it with instant disregard to its possible benefits to me.

I was also fermenting, in my mind’s dark basement, some vague, sanctimonious plan to contradict them after reading it by insisting on how boring it had been, how their approval of such an inferior book only proved how poorly-read they were. I wanted to prove that it wasn’t as good as they imagined.

Superior much?

I read it quickly and dispassionately and thought, “Okay, that was a good book, but I don’t know what all the fuss is about.” Then I gave it away, because I only keep books I will reread. In those books, I always write the date I bought them. This one didn’t fall into my will-read-again-in-the-future category.

Then 2012 dawned, and the shite hit the proverbial fan. The year started normally enough, what with her usual refusal to make resolutions, but early on I noticed signs of her unrest—the unwillingness to make eye contact, refusal to tell me where she’d been all night.

You know, the usual early signs of doubt and dissatisfaction.

As the there’s-a-reason-for-everything (control-freak!) person I am, I’d like to assign an agent, a specific reason, for the upheaval. I find, however, that I cannot pinpoint an exact catalyst.

I could blame the church “prom.” At the 2012 prom, while dancing with my boyfriend, my lack of attraction to him swam up from somewhere inside me. Worse, I suddenly remembered the very same thing surfacing at the 2011 prom.

I suck at tracking time—always have. So it came as an incredible, depressing shock to discover a real-time calendar marker that proved I had been dissatisfied for over a year. I was horrified at myself that I had “wasted” a year of life. How could I have allowed that to happen?! What was wrong with me that I wasn’t paying attention?

I had become a sheep, unaware—a zombie! I tentatively—and with much dread—began to look at my life, only to discover that in no area of my life was I happy. And it was a surprise to me, asleep that I had been. It would have been easy to blame the boyfriend for my general unhappiness, but I kept digging—while I whined and cried—uncertain about what to do.

Finally, I quit crying and decided it was time for action. I had reached the conclusion that I was in charge of my life, and that if I wasn’t happy, then it was my own damned fault.

I started with the boyfriend. I broke up with him in April. Afterwards, I debated my sanity. After all, he was a good man. I talked it over with girlfriends on a regular basis to stay strong. I made myself keep away from him, afraid I’d weaken and ask him to return.

Next, I broke up with my church, resigned from the council. The church was going through a lot of transition, and I realized being involved with all that transition was too stressful for me. The come-to-Hay-soos meeting that finally got my attention was so tough that I think I had a heart attack. I am a veteran panic-attacker, so I knew it was not that—something that can be confused with a heart attack by panic attack novices.

While I was (outwardly) calmly arguing my stance, listening to people (not calmly!) verbally attack me, there was a sane but desperate voice in a deep, quiet part of me—monitoring the heavy pressure in my chest and the erratic, excruciatingly painful beating of my heart—praying, begging, “Please don’t let me die here. I don’t want to die in the middle of so much anger.”

I refused to show any signs of “weakness” to the verbal assailants (I’ve mentioned the stubborn thing, right?), even as I was experiencing all the painful, classic, heart attack symptoms.

Afterwards, I resigned from the council. When you’ve decided to take charge of your life and make it happier, you know very easily and quickly that life is too short to be having heart attacks—real or otherwise—at church meetings.

I could also blame the fact that I found it necessary, at some point that year, to break up with God. Yes, you read that right. I broke up with God. I was pissed off that I didn’t have the life I thought I wanted, so I officially broke up with God. I became an atheist—sort of—for a while.

It turns out we were just taking a break, but I didn’t know that at the time.

At some point early in that year, I started having a hankering for Eat Pray Love. It baffled me. I mentioned this longing to someone, and she said—in a condescending tone, “You mean you haven’t read that yet, Grace?!”

“Bloody hell,” I thought, “here we go again!”

She was one of the original ravers—one of the women who had thoroughly pissed me off years before with her snobbish attitude about the book. I explained, inwardly defensive but trying not to go there verbally, that I had already read it, but was feeling drawn to it again for some inexplicable, baffling reason. Her attitude at this vulnerable admission revealed condescension again.

As usual, my timing was off. Had I expressed this hankering those few years ago when it was in vogue to read the damned thing, I might have been accepted into their inter sanctum. I was failing again at fitting in. I was never accepted into the in-crowd in school either, much to my teenage chagrin.

My copy of Eat Pray Love is dated May 18, 2012. It is written in, beat up, squashed, tea stained, smeared; it is well loved. Its dog ears have dog ears.

I spent the summer alone, out on the deck meditating and reading—for hours at a stretch. Each time I finished, I turned immediately to the front and started over. I lost count of the re-readings. I began to skip the first, sad, part and would go meet Liz in Italy instead.

I read—moved to tears, laughter, chicken skin, longing, happiness, sadness, shame, joy…

I would stop reading and meditate over passages that caused some sort of shift in me—and would open my eyes hours later to discover the sun had set on the front side of my house, and I was sitting in darkness, a smile on my face.

With its support, I successfully changed my attitude and my entire life. I graduated off my deck and became social again. I started dancing again. I took tango lessons. I learned to salsa. I began exploring the masculine/feminine aspects of myself and began coaxing myself toward the feminine end of that spectrum.

A man that has become—second only to my daughter—the love of my life, taught me how to blues dance. And I fell in love—with him and with blues dancing. He and I are still dancing together, dancing through the most amazing and fulfilling relationship I have ever known, as well as on the dance floor. We teach blues dance now.

I didn’t stop there. I am still rereading Eat Pray Love, letting it have its way with me, letting it heal me by what it brings up in me to be examined.

It is still my comfort and solace and go-to propellant.

It continues to usher me up and into my own heart when I am wondering what to do (go back to bed, Grace), when I’m frightened about what’s next, when I know I need to crack through my own restrictive seed pod and send out some roots, some new growth into happiness, into sacred moments when I, just like Liz, sink down into that still, calm hub of my heart, happy and content.

A version published at elephant journal. Photo courtesy of the author.

Grace is a Certified Hypnotherapist and relationship coach 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 photographer poet therapist—yep, they do exist. You can find her creations here. You can also connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Men Pretend to be Vulnerable

First published at elephant journal as What if He is More Vulnerable and Feminine than I am?

Many men pretend to be vulnerable so that we women don’t kick the emotional shit out of them, according to research by Brene Brown.

couple-stoneI brought this topic up in my last women’s group.

Men repeatedly told Brene in interviews that their women couldn’t handle their true, deep vulnerability. So they pretend to be vulnerable and only tell us what they think we can handle. My first thought was: how masculine of them—how very chivalrous and protective.

My second thought was the same one Brene had: Oh my gawd, I am the patriarchy, the oppressor.

We ask, even beg, men to tell us what’s going on inside, what they’re feeling, what emotions they are experiencing. “Please let me in,” we demand of them. We get upset when they won’t share with us.

But according to her research, when men do share the real emotions, the real pain, doubts and fears, we women very often can’t handle it—and men know this.

I related to my group the story of how it showed up in Brene’s life. She came home and saw that her husband was upset about some extended family issues. She immediately got angry and wanted to pick a fight with him. 1stphone6

Instead, and because she had done so much research about this very thing, she pretended she was in a movie taking direction, playing a character that knew how to handle that sort of situation without anger.

As a woman, I value safety over almost everything else. When a man admits to me that he is hurting, he’s sad and afraid, it scares me; I begin to lose my sense of safety in the relationship.

Because who’s in charge if he isn’t? He is the Masculine, the directed, focused, goal-oriented part of the relationship that normally keeps us on track.

I am not much of a picker of fights anymore, myself. I have learned to remember, and stick to, my third rule: when angry, don’t say anything. Tell the other person I am angry but need to cool down. Excuse myself. Wait until the anger subsides. Really think about what I want to say. Write it down—even practice saying it out loud.

coupleThen, and only bloody then, do I confront the other person. It might take minutes. Sometimes it takes days, weeks, months; it depends on the issue.

Anger is very often fueled by fear.

I do experience the anger Brene spoke of, though. It shows up for me as a kind of irritated impatience. Instead of hearing my man, I find myself listening to the questions in my own mind, “Why can’t you just man up and deal with this? Why are you telling me this?”

I try and drown out not only what he is saying, but also the fear it brings up in me.

I suggested to the group that they take a serious look at their own reaction in that type of situation. Do they close off? Do they go into anger, impatience and fear? How do they talk to their men at that point? Or, like me, do they run from it?

I know I want the men in my life to keep their hearts and ears open when I am expressing those vulnerable secrets I carry in here bumping around and bruising me from the inside—those very real-to-me, scary thoughts that I’m not enough, that there’s something so flawed in me that if anyone knew about that, they couldn’t possibly love me.

So it has become important for me to make sure I am doing the same for him—for all the men in my life—even if I must, like Brene, pretend I know what I’m doing until, hopefully, one day I really will. statue couple

That’s when one of the women asked me, “But what if all he ever expresses is vulnerability? I feel like I am always supporting him by listening to his fear and uncertainty. I don’t want to always be in that role. I feel like I always have to be the strong one in the relationship. Sometimes I really need him to Masculine-up and support me in my vulnerability.”

I admitted I didn’t know the complete answer to that question.

I probably told her to call Steve Horsmon, my go-to relationship coach to whom I send clients. That is usually my answer to questions of this ilk.

And seeing as how I want (and need!) the answer also, I contacted Steve and asked him if he would be so kind as to answer that question right here in this post.

Steve answers:

Many of the men I work with are working hard to step-up and provide a more positive, supportive and leading role in their relationships. One of their biggest complaints when they begin providing this energy is that their partner pushes back immediately.

They will say, “I want to be stronger and to support her, but she won’t let me. It’s like she wants it but doesn’t trust me when I try, so I just give up.”

Some women make the mistake of adopting the “strong one” role just because he isn’t doing it. They value their persona of the competent caretaker above all else. Their M.O. is to give, guide, organize, and lead their way to feeling in control of their life. couple holding hands

And they quietly stew in resentment for not getting more leadership and support from their partner. Receiving, accepting, allowing and following are very scary for these women.

But the only way to inspire a man to step into a stronger role is to consciously make room for him to do so.

Making room for him is very different than trying to change him. Making room for him and inspiring him to move into a stronger, more masculine role means you must outwardly and deliberately appreciate his masculinity.

The best way to do this is to get out of your own masculine energy. When you give a man sincere, feminine approval and praise for his unique strengths and ability to make you feel cared for and protected, you can inspire his confidence and willingness to do just that.

Affectionately invite him to liscam1sten to your feelings. Ask him to hold you tight. Tell him how his arms make you feel. Intentionally “soften” into his masculine energy and consistently help him feel safe in giving you this gift.

When a woman consciously allows her man to be more assertive and to be a source of comfort for her, he can more confidently ease into his masculine energy and will find out how much he likes being there for—himself and for her.

A woman’s power to inspire this in a man through her words and her touch is phenomenal.

This legendary form of feminine leadership is a critical component of a healthy relationship and a key skill in all aspects of a woman’s life.

 

Steve Horsmon is a Certified Professional Life and Relationship Coach and founder osteve horsmon photof Good Guys 2 Great Men. With a long corporate career in leadership and organizational training and development, Steve is a lifelong student and “passionate pursuer” of the communication and personal development skills required for healthy and satisfying relationships. You can connect with him via Facebook too.

Grace is a Certified Hypnotherapist and Registered Psychotherapist in Ft. Collins, CO, USA. She sees clients and facilitates Divine gracethanx2013.3Feminine 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. You can find her blog here and her creations here. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.