I commented on your “What to do when he/she leaves” post a couple of weeks ago, and I have another question for you. I hope it's allright– I so appreciate your wisdom, and I'm feeling a little lost with all this new information to assimilate, especially while my grief and fear are making me a little nuts.
As I mentioned in my blog comment, I've been very scared lately, because my now-ex is engaged in some things that feel traumatic to me (smoking, bottling his feelings up, depression), and as you surmised, I am indeed an over-caretaker. After reading your Lizard paper, though, I really think I got to the bottom of what has been causing my panic recently. During my childhood, I knew lots of things were going on at home but no one would tell me about them. My parents joked around a lot, but I knew they were hiding things, and then I would go into my room and press my ear to the heat vent hoping I'd hear them explain anything at all. When I was 12 and my parents divorced, they admitted to my father having a gambling problem and said that his “counseling appointments” every week had actually been Gamblers' Anonymous meetings, and that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but even then I knew I wasn't getting the whole story.
I've learned to bottle everything up (my back full of knots surely is a result) so that my Pot is quite full, and I'm a big Controller, and definitely Clinging. But what I realized the other day after reading several of your essays was that even *I* make sense! My conscious, self-aware memories kick in about the time my dad lost his job (preschool or kindergarten), and he never picked himself back up after that, and I also remember once my mother saying my father just “never pulled himself together again after he lost his job.” My ex had just become unemployed both times we've had falling outs, and I really think a huge part of the problem has been that I associate unemployment with my father, and years of chaos and being lied to.
I went over to my mother's two days after realizing this, with no intention of mentioning any of it (I'm an only child, and I've had a wall up and huge resentment toward her for a long time, so we don't really talk about anything but shallow stuff). Instead, I exploded completely and it all came out, and she finally told me everything. Apparently my father had been lying for years before he even lost his job, pretending not to get raises and then cashing his checks and gambling with the extra money, cheating on her, and even going so far as to proposition my teenage cousin when he was in his 50s. Everything I'd suspected was true, and worse. (He and I made up a few years ago, the last two months before he passed away from lung cancer, but back then I didn't ask him this stuff because he was sick and I didn't feel like I needed to know it to forgive him.)
This was all awful to hear, but also good, because I realized my ex is not the same as my father (No, but he is a reasonable facsimile.) . Yes, he smokes, and suffers from depression, and yes, he has employment woes, but that's pretty much where it ends. He is kind, and gentle, and is a good listener who doesn't lie to me and doesn't cheat. I also learned why my father was the way he was: he had a horrible father of his own, who (I just learned) once went so far as to hang a knife loosely above the doorway in their home and wait to see who it might fall on, and his mother abandoned him to live with his sister shortly after his awful father died. (This stuff is passed on and on, down through families, until stopped.)It all makes so much sense, and I feel like I could be a much better partner now. But my Lizard is definitely panicking that it may be too late. (Silly lizard only thinks of death or endings or “too lateness.”)
I called him (trying not to push, and I was very proud of my laid back voicemail) and said I'd had a long talk with my mom and found out some pretty important things, and that I'd like to share them with him sometime when and if he felt ready and comfortable. He said he needs a couple of weeks, but he's excited to hear about it, and so I'm not writing or calling at all until he lets me know he's ready. I read your pages about not pushing and I believe you and have seen the negative results of my clinginess.
My worry, and the major impetus for this long-winded email, is that I want to share all this with him, but it's such a raw, emotional thing for me that I don't know how to remain calm while I tell him everything. I know how much my calmness when communicating affects his feeling of safety. I just read all four of your papers about Feelings and Emotions and have been trying to “empty the Pot” ahead of time– I've tried sharing with friends, crying, writing, exercising, in hopes that I can release enough ahead of time to stay calm… I'm just worried that when he's in front of me I won't be able to maintain my Buddha Zone, as I like to call it. I truly believe there must be a way to talk about these things and still remain balanced, though, and that would be good to learn– any thoughts or suggestions? (My thougths at the bottom of this article.)
Even though I miss him terribly, in many ways it's easier to be ok when he's not around to bring up all the deep-down stuff, which I suppose is exactly why I need him around. 🙂 Still, I know I've been nuts lately and would like for him to understand why, and would like the opportunity to validate and pre-validate his feelings. Perhaps part of what I need to do is not put so much pressure on this exchange.
I'm sorry this is so long– I felt like I needed to give you the backstory for my question, but I also wanted to tell you all this to let you know how much I appreciate you and your wisdom. Even if he doesn't come back, your writings have helped me a great deal, and I thought maybe it wouldn't hurt to see some more progress that you've helped bring about in the world. Were it not for me semi-jokingly searching for info on finding Mr. Right and stumbling upon your wonderful site right when I was ready to really use the information, I might not have figured so much out, and I likely would have sabotaged what might yet be salvaged. It's very giving of you to share these tools with people, and you can count me among the many you've reached. I hope all your kindness and positivity come back to you in droves.
With deep gratitude,
PS You're welcome to put any or all of this on your site if you like– it was just so ridiculously long that I felt silly leaving it in the comments section.
Great letter and probably very useful to other readers. You have been doing alot of learning. Good for you. I will respond at what I guess is your level of learning. Here are a couple of thoughts.
Just cuz you want to share with him, doesn’t mean he wants to hear. So in sharing with him you probably need to watch that old “pushing” phenomenon – only as much as he wants to hear. In the long run, at whatever you both determine is the right rate, he will want to hear cuz it is Predictive Information about you. Lizards love Predictive Information. In the short run, working on speed of communication may be more important.
Sharing is important as it is part of letting stuff out of “the Pot.” When dealing with the Pot, you don’t have to have anyone present, but someone safe is useful. I used a therapist cuz I had so much to share, but a good tolerant friend can be pretty useful. This part is all about energy and discharging energy that is held back – the Pot.
And in that vein, often there is something about “shame” in these “secrets.” A supportive group of people is also quite beneficial. There is something magical about the number of eyeballs witnessing your story. I think 8 to 10 eyeballs do the job of releasing the “shame” very very well.
The hardest one(s) to bring this stuff up in front of will be anyone who is a) the source of your injuries (dad, etc.), or b) reasonable facsimiles – what we call Imago Matches, i.e. your husband. I make up that these people are 50x more difficult work on this stuff with.
Finally, I think it good to have a safety valve built into your wonderful Buddha concept. (I think Buddha Zone is a great phrase!) How long can you stay in BZ and talk about these things. You might want to use Al’s 50% Rule. If you can stay in BZ for an hour, plan to quit in 30 minutes. If you can handle your inlaws for three hours while staying in Buddha Zone, plan an escape after half that time. Etc.