Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Reflections from 3 am

It's amazing how the barriers come down when you're tired.

Last night I couldn't sleep - the reason isn't important right now - and I got into a conversation with another insomniac. I was upset about a few things and this person listened to me and calmed me down enough for me to be able to sleep - mind you, it was 3 am before my head hit the pillow and some time after that - perhaps 3:30 - before I dropped off. 

And - I was awake again this morning at 6:30, exhausted, with a brain fog that would put London, England to shame. But once I'm up, I'm up. (Maybe tonight I'll toddle off before 10:30.)

One of the things we talked about last night was how my whole attitude on life and on relationships has changed in the last 4 years. This lifestyle has become "the new normal" (in itself a miracle!) - but once in a while, it's useful (and encouraging) for me to look back and remember what I was like back then. And it's also a great check-up for me to see if there is any slippage back into old attitudes. 

And I must admit, there has been some. Without going into a lot of detail, life hasn't been a feather-bed for me in the last few months. There are a lot of stresses on me from various areas, and one of the most stressful has been the area of my relationships. I've discovered that it's easy for me to feel responsible for others' choices when I don't need to, especially when those others try to put the blame on me for not doing things that are their responsibility to do. The old me would have shouldered that and borne it, not said a word, and taken up the slack just to "keep peace" - but more and more I am realizing that boundaries are important to establish and to maintain. That forgiveness is given but trust is earned. And that - hardest of all to discover - love can be slowly poisoned and murdered if one is mistreated long enough. 

"Tightrope Walker" illustration courtesy of chanpipat at

It's also easy to be ready to do anything, say anything that will influence the other person's outcome. (This ALWAYS backfires; I don't know why I have to keep learning this!) 

"Tough love" is toughest on the one exercising it. 

Knowing where the line is between caring and meddling, between concern and enabling, between love and being a doormat ... and between letting go and writing someone off ... this is quite possibly the hardest line I've ever had to walk ... and where the line is, keeps changing on a daily basis. 

It's not easy. In fact, at times it's downright painful, and often people around me don't seem to understand why I need to keep working at it - if it's so difficult.  However, the possibility of regaining my sanity and maybe even seeing the pain lessen ... is a great motivator. 

I've been in the place of obsessional control-freaking, freaking in general, and the doormat mentality (all the while growing resentments in some kind of resentment-hothouse.) In fact, I spent most of my life there, and it nearly ruined my marriage ... and made my kids shut me out.  No way do I want to go back to any kind of behavior that remotely resembles that kind of dysfunction. 

I am learning that I do have the right to have feelings, that I do have the right to say what they are, and that I do have the right to have a life of my own, enjoy my free time and my own possessions, and choose to share them if I so wish; I am not obligated. I also have the right to expect others to respect my boundaries, but I must make them clear, or there WILL be misunderstandings, guaranteed. 

I am learning that in relationships, problems arise if all of the compromises are made by only one person, that there needs to be effort from both parties ... or nothing works right. If it's not working right, I can look at my own part in what went wrong, but I need not take responsibility for the actions of the other party. 

These are basic truths I am only beginning to learn in practice. 

And I need lots. And lots. Of practice.

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