Have you ever felt something so strongly – convinced of it with every ounce of your being – yet you were unable to adequately articulate your truth? I find myself in this predicament over and over again in my dating life. I constantly find myself standing in a truth that I don’t yet feel comfortable enough to convey.I should amend that, I find myself standing in a truth that I don’t feel confident enough to explore with men…
Let me be more specific…
I have this theory, right? I am writing a book around the theory that how men see God can give us insight into how men will react in their romantic relationships. I have pitched this theory to agents, I have discussed it with strangers, I have sat with interesting men I didn’t know in an effort to fully explore this thought.
It would seem that I stand firmly and authentically in this idea, but here’s the confession: I don’t ever really test this theory in my dating life.
Over dinners, during happy hour, or while cuddled in bed, I am unable to push myself to “go there” with men I’m interested in. I may ask my potential suitors how they feel about God, but it’s as if my brain cannot dissect the answers with the same skill that I use when interviewing for the book. I have a BA in print journalism and years of professional experience, but it’s as if the journalistic part of me shuts off when I’m talking about God with someone I want to be with.
Why? I suspect that the dreamer and the journalist cannot live at the same time. If a man I’m dating tells me he is very confused about his ideas around God, it becomes fairly obvious that the conclusions I draw might be detrimental to our budding relationship. How can I dream about this new man coming to Christmas dinner or backpacking with me across Europe when my journalistic side is wondering about the implications of his “God confusion?” One side of me has to shut the hell up, and most often the writer gets shut down.
And so, the truth is, I ignore the topic all together. While nibbling on a breadstick or sipping a martini, I remark that I’m working on a book about men and God. I expound on the theory and almost always the man across the table from me his interested. When he says, “You should interview me?” (and he almost always does) I smile and nod, but I never actually do.
There’s a song called “Lotus Flower Bomb,” and at the beginning the rapper Wale states, “I want to enjoy the luxury of not knowing each other for real…”
I want the same thing Wale wants, but somehow, wanting that seems counter-productive…
You may have heard this logic applied to money: if you lose money it will come back – though it may come from an unexpected source. Well, recently I found that the same is true with forgiveness. We all know I’m doing a 30 day prayer for my ex boyfriend – someone with whom I had an extremely difficult relationship. The results of the prayer marathon have been mixed – some days I feel extreme sadness, some days I am happy for the experience of knowing him. Either way, the results of my forgiveness prayers are hard to measure because I don’t speak to this man anymore, and (despite all of the forgiveness work) I probably never will again.
That said, I received a really random text from a guy I briefly dated after my breakup with my ex. One might call him Rebound, if one likes that type of language. In any case, it didn’t really end on the best terms, and I think I’ve been carrying some embarrassment and resentment around the whole ordeal.
Anyway, Rebound essentially took ownership over his bad behavior and texted the words, “you deserve an apology.” I’ll spare you all the details, but he was right – I did deserve one. Though I hadn’t expected to ever receive one from him, his words were actually quite comforting. More than that, the phrasing — you deserve an apology — felt like he was speaking generally. I felt like he was speaking beyond his own behavior. I felt like he was giving me something that the universe wanted me to have.
Sometimes, we carry the burdens of others. People behave badly – treat us poorly – yet we suspect that we could’ve moved differently, loved harder, or been kinder. Sometimes we have to just accept that people can’t treat us any better than they have. Sometimes people don’t have the capacity to be anything other than who they are – they are battling their own demons, nursing their own scars, dealing with their own baggage.
I think part of my forgiveness prayer work with my ex must also include the knowledge that I couldn’t have done anything differently. Part of my letting go must revolve around knowing that I truly deserve an apology. Let me be clear, I don’t expect one, but I need to walk away with the knowing that I deserved one. I deserve a lot of things he wasn’t able to give me. And that’s okay. My favorite Oprah quote is that “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.”
I think it’s time to sit with the fact that, along with the sun, the moon and all the stars in the sky…I deserve an apology…which really means it’s time to free myself from the hope that I could’ve been anyone other than who I was. I am enough, and I deserve an apology.
Those Oprah life classes make forgiveness seem easy. Sprinkle some quotes, cue Iyanla and PRESTO! Forgiveness for all…
For me, it sucks. Holding a grudge is like emotional hoarding, and this prayer challenge makes me feel like someone is asking me to throw out my 300 eye glass cases that I know I might actually need!
Yes. I’m hoarding anger and resentment. They box me in. They keep me secure. They’re probably suffocating me, but on most days I don’t notice. Either way, I’m trying to purge the anger — one day at a time.
Here are my reflections thus far:
1. I try to avoid forgiving: My original plan was to forgive every morning, in between meditating and reading. But almost every morning, I forget. Thus, my forgiveness prayers happen on the train. And it’s usually preceded by: shit! I have to f*cking pray. Hey, whatever works, right?
2. Fake it till you make it: I thought I’d utter my forgiveness prayer and angels would come thru my air vents, Jesus would weep, canaries would sing the Star-Spangled Banner, and I’d be healed.
Yeah, not so much.
Most days I’m not sure I’m REALLY forgiving, but I do it anyway. Trust me, when weeping Jesus shows up, you all will be the first to know.
3. Anger is bullshit: I used to think anger was awesome, but as I’ve been forgiving and forgiving and forgiving again, I realize I’m not angry — I’m really really sad. I’m starting to remember the good moments, and I get even more sad. I get these waves of sadness that just push my shoulders down and make me feel heavy. I feel so sorry for what was and what will never be. Anger was awesome because it was contained. Anger was awesome because it felt mobile. Anger was awesome because I felt badass, like having a weapon in my pocket. Sadness feels passive. It also feels expansive — like it can’t be contained. That makes sadness a bit scary. It’s not the most comfortable feeling, but I know (hope??) it’s part of letting go.
4. As long as I’m resentful, I’m connected: Emotions are like invisible strings that connect people. Just like love binds; anger keeps me connected. Thus, the only way to be free is to forgive. I’ve got to cut the chord. Let’s be clear, I didn’t come to this place on purpose. In a fit of forgiveness-frustration I thought: eff this, I should be praying for myself. Then I thought, no no…he needs my prayers. And then I realized, in a way I can’t fully articulate, that they’re one in the same: a prayer for him is a prayer for my highest good. This wasn’t a happy realization — I was actually a little disappointed. I was hoping for a way out. No one wants to identify with someone they’re mad at. Especially the person I’m mad at… (yeah, I’m judging. Sue me)
Anyway…those are the realizations thus far. I will keep fighting the prayer fight! In the meantime, if anyone is doing this with me (Hi Whit! Hi Sophie!), please share your thoughts!!
So here’s a recap: I’m writing an entire book under the premise that how a man sees god will give insight into his romantic relationship, but if I had to narrow down the most important question to ask a potential suitor it would be this: Do you deserve me?
It’s such a simple question, but if I look back at my relationship graveyard, 94% of the men at some point looked me in the face and said, “I don’t deserve you.”
Man o man, I should’ve believed them. Anyway, I think ”Do you deserve me,” the deepest question anyone could ever ask a potential lover because (generally speaking) we keep what we feel we deserve and discard what we don’t.
Think about it: If you believe you deserve something, you fight for it, you cherish it, you protect it, and you nurture it.
If you don’t believe you deserve something you can’t look at it without feeling shame, you don’t truly believe it is yours, you might give it away freely, and (most commonly) YOU SABATOGE IT.
Any man who has ever looked at me and uttered the words “I don’t deserve you,” invariably proved himself right.
And so, if there was any indicator/marker of potential relationship success, I’d say that it lay in that question. “Do you deserve me?”
Try it on your partner. I’m currently running the experiment myself. It’s too soon to know the end, but either way — the answers are pretty interesting.
Are there any other dating questions we absolutely HAVE to ask?
I stalk The Daily Love, and the other day this nice juicy quote showed up in my inbox. It made me think about forgiveness:
“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master..”
- Elizabeth Gilbert, page 149 from her book “Eat, Pray, Love“.
A friend of mine recently asked me if I believe in soul mates. I told him that I do, but not necessarily in a traditional star-crossed lovers way. I believe that we travel with a soul tribe who are often our best friends and greatest teachers. That said, it’s hard to think of an enemy or an ex-lover as your soul mate. While I don’t ALWAYS live in the theory that Gilbert proposes, I intuitively accept it as truth. On my best days, I understand that when our closest friends and partners hurt us, kick up deep fears inside of us, stretch us beyond our capacity and force you to face our fears — we can do nothing but thank them. They can be a former (or current) lover, a parent, a sibling, or a friend — a true soul mate give us back to ourselves. And getting back to the center of ourselves isn’t always a pleasant task…
On my 30 prayer challenge, I can benefit by looking at difficult people this way. Can you?
What’s subway testimonial, you ask? Well, it has different forms (sometimes its a crazy woman yelling passages from the bible), but today, an entire gaggle of midwestern Christians came onto the subway and the ring leader (a heavy-set blonde woman wearing a too-tight “believe in God” t-shirt) kept asking the people in her group, “what’s your story? How’d you come to God?” She said it like she didn’t know their stories, like she was some über cool jazz musician who was bumming a cigarette outside of a bar. It was contrived and awkward and weird. It was something out of a poorly made public service commercial about the dangers of meth.
It was amusing though. I can say that…
So anyway, off the heavy-set girl went, with her practiced New York attitude, and each young person in her group shared the story of how they came to God. The other people on the subway were captivated and no one seemed to notice the smirk on my face. In the midst of my
eavesdropping disinterested smirking, I had the following thought: why are you smirking? How is what they are doing any different than what you do on the blog? What makes your story worth telling?
I hate when I catch myself being an asshole…
I consoled myself by saying that I don’t trap people on subways and recite blog entries (though I would of I had bigger lady balls), but the truth is we all have a right to tell our stories. We have a right (and maybe an obligation) to stand firmly in our truths and scream them from the mountaintop. Each on teach one, or some shit…
It’s my fear that no one wants to hear my stories or that no one will accept my truth. Smirking at these kids was a silent judgement of myself — see how annoying these kids are, Tia? That’s how people are looking at you. No one wants to hear about God…
So, as I wipe the smirk off my face and lovingly hope those
annoying awesome Christian kids enjoy the rest of their “mission trip in Brooklyn,” I remember the Marianne Williamson quote I heard the other day –every life is a platform.
Every subway is a platform as well, I guess.
How is your life a platform today?
I despise the term haters. It reminds me of 90′s rap and Hype Williams music videos. Is there a new term? What do the kids call negative people? Someone let me know…
Anyway, I’m still contemplating forgiveness in a deep way, and the other day, Marianne Williamson said (I’m paraphrasing) that if we want to truly heal from a grievance, we should pray for the person who has committed the “injustice.”
Something about that seems very hard. I can pray for people I love. I can even pray for people whom I don’t know personally, but I find it really hard to TRULY pray for people who hurt me. It feels like a victory for them.
Williamson went on to say that if we pray for someone who has wronged/hurt us for 30 days we will see a shift — either in how we interact with that person or in how we view them. I don’t have to interact with my particular person anymore, BUT..I’d love to free up some room in my heart .
So…today I’ve started praying for the happiness and health of someone who wronged me. I hope there’s a shift. I’d like to be free of any and all residual hatred.
I’ll report back what happens, but I’d love if you all did it too? Can you spare some heart space for a challenging person in your life? Try it and let me know what you find…
A funny thing happened on the way to the acupuncturist. [PS: I am loving acupuncture, but that’s another post.] I got on the 6 train heading uptown, and there was absolutely no one in my train car. At all.
Usually, when you walk into an empty train car, you are assaulted by the smell of a homeless person sleeping underneath the seat or something. By then, the train doors slide closed and you are stuck in a car with just you and a sleeping, smelly, homeless dude until the next stop. You always think to yourself, “The car was damn near empty, I should’ve known…”
Anyway, this was different. It was about 10 am and there was no stench, no mysterious puddles, nothing. The car was completely empty as I sat down and looked around. Needless to say, I was a bit uncomfortable.
Those of you NOT from New York are probably a bit confused. Why wouldn’t you be relieved to be free from all those people packed on top of you? In response I have three words: I don’t know.
I don’t know why I wasn’t relieved, but absolutely hate being on train cars alone, or being on completely deserted streets for that matter. Something about being completely alone in public makes me feel vulnerable to attack. Quiet + Public Space = zombie attack. And that’s the strange thing about NYC — the place where tourists claim you can die in the middle of the street and people won’t notice – you are hardly ever alone. There’s a strange comfort in being surrounded by others. Even if you basically live your life ignoring them.
In NYC we ride shoulder to shoulder and we don’t make eye contact. We live in boxes stacked on top of each other — at any given moment you could be standing directly above someone’s head (this is even true on the street). Energetically we are all connected – an amorphous blob. No wonder we don’t make eye contact if we don’t have to. New Yorkers all share the same pulse. We know we’re connected; no need to call attention to it with pleasantries and needless smiling.
So as I sat in this desolate train car, I started thinking about how much comfort we find in others. And, more interestingly, how much comfort we find in uncomfortable situations. I asked myself: are you more comfortable in a crowed train car than you are alone?
After thinking about this for a while I chalked it up to the idea that anything new (or unexpected) can be uncomfortable. I also decided that people, in their most basic sense, are tiny mirrors through which we see ourselves. Even the smelly homeless man provides an image of who I think I am (and conversely who I think I am not). So if we take people away, especially if their ALWAYS around, what’s left? Isn’t it harder to know who I am?
And, as always, this train of thought always rolled around to the idea of toxic relationships and limiting circumstances. How much more comfortable am I on a crowded subway car with annoying people, than I am being in communion with myself? How does that comfort keep me small and “comfortably” uncomfortable? Why is being alone so effing scary?
This was all too deep for 10 am on a Tuesday, but I pondered this for another three minutes when the doors opened at 14th street and people flooded in. I was a little relieved but I thought to myself: maybe that’s how life works; If you’re brave (or dumb) enough to step into loneliness and wait awhile… eventually company shows up….
My ex and I broke up two years ago because he didn’t come to my grandmother’s funeral. Actually, it’s not that he didn’t come, he refused to come.
“I don’t do funerals,” he said as I cried on the phone.
Fast forward: This ex called me the other day and we had an awesome conversation about art and creativity. It was great, but when he called back the next day, I found myself getting irritated — really irritated. I actually ignored his phone calls for a week or so until I finally sent him the text with the following question: why do you think I should maintain a friendship with you? What value-added do you bring into my life?
Now while I think it was a fair question (I honestly couldn’t think of an answer), I knew I was being a little aggressive. The harshness of that question had me wondering if I’d ever really forgiven him. And that question made me wonder: what the f*ck is forgiveness, anyway?
These are the moments when I wish I had Oprah on speed dial.
Some general reflections on forgiveness:
1. The heart always forgives immediately. The ego takes a bit longer: I’ve been trying to check into how certain emotions feel in my body. When I used the word forgiveness toward my ex, I felt a slow burn in my stomach. It felt like a balloon deflating slowly – a steady stream of helium escaping from a blow-hole. This was surprising because I expected to feel pain in my heart or tears in my eyes. The lack thereof made me think that my heart was perfectly intact and that perhaps my ego was a little injured. I think the heart forgives almost immediately. I actually don’t think that hearts break at all….everything else however, is susceptible to injury.
2. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we ever have to be friends again:
I have a friend that says forgiveness means you can invite a person over to your home for dinner. I think forgiveness is more like inviting the person over to your home for dinner without wanting to poison them. Just because I forgive you, doesn’t mean that I ever want to interact again. It doesn’t mean they deserve my time, energy or attention. It just means that, one way or another, I’m no longer holding perceived injustices against you. Oprah says: “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different.” Agreed, but that doesn’t mean we have to sign up for repeat performances.
3. Forgiveness of others comes after forgiveness of self:
I firmly believe there are no victims in life. Everyone, on some level, is complicit in the relationships they participate in. Yes, people lie; yes, people cheat; but ultimately you agree to stay, ignore, struggle, and/or fight. So when it comes time to forgive another person, I truly don’t believe we can do that until we’ve freed ourselves from judgment. When I looked myself in the mirror and forgave myself for dating such a douche-bag (sorry), I was able to really survey the situation. I didn’t have to pretend to be this “nice” or “enlightened” person who was so centered that she actually wanted to have a conversation with her ex. I didn’t have to downplay my hurt or pretend it didn’t matter. NOPE! Instead, I could value myself enough to know that my time and affection are better spent elsewhere. What haven’t you forgiven yourself for? How does that residual blame bleed into your relationships?
4. No one can tell you what forgiveness looks like. It’s personal:
Self-explanatory. Our loved ones love to see us moving forward, but no one can tell us when or how forgiveness will show up. Every day for me is a process of forgiveness — deep forgiveness of self and others. It’s something I think I’ll be exploring for years to come. Not because I am unusually bitter and angry, but because (God willing) life is long and hurt happens easily. When you’re ready to let it go, you will.
5. Forgiveness isn’t necessarily the absence of anger. It’s simply a greater amount of love:
I’ve been having a love affair with anger lately. Growing up, anger wasn’t really something that was expressed in our home (hi mom), so I realize that I’m not really sure what it is or why it exists. Also, when you get out into the world, no one wants you to be angry – people are always trying to calm you down. The truth is, though, anger feels a little bit empowering. It feels better than depression and despair, that’s for sure. So, I think you can still forgive someone and have a little bit of leftover anger in your freezer. I think the key is, though, that there’s more love and healing energy in your heart than anger. If the scale tips in the favor of love, I’d say you’re living in the energy of forgiveness; however, if you’re tuned into all anger all the time – it might be time to take a look at letting go.
That’s all I’ve got so far, but I’m hoping to start reading “Radical Self-Forgiveness” and “Radical Forgiveness” sometime in the near future (I’m currently reading like 40 books, this may take a while). I’ll share whatever ah-ha moments I have with you! In the meantime, share yours with me! What does forgiveness look like to you?