It’s been quite a while since I last wrote. I’ve gone through these letters and seen pieces of my journey over the years and the lessons which I have known, intellectually, and could speak of – but still struggled to embrace on the deepest level. I can say honestly that I am doing much better in that realm. And I’m also human with how often I forget my own worth and the worth of the people sharing this planet with me. But overall, the steps have taken me far.
I no longer “lose my temper”. I get angry, certainly. But other than dropping an F Bomb on occasion or speaking with an edge in my voice, it’s pretty much resolved. No more yelling. No more throwing things. No more “seeing red”. It’s been over a year and I’ve had plenty of moments that, in my previous state, would have “justified” blowing up.
It’s not that I don’t feel angry. It’s just that I’m much quicker to see the pain beneath the anger and allow myself to not freak out about it.
I still see so many kids – and adults – like you were… angry, armored, and ready to fight. I also know that under all those battle scars and layers of protection, there lies a terrified child that wants to stop feeling constantly betrayed by people.
I am in a very different place in my life now. Yes, I’m surrounded by loved ones and loyal friends. But the biggest change was in my ability to understand that my expectations of others was the sword which wounded me. I wanted everyone to be “as they should be” and to honor their word… without recognizing the number of times when I would lie (or withhold the truth) to protect myself. I wanted people to see the good in me despite my “blast radius” when my temper would ignite. And yet, I could not see their own worth and forgive them for their humanness when they failed me in some manner.
I was on a quest to find people who could love me the way I wanted to be loved. Instead of creating the relationship which would foster this and which had room for the other person’s limitations and pain.
I’ve finally come to understand that when I am caught up in this story in my head – the story which tries to figure out why this is happening (or happened) or how to stop the pain – I am often trying to figure out what to DO. I am trying to decide on a course of action, or a justification for my anger, or grab ahold of anything which will allow me to solidify these feelings so that I can DEAL with them (otherwise known as “manipulate” or “ignore” them).
Anything – anything at all – other than simply BEING with the feeling of pain. Because the idea of being in pain was (and sometimes still is) a terrifying alternative to most humans. We are wired to change our circumstances and persevere. We cannot accept situations where there is nothing we can do but experience the pain.
I know what you are thinking right now: I will never give up / give in / surrender. Like the experiment with the dogs and the shock that I wrote about earlier. You will fight until there is nothing left of you because that’s how you are. You are a warrior.
But in order to know real love, Scrapper, you gotta be able to take off the armor and put down the weapons. You have to be able to open up to that vulnerability and risk the pain. And when you get hurt again (because I PROMISE you will – over and over again), you have to learn how to be present with that pain. And that you CAN be present with it and not be destroyed by it. You are NOT the dog that gives up and succumbs to Learned Helplessness. You can be with your pain and not be owned by it. You can acknowledge it and be kind to it and, in doing so, see what actions (if any) can be taken. But now, these actions will be born of truthful seeing… not reactive defensiveness that is designed to run away from, ignore, or change the pain into something more manageable. Something less… painful.
I know, I am sounding like a broken record now. If you read through these letters, you will see the same message in different words over and over again. This is because it has taken so many years of iteration for me to actually believe this utterly important concept. Each time I write about it, I feel like I get a little bit closer to truly integrating it into the core of my being. And when the pain rises up, I get better at just being present with the feelings until they get the attention they crave… and then they dissipate enough for me to function. Until they need attention again.
All I can tell you is this, Kiddo: When you learn how to be present with your own pain, you will begin to learn how to be present with other people’s pain. And when you walk down that path, you will know the most powerful feeling in existence: Compassion.
You will see that we are not all these separate entities that we think we are. We are all interconnected and every one of us is trying our hardest to navigate this life and find happiness. We just mess up the journey often by confusing happiness with security.
That last sentence there… read that over and over again. It’s going to be a very big light bulb for the rest of this life you are living.
I will leave these letters for now. Although I expect that I will return again to read them and gleen what I can from the lessons I have learned – and relearn them again.
I don’t have to wish you the best here because I happen to know how things turn out. But words of compassion are never wasted. So I do wish you love and resilience. I wish you peace and understanding. And I wish you the ability to let go of the story and simply feel compassion for your pain.
The armor is rusting.
The sword is dulled.
The wounds have healed.
The warrior can cry.