Serve The Separation (between us)

Our heads and stomachs hurt from so much talking at.
Not with, barely even to.
We’re doing the talking and we’re on the other end, feeling dunned, bludgeoned.
So are “they”.

In the end, there is always a separation, whether it is your parent, friend, child, peer, boss, “opponent” or with the divine. We can’t be inside each other’s experience. We can’t fully empathize without some self-protection being present. At least most of us, most of the time. Being truly connected really is the promise, the great opportunity of being alive, whether that’s with a mountain range, a blue sky, a song or with each other.

And if someone doesn’t serve that separation, if someone doesn’t own it as their territory and address it with either their words, their listening, their surrender of protection or defense, in a way that really connects us to each other, the separation remains or grows. This may be one definition of love. We really need to receive someone fully, as they are, to cross that divide between us. It breaks the spell. We stop fearing each other, overtly and in that way that’s always there, at least for a moment and that magic is present.

The greater concern than who wins is this gulf growing between us, whether that’s your wife or husband, or your fellow citizens. If we really touch it, we sense that the distance is heartbreaking.

I hope we turn towards healing, listening and serving that separation. It’s there in all our relationships, at least some separation exists. Be the one who owns it as your loving responsibility. We may truly hear each other and care for one another if we can do it. We may come back together, closer than ever.

I remember the extraordinary family members of the people lost at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, who forgave Dylann Roof and shook us all. They know how to serve that separation. They listened as deeply as they could to who Dylann Roof might be and how he might have wound up there and wished him all of god’s grace, the most precious thing they value, which flowed through those they lost. They gave him that love for any pain he may face. They gave him their wish for his pain to subside in the light of Christ. And just to say it, no religion or faith is required, but it can certainly be employed.

Our fellow Americans face pain, we sense great separation, don’t we? If that gulf is not crossed, how do you think this will go?

I promise you that serving separation, before making our point, before needing anything to change, is a worthy practice. It plants seeds. It can bring any two (or more) people together. It can open up everything.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/06/19/i-forgive-you-relatives-of-charleston-church-victims-address-dylann-roof/

People do things differently

Holy shit, this has caused me so much agita in my life. This tendency I have to control, to think I know best so often. People doing things differently is a real test for some of us. It defines the experience of some relationships. It can be incredibly pervasive. It can help us see how anxiety and being in the unknown goes in our lives.

It seems so simple, but this phrase makes me pause. It’s truth. It’s a mirror. People do things differently.

Our relationship to people doing things differently is something we can look at as leaders, managers, partners, employees, friends, family and of course, romantic partners. If we’re the controlling type and we get intentional about letting people do things differently, we really have to deal with ourselves. It’s a highly meditative act, to notice what we go through when we just let people “do them” and expand our comfort with it. It can be powerfully transformative to isolate this distinction and practice it on purpose.

If we’re working with someone on something and letting them be, then we need to just let clear expectations and standards do their work and let go of “the how” around how they get there. If we make the how more important than it has to be, then we’re going to transfer our pain from anxiety to them and create a fairly miserable situation. We will also likely miss out on any learning that others’ creativity can provide and have little patience for people’s own process and learning curve. People are not people anymore, they’re “do it right-ers” or they become a problem for us.

Sometimes, though, it’s time to train. Training creates effective uniformity and is necessary in some environments. Training really requires agreement, otherwise it’s force and struggle. Training always has some resistance to it, but ideal training is you and the trainer partnering together around expanding your own resistance. When we take responsibility for making training look this way in our lives, we can be grateful for being trained, grateful for the expansion that comes from it. When we take responsibility for this agreement as the trainer, we get to let go of one rival and love our trainee for their courage, commitment and integrity. Resistance is likely to show up, but we can go back to that relationship with the trainee and walk through it together.

Unfortunately, our first exposure to training included no such agreement. It couldn’t. We were babies. We couldn’t choose our trainer and we didn’t know about the idea of agreeing to this training relationship. It was just thrust upon us and it likely created our relationship to training and being trained. By looking to this agreement, choosing it, empowering it and continuing to be responsible for it as we grow up, we can cut that initial conditioning of how it went out of our lives. If we don’t, we’re just likely to repeat our initial relationship to training and being trained.

Getting clear on what is happening in a relationship – allowing each person to do things how they do them or choosing to be trained in certain areas of the relationship – can make a huge difference, cut out some unnecessary pain and create an intimacy beyond control where we can truly appreciate each other more as human beings.

Whew, that feels better.

Earning Their Forgiveness

Apologies are nice and sometimes we even mean them 😉

And…

People give up a lot to forgive us. They give up resentment, fear, the right to be right and to hold that on us if they are truly forgiving. They clean themselves out for the sake of loving us or partnering with us again. They risk being hurt again.

When we are forgiven, the expectation is that we will do what it takes not to repeat what we were forgiven for doing. Owning that expectation and fulfilling upon it sometimes becomes an afterthought, because we are so glad to be forgiven, we just hope it won’t happen again.

Ideally, being forgiven and still included in people’s lives can be considered an invitation to growth and taken seriously so we can honor that gift they gave us, if we really care about continuing the relationship, earning their trust and renewed vulnerability.

If we have no intention to make the necessary changes, we didn’t get it, we just were looking to get back to the status quo. We’ll probably put people through the same thing again.

We can earn the gift of forgiveness after the fact by looking deeply at who we need to become to get there, to a place where we’re not the same person who would make that mistake again. Often it’s not just about one change in behavior. We may need to become a person who wouldn’t do that again, put ourselves in the same predicament, make the same set of choices. This can change the trajectory of our lives. It can be hard work to learn and get out of old patterns and if we rise to the occasion, down the line we may see how someone’s forgiveness was the start of something wonderful, something we can be proud of.

Who has forgiven you? What’s the opportunity still available in the forgiveness they gave you if you took it more to heart? Who can you thank for what you ultimately made out of their forgiveness, how it changed your life?

What It Takes

Working with a couple right now and it’s a challenge. Supporting two people who have experienced a ton of hurt, who are not trusting out of fear of more hurt, who have a young child together, who, underneath the fear probably love each other but the old wounds and the fear makes it hard to say out loud.

Sometimes it can be hard to outright choose to support them in a possibility that at times I see more clearly than they do. I know the triggers, I know how to support people getting past them, but maybe they would just be fine being apart. Probably stuck in the same patterns in new relationships, but at least not having to face all of this fear right now and what it puts us through, the ravages of the thoughts and reactions, how exhausting it can be, what it really takes to grow out of them.

It really all hinges on how much you want something, what you’re willing to face to get there. I’ve seen courage and love grow as patterns subside, as people realize that they can handle their own feelings, but it doesn’t make it any less of a challenge to support until we get there.

Thanks for listening.

Completing Ourselves

completemeI used to see no truth in “You complete me.”

Of course, I’ve had many moments of completion with people. Moments where I felt no fear, no pain, where my anxiety ceased, where the presence of something internal or external seemed to make everything all right and even have me experience myself as perfect how I am and how I may not be. In the movie, I read the phrase as final. As if now, in this moment, all is right now and will be right forever because of you.

Fairy tale. Just thinking about that movie and that scene used to make me abdominally uncomfortable. And maybe that’s because I got it wrong.

Perhaps in the light of recent events, of instance after instance of violence, of unimaginable pain inflicted on each other, the cost of incompletion has struck me so starkly and had me see the value of being complete, whether it is for a moment or a lifetime as a powerful message for us instead of just stopping at what I saw as the fallacy of the moment in the film.

It’s hard for me to look at school shootings, terrorism, premeditated violence, fundamentalism or beliefs of any sort that marginalize other human beings – as coming from someplace other than incompletion. A sense of disconnection, of being unreachable and temporarily or terminally less than whole. That they and/or we seem ungettable, distant, lost, worthless, sources of pain and ultimately expendable.

This isn’t meant to excuse anything anyone does from suffering in an incomplete state. I just mean to share how profound, how essential and how extraordinary completion has begun to occur to me. Perhaps it really saves lives.

We do have the power to draw completion from each other, to feel heard, known and to have the energy drawn to us that calms us, that relaxes the fear and has us return to ourselves again. It can happen through stories, symbols, songs, touch, substances, short-term sexual relationships, the sharing of ideas, a familiar meal and some things I care not to mention. Some of these solutions are extraordinarily temporary and even harmful, others can be expansive and healing. Conscious completion is an experiment in sustainability, but we crave completion so much that we take on all kinds of things to try to get there.

Whatever we utilize, it needs to be surrendered to for it to work or be so powerful that we are defenseless against it. We need to get ourselves past our own protection to allow completion. We wind up waiting to validate these entry points until they overwhelm us with their beauty, intoxicating qualities, convincing logic, whatever it is that helps us raise the bar of the tollbooth and allow it in, that force that we let come inside our fragile selves, before completion can occur.

Of course a kind, lovely, impressive, ever-expanding and new relationship can complete us for a moment or a stretch of time. It can make a fantastic case, but if we knew how valuable completion was, we’d lower the bar to entry and prioritize how essential it is to return to being ourselves again and again and again.

I also think we’d wind up being less susceptible to the empty promises of our fellow disaffected human beings and their invitations to the more unhealthy solutions they promote i.e. anything that looks like more separation and the villainization of other human beings. We might even get clear on what it takes to stay there and teach it to each other from an early age. That sounds like real empowerment to me and a source for greater peace, acceptance, love, happiness and cooperation amongst us.

What gets you complete? What might it mean to you if you prioritized getting complete and were successful at it?

Are You Really Welcome Here?

armsfoldedREALLY wanting someone to understand something, especially when you think it’s for their own benefit, has nothing to do with them getting it. In the end, how much you want them to get it is what may impact them the most and usually puts our (work, family, friend, romantic) partners in defense, reaction and protection.

The willingness of your conversation partner is the most valuable currency there is in relating to each other. Cultivate it wisely and know when it hasn’t been offered to you.

Sometimes there is no in door. Knowing how to love and take care of ourselves when the door we want to be open is closed can be the most valuable currency for our own well-being and finally takes the pressure off the other person to take care of you by letting you in.

See Your Thoughts, Don’t Just Be Your Thoughts

engineerIf you want to reduce stress in your life, if you want to make your choices from a more powerful place, if you want to become more intentional, then developing this skill can be incredibly helpful.

We can live knee-jerk lives, where our response is completely based on the stimuli around us. Thoughts are borne from our reactions to stimuli and off we go, following those thoughts. Having a fear-based existence and stretches of our lives comes directly from this pattern. Many people we tend to judge are living inside this pattern, too.

When we can get to the point of just seeing our thoughts, knowing that we are not our thoughts, knowing that they are often creations of our discomfort, our histories and traumas, our conditions, we begin to develop a powerful ability to choose how we want to be. We start to see our thoughts roll by like trains and we get to decide which ones to board.

Better yet, we get to make our own trains and ride in the engineer’s seat.

Choo-choo!