The letter below (which, as always, I’m using with the permission of its author) so perfectly illustrates so much: how healing is nothing if not a perpetual process; how deeply rooted within us are the demons that hound us; how our suffering compels our compassion toward others who are suffering; how instinctively we are drawn to our own destruction. How, in the end, we keep fighting against the darkness, keep insisting upon the enduring centrality of righteousness, keep believing in love.
This is how we lose.
And this, finally, is how we win.
The thing about the girl who got stomped, got chlamydia, but has a boy friend broke my heart. In so many ways that story is similar to my own when I was her age. I grew up fundy-conservative and wasn’t allowed to date; what I wanted more than anything was to have a boyfriend, because what I really wanted was someone just to hold me. I went through dozens of men in my early twenties, giving them everything they wanted, trying to get what I wanted. And all I got was broken, battered, sick, empty, and a lifetime’s worth of regret and self-loathing. Bullshitville indeed. I didn’t know how to honor myself as MY-SELF, me, God-in-me-that’s-all-I-need. I was convinced that I needed to be in a relationship in order to be valuable, cuz that’s the lie society and my friends fed me. and I was starving, so I ate it. Dammit.
I started therapy again yesterday. This is my 9th counselor in 13 years. When I got “done” explaining all my history and my shit and my circumstances and what I’m “in for” this time around, she looked at me with surprise/compassion/hope, and said, “You have sooooooo many tools and skills and resources and support networks: How can you continue to make these bad decisions?” And I kinda smiled wryly, and said, “Well, that’s what I’m hoping you’ll help me figure out. That’s been the missing piece all these years: the why.”
My boyfriend kids with me that I’m “the dumbest smart person” he’s ever met. I have these advanced degrees and a fantastic job and a sharp mind … and I make dumb choices that jeopardize everything I’ve worked my ass off for. I self-hijack. I am my own terrorist organization, working to instill fear and destroy infrastructure that I not only built and depend on, but also thoroughly know how to infiltrate. When I’m successful, i am reeeeeeeeeeeeally freakin’ successful. In so many ways. And when i crash, the collateral damage is monumental.
My goal now is to solve the riddle of the why, to figure my shit out and how to protect myself against myself. Thankfully, therapy has brought me, over the years, to a place where I no longer let people piss on my back and tell me it’s raining. Most of the time. Doing a lot better than I used to. But I need to create some internal systems that will disable my proclivity for self-sabotage.
In my ideal world, I’d sit around all day reading and writing and thinking and having important conversations with people and journaling and healing and looking at the sky and the flowers and the birds … and get paid for all that. I feel like I don’t get enough time in my own head. I stopped meditating because each time I sit down to do it, I lose a few hours and it exhausts me and it’s SO GOOD and I love it and wish i could disappear into Holy Spirit like that all the time. But i’m a minister and people need feeding. I’m also a single mom and my son needs my undivided attention. I’m a doctoral student, and have three reams of articles and chapters to read. That’s why I binge-drink every two weeks: to get free of everything. I sit at a dark table and think and it’s great, or I make ten new best friends and we shoot the shit (and liquor) for a few hours. I pay for it the next day in myriad ways, and it could cost me my job and my career and my son and my friendships … .
Bullshitville, here I come. Hence therapy. Again. Still. Probably forever.
And that’s okay.
What I have learned from my own life is how to love without limits. I know how much love I need and I want to give in that same prodigal measure. I love and love and love. I also forgive over and over, as I have been forgiven. I know how to listen and to encourage and to comfort and to be-with, because people have done those things for me. And I’m glad. The hurt in my life is not justified by the blessings that have come out of it, but my suffering is constantly redeemed in what I am able to offer to others. I keep learning.
Do you ever feel like you’re sitting in a confessional, reading all the stuff people pour out of their hearts to you?
P.S. I read your Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships, and several of my friends sent me the link as well, cuz they knew I’d appreciate it/resonate with it. It’s exceptional and every woman in the world should read it. Heck, every MAN should read it as well!!!!