Sunday, February 17, 2013

Going for Broke

Chelle and I spent Friday evening in Half Moon Bay celebrating Valentine's Day, and yesterday we went for an hour-long walk along Miramar Beach, beachcombing and laughing at the sand pipers running away from the waves. And, of course, just talking and reconnecting with each other. It's funny how, after so many years together, you learn so well how your partner thinks and feels about things that you don't even have to talk often anymore--and we're both introverts and can spend hours with each other, not even saying a word, contentedly so. Lately, sometimes she'll open her mouth to say something, and we'll both finish the sentence together. It's a marvel--she is such a gift to me.

When we returned from our walk, I found I'd gotten texts from a handful of friends, and--no lie--two of them were both in the midst of "fights" with their partners. Well, not exactly fights. They were expressing to me anger and frustration about their partners that they were keeping to themselves, and they were venting to me instead. Now, I understand the need to vent. It's healthy. And I understand that sometimes just popping off at the mouth is not wise, especially if the other person is in a completely emotional place and unable to listen at the moment. But then one friend, someone I care about very much so I'd answered her with a great deal of concern because she rarely texts me anymore unless she has something to bitch about regarding her girlfriend, started in with the second guessing, guessing at her girlfriend's motivations and agenda and all this other stuff, which immediately ran a huge red flag up my mental flagpole. I texted her back, "If you suspect her of all these manipulations, why don't you just express that concern to her?" Boom, end of conversation. (I love you, my friend--you know who you are.)

Well, it's true relationships are complicated things. Until I got sober at 47, I sabotaged quite a few of them myself--and here's how. I let fear and "what ifs" constantly rule my decision to NOT speak up ("If I say this, she'll just get pissed" or "If I ask this, she'll hit the ceiling"). I constantly felt stifled by my partner even though it was ME doing all the stifling. It didn't even occur to me that I wasn't giving my own partner a fair shake and that most of the time I was projecting my own unresolved baggage onto her. Here's the truth. Particularly if you're in a newish relationship or if you're in one where real communication is at a minimum, you can't know what your partner is actually thinking and feeling. You can't, until you muster the courage to articulate what you're thinking. When you have the balls to be honest, unless you're with a total nutbag, your honesty will be rewarded with their honesty. It's the only way to genuinely communicate, and the only way trust is built over time is with genuine communication.

So that's the lesson I personally learned, and when I got home yesterday, it's as if the Universe wanted to be sure I was reminded of it because I went on Facebook to catch up on a game I play. Instead, the first thing I was hit with, crossing my news feed, was this quote from Steve Pavlina: "Speak the truth. If honesty is a challenge for you, it’s because you aren’t being honest enough with yourself. Lies you tell others are shadowed by lies you tell yourself. Take note of those areas where you feel incapable of genuine honesty, and dig deep enough to find out why. You’ll find that you uncover a part of yourself you’ve been unwilling to accept. You don’t lie about the parts of yourself that you accept 100%."

Does that make sense? The deeper lesson I learned, and continue to learn, is that we tell the biggest lies to ourselves to avoid feeling shame about something. So if I'm tempted to clam up about something, or if I'm tempted to reveal only half the story, or to allow a misleading impression to stand firm, or am doing anything that doesn't reveal what I'm actually thinking and feeling, I'm telling lies because I'm probably hiding something from ME. It takes guts to look in the mirror and tell yourself "yeah, I have this nasty impulse" or "yeah, I'm having this awful thought" or "oh my god, I feel horribly jealous" or whatever it is I'm not wanting to accept about myself. God, how I used to think owning up to my own garbage would totally destroy me.

It didn't. It is actually the most freeing thing in the world. When I finally did, so many doors opened right up for me, and Chelle turned into the sweetest, most open-minded, even tempered, patient, uncontrolling person. (Actually she didn't change at all. I'm the one who changed.) It can actually be pretty funny to open up and admit to all your insecurities and fears and non-noble desires and nasty little demons. The marvel is to find that you're still loved despite them. And you learn to accept yourself even though (gasp!) you're wonderfully, humanly imperfect.

And I think that's everyone's biggest fear. "If they knew me for the real me, they wouldn't love me."

Guess what? You'll never know until you know.

Go all in.

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