No Excuses


I’m at a pivotal time in my life. Some would call this a crisis moment, a fork in the road so to speak. I see it simply as a time of frightening and exhilarating clarity of who I’ve been, and why. I see my entire life built upon the constantly changing foundation of what I thought was expected of me. I believed that what I taught myself to be because of that belief, was what gave me value. I lived my life as if my purpose as a human being was dependent upon my giving what was expected.

Now here I am, at 55 years old, holding the knowledge that I screwed myself, and everyone in my life, out of the real deal. I get it, it’s okay. I see and accept what I’ve done to myself, but goddammit if it doesn’t just piss me off at the moment. I’ve been a hot mess posing as someone who has it all together, let me be the first to say it here.

So let me tell you what I’ve learned, and you may do with it what you will.

I have learned that honest communication between us is imperative if we are to have any relationship worth having. I’ve learned that love is a living thing that can be grown to an unbelievable beauty or shoved into a closet for its inconvenience to slowly suffocate until it is no more. Love is a living thing that can thrive and strengthen the environment where it exists or suffer from the poisoning of neglect, thus destroying all that surrounds it with its misery as it dies.

I’ve learned that our lives are an example of what love is to us, and I’ll be damned if that doesn’t scare the hell out of me. The example I’ve set is that love requires constant sacrifice, and the lessening of self. I’ve lived as if it required that I didn’t matter, that I never say “no”, that I turned myself into a mat that it wiped its feet upon. I made myself matter so little to myself (and therefore others) that everyone was a priority before what I wanted was considered. Unfortunately by the time I asked myself what was important to me, I had no idea. None. At. All.

Here is all I know for sure right now.

I know that I want people around me that are brave enough to say when I’ve hurt them, and how. People that are willing to say I’m sorry when they’ve hurt me, and mean it. I want those strong enough to work through the hard shit because our friendship is worth it. I want those who are willing to work hard the same way I am willing to work hard, to build a relationship of value and not just one that skims the surface. I’m tired of the bullshit, the cheap seats and the easy way to nowhere. I’m not just tired of it, I don’t want it in my life at all.

I don’t have time to spend on those who have no courage to really love me.

To be honest, I don’t have time to spend on those I can’t truly love. Because they deserve better and so do I. It’s a ridiculous waste of time to live a half-hearted life in a mediocre way that fits into some la-la-la bullshit of normal. I don’t want normal, I want real. I’m willing to do the real and jump through the hoops that result in looking into the eyes of someone who will go the distance for me. Truly. Someone who deserves me to go the distance for them, and I will because they’ve done the work and matched my resolve and offered their heart. Straight up and without apology. Devil take it, come what may.

That’s the kind of relationship I’ll go to war to preserve.

I don’t want beige. I have no interest in tepid or vague or nerveless little gatherings of comradery. Give me the people who will put themselves on the line for me, start a riot, burn a building. Give me those people and I will give them every bit of that in return. Is that too much to ask?

And if it is, do you mind if I say step aside and let the real ones through?

If you do mind, step aside anyway. These words and this life aren’t for you.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. It took me half a century to figure it out.

No more excuses.

 

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Pistols At Dawn


 

Let’s talk a bit about resolving conflict. There is the tried and true way of yelling and screaming at each other which achieves nothing but a sore throat and resentments. We can also do the ignoring of the elephant in the room and begin the second cold war. If that doesn’t work we can blame and shame the other into some kind of submission, that’s always a fun one. If all else fails, we can (sigh) try to work it out with discussion and understanding.

I know, this is a radical concept, but stay with me for a minute or two.

If both parties are not heard and respected, then there is no real resolution to any problem brought to the table. For a misunderstanding to be cleared up, everyone has to be willing to listen and consider. Not just one person, but all persons involved. If there is an assumed insult to deal with, somebody needs to listen to the offense taken and the other must listen to the intention of the words spoken.

Unless you just want to be angry, then you should quit reading right now. 

Any kind of successful resolution to conflict comes from both sides being able to share their intent and emotion, from both being willing to listen to the other and consider that maybe, just maybe no harm was intended. That is not to say no harm was done, because who are we to say when we have caused another pain? We don’t determine that, they do. Our part is to listen, understand as best we can and explain from our hearts that our words were from a harmless loving place. That we truly meant no harm or hurt at all.

If someone hurts us, it is our right to speak up and stop them where they stand. We have a right to say what the injury is and expect an explanation and apology. If the offender is important to us we will give them equal time and respect to listen so that we can understand what caused them to hurt us so carelessly. If they don’t matter to us, well we say what we need to and move on, leaving them behind. That alone will tell you where you stand.

Let me tell you what doesn’t work, in case you’ve been in a cave or under a rock the last 50 years or so. A Johnny Carson monologue on someone’s transgressions with no feedback is worthless. A gag order where the other party has no time or right to say anything to explain their side is worthless. Deafness to any belief or truth other than the one already pre-decided is a real resolution killer.

I hope I’m not being too vague in pointing out that resolving conflict takes input from both sides to be of any value to the continuing relationship. If the relationship matters at all.

Each of us see and understand life differently based on our personal experiences and traumas. We all need to respect that about each other and tread carefully. That being said, it is impossible for us to go through life without treading on each others hearts, memories and experiences. Impossible. So our only option for loving and lasting relationships of any kind is to refine the art of resolving conflict.

I have been in a relationship where there was never any resolution to conflict. It is a soul killer. I am no longer there, and will not be in another one of any kind where there is not the heart or courage to give and receive and resolve. Period. I will not go there.

If I’m not looking at someone with the guts to take the same truth as they are willing to give, then I won’t be looking at them for long. I have just learned that about myself. If I’m willing to shut up and listen and absorb and ponder the possibilities, then by god the one I’m looking at better have the balls to do the same. Or they can move on to someone else who hasn’t lived the reality of what it’s like to be forced into silence.

I will never be that person again.

Another important point before I close is to fight fairly to resolve the issues at hand. It’s wrong to use any weakness shared with you as a weapon against the one you care about.It shows a dent in your character to use what has been shared in confidence to harm the person who trusted you to begin with. Resolve the damn issue like people who actually care for each other.

I have wondered recently why a person wouldn’t just say “ouch, you just stepped somewhere I don’t want to go” and let you step away and respect their space. Why does everything need to be a huge offense to humanity instead of a “hey, okay sorry, I won’t go there”? If something stabs you in the heart, by all means say so! We can’t know unless you do. But let there be a reasonable, mature solving of the problem.

Forgive my diatribe. If I have offended you, your feedback is more than welcome. We will resolve.

If all else fails, we will go with pistols at dawn.

War Paint


 

 

It may seem to you that I am weak in my beliefs because I don’t scream them out at the top of my lungs in defiance of the world. You don’t see your roars and ravings blowing past me like a hot breeze through my hair as I stand quietly in the truths I know.

You think me shallow in my support of those I love because I don’t rant and belittle others in a public display in some kind of show of solidarity. Your eyes don’t see how I quietly remove their fractured foundations from beneath them to let them crumble into their own foolishness.

You see my kindness and compassion as a flaw of selfishness given out to the world to make myself look good, or feel better about who I am. You see my generosity of heart as a character flaw of pandering to my own ego; my desire to hold and love and heal the hurts where I can as nothing but a big show. You see my joy in giving as an attempt to purchase love where none is offered, my reaching out as a request for validation.

After all this time. You don’t know me, darling. You just wish you did.

Your words fall harmlessly away from my heart, causing me none of the damage you hoped to inflict. Your opinion of me is regretful, but not something to cause me a moment’s wavering from who I know I am. You are a damaged, deceitful mess. You are a legend in your own mind, playing out a story you’ve written where you are the star, and the rest of us merely supporting characters.

You do not see me. You never have. Any description you give of me would be met with blank stares and astonishment from those who love me and know me well. You are not one of those few. You are not capable of it. After all this time.

I will admit to stepping back, diminishing myself to make room for you, adjusting who I was to make you more comfortable. Therein lies my weakness. Neither one of us deserved that. If I had allowed myself to remain, what kind of person would you have become? That is my second regret. The first one is that I diminished myself at all. I made myself quiet and less and vague. I quit speaking freely. I stopped sharing who I was. I shut myself down due to lack of interest. The most important being my own.

This is not your story anymore, baby. This is mine. Feel free to go ride in your own rodeo, I’m not buying any tickets this time around. You’re so good at showing the world your war face. You thump your chest and shout and decree how the world should be. It’s quite a sight to see, especially from the front row.

Unfortunately for you my love, I’m no longer in the building.

I’m just a little busy shaking off the paralysis that comes from teaching myself not to give a shit about what’s happening around me. I’ve got a lot going on with this remembering how to breathe, speak and laugh freely whenever I choose. I’m really tied up right now with kicking my own ass for wasting so much of my time on someone who didn’t really want it anyway. The joke’s on me, and thank god I’m still alive to laugh about it. I will always laugh about it, because that’s the point where my vision clears and my heart beats strongly and my mind is wide open to possibility.

Thank god I didn’t lose my sense of humor when my common sense veered left of center.

You think yourself a great warrior. A veteran of life’s battles. A person of integrity in a sea of wasted humanity. I see you. You hate it that I do. That’s very sad for both of us.

But I can own my shit, recalibrate and live an amazing life.

I thank you for the lessons learned. I would not have appreciated what I have now, and expect to have in the future, if not for each and every moment of sorrow I chose until I learned enough to choose differently. The smile in my eyes and the laughter in my heart?

That is my war paint. See it and weep.

Sticks And Stones


 

 

According to the Bible, the world was spoken into existence. Men have dueled and died over an injurious word. Masses of people have fallen to their knees in blind worship or turned into a crazed and rabid crowd by the speaking of devious words woven by the gifted in deceit.

Words have the power to build and destroy. We know this. They have the power to uplift the human heart at a crucial moment or devastate during a weak one. Words are wicked and wonderful things to be used with grace, caution and precision.

Since many of us have the adopted habit of looking outward for our worth, words can have more power over us than is good for the speaker or the hearer of them. When our souls are shaking from a life impact or our hearts are fragile we let the words of others poison us. If we’ve fallen too far down that slippery slope, we add our own dangerous whispers to the mix to inflict an even graver injury.

We can get caught up in the pictures spoken over us like some voodoo incantation that renders us helpless to do anything but try to defend ourselves from something that doesn’t matter. We think we need everyone to love us and think we’re wonderful human beings. We don’t. We’ve just let ourselves be convinced that someone else’s opinion of us carries more weight than our own.

When someone’s words are trying to convince us that we are someone selfish, ignorant or weak we have to step back and look with our own eyes. Many times, the poison others spew upon us is just an overflow of their own pain and misery. They are speaking reactively to try to alleviate a pain they can’t get away from. If we can separate their opinion from the truth of us, then we will begin to see that we know who we are.

Sometimes we may uncover a nugget of truth that is valuable for us to change, but that is our decision to make. The rest of it can go back to the little hell it came from because we know the truth of ourselves. That is the key. Knowing who we are and remembering that when someone else’s shit hits our fan.

We all know it sucks to have someone unload on us when it’s a personal attack. That’s when we need to know ourselves well enough to tilt our heads with a quizzical look and then walk away. Hang up. Shut the door. Let it go. They’re just proving they don’t know us. Take the evidence and run, darlings. We’ve got too many real problems to address to be hampered by the opinions of another.

It is possible, if you look very closely, to see the gift that such a diatribe has for us. Sometimes they are foolish and careless enough to go too far. They inadvertently push us past what we’re willing to accept and cause us to dig in our heels. Oh happy day. Somehow they sever the killer thread that binds us to their description of us. We draw our brows together and wonder who the hell they could be referring to, because we absolutely know it isn’t us.

This is when we begin to win our hearts back. This is when we exhale with a relief we never thought to feel. We may never know who they’re really seeing in their minds when they behave that way. Do we really care? Not at the expense of understanding that we aren’t any more or less perfect than anyone else. We reach inside ourselves and remove the power their words have over us. Did you catch that? We reach inside.

When we know who we are, we may wince a little at the spew we hear, but we don’t own it. It isn’t ours. We own our own hearts and like ourselves just fine, thank you.

Flaws and all.

 

 

Bully Beat Down


 

 

“Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others.” ~Wikipedia

Just read that to yourselves a few times. Let that sink in. Open your eyes to what’s going on in your world and maybe even your own life. We seem to think abuse has to be a fist in the face resulting in a black eye or a few missing teeth. We go along with the idea that if there are no bruises to show then no injury could have been done. We think broken bones and fragile nerves and weepy frailness personifies those who are bullied by another. Those who allow themselves to be beat down figuratively because if it’s not literal it can’t possibly be real. We lie to ourselves.

The tricky thing about abusers, narcissists and bullies is that we expect them to look like their afflictions suggest. We picture ugly and cruel and scary looking. Unfortunately, that isn’t usually the case. We don’t always get that kind of visual “heads up”. A lot of the time these traits hide behind a handsome or pretty face, a noble reputation or a soft voice. Sometimes the face the public sees is not what we live with. We allow ourselves to be trapped in the delusion we build for ourselves to make our choice in life easier to swallow.

I will never forget the moment I realized that I had slowly built someone into something they were not so that I could live more easily with my choice to allow them into my life. I shamed, humiliated and embarrassed myself in front of my own soul. You don’t get any lower than that. But I digress.

There are times when those who are allowing themselves to suffer under these circumstances appear to the world as a pillar of strength. They seem strong and indomitable. They project strength, confidence and authority in all other aspects of their lives save the one that matters most. They stumble blindly behind the scenes of their own lives allowing themselves to be that quiet cowering thing that they themselves have no respect for. It’s a slow and insidious downward spiral into isolation.

They are often the champion of the weak around them. They are the vigilantes for justice for everyone but themselves. I promise you that they hate themselves for it. They stand and fight for others, all but the most aggressive bend before their will to prevail. But they do not stand for themselves. They do not draw or guard those lines of decency that must exist between one human being and another. The way they allow themselves to be treated makes a mockery of the rest of their lives by their own perception. It’s a losing game.

There are bullies everywhere. They are cleverly disguised as spouses, parents and friends. You know them by the way you feel “lesser than” when you’re with them. You will know them by the way you tone down your personality, dim your exuberance and let them be the winner in any situation. You will know them because you can’t breathe freely or smile genuinely or laugh from your gut when you’re with them. Lightning strike me now if I’m lying to you. You know it’s true. You know it.

I hate to tell you this, but this is what I know for sure. It is not enough to run away. It is not enough to save yourself by relocating to a new place where you are ready to be a victim again. You have to turn around and stand up to the one that scares you. You have to not allow them to bully you anymore. You have to look them in the eye and say “NO”.  You have to stand your ground, come what may. If you don’t, you’re just another might have been ready to be run into the ground by the next big show. Because that’s all it is darling. A great big dramatic show that you’ve bought into. You will continue to be that one in the movies that trips on the root and gets chopped to pieces by the psycho. Not to scare you or anything, just saying.

Walk away. Then run as fast and far as you can. Then take a deep breath and turn around to face the thing that scares you the most: your own weakness. You are not fucking weak, you have merely been uneducated to the quality of a real life. Once you get a taste of it, you’ll be more than willing to turn around and face what you have to. You’ll wrestle that bear and win the right to breathe freely and with all the joy you can stand.

I double dog dare you.

 

The Wake: Letting Go Of Hope


Tonight we’re celebrating the life and death of hope. Not all hope, mind you, but a very specific kind. The hope that makes us hold on to relationships that are harmful because we refuse to acknowledge their  slow and silent deaths. The hope that makes us blind to the gangrene that spreads to our hearts when we refuse to give up, even when we’re hearing its death rattle.

We have to celebrate it as we mourn its passing. It grew within us a super human strength of character. It proved to us that we would not give up at the first sign of trouble. On the other hand it taught us what being weak and foolish looks like so we can choose differently in our new life without it. We’ve learned the importance of boundaries and honest communication.

We’ve learned to quit lying to ourselves. 

There are those who look at us and don’t see us. Their reflection takes up the whole mirror. They don’t have the time or inclination to love us, and that’s okay as long as we see the truth of this and let go.  Our hearts can go on to flourish as long as we don’t allow the contamination of our belief in who we are and what we deserve.

This is where we failed, isn’t it?

Yes, they should have walked away, but the point here is that we didn’t either. We read the books, listened to the tapes, tried all the “guru” advice because we can’t change anyone but ourselves, right? Growth and learning is critical to our personal development if we don’t want to stagnate. The fine line we missed here is that healthy growth is not trying to morph ourselves into someone who deserves love and attention.

We already do.

Here we are now, celebrating lessons learned from holding false hope as we mourn its passing at the same time. We saw it coming, but it didn’t make it any easier to admit that there was no sign of life left in our relationship. It didn’t make it a simple thing to unplug the life support  while we prayed and worked for a miracle.

The miracle is that we have a second chance if we want it.

We can see our own value, and love and forgive ourselves for our foolishness. We can promise ourselves that we’ll give away only the parts of us that have been earned by those who offer us respect and a heart brave enough to try. We can quit blaming them for not loving us, and ourselves for staying and taking the hits of failure for years too long.

It’s time to get over the picture of what should have been. We’re overdue for an overhaul. It’s the witching hour, that moment between darkness and dawn that allows who we’ve been to look into the eyes of who we’ll become. This is the power moment, it’s Genesis all over again. It’s time we admit out loud that we allowed ourselves to be treated as poorly as we treated ourselves.

Shame on us.

We must let who we are burn brightly, without apology, in spite of any fear. We deserve to be everything we can imagine, we are worth the effort of working just as hard to get to know us as everyone else will have to from this moment forward. The fire that destroys what is, makes room for new growth, a new beginning.

Now, let’s drink to the death of false hope… Let the funeral pyre burn.