Thursday, November 20, 2014


Collectors Quest

Love is transformative. It's beautiful and perfect. Like sunlight. It powers life. It brightens everything. It warms everything. It makes everything sparkle.

Just like sunlight, too much love can burn you.

When do you love someone too much? When you love them more than your needs, your need for friends and connections other than them, your need for emotional or financial stability, your need for safety and freedom from fear, your need for physical health. You love your kids too much when your life feels not worth living when they leave you. You love your spouse too much when you can't bear that they think anything bad about you, and you have to make them stop. You love your parents too much when you put their needs before your own or your kids'.

You love someone too much when you can't let them hurt, when you need to save them from everything, even if that means hurting and losing yourself.

You love someone too much when you can't think of anything but them. Birthdays remind you. Sundays reminds you. Grocery store aisles remind you. Movies, songs, books, pictures, colors, food, cups, necklaces, pants, carpet, sunlight, rain, snow, your calendar, what your boss said this morning, your neighbor's dog, your best friend's mom, the facebook newsfeed, the flower in the corner of the ad for return address mailing labels, everything, everywhere, always reminds you. Even when you close your eyes and all you hear is the sound of your own breath in the dark, even that reminds you.

You love someone too much when you can't forgive them for anything, because they hurt you that deeply, because you wanted that much for them to fill you up with themselves and their irreplaceable love, and they didn't. You love someone too much when you constantly expect them to change and refuse to except them and their behavior, for the same reason.

When you love someone too much, you use them, you depend on them, you need them. You can't and won't live without them, even if you wish you could and would.

That's loving someone too much.

And when you've loved someone too much so much that now your life is shriveled or even the briefest exposure burns and yet you'll stand there and soak them in, thinking, this is love, that's when you cannot love them. That's when you have to live without your light, your love, until the burn fades.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The grief of letting go

Image courtesy of Anna Destephano,

Sometimes it doesn't work out. Sometimes people don't fit. Like mismatched puzzle pieces too bent and chewed by the family dog. Our edges are soggy, tattered, jagged.

We try "making it work," refusing to give up. We mash ourselves together into an ungainly unhinged scramble of a Thomas Kinkaid Disney castle and Guernica. We pull hard into each other's incompatibilities while they jab helplessly at our faces like Pickup Sticks in the eyes, splayed points gouging everywhere the harder we hold on. We break off each other's teeth, punch new holes in each other, and break ourselves in two, trying to make it work.

And we try to ignore this, sometimes. Even after all the damage, the self-mutilation, the shaming, the self-hatred and scourging blame of everyone including God, still we try to make this dysfunctional clash cling into a consoling whole. We see others hang together in pictures of fulfillment. They have familial love and warmth. Everything we want. And we ache.

Something like a yawning emptiness, a vacuum sucking sinkhole drops out in our heart. We hunger. It burns. It flickers with despair. And we panic. We claw and scramble away. We can't accept it. We refuse to even consider it. Surrender, "giving up," that would be a failure, loss. That would mean we're damaged, that we can't make everything right. It would be falling over the edge of that pit. If we do, we'll never get out. Nothing will ever be right again. We'll never be able to put the pieces back together.

And we'll be alone. Starving. In the dark. Forever.

Maybe it'll be our fault.

So we hate ourselves. And them, the ones we can't make fit. We try blaming ourselves. And them. We try running at them, and running away. We bargain. We do inventories. We do therapy. We plead. We pray. We do anything and everything as we scratch up and chew over and kick around every stage between ourselves and acceptance, between us and grief, that black shadow into which we cannot slip.

This does nobody any good, this aggressive denial, this refusal to accept what we cannot change. This obstinate denial that we, and they, fall into that category too. All it does is create misery. Scar us. Keep us tortured and trapped. Hating ourselves. Hating them. Blaming ourselves and bending ourselves until we break or feel half-labotomized with the pretend. We wear our spirits down, erode our souls, denying them, crushing them, until maybe they'll never fit anything ever again.

Sometimes, when you get here, to this desperate edge, all you can do -- the best you can do -- for everyone, is let go. Give in. Surrender. Fall. Sink into the black. Let grief swallow you, and trust that someday, somehow you will come up for air. After you cry and cry and cry and cry, you will land on a sunny seashore at the other side of the tunnel. You'll breathe. You'll feel warmth again. You will find love, real love. The love of acceptance, where finally, finally, you fit.

You'll fit with yourself. You'll just be you, complete.

But sometimes, you can't do this, you can't get to that free shore of self-love and self-fulfillment and health and peace, until you say goodbye.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sanity through Infographic: At least it's not an icepick up the nose.

When the meetings, meds and all that catharting get tired, remember it could be worse. Like, drowned in a lake to see if you'll float worse. Because crazy is *magic!* (Poof! With sparkles.) ~ The Curator

Best Counseling Degrees

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Being Used is the Kiss of Death

Histrionic Vampires.

Imagine someone jumps you. Their jaws tighten around your coronary artery. You feel blood reroute from your brain to their maw. At first, you struggle and try to scream, but you can't shake them. So eventually you go limp and stop fighting. The light gets fuzzy and pink-tinged. A strange, tingly warmth creeps over you as you start to think that spilling your life down your attacker's gullet isn't so bad after all. Maybe it's your great calling. You feel altruistic, selfless and loving, as your world goes black. Enabling an emotional vampire goes just like this.

The term "emotional vampire" is trendy, a little cruel, and overly simplistic. Unfortunately, it's also accurate. Let's demonstrate.

Back up and imagine your saber-toothed jumper is your partner, parent, sibling or friend. Let's call him or her "Vamp." Now Vamp is (probably) someone you love, or at least can't get away from. Vamp is an important part of your life and has lots of wonderful qualities you value highly. However, Vamp also has some not so good behaviors....

For starters, usually, to Vamp everything is always about Vamp. It's your birthday? Vamp wants to celebrate with five hours of stories about Vamp's latest triumphs. You're getting married? Vamp is so happy because Vamp is in a relationship too.

It's also likely Vamp can't let you have anything Vamp doesn't. You get a new car? Vamp buys a new house. You get a new watch? Vamp thinks you're so vain. You're off to Europe? How could you travel while millions starve? At least Vamp puts Feed The Children first.

More importantly, Vamp typically breathes drama. Vamp knows their boss enacts a megalomaniacal plot. Vamp is sure their cramps are septic appendicitis. Vamp's abusive checker "forced" them to hysterics at customer service and "made" them drunk-type rant Target corporate.

Therefore Vamp's life is chaos. Vamp "has to" buy all new furniture because plaid suddenly gives Vamp nightmares. Jerks should stop being judgy about how Vamp's last three cat adoptions just didn't work out. Vamp couldn't not borrow $200 grand to launch Vamp's dream ceramics shop. It wasn't Vamp's fault it closed after a month. Customers were stalking Vamp.

Mired in constant chaos (and this is the key thing) Vamp needs you. Vamp relies on you to take Vamp to the ER at 3 a.m. for that crampy (non)appendicitis. Vamp depends on you to be there for Vamp's three-hour scream-cry about that megalomaniacal boss. Vamp will feel so abandoned if you don't help Vamp haul all Vamp's old, plaid stuff out.

Should you resist Vamp, set boundaries, or do anything possibly loosening Vamp's death-chomp on you, Vamp probably won't react well. You admit your girlfriend hints at marriage. Vamp melts down and harasses the girl for being a skanky slut. You say you can't rush over to check Vamp's "probably-fractured" spine because it's 2 a.m. and you have an 8 a.m. presentation. Vamp maligns you as a selfish non-friend. You get promoted to Manhattan. Vamp accidentally cancels your flight. Then Vamp "repays" you by driving you out, where Vamp wants to live together.

Vamp can't ever -- ever -- let you go. Because to Vamp, you are a human life preserver. You keep Vamp afloat in a constant emotional storm. Unfortunately this blood-sucking smooch drowns you both.

The injuries to you are obvious. Your birthday becomes a Vampalooza. Your trip to Europe is soured by Vamp's ire. You snap at your kids after Vamp's cry-a-thon leaves you weary. You're late to your presentation after assuring that, indeed, Vamp's back is fine. You have to pay double for a new flight to New York.

Vamp's injuries are subtler. Because Vamp is an addict, and Vamp's drug is you.

"Emotional vampires" are not evil people. They're hurt ones. They're often gravely-injured, one-step-from-The-Walking-Dead ones. And they may not know it. But you probably do. That's probably why you keep giving Vamp "one more chance."

You're not healing Vamp when you let Vamp use you. When you conceal your bite-marks with fake smiles and faker forgiveness. You're killing Vamp, with kindness.

When Vamp uses you to boost Vamp's mood, reassure Vamp's insecurities, reassemble Vamp's life or fend off Vamp's fall-out, Vamps stays sick. When you "make everything okay," as Vamp spins in Vamp's whirlpool world, the hole sucking Vamp's universe down gets bigger. Your relationship becomes like the jack in a crack-addict's arm. Every hit widens the wound. And no hit ever satiates the hunger.

No matter how much love, empathy, forgiveness or energy you pour into the heart of whomever drinks your psychic life dry, it will never be enough. You will never be enough. You will never fix them. They will never feel fixed. Suck and suck and suck and they will still thirst.

Only they can fix them. Only they can fill them. And they can only find, fix and fill themselves when you're out of the way, and they face the light.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Being Present: Someday The Screaming Will End

Generally, I find there are two main modes of being present.
"Being Present In The Moment". The Pain.
Mode one: You wake up. You feel like crap-taffy. Your neck and lower back are all kinked up from stress that tormented half your brain with sleeplessness all night. Trying to recover, you give "noticing" the tension a whirl, and you burst into uncontrollable sobbing or a ten-minute pillow-scream before you can safely manage making coffee without scalding the cat. This is the more preferable mode.

Mode two: You try desperately to stay anchored to your sense of self and the now, feeling your breath, and focusing hard on your totem. But try as you might, you're blown out of your skin with your totem shattered to smithereens by a nuclear mushroom cloud of grief or rage that balloons inside you with infinite, unceasing energy. The memories and thoughts won't stop. After a max of ten minutes, you numb out and find yourself six hours later on your fourth pint of ice cream, your fifth bottle of Sky, your third bag of weed, your last working credit card, or fifth consecutive hour of Bioshock. You've missed a whole day of life. Because being absent felt better than being present. This is the more common option.

It sucks. When it's like this, you feel trapped. All you want is escape. You pray for freedom with desperation and shimmery puppy-dog eyes like that little girl at Christmas who just reeeaaallly wants that horse. You can feel hopeless, like your only choices are conscious torment, unconscious torture, or death. Many of us like choice three. If we ever chose it, we are grateful to have survived.

When being present is hard (splintery, shard-in-the-eye misery) like this, it's helpful (sometimes) to remember why being present matters. It's not just about noticing butterflies and bumblebees, and prancing like some blissed-out Snow White so la-dee-frickin-da happy to be alive. That's stupid. It's about finding your way out. Ending the torment.

Think of being present like holding the Maurader's Map. (Harry Potter fans, explain this.) When you pause and notice what's happening, all the paths appear. You can trace your own mental windings and dead-ends, you can follow your mental traffic. You learn your way around. You find the doors leading out.

But if you force it, crumple your map, pour Vodka or chocolate all over the paper or feed the sheet into your PS3 or bong, you ain't gonna find nothing. It stays blank (and probably silently laughs at you in some magical map kind of way, like a snarky Sorting Hat).

"Escape" through addiction or dissociation is a lie. All those blurry hours may feel like bliss, like freedom from life boiled in your own skin, but they actually trap you, simmering forever. Those silky voices luring you seductively back to your purple haze are really the voice of that skanky dealer offering you that "one last hit" from his track-marked hand. "It's just to get you over the edge so you can come down and get clean," the voice may say. And "Yeah, you can trust him," you may think. Then three weeks later you're back in the alley selling your flesh for one more hit.

Addiction, dissociation and avoidance keep you lost. They steal your map. They leave you no way out. So you're stuck there, forever. (Like Argus Filch. And who wants to be that guy?)

The only real way out is through the fire. Even when it's cat-scalding, coffee-spill-blister painful. Even when for yet another morning you have to sob-scream your way out of bed just to be able to tie your tie without strangling yourself to death.

You can get through. You can feel the feelings, think the thoughts, and get to the end of them. Every tunnel has its exit. If you just keep your eyes open and aimed at the light.