…I made a conscious effort to think like a person who doesn’t put himself at the head of the universe. ~ Sam, in “Skipped Parts” by Tim Sandlin
I’ve been thinking about this post for quite some time. I’ve done a little research on “ego vs. healthy self-esteem.” Little is the key word here. I even listened to a Q&A session with Eckhart Tolle in which he discussed this topic. I find him rather difficult to listen to even though I do respect his writing and his opinions. There is a great deal of information “out there” about ego. So much, in fact, that my mind got boggled by it all. Alright, I admit it, it doesn’t take a great deal of something to rattle my brain. I read a little and came to the conclusion that my opinion is just as valid as some of those I read online. Hehe. How’s that for ego? Or is that self-esteem?
- self-esteem–How much you respect and accept yourself. Your concept of how worthy, valuable, lovable and capable you are in society.
- ego–An inflated opinion of yourself often accompanied by a belief that you are superior to others.
I’ve been trying to understand how or whether ego contributes to or causes divorce. I think it could do both. (I’m in way over my head here and I’m trying to find a graceful way out.) The best I can tell, healthy self-esteem is a good thing. Ego is not. And if my self-esteem goes too far in either direction, the ego takes over. Once my ego takes over, I do things that are not good for me. If what I’m doing is not good for me, then it’s probably not good for my relationships.
So…When D started to have an affair with S, he started avoiding and neglecting me. Over a period of time his inattention eroded my self-esteem. Once my self-esteem became wounded (unhealthy), I started acting in a way that further damaged our relationship and our marriage. That’s one scenario. Another might be that I was already operating on too much ego and that might have been the reason he strayed. Or maybe not. I don’t really like that scenario. (Ego?)
Bottom line–I can’t analyze, in retrospect, the ego of D, nor of S, nor even my own with any degree of accuracy. Therefore this exercise in self-esteem/ego is a waste of time. To quote an elderly priest D and I used to listen to when we were on the road together: “It matters not how the donkey got in the ditch. Just get him out.”
I hereby promise myself that I will give up the search for what caused it and just get myself out of the ditch. I mean it!
So your rose garden needs a little work? If you are aware that your relationship needs help and your partner is willing to work with you to achieve harmony, count yourself lucky. I’m sad to say that my marriage had already gone south before I recognized how bad it was. So bad, in fact, that D was telling me he wanted a divorce. I knew right away that I would need some help whether or not we were willing to go together. A friend of mine told me of a therapist she and her husband had worked with some years previous. Dr. A was a certified Imago therapist for individuals and/or couples. My friend had told me a great deal about the Imago approach and it made sense to me, so I called up and made an appointment. What did I have to lose?
Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., developed the Imago method of counseling. The following is a quote from Dr. Hendrix which describes briefly why he thinks we’re drawn to our partners:
Psychologists say that “chemistry” is really our unconscious attraction to someone who we imagine will meet our particular emotional needs. What we unconsciously want is to get what we didn’t get in childhood from someone who is like the people who didn’t give us what we needed in the first place.
I had to read that paragraph several times to get the gist of it. I’m accustomed to shorter sentences. 🙂 Seriously, I have read most, if not all, of Dr. Hendrix’s books and his logic rings true. Here’s a summary of what I understand Imago therapy to be:
- All of us are born whole and complete.
- We become wounded in our early stages of development by caregivers. (Most parents don’t do this on purpose.)
- We have in our unconscious an image of all the positive and negative traits of our caregivers. This is the Imago. This image gives us the blueprint for whom we should marry in order to have our needs met.
- We then marry someone who is an Imago match. This is someone who matches the composite of our early caregivers. Since our parents (caregivers) are the ones who wounded us, they are the ones who must heal us in the form of our primary love partner.
- We choose our romantic partner using a selection process based on who will be able to heal us and help us grow.
- At some point after the “honeymoon” is over a power struggle ensues. Both partners are seeking healing and growth.
- The conscious mind doesn’t choose this struggle. It’s the unconscious mind seeking healing.
- With conscious effort and dialogue, the Imago love mate is the one most compatible with us and the one most capable of helping us to resolve unfinished business with our caregivers.
You may be wondering why I’m writing about all this now. I wonder a little myself but I think I know the answer. Back before D and I physically separated and he was still living at home with me, and after I had seen Dr. A a few times, I asked him if he would consider going to a couples weekend of Imago Therapy. I explained it to him as Dr. A had explained it to me. It’s a good way to get to the heart of who you are and why you’re attracted to certain people. Whether or not he and I decided to stay together, we both would have learned some important things about ourselves and our relationships. I became very hopeful. D had to go on a business trip and took a copy of “Getting the Love You Want” by Harville Hendrix with him. He came home and told me he had read the book and some woman on the plane asked him about it and he just gave it to her. (Can’t help wondering who the woman was.) This I learned from that experience: Something in the reading touched a chord. D had a meltdown. He cried and cried. I’m still not sure what all the crying should have told me. I do know that he decided a few days later that he didn’t think he would be able to go for a weekend with me. And he moved out and the rest is history. I know now that his girlfriend had given him an ultimatum, he had promised her that he would leave me and he did.
“Thank God and Greyhound” he’s gone–a very funny song by Roy Clark. I don’t mean that to be ugly. I simply realize I’m better off and maybe he is, too. And life is good.
I don’t deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it. ~ Flannery O’Connor
I try not to look back with too many regrets but occasionally I can’t help wishing I could ride a time machine into my past and take back some of my more poisonous words. Sometimes I wonder if I’m missing a link between my brain and my mouth. Back in elementary school I would usually bring home a near-perfect report card except for one small area which never seemed small to me. I almost always got an X in a section that said “Refrains from speaking and acting hastily.” I wondered for a long, long time what that meant. I remember asking my mom about it. She told me she thought it meant I talked too much. She’d had some experience with my incessant talking. 🙂 She didn’t know any education jargon so it’s reasonable she would have thought that. I’ve learned since that neither speaking nor acting was the key word here; the important word was hastily.
When I was a child riding a school bus every day, our buses, supposedly for safety reasons, had a governor that kept them from going over a certain speed. I’m thinking my tongue could use one of those. I still blurt out whatever comes into my mind sometimes. I’m glad for some of my blurt-outs but sorry for others. If I’m to be honest here, some of them are probably not so accidental. For me, now, it’s a matter of impulse control. And as an adult I can have pretty good control when I want. But I’m also known for speaking plainly and without sugar-coating my words. I naturally avoid pretense. I’ve always been that way. I think there’s a fine line between being tactful and lying. Always tell the truth! was hammered into my head as far back as I can remember. How does a child always tell the truth without insulting some well-meaning aunt or grandparent? My role models didn’t always hit that target. Their inadequacy further complicated the issue and would probably make for an interesting post at another time.
This post has taken a somewhat different direction than I originally thought it would. (Just like when I’m talking.) I had intended to cite some of my more heinous breaches of polite language. Instead I will close with a word-to-the-wise about my tongue–a reminder, if you will, that I can choose to wound or heal, soothe or agitate, make laugh or make cry. I can choose. That’s the important message. If the pen is mightier than the sword, the tongue is mightier than either.
I will speak with a straight tongue. ~ Chief Joseph, Nez Perce
I will try very hard to speak with a straight tongue. ~ Pat
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. ~ Dr. Seuss
I like to have a project in the works. Now that I’m working on this banner for the Spanish community church service, I awaken in the morning eager (after I’ve had my coffee) to assess the previous day’s work and to determine what part of it I’ll do today. It’s a joy to watch it unfold. It gives me a goal, albeit short-term, and it engages my artistic bent which is a more dominant force now than it was in the past. Well, I guess the bent was always there but I have more time to devote to it than when I was working and taking care of my children.
I’ve been thinking lately about the wisdom of Dr. Seuss. I believe that he taught us so much more than reading. The Seuss quote above comes from his book The Lorax, 1971. It’s a powerful environmental message. If we had learned it back in ’71 when he wrote it our planet would be in better shape than it is today. I don’t know whether it’s on any academic required-reading lists, but it’s certainly on mine. When I was married to D, I had my very own Lorax (environmental conscience). I’m happy to say he’s better looking than the one you see pictured here on the book cover. 🙂 D was a recycler long before it was the thing to do. He cared “a whole awful lot” and tried to make it better. I thank him for that. He raised my consciousness several levels by being that way. I don’t think he saved any of these beautiful “Truffala Trees” but I’m pretty sure he saved some other kinds.
Two days ago another blogger, lifeandothermisadventures, commented on my post about forgiveness. She mentioned a book that she said was helpful to her. The book was When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. The same day I went down to my local book shop and found that book and several others by Ms Chodron. I sat down to examine them and determined that I needed the one called Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears. My thinking was that 1) things fell apart quite a long while ago and 2) I still have habits and fears that I don’t want to foster any longer. In the book that I chose there is a chapter entitled “Getting Unstuck.” This title jumped off the page, I think, because my daughter and I had recently been discussing the fact that sometimes we get stuck in our “recovery” and we can’t seem to continue the progress we have achieved up to that point. Old habits feel too comfortable and we are afraid to take that next step. I’m always amazed when the stars seem to align and send me a powerful message. The last star in this alignment was a statement in my morning uplifting message which I read in Spanish. (I read in Spanish to try to keep my language skills up to snuff.) I read that “too often we sit back and wait for others to change instead of taking stock and figuring out how we need to change.” Of course I knew this already but how easily I slide back into my old habits and let my old fears consume me.
In summary, the things I’ve learned are: I am much happier when I have a project. I care a whole awful lot about the environment and about how I treat other people. I can’t change others; I can only change myself and how I react to them. I could probably use more structure in my daily routine. And last, I’m going to Peru in May, 2012! Woo hoo!
We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. ~ Martin Luther King
Some lessons are harder to learn than others. Sometimes I think I’m a really slow learner. For example, when I learn to do something new on my computer or my cell phone, if I don’t repeat it in a few days time, I won’t remember how it’s done. I think that learning the lesson of forgiveness works the same way for me. It would be nice if I could simply say, “I forgive” and let it go and never have to revisit that issue again. I certainly always mean it when I say it. I think what happens to me is that the hurt is multilayered and has many facets. That means that just as I let one layer fly off on butterfly wings, another layer takes its place. Maybe the human mind is that way for a reason. Or maybe it’s just my mind that’s weird in that way. What I have begun to understand is that each new layer is sneaky. I may have to wrestle with it for days before I recognize what it is.
I don’t know how accurate my self-diagnosis is but I know I need to change my approach. I just noticed that I used the word “wrestle” in the paragraph above. I think that word might be key to my solution (my healing). Why am I wrestling? My new mantra will be something like this: “I’m relaxing into forgiveness today and every day.” I feel better already.
An addendum: I have written before about forgiving. I write about it in order to sort out how difficult it is for me to manage sometimes. I hope I don’t sound as if I am the only one who has something to forgive. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I won’t bother to list things I’ve done that I hope will put me on the receiving end of forgiveness. Such a list would depress me beyond repair.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night Take these broken wings and learn to fly All your life You were only waiting for this moment to arise. ~ The Beatles
Sometimes I can see more clearly when I walk at night, figuratively speaking. I can hear better too. As I walked one night recently, I kept hearing the words “in the dead of night” in my mind and then I started to hum the tune It took me a while to come up with what it was in the dead of night. By the time I made my neighborhood jaunt twice around, I realized–“blackbird singing.” Of course! Blackbird singing in the dead of night. As I pondered the notion of a bird singing at night, I noticed a waxing moon rising over the rooftops juxtaposing the street lamp, looking like the very opposite of what they actually are in terms of size. I didn’t know what, if anything, the blackbird had to do with the moon/lamp photo, I just knew I needed to snap the scene.
My brother and I used to listen to bird sounds in the early summer evenings. We would try to imitate them. One of our favorites was the Northern Bob White. It’s a type of quail and despite its name it’s very prevalent in the southeastern United States. The Bob White’s call sounds like its name so J and I would whistle and wait expectantly for the bird to answer. That would mean that our calls were fairly authentic, or so we thought. Both of us were pretty good whistlers but in the world of whistlers my brother was one of the best I’ve ever heard. He always told me that he got more responses and I agreed because he was my older brother and I adored him. Another favorite was the Eastern Whip-poor-will onomatopoeically-named for its call. Again, J and I mastered the call and whip-poor-wiiiiled until the bird stopped responding or Momma called us in. We often heard a variety of owls. Sometimes the hoo-hoo of a Barred Owl which is the sound most people think of when they think of owls. Occasionally we heard the eerie sound of a Screech Owl. My brother, being the bigger wuss, was sure something was coming to get us and headed for home. I still laugh when I think about it.
So…do blackbirds sing in the dead of night? Indeed they do. The male sings to claim his territory, to attract a female, or sometimes a young bird will sing just for practice. Typically, dawn is birdsong time, but it seems that in urban areas the street lights create a false dawn and the cacophony starts early–in the dead of night.
An interesting aside about this Beatles song: Paul McCartney said the blackbird is a symbol for the black man in the Civil Rights Era in America. He said, “We were totally involved in the whole saga which was unfolding. So I got the idea of using a blackbird for a black man.” If you would like to hear the Beatles singing this song, click the link above. Sarah Mclachlan does a beautiful version, too. Click here if you want to hear her. I prefer Sarah’s version.
The leaves of memory seemed to make A mournful rustling in the dark. ~ Henry Wordsworth Longfellow
Yesterday afternoon I took a little trip to my old neighborhood. The one where D and the girls and I lived for a long time. This was our home when we first got married. The primary reason for this little excursion was to visit our next-door neighbor and friend A. I don’t think she would mind my saying that she is now elderly as age goes. She’s anything but elderly in her mind and in the way she acts and interacts with others. She looks wonderful physically. She stands straight and tall and she still moves gracefully. We were, both of us, so very happy to see one another. We hugged and hugged and then hugged again. We talked and laughed and reminisced. I must have stayed for an hour or more as we caught up with all the neighborhood news and our families. The fact that we have both lost our husbands put us on common ground. A’s husband died a while back. You know about mine already. Although A is of my mother’s generation, it’s as if she and I are not separated in any way by that now. We both grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, she in Virginia and I in North Carolina, so we have very similar backgrounds and experiences. It was a lovely visit and she is a lovely woman.
The rest of my memory stroll was rather dry like the autumn leaves that “make a mournful rustling.” It didn’t make me sad, just pensive and maybe grateful. I knocked on the door of our old house and met the young woman who is living there with her dog and her husband/boyfriend. She was very nice and we had a brief chat after I told her my name. She’s renting the house from D as he still owns it. I had not been on the property in years, not since our daughter lived there. I could not help noticing that the lawn and shrubs were in a bad state. The brick walk that D laid when we lived there was overgrown with weeds. The lawn hasn’t been mowed recently and I would guess that it’s been years since anyone has mulched the beds. I didn’t go in the back yard but I imagine the brick patio looks like the walkway. And from A’s house I could see that there was a tree down and apparently it has been for some time. Sad.
Before I left the neighborhood I drove around the circle and found that the rest of the street looks very much as it did years ago. The trees and shrubs are taller but the houses are neat and the lawns well-groomed. A tells me some of the “old” neighbors are still there. Others have moved on and new (to me) families reside within. It’s still a respectable area with everyday people and all the houses are different. No two alike. No “ticky tacky” on that street. I’ve always liked that about it.
As I drove away from that little oasis and back into the traffic of the city I gave a little sigh of relief. And yes, I felt grateful that I no longer live there. I’m not sure why. I imagine the state of the property was a factor. But that’s not quite it. Maybe it’s because I really have moved on. I remember wonderful, happy times in that house. But life has changed and we’re all different and You Can’t Go Home Again as Thomas Wolfe so succinctly put it.