He was yelling AT her. Not a skillful show of anger, but a litany of blame and complaints about her. About how she's getting it wrong. Not letting her respond or speak. Forcing her to listen to him yell at her.
Since it was a public place, I was overhearing this whole thing and it made my skin crawl and my heart hurt. I've been there. And it made me realize I needed to write this piece.
Let me be really clear here about what's abusive versus what's actually healthy conflict.
As a culture, we've invested SO much into The Perfect Ideal that I often hear/see people making lists of their non-negotiables in relationships.
They've gotta be as spiritual as you are (of course). They've gotta work out. Have a meditation practice. Eat organic. Go to therapy. Communicate well. Be financially secure. Weigh no more than a certain standard.
Nowadays, I tend to think of the inner war as just a given because of how common it is. A part of the reality of our culture. Especially for women. The standard of what the perfect woman is is always shifting and our attempts to hit that moving target result in an intense diet of self doubt, not-enoughness, pushing ourselves, and shoulds.
Isn't this how you were taught to pray too? You know---you want something and so all you have to do is be good and ask God for it. He's up there behind the pearly gates on his throne deciding which prayers he's going to grant and which he isn't. Based on whether you're good.
As if prayers are about getting something, having more, or being saved. (As if I need saving).
Hate's a strong word, but even still, it doesn't feel big enough to describe the loathing that went on inside me.
I hated my knees, my ankles, the size of my ribcage, my breasts, my arms, my skin color, the shape of my hands, the gap between my toes, the width of my shoulders, my thighs, my nose, my eyebrows, my hair, my butt, the length of my torso, and my belly.
You know how when you travel and get away from home, it's like a breath of fresh air? New insights come in, you experience unique openings, see things you didn't see before, and it just generally refreshes your creativity? Ah, e x p a n s i o n....
Or how when you've been cooped up in the house all day, and you finally get out and your breath deepens, and it was just so good to get out of the house and experience a change of scenery?
For the longest time in my adult life, equal partnership was like the holy grail for me. Simply put, equality wasn't what attracted us to each other. These were relationships born out of our patterns. It gutted me. It made my relationships incredibly painful. And I felt desperate to heal the pattern.
For years I've been working to cultivate my feminine power, knowing that there's a better way than the singular, competition- and lack-based narrows of a patriarchal culture that doesn't really much value (or understand) this "other" way.
Something in me has always recognized that it's a special and sacred privilege to sit in a circle with other women. Speaking from your heart and listening with the ears of your heart is an ancient spiritual practice that'll teach you a ton about feminine power if you let it.
For so many years, I was the one working hard in my partnerships. Always considering what was my responsibility, cleaning it up, and asking for feedback.
If we had a fight, I'd be the one examining how my behavior contributed to it. I thought it was my (and only my) responsibility to make sure my boundaries were respected, that I was heard, and that my needs and desires were expressed.
Avoiding intimacy. It's what you do (usually unconsciously) when getting close to someone feels threatening, whether you're aware of those feelings or not.
If you're anything like most of us, you have a sweet spot of tolerance---a place internally when connection feels enlivening and nourishing---and also a point at which the intimacy begins to feel threatening and another point where too much space begins to feel threatening.
Let us step into it with our eyes open, yes? With all the consciousness we can muster, saying, "This is myyear."
Because my dear, it is.
Let me remind you that you are immensely powerful and that you can create deep nourishment, fulfillment, magic, connection, and abundance this year. And sure, on one level I'm talking about spiritual manifestation but my main point is this:
I know. You don't want to repeat the same old worn out behaviors in the coming year. Me neither.
We call them patterns because they're what we do when we go on auto-pilot or get unconscious. We have ruts in our brain that favor doing the same thing over and over again.
No matter that the behaviors might be dulling our life force or reinforcing something we're desperate to leave behind. We still let ourselves get seduced by the familiar pattern when we're not paying attention.
Here in the Northern Hemisphere, it's the darkest time of year. Both inwardly and outwardly.
In this time before the light returns, we see the darkest places in ourselves. We see what hides out in the corners and only comes out when the nights are long.
Right now, so many are experiencing depression, deep insecurities, loneliness, apathy, anxiety, lethargy, and especially issues around addiction or numbing behaviors. Because now, as we experience our dark places, we also fall into our most shadowy ways of coping.
When it's time to turn in, please, please let yourself.
For many of you, since the US elections, there's been a lot of OUT. Out in the streets. Out on Facebook. Out organizing and discussing and outward focusing. Thinking about policies and appointments and plans. Working your minds.
Plus your day job. Plus parenting. Plus keeping your relationships afloat and your dishes done.
I've learned a thing or two about deep challenge. The kind of challenge that can either pull you under or completely transform your life in necessary ways (a la spiritual emergency).
Challenge can be an absolutely miserable way to learn our lessons. But the thing is, it's loud, which is why it works as a means to get your attention. Feeling disempowered, victimized, panicked, and desperate all before breakfast can't be ignored. Not without a lot of medication.
Are you feeling the relationship pain too? It seems like there's conflict, chaos, and confusion in the air right now and that our most meaningful relationships are up for review, so to speak.
Marriages feeling fragile. Close friendships suddenly imploding or feeling a new kind of rub that needs addressing. Truth speaking that winds up not going very well despite your best intentions. A mis-match in terms of desires around moving a new relationship forward. Business relationships turning sour.
Years ago when I lived in Chicago, my best friend and I (Hi, Char!) were the kind of friends who talked through everything. We knew what was going on in each other's internal world most of the time.
We talked about the hard stuff, the secret stuff, the beautiful stuff. And we had a saying (well, a lot of sayings, actually, most of them ridiculous. Um..."hamhocking?"). Anyway, we had a saying for when life felt particularly difficult and overwhelming. For when we were spinning out.
I've been really excited to bring you this interview with Erica Mather for a while now and it's finally time! Erica's got so much useful experience to share about her past with compulsive overeating and over exercising.
It's all over the news. Stories of women being exploited, abused, and mocked. Grabbed, molested, raped. Basic rights taken away. A total denigration of that which is sacred.
I barely have the words to describe how torn my heart feels and how deeply angry I am. How completely incongruent this feels when I know women and womanhood to be sacred, necessary, and central to our survival.