Shenpa

Shenpa is a Buddhist concept  that I’ve been spending a lot of time studying and contemplating recently.  I study mostly Pema Chodron’s teachings and this is a big construct for her.  Shenpa really causes us great pain and makes us continue to reach for ground.  The Tibetan translation is “attachment”, but the construct is much more.  It is about the sticky, clinging, distracting reactions that we are so hardwired to have to both external and internal thoughts, feelings, and actions.  I felt this was a good analogy of what shenpa is:

Here is an everyday example of shenpa. Somebody says a mean word to you and then something in you tightens— that’s the shenpa. Then it starts to spiral into low self-esteem, or blaming them, or anger at them, denigrating yourself.

I struggle with this a great deal… the experience of someone (even myself) saying/doing something mean or hurtful and the following spiraling down of low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness that happen after.

One of the interesting things is shenpa’s relationship to meditation.  One of the goals of meditation is to learn to stay with feelings that we normally pull away from and to work to see our true minds and self.  Quite often during meditation we will have to face insights into ourselves and these insights are often of things that we might label “bad” or “wrong” even though it is never a good practice to label things as “good” or “bad” in general.  They just are.  So, ironically, the more insight we have into ourselves, the greater potential for shenpa to take hold and to bring us down.  It is a balancing act…awareness and acceptance without judgment.  Very difficult.

~AA

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Reality

J will be home in two weeks.  He’s been in Europe since early February.  I told him I wanted a divorce in December, but so much has happened since then that I sort of came to a place where I felt that perhaps we can get back on track.  But I just don’t know.  I’m so scared about him coming back and things just going back to the way they were and my life just going on with me in a supporting role, not as my own leading lady.  I hate this.

People keep asking me if I miss him and if I’m excited that he’s coming back.  This is one of the hardest things to answer…because in all honesty, I’m nervous about him coming back, I’m nervous that I may have shut off so much that there isn’t a way to “get us back on track”, I don’t “miss” him in the sense that I feel like my life is missing something without him.  In fact, I feel more like myself now that he has been gone than I have in years.  I don’t feel self-conscious.  I’m not lonely.  I don’t feel inadequate.  I feel like me and like I don’t have to be ashamed of my desires, my demons, my needs.

What does that mean?  Does it mean anything?

I’m trying to stay open to this entire thing that is about to happen when he gets back.  There is a part of me that feels like I really need to make the effort, but I also feel like I’ve made a significant effort in the past that didn’t work.  Is it really necessary for me to give it another go?  But I guess he really needed to hear that I was willing to leave him because of how unhappy I was.  So, perhaps he needed that reality check before any progress could really be made.   I just hope that I can be open minded.  If I have the divorce papers in front of me, I will want to have that piece of mind that I did do my best, even if I may have already shut down more than I realize.

I guess it all really doesn’t matter in the end… this contemplation.  It will come, it will happen and it will have a result that no amount of pondering will provide until it happens.

~AA

Broken

I feel like there are so many parts of me that are broken and that, perhaps, they may never heal.  I am hopeful that they will.  That I will be stronger from all of  this.  This is more difficult than I ever thought imaginable.  I could not imagine doing this if there were children in the picture.  I feel like I’ve made so many mistakes, but that is part of life, right?  Mistakes are part of what makes life worth living.  They teach us things.  They force us to expand our hearts, to expand our ability to forgive.  Probably the most difficult thing is to forgive ourselves for our imperfections.  I have so much compassion for others, but the person I have the most difficult time forgiving is myself.  Why is that?

There are so many conflicting emotions.  I’m longing, alone, hopeful, strong, wishing to hold onto the past, wishing to move forward.  I went to my counselor today.  It was helpful.  I so needed to speak to someone.  To help me continue to move forward when all I want to do is give up.

Thank God for music.  It so resonates with me.  It helps me process the emotions that I cannot vocalize or put into writing.  Right now the song that is really sticking with me is Demi Lovato’s Skyscraper.  Some may think it too “pop”, but she’s been through so much and completely gets the underlying point of the song.  I love it.  It inspires me.  Gives me hope.  I feel like a Phoenix, but my ashes are still burning.  I haven’t risen yet.

Destroyed

I have been destroyed.  This weekend was horrific.  The only positive thing is that I think I’ve hit bottom.  I like to think of myself as a strong person, but I’m weak, I’m tired, I’m overwhelmed, I’m destroyed.   I keep reminding myself of that saying, “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves to annihilation over and over, can we find that within us that is indestructible.”  I’ll get through this eventually, but right now I’m barely keeping it together.

This weekend J came home.  He is on a work assignment in a different state.  I was too exhausted to put energy into finding a place to stay for the weekend, plus it is my home too.  I didn’t leave.  So we were there for the weekend from Friday through Sunday.  It was hard.  It was confusing.  Saturday I went out with some friends.  I’ve come to realize that I simply don’t need to have a drink at all during this period of time.  I thought a few drinks couldn’t hurt.  Boy was I wrong.

Soon, everything started just welling up in me.  I excused myself from my friends and told them I was tired and going home.  I went to my car and just broke down.  In an effort to get out of there, I was able to drive my car a whopping 30 feet to a parking lot across the street and proceeded to fall apart.  I was so destroyed.  I couldn’t drive.  All I wanted to do was to run my car into a median or a large pole in an effort to end my life.  I was stuck in downtown, crying and completely losing it.  I didn’t know what to do, so I called the suicide hotline.  Which, by the way, was not helpful at all!

The lady told me to stop crying.  Asked why I was upset.  I told her.  She said, “well, if you’re the one who wanted the divorce, why are you crying?”  I hung up on her.  Eventually I got enough of my shit together to start making the drive home, although I shouldn’t have been driving in my state.  I wasn’t drunk, I was simply at the beginning of a nervous breakdown.  I was completely disoriented.

I made it home with great difficulty.  Started what seemed like an endless walk to my home (where J was).  I could barely get myself to walk, much less climb stairs.  I had to take breaks on the way up to the 3rd floor.  It wasn’t pretty.  Sobbing, shoes and purse clung to my chest like a doll.  When I got into the apartment, J was on the couch.  I continued to just lose it.  Wailing.  That is what I was doing.  Wailing.  My soul was so ripped apart, there was nothing to do but give in.  It was horrific.  It was terrifying.

He hugged me and held me while I collapsed on the floor.  Eventually I told him I needed to get into the shower–I find it soothing to be in a shower when I feel really terrible.  I got in the shower, but it didn’t provide me with the relief I needed.  I got a razor blade from my bathroom drawer.  I was in so much pain and distress and it wouldn’t subside.  I was so done.  I wanted it to end.

I started to try.  To let my lifeblood run free.  I pushed the razor against my skin.  It hurt.  I wanted to do it so bad.  To get it over with.  I kept trying, kept not being able to press hard enough.  J came in and took it from me.  He got in the shower and simply held me while I cried and broke down further.  He got me out of the shower and put me in bed.  I couldn’t move.  I couldn’t speak.  I couldn’t do anything.  Eventually even the tears wouldn’t come.  He stayed with me all night.  I’m glad he was there.

Sunday was difficult.  Waking up and feeling completely empty, foggy.  I play on a soccer league and in a wind ensemble.  And I had practices for both on Sunday.  I went to soccer practice, but J is on my team.  He was there.  I was physically ill.  I left early, but he walked me to my car.  He had to go back to his work assignment, so we said goodbye at the car.  He tried to kiss me.  He told me to let him kiss me.  He started telling me that he wanted me to tell him there was hope for us.  I was dumbfounded.  After all that had transpired in 24 hours he thought it was a good idea to ask me for more (earlier in the day, he told me that “sex makes you feel better”–I think he was joking, but I wasn’t really in the mood).  I proceeded to break down again, got in my car and left.

My girlfriend B came over and we went to dinner.  I’m so grateful for her.  She has been my savior through this.  I told her everything.  It is so hard to reach out to others when you are suffering so horribly b/c you don’t want to burden them and you are ashamed of the things going through your mind.  I lover her so much.  I also emailed a bit with C on Sunday.  He is so accepting of me in my most horrible form.  I’m blessed to have two people who truly love and care for me no matter what.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.  My family loves me, but they aren’t helping me.  My mom is trying.  She’s amazing, but I haven’t talked to my dad in weeks.  My brother doesn’t really know how to help, but he checks in with me from time to time.

This morning is a little better.  I’m working, so that helps me move forward. I know it will be difficult when I’m back home and I can let my guard down, but I need to let myself feel the pain and to work through the pain.  I’ve taken a leave of absence from my soccer league and the band that I play with.  I cannot deal with any additional responsibility right now.  I just need to focus on getting healthy and refocused.

Be kind to one another.

~AA

Grieving

I read some articles about relationships ending.  A number talked about how one of the party members is almost blind sided because they didn’t have any idea something was wrong.  Another incredibly insightful person wrote that you usually don’t talk about a divorce until you’ve really made your decision and have allowed yourself the opportunity to grieve for the loss of that relationship.   This, of course, is on the side of the party that usually initiates the termination.  I found this to be particularly poignant for me.

I think it is very accurate to say that it started for me in late 2009.  This was a true period of discovery for me.  For one, I was done with my doctoral work and the transition back to civilian life was quite bumpy.  I also FINALLY gave myself permission to acknowledge that their were things very wrong in our marriage.  When I would try to talk about something sensitive, he would get angry and start hitting the wall or a door.  I know this is common for many people, but I find it scary.  The last straw for me was when we were going somewhere.  I had “ruined” the evening by bringing up a relationship issue, but we were going to dinner anyway.  We got in the car, tension was extremely high and suddenly he beat the shit out of the console that separated us.  He broke it.  I had never been so scared.  I was crying, hugging the window and made him let me get out of the car.  He felt I was being “dramatic” and begrudgingly let me out before leaving on his own.

A few days later we were talking about something else and he said to me, “do you want a divorce?”  I had never thought it an option!  I was devastated.  He had these reactions almost any time I would try to talk about something like intimacy, responsibilities or communication issues; mostly, I believe, as an act of dominance to get me to shut up.  His philosophy has always been “we shouldn’t have to talk about it”.  So, I learned not to say anything.  I learned this earlier, but  I had been “pushing the envelope” and reaffirmed my fears.  I suggested marriage counseling.

We went, although he missed the first session (should have been a sign).  I even found a male counselor so that he wouldn’t feel like he was being ganged up on by women.  He viewed it as me going to counseling and him there for support.  We did have some breakthroughs, like he doesn’t hit things anymore, but he was never thrilled about participating; particularly in anything outside the counselor’s office.

I don’t begrudge him any of this.  He did not have a positive role model in regard to healthy relationships, but I won’t make excuses for him.  He needed to get his shit together.  For a little while, things improved.  But for only so long.  He still regards me with sarcasm and as if I’m a burden to be squashed, sometimes.  He talks to me like I’m a child with learning disabilities and belittles things that I do.  In addition to a blatant apathy regarding many of the things I care about. This, however, is merely my perception of things and it might not be his intention.

Anyway… it was in 2010 that I began the grieving process for the relationship that I thought I was going to have.  When he accepted the job in another city, I almost did not go, but chose to give it another go and moved with him.  Now, I feel like I’ve come to a place of peace about the current state of this marriage.  We’ve been talking about me getting pregnant.  He is going to be overseas for a few months for his job.  He wants to do it before he leaves.  I told him that wouldn’t happen and that I was slightly miffed at the fact that he thought it acceptable to suggest that he miss the first 3 or 4 months.  His response, “it’s not like much happens then anyway.  Plus, women have been doing it for years.”  WHAT!  This would be my first pregnancy and I would be doing it alone.  Nice.  Perhaps he is joking and I am COMPLETELY missing it, but I found this to be telling and very selfish.  What woman wants to have her first pregnancy alone?  Especially when her husband can choose to be there?  His rationale, “I’m getting older and I don’t want to wait too much longer.”  How compassionate.

~AA

Friends

Dear love, dear friend,

Your warmth and passion inspired me in ways I never thought imaginable.  There are many things that I wanted to say that will go unheard now, but I must be at peace with this.  I’m so happy to have had this experience, if only for a moment.  A child-like poem:

friends became loves
scared but willing
sharing dreams
embracing darkness
passion and hope
fear and loss
eternally on fire
fates unknown
expressions now silent

yet life’s beauty reborn

~AA

Evening Thoughts

Today was a bit better than the others have been.  I had an opportunity to talk to C via IM… I know.. playing with fire; but even friendship of any kind is a reprieve.  It helped me feel that perhaps we can still be there for one another.  Tonight I had rehearsal (with a band that I play with) and it wasn’t the same.  I’ve been very disinterested in things that I normally love.  I’ve had to remind myself to eat at least three times a day…which isn’t good b/c I have trouble keeping weight on.  It has been rough.  I have moments of clarity and peace that mix with moments of desperation and sadness.  I’m trying not to be selfish by focusing on letting him go to do whatever he needs to do.  I want to give him that space.  He needs it and I need it.  But I cannot deny the longing that I have for him and the fear that I will never have him again.  It is simply something I will have to deal with.

Today he told me that he is blocking off his feelings for me.  I understand that and am trying to do the same.  While I hate to think about it, I believe he is doing the right thing.  And I know that they will be there even if not so prominent.  You never truly fall out of love with those that you have a pure connection with; at least I don’t think so.  To be honest, I have a fairly educated guess of what his feelings were for me, but I do not know for absolute certain what they were and I don’t know if they were as strong as mine were for him.  But that is okay.  This is a complex thing and, as I’ve said time and time again, if I only had the smallest part of him, that was more than I deserve.  He is truly the most beautiful, gifted, loving and passionate man I have ever met.  I’m inspired to do more because of him and to not let myself sit spinning wheels.  It is a gift to be able to call him my friend.

Unfortunately, or wisely (I haven’t determined), I deleted everything he ever sent me in an effort to start the healing/cleansing process…everything except the story that he started writing for me.  I read it over and over and am in awe of his ability to capture and create.  Truly a unique gift that should be fostered with the utmost support.

Tonight my heart breaks a little more, but also mends a little more.  I’ll continue to get stronger.  I will continue to have moments of hate for my feelings and desires to never let people so close, but I will–eventually–be even better than before.  Isn’t that what our mothers always told us?  Leave things better than you found them?  C definitely left me better than he found me.  And for that, I will ever be grateful.

Walking Meditation

I just took a wonderful walk around campus.  Enjoying the trees, the cool air, the squirrels… there are hundreds of squirrels busily working to get ready for the winter; feverishly burying nuts all over campus.  It is one of my favorite things to watch.

While walking, I just focused on breathing and letting my mind be open.  Open to to the world around me and open to my heart.  And focusing on relaxing.  I need to do this more often.  As previously mentioned, I become a much better practitioner of Buddhism when I’m going through a change.  Perhaps that is what the change is for!?  To get me to refocus on the things that I need to be doing.

There is a beautiful practice in Buddhism called Tonglen.  It is a meditative practice focused on taking in the suffering of others.  I’ve been doing this for C since this entire mess started.  Basically you breath in the pain of others and exhale happiness in an effort to reduce suffering.  You can do this for an individual or for a group of people.  I encourage you to try it.  The beauty of this philosophy is that you are not exhaling bad things from your body, because you don’t create bad things…  you exhale things to reduce the suffering of others, because we do have the ability within us to do that.

 

Hopelessness

Today has been better than the last few days.  I feel a bit more stable, like things are evening out a bit.  Hopefully this will last, but I’m not naive.  Life is an interesting beast and I’m just trying to manage.  Perhaps I’m approaching the stage of “acceptance”.  I have a feeling that I might be.  This was, I suppose, an inevitable conclusion to our relationship; I just hope it isn’t the end of our friendship.  The last thing I want to do is to cause further harm…. to anyone involved.  Thus, I submit to hopelessness.

Hopelessness is not a bad thing.  It just means that I’m not going to try to hold on to things that naturally change.  I don’t believe that anything is permanent…relationships change, people change, the world changes, our needs change.  This loss is simply a change.  It also doesn’t preclude me from being able to look forward to future changes and future things that will come that I am unaware of.

Hopelessness is another Buddhist construct that I need to remind myself to embrace.  I tend to forget.  It is the desire to hold on to things, people and events that cause so much pain.