Sometimes It’s Not Always Great

Sometimes It’s Not Always Great

Not Always Great

Sometimes it’s not always great, you know. But we always put our best faces on, don’t we?   We dry up the tears quickly enough to answer, “I’m fine” when the stranger asks us how we are. We never say, “Actually it’s all going to shit, thanks very much.”

Sometimes it’s not always great. We post pictures of our significant other being charming and delicious and never put up pictures representing fights. We caption our photos: “Here are the roses he bought me!” and “Isn’t she the prettiest?”   But we don’t seem to put up pictures of the air conditioning unit. The one that started the fight over saving money on the electric bill and lasted for days.

Sometimes it’s not always great. We look in the mirror and feel fat. Men and women. We both do. We wake up wrapped up in enough insecurity to last a lifetime, but it’s only a Tuesday. So we starve ourselves all day until we get home late at night, convince ourselves we deserve it, and binge. Then we wake up the next morning wrapped up in enough insecurity to last a lifetime, but it’s only a Wednesday.

Sometimes it’s not always great. Loved ones die. Loved ones abuse. Loved ones hurt. Or leave.  Loved ones don’t even know it, but unintentionally wound us. We hurt the most those we love the most. We have ghosts from our past that haunt us; we have ghosts in our future that haven’t popped up yet.

Sometimes it’s not always great. We can be our worst enemy, the villains in our own lives. We worry about somebody breaking into our homes and destroying all our possessions. But we break into our own heads and destroy every ounce of confidence. We say we can’t, we say we don’t deserve it.

Then we feel lonely and the car breaks down.

Sometimes, it’s not always great, you know.

The funny thing is – this lack of greatness, it’s universal. We all understand what it’s like. Yet we all hide it. “Maybe they won’t know I’m royally screwed up if I don’t tell them.” We put on masks; we pretend it’s all good. Some of us hide under religion or education or makeup. It’s like a game we all participate in. The “Who Can Hide Their Shit Better?” Game.

But if we cut the crap, we’d see that it’s sometimes not great for everyone. Then we could use the magic words. Me too. We can’t say them when we are all play The “Who Can Hide Their Shit Better?” Game.  Me too.

You’re a co-dependent? Me too. You’ve been divorced? Me too. You have church issues? Me too. You jumble your words and accidentally say hurtful things? Me too.  You have acne scars? Me too. You feel hate or bitterness? Me too. You feel bored? Me too. You worry if your life will be significant? Me too. You use negative self-talk? Me too. You fight with the people you love? Me too.

Sometimes it’s not always great? ME TOO.

Take off the mask. It’s amazing how many other people will join you.

Image via Flickr

Hello. I’m Taylor, and I’m a Codependent.

Hello. I’m Taylor, and I’m a Codependent.

Hello. I’m Taylor, and I’m a Codependent.

(I am not a doctor, psychologist, or therapist. Everything I have said in this post is based on my personal research and experience. Always consult a doctor, psychologist, or therapist for accuracy and a diagnosis.)

It’s easier for me to talk about what’s wrong with the world than it is for me to talk about what’s wrong within me. I’ve found flags to wave with pride, bringing attention to causes I deem important.

I can easily talk about the things near and dear to my heart, but it’s harder to talk about the things going on in my heart.

One thing I don’t really write about is something I should be shouting from the rooftops. Mostly because it’s part of my belief that I should be “brave enough to tell my story and kind enough to not tell anyone else’s.” Also, I happen to think that my story is awfully similar to many people’s stories – even if they don’t know it yet. There’s something miraculous that comes from a “Me too.”

I am a Codependent.

Hello. I’m Taylor, and I’m a Codependent.

I will never forget the moment when codependency came on my radar. I was in the car with a dear, trusted friend. I was ranting about all the problems that were leading me to file for divorce at the wee age of 22. She asked me if I had ever read the book Codependent No More.

My response: Why? Does he need to read it? (Because, of course, it’s always the other person who has all the problems.)

Her response: No, Taylor. You do.

**crickets**

(Side note: You always need a friend who tells you the truth. The friends who tell you that you’re great 100% of the time are lying to you.)

I had no idea what codependency was. So I did what every 20-something does: I googled it. And then the tears. I spent days (which has lead to months) researching and studying codependency.  This is what I learned:

Codependents need somebody to need them. They need other people to be okay with them in order to be okay with themselves. With heavy amounts of people pleasing/caretaking and low amounts of self-esteem, Codependents have trouble setting up boundaries and taking care of themselves.  Often, Codependents are attracted to those with addictions and/or narcissists because they are some of the neediest of people.

And we need to be needed.

The website for Co-dependents Anonymous has a great overview of the generalized, common symptoms of codependency (found here). I will copy and paste some that jumped out at me as being daily problems in my life, for my entire life.

Codependents often:

  • have difficulty identifying what they are feeling
  • think they can take care of themselves without any help from others
  • mask pain in various ways such as anger, humor, or isolation
  • express negativity or aggression in indirect and passive ways
  • have difficulty making decisions
  • judge what they think, say, or do harshly, as never good enough
  • have difficulty admitting a mistake
  • value others’ approval of their thinking, feelings, and behavior over their own
  • need to appear to be right in the eyes of others and may even lie to look good
  • are unable to identify or ask for what they need and want
  • look to others to provide their sense of safety
  • have trouble setting healthy priorities and boundaries
  • are extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long
  • put aside their own interests in order to do what others want
  • are hypervigilant regarding the feelings of others and take on those feelings
  • believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves
  • attempt to convince others what to think, do, or feel
  • have to feel needed in order to have a relationship with others
  • demand that their needs be met by others
  • suppress their feelings or needs to avoid feeling vulnerable

All of a sudden my life made sense. The struggles I had since I was a little girl, the difficulties I had in relationships, and all the confusion finally made sense.  It was the most liberating realization: I wasn’t crazy or broken. I simply had a problem. And we all have problems.

Soon after, I did read Codependent No More (HIGHLY suggest it!) like my friend suggested and let all the information soak into my brain. I wondered how a young woman growing up in a healthy, addiction-free home struggled with this problem. I wondered if this was something I could learn to overcome. I wondered what to do next.  Lots of wondering happened.

This was a year and a half ago. I’m not healed, I still struggle with it daily, and I only have some answers. But my awareness of the problem makes my life easier. My codependent tendencies may affect my relationships, but they no longer control my relationships. It may take years of therapy, lots of hard work, and very patient loved ones for me to fully understand this problem. But it will not control my life.

With knowledge, I am empowered and retraining my thoughts. I am learning tools to make tomorrow better than yesterday. I am learning to say no when I need to, to do what I need to do when I need to do it, and to allow others to live their own lives.

I would like to write more about Codependency on my blog, but to do that I had to start by saying –

Hello, my name is Taylor, and I am a Codependent.

You too?  Me too.  We can do this.

Choppy Waters: Finding Stillness In My Mind

Choppy Waters: Finding Stillness In My Mind

Well-being of mind is like a mountain lake without ripples.  When the lake has no ripples, everything in the lake can be seen.  When the water is all churned up, nothing can be seen.  The still lake without ripples is an image of our minds at ease, so full of unlimited friendliness for all the junk at the bottom of the lake that we don’t feel the need to churn up the waters just to avoid looking at what’s there.

Pema Chodron (When Things Fall Apart)

~~~~~

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All my life I have been an expert churner.  I could churn the waters of my mind so adeptly that I never had any ability to see what was really lying beneath all the choppy water.  Any time the choppy waters eased into steady ripples, I would hurriedly begin my churning again.

My churning methods were various throughout the years.  A common one was finding a needy person and filling every second with fixing their problems.  Unfortunately, my fixing abilities were not as masterful as my churning abilities.  My fixing, to my bewilderment, would always look more like enabling really unhealthy behaviors.

Another common churning method was perfectionism/people-pleasing.  Busying myself with saying “yes” when I wanted to say “no”; and saying “no” when I wanted to say “yes”.

My methods went on and on throughout the years.  Stuffing my face with food, exercising compulsively, shopping frantically – because what else can hide what’s REALLY going on better than a new pair of killer shoes?

I lived in perpetual denial.  Perpetually denying that there was anything underneath my choppy waters.  No dead fish.  No sharp rocks.  No garbage.  No decaying carcass.  No non-biodegradable plastic.

I did not wake myself up from my denial.  The catastrophic mess that was 2013 woke me up from my denial.  I did choose, however, to stay awake.

My mind, my heart, my hands, my body, my emotions, my every-fiber-of-my-being was exhausted.  I had been in the height of my pretending and of my “fixing” others.  I had reached the peak.  The peak was so narrow and so sharp; my only choice was to fall.  So I let go.  I plummeted.  I divorced the man I married at the age of 19.  A former Pastor’s Wife was now divorced.  I could not fool anybody anymore.  The world knew my name had now changed twice.  I no longer felt that I had to be anybody I was not.  The cat was out of the bag.

While I was busy letting go and plummeting off My Peak of Codependency and Perfectionism, I stopped churning.  I allowed the lake of my mind to still.  And I summoned all my bravery, stepped to the edge of that lake and peered in.

I saw things I did not like.  I saw things I did not want.  I saw things I had repressed.  I saw things I was embarrassed of.  I saw things I never anticipated, and I saw some things that I had anticipated.

I decided to look at them without judging them.  I decided to look at them with friendliness. I stared at my tendency to busy myself by shopping.  Instead of calling myself a vain, materialistic failure, I thought through how to be able to enjoy shopping without using it as a numbing technique.  I examined my tendency to allow people to walk all over me.  Instead of calling myself a weak nobody, I thought through how to be able to be a kind, generous person with healthy boundaries.

I gifted myself with awareness.  No more churning led to an awareness of my life.  Awareness is empowerment.  Being aware of junk allows me to start dealing with the junk.  Being aware that I can not only survive, but also thrive even with the knowledge of my own “junkiness’, allows me to be kinder to myself.  It also allows me to be kinder to others: both to those who are expert churners and also to those who refuse to churn and show the world the junk at the bottom of their lakes.

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My life is now a still lake.  You can step up to the edge and take a peak if you would like.  The waters are clear enough to see what is really going on.  You will see things may be scary, possibly offensive, and definitely crazy.  But there may be one less dead fish than there was yesterday.

~~~~~

The first step toward personal freedom is awareness.  We need to be aware that we are not free in order to be free.  We need to be aware of what the problem is in order to solve the problem.  Awareness is always the first step because if you are not aware, there is nothing you can change.  If you are not aware that your mind is full of wounds and emotional poison, you cannot begin to clean and heal the wounds and you will continue to suffer.

–       Don Miguel Ruiz (The Four Agreements)

Image: Choppy Water