Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
This post ran previously in 2015
I’ve known for some time that I should see a counselor. I’m not equipped to handle the ‘skein of fuckedupedness’ that I unwittingly attempt to untangle every day (shout out to the AMAZING Chump Lady). I feel like a grade school teacher trying to land a 747. So, I began therapy last week. The therapist didn’t know quite where to begin with me. I’m pretty decimated in every area of my emotional life, and as I’d already warned her about, feeling incapable of getting myself out of this prison of my own creation. So she played it pretty safe, and stuck to the basic getting-to-know-what’s-wrong-with-your-crazy-ass script. But then she busted out with a simple exercise for me to do until I saw her again, and honestly, it’s been rocking my world.
She wants me to imagine two chairs. Every day, I have to decide which chair to sit in. In the first chair, I can only speak positively. I must mention only the good characteristics of my life. I must not have a negative outlook about the future. Ha haaaaa!!! As if. She clearly doesn’t know me.
In the other chair, I can do and say and think whatever I want. I can give in to my deepest hatred, fears, and pain from the past. In it, I’d feel perfectly justified to give voice to my rage and lay waste to small villages with my sarcasm cloud.
And as I’m contemplating how comfortable the second chair sounds, she says it. Those six simple words that have been keeping me awake at night for the last 2 weeks. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
The petulant child in me dug in her heels. I smiled and listened, all while thinking ‘Um, NO. It’s not. I don’t have any control over my suffering. It was imposed upon me. My brain makes no distinction. It simply plays and plays the horror reel from the night it all went down. It takes my heart and crushes it in a vice with imagery of my nuclear family being ripped apart in a firestorm of tears. It’s on autopilot, my brain. SO IT MOST CERTAINLY DOESN’T FEEL LIKE A CHOICE, LADY!
But I knew she was right. I just didn’t want to eat my broccoli. So after wrestling with it all week, I sat down to pen a few things that I thought I might say if I were to sit in the first chair.
Ok. Here’s the chair where I’m supposed to somehow wring the infinitesimal drops of goodness out of what Honey did to us. I want it on record that I’m sitting here begrudgingly. But the view is nice.
Hmmm. I suppose I could say that he set me free. Free to what, I still have no idea. But at least I’m not married to someone I thought was my best friend who is, in actuality, a selfish asshat. Ok, wait. I think that wasn’t very positive. Let’s try again.
Ummm…ok, think I’ve got one. My son and daughter will not have the man he turned out to be as an influence in their life anymore. Or at least, in a very limited capacity. Binding my hands so I don’t type more here.
I’m in my home town again with my friends and family. Juxtaposed against the misery I felt living away from them, this is a return to normalcy that I don’t verbalize my appreciation of often enough. Sure, I know what a blessing it is, but I shouldn’t take a blessing as something ‘standard’ or expected. The girl in the other chair might say ‘yah, I’m back with everyone, but at what cost? Look what’s been done to us!’ But the girl in this chair has a lump in her throat thinking about how much this has been my healing place. This tropical paradise, with its familiar streets and sights that flood me with all manner of great memories from the course of a lifetime. I can drive down a street I remember being on with my dad when I was 5. I should never take that for granted. The people here love me and my children, and have supported us fully. I thank them endlessly, I really do. Yet in my mind, I’ve let the bad that’s been done to us outweigh the importance of what having these people in our lives really means. Don’t think I could possibly appreciate them more.
See? I can do this. I’m kicking ass and taking names.
If this hadn’t happened, I’d never have known what I’m capable of as a parent when I have to be. Even when I say I can’t do it, or I can’t go on, I do. Because their little faces compel me up and out of my paralysis. I’d do anything for them. Despite going through the worst year ever, I’ve made sure we read books, and do puzzles, and go to the zoo and SeaWorld and the beach. We examine bugs and play in the dirt and I sing them songs every night while I rock baby girl to sleep in my arms. I need to forgive myself for the early days when I was a zombie, and didn’t and couldn’t step up for them. But as soon as I could, as soon as I could orient myself to the horizon, I did. I will choose to focus on the good that I can do, rather than the family that Honey robbed them of. I have to let go of the fact that I simply have no control over that. And, I think if I really work at it, I can eventually put down the picture of the nuclear family I’ve had clenched in my fist for so long.
Aren’t I a fount of positivity?!
And, if this hadn’t happened, I never would have started talking to Van. That relationship, though I recently ended it, saved my life in this last year. Yes, it was all by phone (he’s 2,000 miles away), but it was intense and amazing and life changing. He made me feel valued. Loved. Adored. And to me, removing the pressure of being together in the same place made it even better. I was not thinking rationally, and the last thing a woman should do is place themselves in a vulnerable position with a man when their defenses are down. I love him. I really do. And he loves me. We get along beautifully. It’s like a symphony of wit and sarcasm every time we talk. So, why end it before it could really begin? Because no one, especially not someone as amazing as Van, deserves to have someone as emotionally scarred as I am. It’s not right. There were some other factors at play about compatibility between us, but ultimately once things calmed down and I could see clearly, I realized that I am simply NOT ready. And though I hurt him, we still talk and will remain friends.
I can see this all as a positive if I just frame it right. Must be the chair.
So, that brings me to the other chair. I’ve been sitting in it for over a year now. When I thought about what it might look like, this is the first thing that came to mind.
This chair is going to kill me. I can’t stay here. I will do my best not to sit down in it again. Though I make no promises, I can at least say that if I do, I’ll do so knowing full well that I do so by choice. This will be my new mantra, by God.
This chair is a choice. This chair is a choice. This chair is a choice.
And I’m going to repeat it until one day, I absentmindedly sit down with a book and a cold glass of tea in the first chair instead.
The view is much nicer there anyway.