I started this blog to help me come to terms with my own personal emotions, thoughts, traumas, “dirty thinking”, and obsessions. I want to learn how to get out of my head, which would then get those excruciating knots that fester in my gut and the tingling fingertips I feel when the adrenaline courses through my body to subside.
By doing so, I hope to build a network of individuals who are struggling with similar issues and can give each other the support needed to heal over painful events in their lives.
It’s one thing to talk about ourselves, but when I hear someone else struggling with the same issues I have, I find the focus isn’t on my own internal pain, but in being there for them. For that one moment, I’m present in the Now and I find peace by serving another.
Let’s all serve one another on this site.
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
Do my emotions create the physical sensations that my body feels or is it the painful physical sensations that cause my overwhelming emotions?
Once my body physically feels emotional pain, then my brain tries to find meaning, the story, behind that sensation. This, in turn, only reinforces and increases the physical pain I start to feel.
It’s like a snowball rolling downhill gaining mass and speed the farther it goes.
Do my emotions create painful physical sensations or is it the other way around? Click To Tweet
I read this and think, “No wonder my ex doesn’t want to hear what goes through my mind. I sound like some sort of freak.”
When I long for connection with my ex-wife by trying to explain what is going on physically, emotionally, and mentally, I end up alienating her instead. That alienation reinforces my belief that I am not worthy of her love.
Here’s tonight’s story:
My career takes me away from home many days out of the week. I love and I am passionate about what I do. Unfortunately, as wonderful as my career sounds to others and how much I enjoy what I do, I end up recreating my childhood trauma of feeling alone, disconnected, and abandoned.
We do recreate the traumas of our past.
This is what we’re used to and what we’ve normalized.
Let me tell you, to change, to go against what I’ve always known and felt as safe and comfortable, is fucking hard!
In my career, I have done nothing but complain about what I miss. I miss spending time with the family. I miss many school functions. I miss putting my girls to bed and waking them up in the morning. (When I’m home and must deal with the constant back talk, resistance, fighting, and grumpiness I ask, “Now why did I miss this?” This is something only a parent could understand.)
I miss being present with my family.
You’ll eventually find out about my childhood and you’ll see why I’d rather be around the chaos of family life rather than enjoying the peace and solitude of my time alone. It’s that constant nagging fear that I will be abandoned once again. It’s the belief that if I’m not present or around, no one will see me, that I’m invisible and not important to the people I love.
It’s the belief that I am not needed or wanted.
Those beliefs fueled the pity-party I always laid onto my ex.
I was an asshole when it came to commuting to and from work (I must commute the day before and the day after a trip). This always cuts into my time off, the time I could have with my family. And I did nothing but whine, complain, nag, and blame consistently. I was needy, I smothered her, and I expected her to take care of all my needs. It’s amazing that my ex lasted as long as she did.
My family could have moved to where I was based at any time, but that would have meant my ex didn’t have the support network of her friends and family while I was gone. My girls wouldn’t have had the chance to grow up around their cousins or have the incredible teachers and school district that we’ve been so proud to be a part of.
We planted our roots eight years ago and my girls have established many close friends, which, I believe, is invaluable growing up.
This has been and is the most important thing for our family.
When I see why I have sacrificed what I wanted in my life to provide for my family, I am eternally grateful.
But, when my insecurities and abandonment issues bubble up, the gratitude fades away and I realize I hold a lot of anger and resentment about giving up so much of myself. When I see that the life I wanted has disappeared (this is a story I make up mind you, because it could be much worse – I still have a relationship with my ex, I have my kids whenever I’m around, and we have a good life, it’s just a different definition of family, a definition I have been unable to accept – it hasn’t all disappeared, it’s just different) I go into pity, “oh poor me look at what I have lost” mentality.
I do realize that my life has changed due to the poor choices I made and my own behavioral issues, but at times it’s easier for me to go into victim mode by blaming the situation or blaming others, then by taking ownership for my own actions.
As has been pointed out to me numerous times, even by my kids, “Dad, it’s your choice to have picked the career you work in. You could have done something else.” That’s true. I allowed too much fear to switch careers mid-life when I had a family to support.
Yes, I realize I’m rationalizing and making an excuse that I let my own fear control my decisions.
I was also grateful that my career allowed my ex the option to work or stay at home.
Although, I was a jerk and gave her mixed messages on what was important – work, no stay home, work, no stay home – another blog of its own. My ex could be the mother she wanted to be for our girls. She could be the mother we both didn’t have growing up; the mom who had worked full time all her life.
My ex volunteered and helped in classes, took our kids to extracurricular activities, and spent one on one time with them. Our girls had a very involved mother, the one thing both of us never had growing up.
Yet, I also resented that she had all the time with them and I didn’t – I was jealous.
If it’s not one thing, it’s another. No wonder my ex had trouble keeping up with my consistently changing beliefs.
I was jealous because I was missing out on so much and blamed her for it. I longed for connection and at the end of the day, when she was beat because she took care of an entire household on her own, I’d whine and complain because I wanted the attention I didn’t get during the day. Being alone in a hotel was painful.
This was more of a misbelief that I needed connection to survive (that childhood trauma shit) and she was obligated to give me what I deserved. Yup, asshole here!
I’m sure this will bring up many countering opinions about what a long-distance marriage “should” look like.
Shit! That sounds like a crappy way to live! Long-distance marriage.
If anyone has survived many years in a long-distance marriage, please let us know your secret!
My ex needed her space and time, but never got it.
Since we are on the subject about my ex, I also want to add that she lost herself. I’ve seen this with many co-workers who were once stay home mothers and came to work after their kids left the nest. They had no identity. They were so-and-so’s husband or so-and-so’s mother. I can’t imagine what it feels like to lose a sense of who you are and try to regain that after 13+ years. But that’s what happened in our marriage.
My ex lost herself along the way of care-taking two girls and an intensely high maintenance husband. As she used to say, “I have three kids.”
Ok, enough of the back story. You’ll get bits and pieces of my life along the way.
Back to my nauseous gut feeling I’m having tonight…
I’m in a hotel, about two hours away from my family. There’s a heavy winter storm that has knocked the power out at my ex’s house and a few trees have fallen and blocked the road leading up to her property. She currently has seven, three-week-old puppies, that she’s attending to with the mama dog, and the house has no water and no heat. She dropped off our girls at her friend’s house and had to hike in to her house where she’s cut off from the outside world (not really cut off, but that’s what my brain makes up).
Is it codependency or is it love?
I think I’ve had too much therapy these past six years. I question everything I do.
The minute I hear she’s in trouble, I have this urge to make sure she’s ok. I’m concerned. I’m worried. I want to rent a car and rush home (albeit a stupid move since there is a horrendous storm going on).
She can do it all on her own. She doesn’t need me. She has always managed on her own. I’m never there anyway.
But I want to be there for her. I want to be with her. I want to make sure that she and the girls are safe. It’s that protective father/husband that kicks in.
Or is it because I want to caretake?
Fucking stupid mind! STOP!
Here’s the dynamic that causes my stomach to lurch and roll. She has a single male friend whose daughter is my youngest daughter’s best friend. He’s a nice guy, has a good heart, and is a good friend to her. Unfortunately, due to my past actions and behaviors, I make up the story that he holds judgement against me. Numerous times he has made comments about my actions to my ex that gets her head spinning. Being her friend, he supports the divorce and, once again, these are stories I make up, but I don’t see him as one that would challenge her like Rafiki challenges me. It’s more support of her decision (which is what she needs in a friend anyways) than challenge her thinking.
I make up the story that he sees me as the bad guy.
This is what I’ve done in the past with my interactions with committed women, so naturally I assume he does the same thing. I have taken a woman’s negative opinion and her frustrations about her boyfriend or husband and validated them making “that guy” look like the Joker in “The Dark Knight”. Back then, I could see no good in a man who would treat his spouse like shit.
I realize now, that this was just projection about myself. I definitely didn’t treat my ex well.
(Ohhh…good processing going on here. Why this blog is a good thing. Is that why I make up that this friend sees me as a poor husband to my ex? Is it a projection of himself? Or even more deep, is it a projection of me that I place on him as a projection of himself. Did I lose you? Need to look more at that one…)
What’s ironic, is that when I believe that someone else perceives me as bad, I then act as if this is true, which then makes it a self-fulfilling prophesy.
I cause what I believe.
My beliefs establish my perception and I end up causing what I believe. Click To Tweet
And when what I believe comes true, I can easily take myself out of the scenario and blame everyone else for hurting me.
I don’t have to take ownership of my thoughts, my emotions, or my actions.
Cognitively, I know my ex and this man are just friends. I also know she does not disclose to him on the deep level she discloses to me. I have probably disclosed more about myself and have been more vulnerable and intimate in these first two blogs with all of you than she has been with him in the past couple of years. He’s someone who makes her laugh, someone who’s adventurous and likes to take the kids places, and someone who is an excellent cook – the one way to my ex’s heart – UGH! Stop it mind!
But see that’s where I fight this raging tiger within me.
I cognitively know that he isn’t a threat, but then she does everything with him that we used to do together. Things I have been unable to do because of my career. Listening to my girls tell me stories about what they’ve done, hearing that she’s going over to his house to watch a movie (something we started when we were first dating and continued in a marriage, something that stopped happening over a year ago), finding out that they cooked dinner together, I can’t stop the feeling that I have been replaced. I have mentioned it many times. And she tells me I’ve not been replaced, because emotionally, I haven’t.
But what I feel is like I am on the outside looking in. Like those damn fucking country songs! To be the guy looking in at his house with another man laughing and having fun with his family. Like the child who was never included in games at school. Like getting stitches in your head that prevents you from swimming at your cousin’s birthday party at the lake. Like asking your parents to play, but they would rather read a book than give you attention.
I feel left out.
As I type this I have this desire to cry. Since I am not medicating my emotions, I recognize them quite rapidly. I am learning not to be reactive to them. In the past, I’d want to engage. I’d want to talk about my feelings. I’d want to blame and shame my ex for what was bothering me.
I’d do anything to get that emotion the FUCK out of my body!
I understand now why I covered that pain with addiction. The bodily sensations suck! And when I think that, my mind goes to that I’m rationalizing and justifying my past choices. I made some horrible decisions in my past, hurt the people I loved, and there’s no excuse for my actions. But there’s an understanding. It’s that understanding that has allowed me to change, albeit too slow for my desires.
“Awareness is the first step towards change,” Rafiki tells me.
Awareness means that as I wrote this blog I felt a surge of pain and loss. It’s hard to accept that the life I once knew is over, but even harder when I see that my ex is already moving on with hers while I’m still stuck in what I lost.
And the next emotion that is now flooding my senses is immense fear. Fear that I am disclosing too much about other people. Fear about what happens if this gets out and my ex finds out I was talking about her? Fear about the ramifications my disclosures could have on my family. Fear that I am “case-building” to make me look good at the expense of my ex.
Rafiki catches me doing that all the time, “You’re case-building again. Just express your feelings without explaining the why.”
I have fear that I am doing something wrong and something bad. Fear that I am, as a therapist once said, “A wall of words.”
These are the thoughts that I fight. It’s not one tiger I’m fighting, it’s multiple tigers from all fronts. I stand and fight one, while two others come from the sides. Maybe it’s more like the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park.
Back to tonight’s story:
My ex’s friend is taking my girls and his daughter to a hotel. This is to get them out of the country where they could get stuck due to flooding and the storm. If it gets too bad, my ex has a backup plan for the puppies and will join them. In texts, I can sense her jealousy at the “fun” the kids and her friend are going to have at the hotel room without her. I also can sense how much she’d like to be a part of it; a slumber party at the hotel.
Once again, this was another thing she and the girls used to do with me when they would join me on my trips; something that hasn’t happened in 8 years. And once again, that feeling of being replaced.
Add to those feelings that I feel helpless and want to make sure they’re ok, but I can’t get there, they don’t need me, and they already have someone else looking over them. I feel as if am not wanted or needed. My identity as a father and husband has been stripped away.
So, I want to run away.
“Run, Forrest, run”
– Forrest Gump
“Run away Simba…Run. Run away and never return.”
– The Lion King
I want to run away from the feeling inside. There’s a belief that if I just left and disappeared I wouldn’t feel this way.
I can’t do that. My father did that to me. I will never, ever, abandon my girls the way my dad did.
So instead, I fight the tiger. I wrestle the tiger. He claws me, tearing at my skin. I won’t give up. I will win. I will fight, fight, fight! And as I fight, I feel as if I am losing ground. I am losing control. I’m bleeding and ripped to shreds. I’m tired. I’m exhausted.
I just want this pain to stop. These thoughts to stop. This anxiety to stop. This fear to stop. This judgement to stop. Everything to stop!
I make up this story that “if only” I had my wife back and we were a family and I was home more everything would be ok.
I know that isn’t true.
“I consider ‘IF ONLY’ to be two very dangerous words.
They’re dangerous because they actually distract us from the real cause of our unhappiness.
‘IF ONLY’ has us looking for answers outside ourselves, forever trying to change how others behave in order to feel better about our own lives.
'If only' has us looking for answers outside ourselves, not for the answers that are within us. Click To Tweet
We believe that our relationships, work, and health could be better, if only this person acted a certain way, or if only there weren’t so many obstacles in the way.
It turns us away from the one thing that CAN change how we feel about our lives. And that is looking within, to how we really feel about ourselves.
Because in order to feel at peace and fully content with our lives, we must first and foremost learn to love ourselves.”
– Katie and Guy Hendricks email
I need to learn how to dance with my tiger.
What an interesting choreography routine that would look like. Maybe that can be a future video from one of our Fledglings. Any takers? (I have decided to name my readers Fledglings. Because like myself, I too want you to rise from the ashes and become reborn. I want you to learn how to fly again.)
Learning to dance with my tiger is learning how to love myself. Learning to dance with my tiger is learning how to love myself. Click To Tweet
To do that I need to stop running from the tiger. I need to stop fighting the tiger.
It’s so interesting to see, from an objective viewpoint looking down, my fight or fight reflex that trauma causes. And to realize how I reacted to that in the past – well, still do most of the time – ugh! The thought of embracing those emotions and dancing with them sounds calming to me. My art therapist did once tell me to never stop dancing with myself!
Learning to dance with my tiger is learning how to regulate the emotional trauma that gets triggered in me. I need to accept my pain, accept my jealousy, accept my present, and stop future tripping.
Learning to dance with my tiger is learning how to regulate my emotional trauma wounds. Click To Tweet
And remember to never run from a tiger. That only makes you their prey. They’ll pounce on you when you least suspect it.
Never run from a tiger. That only makes you their prey. Click To Tweet
Tonight, by writing this blog, I have taken the first steps to waltz with my tiger.
Please join me by taking the first dance steps with your beast.
PS: As I’ve finished this I got notice that the road is clear for now, the kids are home and safe, and the power is back on. I’m glad I danced with my tiger in front of all of you these past couple of hours, instead of allowing it to maul me to death while sitting alone in my hotel room. Everything is ok and tonight, when I go to bed, I will sleep in peace.
PPS: I know this is more of a fighting song and I’d rather waltz with my tiger. But, this is one of the best inspirational songs that can bring us strength and propel us to achieve our goals and dreams. I’m adding it here so I can remind myself and all my Fledglings that, like the band’s name, we are survivors. We will survive the challenges we face. We will rise from the ashes. And we will be reborn!
Eye of the Tiger