I sit on the bus heading home and I find myself once again struggling. I’m so tired of struggling. I’m so tired of wanting things to be different.
I’m working on Andy Stanley’s “What do You Want” series and my mind keeps going back to the ONE thing I want.
I want my marriage! I want my family! I want to go home!
What’s the pull? Why do I want that so much? Why is that the piece that I keep on turning to?
Where’s Rafiki when I need him? He helps ground me and right now I need some grounding.
The phone rings…
“OMG! Your timing couldn’t be more perfect!” I answer the phone.
“Yeah, I could feel your vibes just radiating across the cosmos. Thought I should call before you spun yourself into a tizzy of anxious mush,” Rafiki replies.
I feel my body immediately relax. My therapist used to tell me years ago that I needed someone from program to talk to about my problems. “Do not talk with your spouse about your interpersonal struggles,” he recommended. “That’s what your program peers are for.”
It took me such a long time to agree with his advice. If the person that was the cause of my emotional crap was my wife, why wouldn’t I work it out with her?
That was because she wasn’t the cause of my emotional crap, just the person/situation that triggered my shit from the past. And when my shit was triggered, there was nothing she could do or say that would make it better.
My shortsightedness always blamed her for what I was feeling. Trying to work it out with her only made it worse.
It was better for both of us when I processed my thoughts with Rafiki.
Processing With Rafiki
“Think it’s a little late to stop the anxiousness.”
“I’m just working on this “What Do You Want” sermon and writing a blog, but all I keep coming up with is that I want my marriage. You’ve heard me go back and forth. Seen me grounded, then get all spun up again. I am just tired of it. Why can’t I let go? There’s an obsession prayer I read to myself every day that says:
I am bonded in my heart to someone who does not share this bond.
I feel so drawn to her, while she is not bond to me.
Please, dear God, disconnect my heart from this longing within me that does not serve.
I release her into Your hands.
May the ropes that bind my heart be cut.
May they not bind me.
May they not bind her.
I release her that I might be released.
Retract the silent hooks I have in her.
Bring back to me my power and my love.
Cut the cord that chemically ties me to her.
Free me from her.
Free her from me.
May we find peace.
Free us both.
“I have read this to myself daily for seven to eight months and I can’t cut that cord! I want to cut the cord. I need to cut the cord. All I want right now is to cut the cord so I can move on with my life.”
Rafiki takes a deep breath. “Phoenix, do you need to cut the cord or what the cord is attached to?”
“Huh? Say again?”
“Do you need to cut the cord to your ex or what that cord is attached to?”
“You lost me. I’m not following you at all.”
“Spiders spin a web,” Rafiki explains. “There are lots of cords attached to that web. Multiple extensions all attached to a single spot. What’s the cord you want to cut attached to? Will cutting the one cord help you heal? Or are you still attached to the web in a multitude of different places? What are you denying? What has you stuck in that web? Until you figure out why you are stuck in the web, cutting the cord to your ex will not help you heal. It’s a temporary fix to a much bigger issue.”
“I don’t know what it is. All I know is I feel replaced. I feel that she has this other guy in her life that gives her what I gave her. Not sexually. Just a male friend to lean on, laugh with, watch movies with, have dinners with her and my kids. It’s like they get to have the definition of a family life I want. I guess I don’t feel needed anymore.”
Rafiki once again takes a deep breath. There’s a hesitancy in his voice, a slight pause as he tries to figure out how to say what he needs to say, while at the same time sounding compassionate, yet firm. He doesn’t want to put me on the defensive or lose me by triggering me emotionally.
“I know this is hard Phoenix. What I have heard is a theme that keeps ripping at your heart, like a constant slash of paper cuts across your skin. That’s the theme of being replaced. You need to hear this.”
Rafiki pauses (is it for effect or because what he’s saying is going to be hard to say?). “She wants a divorce, Phoenix. By her saying that, you ARE being replaced. It doesn’t matter if there is another man in the equation or not. She does NOT want you anymore. You have not accepted that. You need to accept that. And you will keep cutting yourself repeatedly until you do.”
Knocked Down in a Single Punch
It felt like someone slammed a fist in my gut. The wind is knocked out of me. I can’t breathe. I can’t see as the tears roll down my cheeks.
I want to disagree, I want to tell myself that Rafiki is wrong, that this is only temporary. But I know he’s right. She hasn’t changed her mind in over a year. She’s told me that she’s happier than she’s ever been.
Then I have a flashback; the image I shared in my blog Emotions are Like Clouds.
Me putting my hand on my mom’s shoulder and telling her that the sun will shine again.
It’s like I see the puzzle pieces that have been missing, but have been in front of me all along, finally aligned in place. I already know what is going on with me. I’ve thought about it and I’ve talked about it before, but that was from a cognitive, unemotional point of view.
I’m now feeling it. It resonates deep within me.
I Became my Mother’s Surrogate Spouse
During an experiential session when I first went into therapy over six years ago, I ended up cursing at my mother. This was incredibly difficult because my mother was one of the sweetest women on the planet. She always came to my protection from my step father. She was always there for me. I loved her and I could never be that angry at her.
My therapist wanted me to tell my mother, “Fuck you!” I followed his advice in the experiential moment and felt guilt ever since.
When I was three I took care of my mother. My father had left and she needed emotional support. That’s where I came in.
I was her protector. I needed to make sure she was ok. My job was to keep my mother happy.
Because I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to handle sadness and pain, it was subconsciously imprinted that to get value and worth I needed to care-take the person I loved.
I could not rock the boat and I could not cause problems. I could not disappoint my mother. She had too much pain; dealing with her divorce and becoming a single mother in a family (and a society) that viewed this as shameful.
If I could be perfect. If I could be her “good little boy,” my mom’s world was at peace and she was happy.
When Mom was happy, I was safe. I was worthy of her love.When Mom was happy, I was safe. I was worthy of her love. If I was perfect, she was happy. Click To Tweet
When Mom wasn’t happy she was upset, distant. I couldn’t let her be in pain. When she was in pain, I didn’t get what I needed; noticed, accepted, and loved.
I became a “surrogate spouse” not only for my mother, but for my survival too.I became a “surrogate spouse” not only for my mother, but for my survival too. Click To Tweet
When my mother met my step-father, I was no longer needed to care for her emotionally. She now had another man for that.
I remember my step-father talking to my ex and I about our unwillingness to go on dates because we had to be parents for our girls. His response surprised me. He basically put us down for not taking time out for ourselves explaining that he and mom would go out until the sun rose, then come home just in time to hurry up and get ready for work. I realized that during that time, I was with a baby sitter.
After that conversation my ex mentioned, “what a lonely childhood you had growing up.”
I was the “man” of the house at three. I was the one my mom turned to. I was her everything. I had value. I had worth. I was seen.
By 6-years-old, another man had come into the house and took my mother away from me. I was no longer the center of attention. It was no longer mom and I. I was a third wheel. I was no longer needed. Not only was I discarded, but I had to compete with this man she fell in love with.
For instance, I was involved in both Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts growing up. My step-father never helped, never went on camp outs, never did any leadership positions. The underlying feeling, the sense that permeated the air, was that while scouts was good for me, it was more for my parents to get me out of the way so they had their alone time together. I was pushed aside because their relationship and time spent together was more important than including me in their life.
Talk about a power struggle growing up. No matter how hard I tried, I felt as if I always lost, that nothing I could do was ever enough.
I shared my thoughts with Rafiki.
Many times we react on an emotional level, not a rational level. Click To Tweet
Rafiki’s voice lowered. I could sense the pain, sadness, and empathy when he responded, “Sounds painful. It’s painful for me to hear how emotionally enmeshed you were with your mother and then find out that you were easily replaced. You are reliving that with your divorce. You have been reliving that for the past two plus years.”
I start to cry.
“That must have been what drove the belief, my own truth, that no one would ever stay with me. Why jealousy has always been such an issue. Why I self-sabotage relationships. Why I was always looking for my own replacement, you know, ‘just-in-case’. ‘Till Death Do Us Part’, ‘Happily Ever After’, ‘Forever’, were just words to me, but not truths. Who would ever want to stay with me? The truth I believed was that no one would. And with my divorce, that’s still my truth to this day.”
“Phoenix, that’s not your fault!” Rafiki brings me back out of the abyss. “That was modeled to you at a young age. It was at a time where you couldn’t process it. It’s not a rational thing, it’s an emotional thing. It doesn’t make sense. We react on an emotional level, not on a rational level.”
“Maybe I need to give my EMDR therapist a call again. I need to BURN the fucking spider web so I can be free!”
“Your mom had wounds. She needed someone to take care of those wounds. She needed what you had. You are a natural giving person. There’s a gift in that. Healing takes time. You have come so far in such a short period.”
“It doesn’t feel like it.”
“You may not see it or feel it, but take my word, I have seen growth and change. You will be OK.”
Stop The Pain
All I want is to stop my pain. That is like the highest goal to achieve. The belief is, that if I stop the pain, I can move forward in life.
But through pain there is growth. Through pain I am uncovering the inner workings of my deep soul. Through pain I am healing.
Cutting the cord with my ex won’t stop the emotional childhood trauma of not feeling worthy, not feeling like enough. I need to get to the core. I need to find that spider that keeps spinning my tangled web and eliminate him.
Once the spider is gone there will be nothing left for him to feed on.
What will be left is a beautifully spun web with some holes here and there, yet sparkling with frozen drops of dew in the rising sun.
The web, the mesh, is who I am.
I just need to learn how to enjoy its beauty.