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Secrets Vs. Boundaries

This was a week of stepping out of comfort zones. I submitted my first blog entry a few days ago to an online recovery blog community and I had it accepted. With that acceptance, I struggled with the thought of telling my former spouse about what I’ve been doing this past year.

 

Yesterday, I felt the pull to show my former spouse this website. I had brought it up with my therapist over a month ago. His question had been, “Are you keeping a secret or holding a boundary? If you do talk about her in your writing, I believe she has a right to know. That’s something you need to figure out.”

 

I argued with myself that if I use a pseudonym, something to keep things anonymous, she doesn’t need to know. But is anything truly anonymous on the web these days?

 

Do I tell her or not?

 

We aren’t married, so technically we aren’t accountable for each other’s healing. This blog is about me and my struggles. I’ve tried not to do her inventory, but I’m aware that many of my earlier blogs I was in pain, confused, and in my “crazy” state. I was trying to find the light.

 

In a way, I did bring her struggles online without her consent.

 

I also feared her critique. She has a knack of pinpointing flaws in my thinking or better ways to express the same thought. To not be honest about my site has protected me from her opinions.

 

Once again, I continue to ask, with one of my posts going public tomorrow, do I tell?

 

I struggled with this for 24 hours. I struggled with sleep. I was that hamster sprinting around on his wheel once again. This time I didn’t reach out to my recovery community for advice.

 

 

Coffee and Breakfast

My former spouse showed up in the morning for coffee and breakfast prior to going to work. I took a deep breath and ended up showing her the piece that’s going to be published tomorrow.

 

When she left, I had an immense flood of emotions.

 

Was it relief that I had just let go of a secret I had been holding? Secrets were a part of my addiction. Did I feel like I’d been in my addiction again?

 

Was I once again trying to prove myself, “see what I’ve done, aren’t you proud of me?” Little Phoenix looking for validation?

 

Or was it guilt that I had kept my actions from her for so long?

 

 

 

A Chat With Rafiki

Confused and knowing that when I’m off, it’s time to process, I met up with Rafiki.

 

As I tell Rafiki my story, he lays his staff at his feet. He proceeds to sit down, cross-legged, hands on his knees. He’s calm, but his stare is penetrating. I feel fear. I’m not used to a Rafiki that doesn’t use his stick.

 

“Sit with me, Phoenix.”

 

I set my staff next to me, looking at it as if it’s something I need to earn once again. I sit mirroring his position. How does he do that? The muscles in my legs are screaming at me!

 

I take a deep breath.

 

“Phoenix. I’ve noticed that there’s a pattern when you and your former spouse are getting along.” He pauses. “You stop using wise counsel. You make decisions without first talking them over, without looking at the ramifications and the consequences of those actions. In many ways, you become blind.”

 

I just sit and stare, not seeing. I feel blind now.

 

I know he’s right. My energy last night was off. And instead of processing that energy with fellowship, I proceeded to take my own actions. The ones “I thought” were right.

 

Rafiki looks hard into my eyes. “What was the motivation to tell your former spouse about your blog?”

 

“I feel like I’ve been keeping it a secret from her. That’s what I did in our marriage, kept secrets. It’s what I’d always done.”

 

Rafiki interrupts, “You are no longer married, Phoenix.” His stare is unbreakable.

 

I feel anger kick in. I want to tell him the divorce is not finalized yet. I take a deep breath. I know what he means. My former spouse no longer choses me, no longer choses us.

 

I continue, trying not to show that he’s rattled me. “The last couple of weeks she has opened up to me on so many different things. I’ve been able to listen, not judge, not react, not fix. At least, I think I haven’t been trying to fix. There are times when I flip it and she points it out and I stop, thank her, and we both move past that. I feel that I haven’t been as open and honest with her as she has been with me.”

 

“You had said that your therapist asked if you were keeping a secret or holding a boundary?” Rafiki asks.

 

“Exactly!” I exclaim, excited that Rafiki gets it.

 

“Did your therapist say for you to just throw everything at her all at once?”

 

“No,” I respond, deflating. I drop my head momentarily, then quickly I look up, “But, with one of my post going public I thought…”

 

Rafiki cuts me off. “You really didn’t think. You made a decision without discussing the ramifications to others.”

 

“How else could I have done it then?” I ask, getting defensive.

 

“You could have easily told her, ‘Hey, I wanted to let you know that I’ve been processing my thoughts through a blog. It’s anonymous. If you’re concerned, I could send you a copy of what I’d posted.’ Maybe someday, the entire website would have come out. Instead, you gave it all to her at once to process. Was that fair to her? What was your true motivation?”

 

Rafiki sits silently. The silence is deafening. Weird that silence can cause so much noise.

 

Eventually I speak, “I’m trying to figure out my motivation. That’s why I wanted to talk with you. There’s so much there. Guilt that I opened up our personal life online. Questioning if there’s manipulation involved. I’ve always questioned that. But when I look at the journey I’ve taken these past few months, I see the growth, the shift, the transformation. I read some of my older blogs, even ones that I haven’t posted, and I can feel the struggles I had, the anger that was percolating under the surface, the emotions that have slowly melted away. I see that my journey has helped me love myself.”

 

Rafiki nods, “You have grown leaps and bounds. And yes, your blogs were the catalyst to a change that was long overdue. Yet, when you told me her response, I heard a shift in your tone that she was appreciative and proud of you. It was like you were intoxicated. Are you still looking for validation?”

 

“I think we all look for validation. It’s human nature. Connection? Yes, I do want to connect with her. I’ve always wanted to. And it does feel good to be noticed. I know I’m walking on tight rope high above the cliffs. I know I risk having her shake that rope and me plummeting to my death. But I’ve already survived. And I have God at my side. I have Phoenix and Little Phoenix together.”

 

Rafiki sits there, quiet. “Phoenix, realize that this will change the dynamic of your blogs.”

 

“How so?” I ask, perplexed.

 

“You may find yourself becoming more cautious with what you write. Knowing your former spouse may be reading your entries, you might not allow yourself the freedom and vulnerability that you were giving yourself before. You may also be caught up in wondering if what you’re saying is considered manipulating or not. This could change how open you are to others and how you express yourself.”

 

I want to disagree with him, but I know It’s true. I have been accused of being manipulating in the past and every action I currently do, I’m asking myself, is this because I’m manipulating? Shoot, I asked that when I first started this blog. Sometimes, it would be nice not to have as much therapy as I’ve had and just live life without questioning motives.

 

“What was the motivation?” Rafiki asks as he rises. He grabs his stick holding it out in front of him. “Maybe there wasn’t any.” He shrugs, “Only you can answer that,” and he saunters away.

 

Leave it to Rafiki to make me figure things out on my own. Ugh!

 

 

Secrets vs. Boundaries

I look up the difference between a secret and a boundary. Secrets, I come to learn, are specific, something few people know. They give someone power over someone else, putting them in control of something. A secret is something that can be used to manipulate others.

 

Secrets are specific, something few people know. They give power over someone else. Click To Tweet

 

Boundaries, on the other hand, are similar to limits. They are personal comfort zones and lines in the sand. They are not walls and can be moved and erased. They are sometimes hard for others to see, so they need to be communicated so others are aware of them.

 

Boundaries are similar to limits. They are personal comfort zones and lines in the sand. Click To Tweet

 

I clicked on an email this afternoon and read a “Thought of the Week”. What’s interesting was that the thought of the week I read was written over a month ago. For some reason, today’s link jumped backward in time.

 

There really are no secrets.  We may get away with some transgression or lie for a while but there is always a cost.  It may not come from our partner, our friend, or our boss but the cost will always be there.  It may be the weight we carry that impacts our lives in subtle ways.  It may be the shift in a frayed relationship that ends it.  It may be the uncomfortable experience that seems to come out of nowhere.  Or, if we embrace integrity, the result may be the reward we were not expecting.  Karma is always watching.

When have I thought I got away with something?  What might have been some subtle, obvious, direct, or indirect consequences?  What gifts await me if I choose a path based on integrity instead of consequence?

-Timothy Stein

 

A Weight Has Been Lifted

I choose a path based on integrity. I choose to be transparent to my former spouse. I’ve carried a weight that has been lifted.

 

Or maybe Rafiki is right? Maybe I did disclose too much at once. Maybe I tapped into the shame I had in my addiction and thought my former spouse needed to know all once again. I could’ve had better boundaries and been more tactful.

 

I will use this as another learning experience that when I feel off, I need to remember to speak with counsel first. This is something I still end up forgetting.

 

The only one who truly knows my intention is my Higher Power, God.

 

I pray that my Heavenly Father will continue to guide me and watch over me. I pray that He too, will watch over my former spouse as she process what I have posted on this site.

 

I pray that I did not, once again, hand yet another weight for my former spouse to carry. I pray that she realizes that was never my intention.

 

I pray that my writing won’t change.

 

I pray that I can continue my current path of learning forgiveness and acceptance towards my divorce.

 

And, I have this weird prayer. I pray that my former spouse would some day be willing to tap into her creative side to share her journey of pain, death, and rebirth with my Fledglings. I know that’s probably far-fetched. However, I’ve read her essays in college and they are powerful! There’s two sides to every story and if writing could help me, maybe it could help her to also Rise from the Ashes. Maybe her insight can be of use to others.

 

I pray for continued peace and serenity.  I pray to keep loving myself for the imperfect soul that I am.

 

Two steps forward, one step back.

 

The road of recovery. The path of life.

 

Together We Can Heal!

 

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