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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The truth about cats and dogs

I tend to be too serious at times.  So, for me writing a lighthearted, sarcastic or flaky blog entry is my way of breaking the tension a bit.

I don't know how it occurred, to me.  Where does one every get odd ideas out of nowhere?  One of the great mysteries of life.  Anyway, here is my take on cats and dog.  Enjoy.

  • If you want a furry friend who is a "yes man", get a dog.  If you want a furry friend who tells you the unvarnished truth, get a cat.   
    • For example, a cat will tell you that you are an idiot, but that it likes you anyway.  A dog will tell you how great you are and tell you how much it LOVES and won't judge you.
    • Do you want validation or the truth?
  • Dogs don't care if we know they are codependent.  Cats on the other hand, like to portray themselves as independent.  But, at night where do they end up?  With their favorite person.
  • A dog will go down with the ship.  A cat will wish you well as it abandons you.
  • A dog will harass you if you are sleeping and it is hungry.  A cat on the hand will beat the crap out of you until you feed it.  In other words, if you need a backup alarm, don't feed your cat.
  • A cat will calculate on a daily basis if it needs you.  A dog on the other hand won't bother questioning that idea.
  • A dog will do it's potty business outside and will forget about it immediately after it is finished.  A cat will do it's best to "hide the evidence" after it is finished.
  • A dog will be content to lay out your feet.  A cat on the other hand likes to go to the highest ground just to prove it is the alpha.
  • A dog when it hurts itself will say nothing or yelp.  A cat on the other hand will pretend it isn't hurt and say, "I meant to do that" out of self-respect.  For example, a cat, when it has an epic fail jumping, will act like nothing happened or that it meant to do that.
  • Dog spelled backward is god, but don't act like gods to us.  Cats on the other hand remind us that in ancient Egypt they used to be worshiped as gods.
  • A dog when it wants food, it begs you and follows you around.  A cat on the other hand will direct you to its bowl and demand you fill it, sometimes yelling at you along the way.

If you seek to know about how cats think read this book:  I am Pusheen the Cat.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Demons Part 3: 'Bloodletting' pain as a way of mourning

According to Wikipedia (for what it's worth), bloodletting is:

The withdrawal of blood from a patient to cure or prevent illness and disease. Bloodletting was based on an ancient system of medicine in which blood and other bodily fluids were regarded as "humors" that had to remain in proper balance to maintain health.

This practice was done from ancient times until near the end of the 19th century, but has all been abandoned.  Medically, it has been pretty well discredited.  However, I found the concept a useful way to describe a healthy way of mourning.

I don't always tell what inspires my blog posts.  But, this one I will share.  Anyone who knows me knows that my daughter, Olivia, is being raised in a broken home.  That is to say, her mom and I got split up when she was 4.  Obviously, this impacts Olivia and has hurt her.  But, as the parent who doesn't have primary custody of her, I see much less often.  I calculate about 30% of the time*.  Sometimes, I don't see her for about a week at a time, occasionally it is longer.  I always feel a sense of loss during these stretches.  While I am grateful that she has good health and I do get to see her--there are some who aren't that lucky, it still hurts.  The pain of the long stretches will always be there as I feel myself missing large blocks of her childhood, but I am better able to deal with the technique(s) I describe below:


In the Bible, God tells us:
1There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens  (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Furthermore, He lets us know there is a:
4a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance  (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

However, we don't always take that advice to heart. I used to be guilty of letting the hurt build up.  Sometimes I found constructive way to divert the energy: running, listening to music, etc.  Other times, I  utilized unproductive or destructive ways to divert the energy: impulsive spending, wasting all day watching TV or playing video games, moments of promiscuity, etc.  See:  Zig Zagging through life: Diverting our energy from where it is really needed.

Anyway, it wasn't until I got older that I really realized these: two things about dealing with hurt:
  • The power of prayer and faith. 
  • What I call bloodletting: Focusing into the hurt rather than avoiding it.  
God helps those who help themselves.  Our faith can help us through the toughest times and God can literally move mountains if we ask him to, I believe that God helps those who help themselves.  That is to say, He rarely removes all our pain,but instead gives us the tools and wisdom to deal with it effectively, thereby lessening it.


Back to my story.  In 2011 when I literally lost almost everything, including my brother to suicide and my daughter for a while to a contentious divorce, I had to find a healthy way to cope.   After trying to avoid it or coping in unproductive or destructive ways, I came to realize that I'd been dealing with hurt the wrong way for most of my life.   When I started seeing my daughter again and had to give her up to her mom--dropping her at daycare or school or directly to her mom--it really totally hit home.  The times I had to give her up for literally almost a week, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I would smile, hug her, kiss her, love her and put on the happy face, but as soon as I rushed back to my car, I would be devastated.  I came to understand the power of going into the pain or hurt, rather than trying to avoid it.  As I was driving off, I would literally flip my CD player or electronic device to sad music.  Sometimes, the more sad it was, the better.  In the privacy of my car on the way home or to work or wherever, I would literally find my inner pain, and like poison let it drain out--hence bloodletting.   I found writing to be a good tool in that regard too.  I had really started to find my inner voice after all those years.   While I know I am not a genius, I believe God blessed me with the gift of perception.  Once again, just like when I turned up the car stereo or ipod or whatever and forced myself to face the pain through sad music, I would write on what was bothering me, even to the point of having it hurt more.   Once again, I was 'bloodletting' or giving the poison of increasing hurt an outlet to flow out.

As an aside, as a child, I faced some real adversity.  Much of it I am not going to catalog here as I am sure I've cataloged it elsewhere and the adversity itself is not the main focus.  Anyway, I used to think of the adversity and the pain it caused as a curse, but now I see it as lemonade from a lemon.  Having faced certain things (and later in the 2010s even more adversity), I realized that had I had an easy carefree childhood and life, I would NEVER have been able to understand, relate or offer sincere encouragement to others who faced similar adversity.

I guess my takeaway from this is twofold:
  • Remember to lean on God when facing adversity rather than pushing Him away.
  • Looking into, stepping into, walking through the pain of adversity, while not very enjoyable, can be one of the best ways to release the hurt it is causing.

I labeled this one Demons, part 3 as I think it fits in with my other posts on "Demons".

Anyway, just my thoughts.  Thanks for reading and I hope my words, will impact at least one person.

-- Rich

* It's closer to 50% these days (2020)

Monday, July 4, 2016

How codependence dies: what it looks like, how to lose it.

Sometimes it feels like we go through life sleepwalking.  The years go by quickly and we wonder what happened to the years?   It seems like it is just a blur or illusion.   I believe some of that is just the normal, "life is just but a blink of the eye" that the bible speaks of, but I also believe that much of it comes from the sense that you haven't really lived for yourself.  By live for yourself, I don't mean selfishly, but rather taking care of yourself and consider what you need for yourself rather than what you need to be for others.

My own life has been one of self-discovery which really didn't kick in until my forties.  I have had a number of friends who feel the same way.   We have been so busy often doing what we think we needed to do to nurture and/or save our relationships, at the expense of our own sanity.  Sadly, we often mistake trying to 'please' or 'keep another happy' or 'keep them from being upset with us' for nurturing/saving our relationships.  This sort of behavior may allow a relationship to survive a long time, but not necessarily be healthy.  The irony is that often times the more work you do to avoid confrontation, the less chance the relationship will survive.  I think for most people, if they aren't allowed to be who they need to be or they try to be something they aren't, they will eventually reach a crisis point in their life.

For myself, learning, understanding and remembering a few things has helped me pull away from the codependent construct:
  • If a person seems to be consistently giving you (usually) unwanted advice, finding fault, making you feel like you have to justify your actions/choices, chances are they need you more than you need them.  Chances are they are operating out of fear.  Chances are the relationship is based on a bad personal connection.  But, why do we stay in a bad relationship or at the very least subjugate our own self and needs and never 'require' or 'demand' that our own needs be considered.  I suspect there are a combination of reasons, some of which I will indicate below.  
    • Loyalty - Family loyalty, loyalty to one who has helped you-and makes sure to remind you of it, etc.
    • Fear of being alone - What's the difference if you are with someone and feel disconnected most of the time?  What's the difference if you don't feel you can connect with the family member or friend?
    • Fear of the unknown - Sometimes, the devil you know seems to be more comfortable than the devil you don't know.  Like an old comfortable shoe as a friend said 
    • Fear of rejection - If a person struggles to 'find acceptance', when they do appear to find it, it's hard to let go or risk having to let go of someone who 'accepts' (or appears to).  The irony of this is if you have to be someone you are not to 'keep' a relationship, then you are really not accepted after all.
    • Shame or not deserving better - I believe this goes along with all the other reasons.  If we feel like on some level that we are undeserving of better we will not tend to push for it. However, at the same time, I believe there can be a tension in which we want better in our lives. We want better, but don't feel like we deserve better, but that doesn't change that we want better, etc.
  • The other party in a codependent relationship often controls out of fear.  It is a feeling that if they don't have a firm grip on all aspects of aspects of the relationship, things won't get done, they won't get done well or the work that has done will be wasted.   Some examples of a controlling person:
    • Someone who demands things be done in a strict order or on a strict timeline.   Disruption could cause things not to get done or things to get done inefficiently, etc.  I'm not talking about dealing with an organized person or an efficient person, but a person who is so wed to schedule or routine that they crush anything or anyone that gets in the way of that schedule or routines.
    • Someone who demands things be done a certain way.  They have always done things a certain way, they are used to doing things a certain way and they don't trust the outcome of doing things a certain way.  In a way, a controlling person has their comfort zone and is unwilling to go outside of it.  When the other party attempts to introduce a different way, they find it a threat.  Perceived threats are not suffered well.  It isn't that there aren't other ways to achieve a goal--taking a different route to a destination for example.  It seems that  the controlling person for whatever reason is not able get past their block, whether is based out of fear, avoiding discomfort or something else.
  • Codependence is often a symptom of a relationship with a bad connection
    • When the connection is bad, instead of trusting that the other party will accept you for whom you are, I believe a codependent person will "do whatever it takes" to avoid losing the relationship.  In other words, an unhealthy status quo seems safer than risking a change.  What is really happening in this case is an avoidance of change and a possible 'day of reckoning'.  The irony is that the 'day of reckoning' doesn't necessarily have to be the end of a relationship, but instead the beginning of a healthier, more honest relationship.  In other words, a relationship with a good or better connection.
    • Like a phone that struggles to get or keep a charge, a relationship with a bad connection seems to work sometimes, but doesn't necessarily work for too long.  Eventually, the phone with a bad connection will fail to work unless the connection is repaired.  Similarly, a codependent relationship with a bad connection is likely to work less and less well until at some point, it effectively 'stops working'.
I would make the disclaimer before I continue that there is and should be a degree of depending on each other in a relationship, but it should be out love and cooperation, not out of fear and the need to control.  Some fighting, disagreement, give and take or normal, but really it is the mindset behind how the relationship is operating that determines if it is healthy or codependent. 

I guess ultimately, after seeing problems in my own life and the lives of those around, I've come to realize a few things related to squeezing codependence out of relationships.
  • The other party in a relationship has got to know that you are not a threat to them.  They have to understand it and they have to accept it.  They have to understand that while it is not all about them, that you have their best interests in mind.
  • The other party has to know that you will not always say or do precisely the right thing for every given circumstance in the relationship, but that your intentions are good towards them.  In other words, you get frustrated, you get angry, you get upset, you may say something a bit out of line or you just might not say the comforting thing that they need to hear.  However, your intentions for the other party are good and they need to realize that.  They CANNOT expect perfection and if they do, they are putting you in an impossible position.   Let them know that you aren't perfect, but you are trying.  Sometimes, just hearing that helps tremendously.
  • It isn't your job to 'fix' the other party, nor is it the other party's job to try to 'fix' you.   That however, does not exclude being supportive.   For example, if I am not happy, my spouse can listen to me, but she is not responsible for my happiness.  That doesn't mean she shouldn't do anything, but her role is to not to ensure that I am happy, but rather provide a healthy, supportive environment in which I can find what it is for me to achieve contentment.
  • Not letting shame or failure unrelated to the relationship have an impact on the relationship.  If I struggle at work or have family of origin problems or just have made mistakes, I cannot let the shame of those situations compromise me in terms of the relationship.   I cannot let a failure at work for example spill over and cause me to feel like a failure in the relationship.
  • Not letting mistakes within the relationship rule the future of the relationship.   We make mistakes, we say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing and sometimes do very destructive things for our relationship.  However, we have to separate our mistakes and failures from a willingness to be 'ruled' in our relationship.  For example, we can damage our relationship by focusing on drinking, gambling or others.
    • We can atone for mistakes but we can't throw away ourselves in the process.
    • If our spouse doesn't accept us for mistakes or failings, no amount of groveling or trying to atone will fix our relationship.  If anything, it will increase resentment and lower for you.
    • Change has to be for us, first and foremost, not as a codependent need to 'change' for him or her.
Most of all, you cannot be ruled by fear.  You can be sensitive and thoughtful and what not, but you have to be yourself.  If you are used to being a people pleaser or having to be the peacemaker, or having to be the one to adjust, it can be VERY daunting standing up for your own needs.  Ultimately, if you let a fear of relationship failure rule you, chances are you will be helping to set up such failure.  If being yourself leads to rejection, then most of the time, the relationship wasn't right for you anyway and no amount of trying to be someone else would have saved it anyway.  But, if you allow yourself to be yourself in a relationship, you are being honest to yourself and your partner.  It may be a difficult adjustment in the relationship going from being a codependent people pleasure, but eventually you will find out if you are meant to stay in the relationship and/or you will find that your significant other will adjust your personal growth and actually respect you for it.