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Friday, February 27, 2015

Comfort zone and communication

When we think of the term "comfort zone", we may think of a place in which we are lacking courage.  In other words, a place in which we would rather stay than take a chance--a safe space of sorts.  For me, last fall (Fall of 2014), stepping out of my comfort zone was skydiving.

When I think of comfort zone (zone of comfort) in a relationship, I often think of it as a place or a space we provide a loved one to be his or herself.  In a way, we are giving them permission to be themselves or to figure things out without pressure, fear of recrimination, ridicule, or shame.

Gabriel García Márquez "Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life"

Our public life is self-explanatory.  Our private life is things we share only with family or friends close to us.  In a way our "secret life" is our super private life.  In our 'secret life', we have thoughts, feelings, that we 'dare not share' with anyone out of shame or fear of consequences.  This is what I see as our "secret life".  It can be thoughts that are too out there, embarrassing, or rude; feelings that we are uncomfortable sharing; bad choices or mistakes we want to just hide out of fear of humiliation/shame or things we are trying to figure out without undue pressure or fear.  In short, these are thing things that are just generally between us and God.

It's funny, we can do something embarrassing like lock our keys in our car or have a mild 'tragedy' like have a fender bender and we'll talk about it with others readily, but some thoughts/ideas/mistakes are so uncomfortable that we just really would rather trip and fall on our face, stub our toe or run into a wall rather than sharing them.


Someone who truly loves you, be it a BFF or a significant other, will allow you a comfort zone (or zone of comfort) in which you can express your 'secret life' without fear of pressure, abandonment or recrimination.   Sometimes what you have to say might be difficult for the other person to hear.  It may be something they are uncomfortable thinking about or an thought, answer or non-answer that they aren't satisfied with.  You name it?  For example, you might need to admit a weakness, like an addiction to/or desire for booze, gambling, overeating, pain meds, porn, etc. or you may have thoughts that you think are out there.  The natural instinct is to avoid these subject matters rather than deal with consequences--real or perceived of expressing them.   Someone who truly loves you will make it clear that he or she will not pressure you, abandon you or leave you hanging when you express your 'secret thoughts'.  As a matter of fact, often time they, sensing you need to talk, will open up the dialog and give you a sign that it is safe for you to express yourself.

In my own failed marriage, I felt like my ex and I never really truly established this zone of comfort.  More often than not, when uncomfortable things came up, we ignored them.  When we didn't ignore them, it seemed like we ended up not giving each other enough space to be ourselves.  It is hard for a relationship to thrive, if even survive in such an environment.  From my perspective typically without a zone of comfort, resentment can build up and eventually something will give and it won't be small or pretty.  

In a way, the inability to provide a zone of comfort is a sign of codependency.  We either need our significant other to be someone who they aren't due to our own insecurities or we are so worried about 'saving the relationship' that we won't do anything that could 'jeopardize it'.  The irony of it is relationship dances like these really don't save a marriage, but instead tend to delay the inevitable while the relationship is hollowing out.


But, I digress.  A zone of comfort is a special gift you give to someone you love.  It can mean putting aside your own insecurities to listen to them and/or help another with theirs.  It can mean doing serious listening when you want to speak instead.  Effectively it is allowing another to be vulnerable around you.   In a way, this is part of the hard work of a successful relationship.

HOWEVER, for those still not convinced that it is completely safe to put yourself out there with your significant other, I have a few tricks:

  • Blame it on the 'script'.  As we know, we are following an invisible script.  So, I just say, well I had to say it, it was in the script.  However, you must be prepared to show said script later.  ;-)
  • This is the more risky tact, but blame it on the 'insane' voice in your head.  Say, "I didn't want to say it, but the insane voice in my head kept telling me too."  This is the 'little devil on your shoulder'.  Granted this may scare the other person away, but at least you'll amuse yourself.  ;-)

Just my thoughts on providing a comfort zone for communication.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Demons: Facing Demons

Facing Demons

It is counter-intuitive,

But sometimes in order to live

We have to step deep into our pain

It can hurt incredibly, but there is much to gain

Placing our hand into the flame

Facing head-on our shame

It will hurt at first

The very very worst

But, gradually we will find

As we unwrap and unwind

We will gain strength and power

To live another hour

In meditation and prayer

By our side God will always be there

To help us along the way

If along the path of healing we stay

See also:

Out of the darkness and into the light.

Amazingly enough, we just have to realize that some truths are universal.  Like as in everything else about human nature, we can crack open a bible and find that nothing is new under the sun.  But, I digress.  Just as His chosen people were called out of the darkness and into the light...

(originally posted 2/23/15, my father has since passed away)

1 Peter 2:9 (KJ21) 

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

As many of you know, my dad has later stage Parkinson's.  He has little ability to do much for himself.  He gets most of his feedings through a tube and sometimes is allowed to eat yogurt.  Sometimes, he has his coherent moments and his incoherent moments.  Suffice to say, he needs constant care or supervision.  Anyway, I visit him when I can, when I don't have my daughter as he's never been big into grand-kids.   Yesterday, I visited him and I ran into this character who called himself "New York"--real name Juan.  Anyway, I asked him about that and he's originally from the Queens/Brooklyn area.  Interesting story.  He felt like his life path was meant to take him out of New York.  He expected he'd go to Mississippi at some point.  Anyway, he was hanging in St. Louis visiting people he knew and was playing a pickup game of basketball.  He alluded to the fact that he played D league basketball in his younger years.  Those are like NBA minor leagues is what I've heard.  Anyway, unbeknownst to him, someone was fixing to do a drive-by.  He was like, "While everyone else was diving for cover, I was jumping for the ball."  Long story short, a few got hit, but none as bad as he did.  He sustained a shot to his spinal cord and was rendered a paraplegic.  He was initially saying to the ambulance driver that he needs to go the hospital to get patched up so he can get back to hoops.   Some might take that as denial or not grasping, but it sounds like with him it was a never say die spirit.  Long story short, he could have lived with relatives, but he choose at this time to receive long-term care at my dad's nursing home.  He felt a calling, almost like that's where he needed to be.  
I was fascinated by his story.  3 days in town and his life was changed forever, yet he chose not to be bitter at God or St. Louis.  His family back in New York, was like out of all the people we least expected something like this to happen to him.  We were having a good spiritual discussion and I said maybe God knew that you out of all the people you know could have handled this.  In other words, if this was fated to happen, a lessor person would have folded.  He said his grandpa said something like that.  He also said that in a way, he felt like God was telling him to slow down.  So, he's the one who picks up the spirit of residents like my dad.  Out of darkness comes light.  Could have dove inward and been bitter, but instead gives back after having so much stolen from him.
So, he's working on my dad.  Getting him to come to terms, etc.   Now my dad is 'old school' prejudice I want my boys to marry blonde haired, blue-eyed Aryan woman type.  He actually said that. Not to make excuses, but I have an idea of the environment he was raised...  Anyway ex was a brunette and had brown eyes and offered to dye her hair and get blue contacts, but he was like you know what I mean.  (LOL)   I love my dad, but don't always like him, but he's one the lessor likely candidates for an NAACP, diversity awareness type award.  But a funny thing happened, "New York" is a considerably younger African-American male with a lot of tattoos and yet he choose to befriend my dad.  My dad counts him as a friend.  Perhaps my dad can better appreciate those different than him.  A part of me is amused and a part of me is like wow, God works in mysterious ways.  So, anyway, I talked it up with New York and said, you know if there is anything you can do to help, work on his spirituality and coming to terms with his health issues (rather than being delusional).   I think I might take some time out to just visit this cat outside of a dad visit.  :-)
Does God wish for bad things to happen to us?  I am fairly sure He doesn't.  Does He cause bad things to happen?  Once again, I'm tending to think no.  Does He allow?  Well God, being God does have ultimate say.  Healings occur where the prognosis looks grim.  People come into our lives at the seeming right moment.  We nearly avoid tragedies from time to time.  So, I believe He can and does step in, especially when we pray to Him about our concerns.  But, as with free will and us not having immortality.  He doesn't control us and bad things happen.  However, I am of the belief that He uses bad circumstances, our darkest hours to change us, to allow an opportunity to grow, to offer us freedom.
  • My brother's death was a wake-up call to me to not bottle things up, to stand up where I would not have had the strength or insight to, to reevaluate to make sure I didn't go down the rabbit hole he did.  Perhaps, as bad as it was, God used the shock of his death granted me life in a way.
  • My mom's sudden passing last year gave me the opportunity to grown and mature.  Someone had to step up and say, I will make sure it is paid for, it is done right.   I wasn't asking for it, but in life, our role are revealed.  Out of love for her, I was not going to fight my role.  Knowing that I could handle this trial by fire made me realize that I was stronger than I thought.                          
Most people, if they look hard enough have a circumstance or two (or more) in which the darkest hour has the potential to have a silver lining:
  • A new path opens which you could never have anticipated.  Meet new friends, develop new support networks.
  • An opportunity to realize strength where you didn't realize you had it.  Burying a loved one.
  • You wake up and realize the path you were on was leading you to destruction.  For example, a drinking buddy gets killed and there but for the grace of God, could it have been you with him, the next time.
As a corollary, understanding and appreciating the silver lining doesn't mean you are grateful for the dark clouds, it just means God has given you the wisdom to see good come out of bad.  For example, it was hard to watch my late brother descend and it was equally as hard seeing good out of it.  But, I have to trust God that he's in a better place and that God used that as an opportunity to shake things up in my life.  I will always remember him and wish things hadn't turned out the way they did, but I can take away the silver lining without guilt.

(If you like this post, look at Finding Jewels in the Darkness for similar thoughts)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Understanding people where they are, but not going there...

I previously wrote a blog about accepting people where they are called "Accepting people for where they are".  A corollary one is understanding people, but not going where they are.  I've been previously in and I've had friends who have been in unhealthy relationships.  That has given a certain insight into understanding and relating to people.

(Refresh and repost of 2/22/15)

We each meet many people along life's road and most of the time we have to make a decision about how we want our relationship with them to proceed. How much energy, if any, do we put in a relationship with them?  We may get them on some level and may be able to appreciate where they are, but that doesn't mean we have to follow them there (or continue following them).

Pick an addiction--alcoholism, drug addiction, overeating, gambling, etc.  We often have faced similar demons in our life and we can on a deep level understand or relate to what another is going through.  There is even a tendency to want to reach out and help that person as you know their hurt.  They might have been abused, beaten, or otherwise hurt in their life.   You feel bad for them.  Having that sweetness of soul that you would care that much about another who has been hurt or is hurting is wonderful.  It says something about you that you have that much empathy.   However, it is always important to keep your wits about you when dealing with them.

As I see it, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself when determining what role you play in their life of a person who is struggling with a life issue.
  • Is the other trying to better him or herself?   That's the basic question.
    • In many cases, it isn't so much how quickly they are working to get healed, but rather if they are even trying.
    • Progress can be like momentum.  Sometimes a few small 'successes' in healing can lead to confidence to take larger steps, which in turn, can lead to even larger steps.  In other words, it's important not to misjudge the pace of another's recovery.  What appears to be a small step could in fact be a large step.  Ultimately, it boils down to do you have hope with them?
    • In some ways, stepping in to 'help' or 'be there' might turn into enabling them or keeping them from facing their demon.  I once had to step aside to let someone I was dating find herself.  Being her 'hero' or 'white night' was giving her an excuse not to 'find herself'.
  • Is where they are a place that is dangerous to you?
    • You can love and appreciate someone and be encouraged by their recovery, but if it jeopardizes your own, it is best to appreciate them from afar.
    • For example, say you and another struggle with a similar demons (such as alcoholism) or toxic-ally opposite demons (body image vs. porn).  If the other's recovery halting at best, you might appreciate or admire that they are trying, but realize that the other could still be very dangerous to you.  However, if they aren't in recovery all, then it goes without saying that they WILL be dangerous to you.
  • What can you do safely for them?  That's a followup to the previous point.
    • Can you go in the trenches for them?  That is, pick them up and dust them off when they fall or is that too dangerous.
    • Can you be a friend they can call when they are heading towards a bad place.  In other words, when they are "in their head", but haven't fully engaged their addict.  
    • Do you just have to completely stay away from them until they have hit rock bottom?  Sometimes, when people just aren't ready for recovery.  In this case, if you try to stand out in the middle of the road waving a caution flag, you risk them completely missing your flag or worse them running over you.
In life, you can overlook, forgive, 'forget' and come to terms with people.  You can understand and have empathy for the demons that are driving them, BUT that doesn't mean going going in the trenches with them.  Sometimes, you just have to let go and let God for those who you care most about.  You can understand their struggle, but sometimes for one or both of your sake, you have to step aside, no matter how bad or guilty you feel about it.  Some circumstances are just too big for you and God is better equipped to handle them.

As much as I'd love to blog happy blogs, I realize that's not where everyone is all the time.

Thank for reading again.


Hey Soul Sister visited

This blog entry is a huge digression from my others.  For reasons that are deeply personal, this song was at first one that I enjoyed, then didn't enjoy and now have learned to listen to and embrace again.

I've heard this song possibly a hundred times or more, but never really got the meaning of it.  Now that I do, it is so obvious.  Lines such as the following make it obvious:

I knew I wouldn't forget you, and so I let you go and blow my mind
   -- She's made such a huge impact on him. Her understanding of him has blown his mind.

I knew when we collided, you're the one I have decided who's one of my kind
    -- He saying we are kindred spirits.

You see, I can be myself now finally, in fact there's nothing I can't be
    -- He's saying I don't have to hide who I am or pretend to be something I'm not.

Essentially, he has found a kindred spirit, a soul mate, a "Soul Sister" as it were.  The woman in his life accepts him for who he is, she gets him, but even more so, she embraces him..  Even more so, in many ways, he finds that she more often than not, travels the same road as him.   In a word, he is singing a love song to his soul mate.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

98% rule: someone has to take blame...

98% is an excellent percent on a math or spelling test.  It is an out of this world free throw percentage in basketball.  It is an excellent level of purity of gold.  However, in terms of how often one side in a relationship is right, it is a terrible percentage.

A few years ago, I came up with something I call it the 98% rule.  The point of it is that when you find yourself admitting you are wrong most all the time with an occasional concession by your partner, you are likely in an unhealthy relationship.

The way I see it, 98% blame either means one of two things:

  1. Most likely, you are in codependent relationship where someone has to take the shame or blame for the ills of the relationship.  In reality, the blame could/should be split more equally.  Generally speaking, 'blame' won't be shared 50/50.  It might be 60/40 or perhaps 30/70, but still each side has culpability.
  2. One person in the relationship is a real jerk or narcissist.  He or she is actually mean/controlling/abusive.  In this case, he or she is actually wrong most of the time.  If you can look at a relationship honestly and say, this is how I feel about the other person, it's probably time to move on from it. In other words, if the other person is actually a big enough narcissist to be wrong most of the time and let you take the fault instead, it is an unhealthy relationship

Never let another person use your flaws to control you with shame.  I don't mean to avoid talking about the tough subject matter or to shut down another when they speak frankly about you.  What I mean is do not allow yourself to be manipulated to where you seem to boxed into taking the blame or admitting fault where it isn't appropriate.  Guilt over mistakes is a healthy grieving process.  Shame over them is treating yourself as if you are the mistake.  Don't let anyone take a sore point and beat you over the head with it to control you.

The controlling person may win the battle, but they eventually will lose the war.  They will be seen for who they are.  Just don't let yourself be dragged down into their manipulation, their insecurities, their fear.


A friend once said to me that "healthy people don't tend to marry sick people".  I am not sure where he got it, it might have been from AA?  Anyway, he made an excellent point.  This supports my above point.  If, in a relationship, there is a degree of unhealthy in both parties, it is likely that each has the ability to make mistakes and therefore are wrong from time to time. If each person recognizes it and can own up to it, there is hope for the relationship.

Just some thoughts...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

2D vs. 3D relationships

From my own personal experience and that of others, it occurred to me why a lot of relationships fail.  Putting it in geometrical terms, couples often relate in 2D terms rather than 3D terms.  In other words, the relationships are flat, when they need some added dimension.


2D - You know about the other person.  (mostly facts, no real dimension).  For example,
  • You may know about what the important dates are in their life.
  • You may know about what their favorite color is.
  • You may know about what type of foods they like to eat.
  • But, you don't really know them 
You know that he likes go karts, mini-golf, arcade games and has a childlike side.  So, you might for a birthday take him to Putt Putt Fun Center.  You pat yourself on the back for 'knowing him'.  What he really wanted was to do something grown up like go to sports bar, with darts, a pool table, karaoke and just a general grown-up ambiance.

You may know that she likes Hello Kitty and know that she likes purses.  So, instead of getting her a Coach purse, you get her a 'cute' Hello Kitty one, thinking she'd love it.  She like Hello Kitty in some things, but she wants a grown-up purse.  

In each case, you may know things about your significant other, but they don't really know them. 


3D - You know about them and you know them. (dimension). Examples of 3D are:
  • You know not only the important dates in their life, but you remember the unscripted moments.
  • You know not only what their favorite color is, but have the sense of what shade they like or why they like that color. 
  • You know the special place he/she likes to eat their favorite food or the the occasions he/she likes that dish. 
  • You really do know them.
He likes to be playful, but he wants to be the grown-up.  He wants to feel needed, to be your hero and you know that.
She is a little girl at heart in many ways and wants you to see that, but she wants also to know that you appreciate her femininity.  She wants you to notice her grown up sexy, sophisticated hair cut.


2D --- one says "I love U", the other says "I love you too"
3D --- one says "I love U", the other says "I love U 2"

The real question is this: 

Are you only interested in knowing your partner enough that you can fake it while getting from him/her what 'you need' and hoping it's enough.


Do you want to do the real work of knowing him/her, what is truly important to him or her and what he/she means when they say something VS. what they actually say?


I know I want to live in a world of relationships with dimension/depth/soul vs. a world of relationships that are surface.