Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Heart of the Matter

Poisonous cycles especially. 
We've heard all about them.
We've shook our head in sorrow,
how the abused little girl turns around to marry a husband who beats her.
The little girl hiding in the corner while her drunken dad lives out another rage is soon enough wife to an alcoholic.  
How did they fall into this trap?

The irony is strong, the path is often predictable. It's killer. 

We were all in an abstract group therapy session. It's a very vulnerable position to put yourself in- to bare some of your deepest grievances while strangers look on. But it also offers a deeper understanding of self as you understand yourself a little more by listening to those same strangers  confront their own issues. Somehow life's experiences all seem to be applicable on a personal level.
A 50ish year old woman had just shared her sad story of love gone wrong, of betrayal, of a broken marriage. But what shocked her was the realization that...she had married a proto-type of her own father. A man who could never be satisfied, a man who always wanted bigger and better, a man who she was never enough for. Somehow those were the same attributes that she had found when picking a husband. 

A new round of disappointment, of low blows to her tender soul.
But with the light bulb, a chain of hope was also offered. Wyatt, our 75 year old cowboy therapist,
shed more light.
"Those relationships offer a lot of learning and growth if you're willing to work at it."
In response to the pressing question of why, why do we so often fall into the cycle, he said,
"We do it in an effort to confront those traumatic relationships we've had. We want to bring them back in our life. We're still desperate to be healed."

The beaten little girl still desperately wants her daddy's love. The alcoholic's wife still thirstily awaits his acceptance. They're not ready to give up on those relationships, if only subconsciously. So they enter a new generation of the same problem.

It took a couple weeks for me to find the treasure that was planted in this little session. I wasn't only an onlooker. A bystander. A disinterested party.
I was there to be taught. And not to learn about others. 
But myself. 

Someone had been brought into my life to teach me about one of my most traumatic relationships--
my relationship with me.

I've often shared the challenge I have found in raising Porter- my beautiful 6 year old son. From a teeny size, I saw myself in him. My insecurities were highlighted in the way he had trouble voicing his feelings. How he teared up when he was scared. How he pushed away and yelled when all he wanted was me to take him in my arms and hold him.
He was me.
At least through my eyes.
And it scared me. How could I fix him?

And fix him I wanted to do. I wanted to take all the lessons that I had gathered in the last 32 years and infuse the principles into his developing mind. To cheat him the experience of figuring things out for himself. To discount his ability to thrive and succeed with who he, alone, was. All because I didn't have faith in the old, immature me. So the least I could do was fix him

The timing of this group therapy session I attended {at Miraval Resort in Tuscon, AZ} happened to be the month I finally took the plunge to do individual therapy sessions. One day I called my therapist, Suzanne, to talk to her about Porter. I knew something was off in the way I was approaching that relationship and I wanted to understand it better. I wanted to understand me better. 
This was my opportunity to confront and learn from a traumatic relationship in my life. 
And as it often goes- that timing is precise, that the coincidence is anything but that-
I'd already been doing the footwork the last few years, and more intensely the previous few weeks, to heal the trauma. To heal the trauma that would allow me an awesome relationship with myself, and now, a freeing relationship with Porter.

Her words were simple and ones that she'd been hammering in the whole month of August, 
Learn to love and accept yourself.

That I'm okay just the way I am. That I was okay just the way I was. That I don't have to worry what others think of me. That Porter is okay how he is. That I need to give him the gift of me accepting him just the way he is. Even if that means he's a people pleaser. Even if he values others' opinions more than I think he should. Even if he is super sensitive about his brother and quick to fly off the handle.

Let him be him.
And just love him.

It took a couple of days for the words to really marinade as I put them into practice and used real life to understood better what she was saying.

Because what I had been doing before was enforcing the cycle I was trying to break. I was begging him to just be someone else- even though I thought it was for his own good- when really all I had ever been looking for was acceptance, thinking there was a magic box that i needed to fit into to. And I was never within the designated perimeters.

But Suzanne's words, they clicked.
And I stopped worrying. Instead of seeing the demise of his confidence when he wouldn't ask an adult for help, I simply accepted that he needed more time. When he flipped out on his brother, I saw it as normal sibling rivalry instead of his ability to problem solve going down the drain.
I released the cords that I had stuck in that little fella and just let him be.
His own self.
His own awesome, amazing self.

It's been three months. 
And things are well.
Like awesome.

Is he still a riled up 6 years old?
Well, helllloooooo, of course! Wouldn't want it any other way.
Do we still fight?
But he's thriving.
And I'm thriving.
And that's how it was meant to be.

I'm so grateful for those words of wisdom that Cowboy Wyatt shared. And grateful for homegirl Liz being willing to share her insides in front of a group of strangers. And for the reminder that I am only in control of me, that I am always responsible for me. And for that always so dang loving God who gave me another opportunity to heal.

Life is good.

{all photos done by the talented Rachel her!}


  1. I love your blog and the insides of you that are shared. Helps me realize things im doing myself that need some adjustment. therapy is good for the soul! I could use some.

  2. Btw, died over your family pics! Died!!! Can I move in too?

    1. rachel, isn't she the best?! yours were amazing as well. and she called gots unbelievable style. are you surprised that we totally talked about you on the day of the shoot?!! you are amazing!

  3. It's taken me time...and still taking time to let Mia be who she is without wanting to change her.. But I still walk the fine line in letting her be her but still trying to help her be more so that it doesn't hold her back and she can reach her potential.

  4. oh I feel like reading this post is an answered prayer for me with my Taycie... seriously tears of joy over here... Just what this mama needed to hear :)

  5. Good for you Gay! Those fears are so hard to face and so hard to share!! Kudos to you for your honesty!You know I admire the heck out of you!!!
    Like Rachel said therapy is good for the soul...I could probably use more of it over here!

    and those pictures of cute Porter are so darling

  6. Thanks for sharing Gay. Russ Russ is so much like Mark, and Lukey so much like me and we both have a harder time with the kid that is most like ourselves. I have though a lot about this and the why. Anyway, it is good to read your thought and insights. Thanks.

  7. Um, I am dying to see all your family photos! More, more!

    I really connected with & loved this post. Such a good reminder that I am only in charge of me. My biggest problem is I blame others for the way that I am, I make excuses. Well, I'm that way because... at the end of the day, it all comes down to me. I choose to be whomever I want.

    I actually married someone complete opposite of my Dad, but do you know who is just like him in more ways than one, me! Almost everything I didn't like about my parents I see myself doing. And it scares me! This post was a great & much needed reminder for me.


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