Saturday, December 12, 2009

You Must Change

Last year I remember having a phone conversation with a girlfriend about getting married and she asked me sadly what my secret was for finding a good man.  I was startled by the question.  It's my second marriage.  I don't necessarily consider a second try to be evidence of having the "magic words" for anything.   If anything, the failure of my first marriage made me a lot less romantic in my perspective on the institution and that's not a bad thing.  I don't believe there's some secret method nor do I believe there is a guarantee things will work out.  I'm not even sure if there is one clear and concise definition for what a so-called "good man" is.   I believe, (and I can think of many who will scoff at this... but before you do, remember your own secret shortcomings and imagine how you'd perceive them in another person), I believe all people are good men at their core.  Bad behavior is a symptom of some sort of pathology.  All the time.

If you've had a relatively good life, and still you behave badly, there is still the condition of being human.  The very fact that we are confined to our flesh can incite bad behavior in mankind.  There will always be a part of us that seeks to transcend our flesh, even if we are not conscious of what the true source of longing is.

That is the level of compassion I try to uphold in all of my relationships.  Conversely, I also exercise the  power of faith and expect people to be on their best behavior.  I expect it.  If they don't live up to my expectations, I address it then.   But everyone starts out being expected to do what's right because sometimes that's all a person needs is for someone to believe they can.  At the same time, I practice (hello) being on my best behavior as well.  Because if I treat me well, isn't that the best example to be set???

Here's an example.  I am messy.  My car is often dirty and has, at any given moment a wide variety of miscellaneous clutter in it.  Because of that, people who ride in my car don't feel any reservations about leaving their empty bottles, paper trash, or other miscellaneous stuff in my car.  I don't like it, and it may not be right, but what can I expect when they are simply doing in Rome as the Romans do?

That said, I don't believe in putting my energy into other people's behavior because I can't control it.   If I have a "secret", perhaps that is it.  But that's no secret at all!  For sure it's not fail-proof, nor is it going to prevent disappointment 100% of the time.   Sometimes the one behaving badly, or making bad choices, is me.  *smile* Imagine that.... The idea that they might be doing something to create their circumstances doesn't even occur to most people.  And we've been taught to not blame ourselves... to "not be so hard on ourselves".  There's a big difference between forgiving myself for a bad choice, learning from that for future purposes, and allowing the neurosis of self pity and woe to take over as a distraction from what's really going on.  When we feel pain, failure, or disappointment, it's almost as if the idea that it might be our own fault is scarier than the idea that we might repeatedly self-inflict said pain on ourselves. This is, for sure, bad behavior, albeit self-inflicted, it is still bad behavior. 

There's an old saying that "You cannot change people.  You can only change your reactions to them."   This goes back to the old bible scripture that says, "Lord give me the strength to change the things I can and the serenity to accept the things I cannot."   Both change and acceptance are all about YOU.

I had a phone conversation the other day with someone who was in tears over how she was "being treated" in the relationship she's in... a relationship that she's been in for 4 some-odd years now, (or longer), and in which she's been treated exactly the same way since the very beginning.  Yet she is still calling me in tears and complaining about her partner's bad behavior in great detail, villanizing them as if the whole sum of her misery was due to this person's evil behavior.   I could have endured this if it weren't for the fact that I've been privvy to about a dozen or more of these tear soaked rants from this person in regards to the same relationship.   As I was listening, it was like watching someone stand on hot coals, smoke rising from their feet and they continue to stand there  voluntarily and curse the coals, the idea never occurring to them that they should step to the left or right and stop allowing their feet to be burned.  I told this friend, "Please, I love you, but I really don't want to hear about all the things he does, how wrong he is, or how you don't understand why he's that way.  I don't care about ANY of that!!!  All I care about is what's wrong with you that you stay year after year with someone who inflicts such atrocities on you."   Silence, on the other end of the line... then a proclamation that I was right and she'd had enough.  I've heard that before. That was a week ago.  I'll believe she's done, when she's done.
Why do we do that?   Isn't it common sense that if we are in a relationship with someone whose behavior is hurtful, then we are responsible for our own welfare?  People who behave badly are hurting themselves, and we expect them to be responsible for someone else's well being?  That's irrational, and in my opinion bad behavior of the worst kind.
How can we expect to be honored when we do not honor ourselves?

So what is a good man?  That's the question of the century, right?  Well, I'm going to disappoint a whole lot of sensation mongers and say that for me, a good man is a man who is confident, has faith in the unseen, has healthy love for self and the rest of humanity, practices honesty, is open-minded and doesn't let fear stop him from growing.   All that other stuff that you think matters, only exists collectively in one person if they have these things.  If any one of these is completely non-existent you are setting yourself up for trouble.  That's why it's important when you choose to allow yourself to open up wide and choose a life partner, you need to be very aware and not be too swept away in the excitement that you see something in them that you think you need most which is really about some childhood lack which you cannot reverse and correct with another person.    If they have that one thing and nothing else you will have a rude awakening in the not-to-distant future.  I promise you that.
Some people close their eyes long before that. 
Another friend paid me a visit recently and told me about a situation with a guy she had a crush on but hadn't approached.  A friend of hers told the guy she was interested.  He very sheepishly mumbled something about workplace relationships being awkward, etc...  For me, that hesitation from someone I work with on a daily basis, would have been enough to tell me to move on and that he's not interested.  That's just me.  Hesitation is a red flag.  A guy who is into me doesn't hesitate.  If he's into you and he hesitates, he's in some way insecure about the situation and that's enough.  Next.  Simple as that.  But that's just me...

But this story doesn't end there.  My friend started texting this person a few days later and told him that she wanted to talk to him about something.  He texted her back asking what she needed to speak with him about.  She told him it would be better to talk about it in person and wanted to know if they could get together and talk.  No response.  No reply.  No text back saying "Let me get back to you."  No text saying, "I'm not comfortable with that."  No text saying, "I can't,  I have a girlfriend."  Nothing.  Blank screen.  No response.  She's annoyed by this, all in a dander... going on and on about not understanding why he didn't respond, and how rude that was and blah blah blah, etc.... For me, there would have been no initial text requesting to speak to him.  He'd been tossed the ball.  He'd already been made aware of my interest.  The ball's in his court.  Out of respect for the fact that I don't even know if he's interested, I would leave him the space to decide quietly whether he wanted to test these waters or not. But if I was slippin' and texted him the request, and he basically snubbed it and just walked away from the conversation without a response to the request, that would say to me... A.  he's not interested.  B.  he's at very least a coward with bad communication skills, and possibly even a jerk who is rude.

These two possibilities would have immediately exterminated any further energy being expended in his direction.  Period.  There would not be a conversation about it later with a friend because I'm still trying to figure out what happened or why he didn't respond.  There'd be no need to tell him off.  There'd be no anger as if he'd assaulted or insulted me in some way.  There would be no wish to give him a piece of my mind.  I might have a few choice words for myself for putting dude on the spot.  But I certainly would not be talking myself into excuses for how he might possibly still be interested.   Nope.   Such unprofitable expenditures of energy are bad for ones self esteem.  He doesn't qualify.  That doesn't mean he's a bad person.  It could simply mean he's not exhibiting positive, proactive interest.  But that's irrelevant.  I don't care.  That is a deal breaker.   Period.  Mind, you it also does NOT mean he's NOT a bad person (a.k.a., a person with some issues i don't want anything to do with.)  But that's irrelevant too.  What's important is whether or not I am who I want to be within that relationship.  If the answer is no, there's nothing more to be said.  It's a toxic endeavor. We make deal breakers for the soap opera stuff.  Sometimes we make deal breakers for the material stuff.  Sometimes we make deal breakers about really stupid stuff, all the while allowing some really seriously life-damaging, soul injuring situations to go on unchecked because we want so badly to have something real.

Sound like insanity?  Well why do we behave so irrationally?  I remember in my teens feeling that desperation.  But at some point I realized that the fantasy that someday I was going to meet someone who would sweep me away and make everything alright was... a fantasy.  Fantasies are healthy so long as you keep them in perspective and don't start lying to yourself just to keep the fantasy alive.

Some people endure major atrocities in the name of keeping the fantasy alive.  Thereby almost assuredly killing it dead.  The irony...  It's a shame because if your fantasy is to be in a loving, intimate, wholesome relationship that lasts, and you allow yourself to be stuck pretending like the one you're in will do even though you don't feel loved, you're lonely, and you feel threatened.... you single-handedly rob yourself of the possibility that you will ever have anything even similar to that fantasy. 

That's what I know to be true.  In my present relationship, which is the happiest I've ever been in any relationship, I have had to learn to practice loving myself and expecting my lover to love me at that level as well, as if it were a given that he should.  This took some adjusting on my part and on his.  We're still learning.  We had a breakup midway through the time we've been together.  We'd been fighting and fighting and it was horrible.  Nothing was changing.  I was blaming him, and calling myself a victim.  But nothing would change because I was waiting for him to do it, when all the time, it was I who needed to change.  I needed to set a precedent for how I wanted to be loved.  What was happening was not it.  Knowing that was true, and believing that I could have that kind of love, I broke up with the Austrian.  No more fights, no more talking, no more tears, no more feeling sorry for myself, no more being angry with him.  I stepped out of my comfort zone, and took a chance that it would be over between us, even though I hoped that my putting my foot down would be enough to make a difference.  He could have been at a place in his life where he would project onto me all fault, but he didn't and we eventually reunited with a revised version of our relationship.   If things had turned out differently, at least I would have been exercising my faith in what I believe is a healthy and good relationship.

What's really interesting is applying this to every kind of relationship.  You can apply this principal of personal responsibility to any relationship you invest yourself in, be it a person, a job, a creative endeavor, etc...  If you want to be successful, but you stay in a job that makes you miserable and/or forces you to be someone you don't want to be, why are you there?  If you have a powerful passion and gift for something creative but you shun it because you were brought up to not take such things seriously, you are denying your passion, and you are denying all of those who could be benefiting from your gift.   If you want to have close, intimate friendships with a certain kind of interaction, why do you spend exorbitant amounts of time with people who not only don't have the same wishes, they actually don't possess the life skills to foster these wishes.  It's not about being mean and exclusionary.  It's about the kind of energy you invest and what/whom you invest it in. 
If we were all more like this, I believe people would be more motivated to grow, change, be more authentic because the likelihood of someone putting up with their bullshit would be greatly reduced.  They would change for pure social survival purposes.  Think of all the things you don't do because you value your friends, family, lover, children, parents, etc... 

Learning to have the strength to change what you can and the serenity to accept when you can't is the key.  It is changing my life for sure for the better, and I only wish there were someone telling me these things when I was 19.  I would have saved myself an enormous amount of heartache and pain... and energy.  Does it mean being lonely sometimes?  Yes.  Does it mean being broke sometimes?  Yes.  But I would rather be lonely and broke sometimes than miserable in my connections all of the time.  Spend those lean times to improve self, focus on self growth and know that there is no reason to fear.  All things pass...

Young ones reading here, think about it....


  1. Thank you for this blessing. Message truly received.

  2. You're a very talented and intelligent "vessel." Well said.

  3. I am just now reading this, Brig.
    THANK YOU. It's hard to read it and it's good to read it and take it inside me. I have so much work in front of me, on me. You know what I mean? You're right about wishing I'd had someone to teach me these things when I was younger, but you know what? I'm glad there's someone, actually 2 or 3 someones, to teach me these things in the most unexpected places and times. You're a blessing to have written it here and I just randomly read it today when feeling bad and weird. Onward I have to go, this year is gonna be a challenge and I have to learn that part about expecting the best of someone else that I allow to be in close contact with, and before that to do the best for ME. For sure! (From Rosenda.)


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