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Energy Drains

“The way I know I’m still holding an emotional charge with someone,” she said, ”is if I saw them I know I would walk the other way.”


I pondered this and felt the truth of the statement deep inside my body. I still have no desire to see a couple of my longer-term exes and a very small handful of women from my life who have turned me into their enemies. It’s clear that these are the places to look as I continue to let go of old emotional baggage and reclaim the energy I gave away. 


I think that's the crux of it: we give away so much energy to other people. We want to please them so we make ourselves small, try to fit ourselves into identities that just don’t work with who we really are. We want to impress others or seem smart or seem like we know what we’re doing and so we say things that simply aren’t true, we lose our grip on reality, we compromise ourselves and lose integrity — yes, integrity, defined as “the state of being whole and undivided”. We divide ourselves into pieces, try to throw parts of ourselves away because we are too much: too brilliant, too powerful, too excitable, too much of whatever it is that makes each and every one of us unique and beautiful and it scares the crap out of all the other people who have never been given permission, who have never given themselves permission, to step into being who they truly are.


We all know that abuse cycles down through families. If you’re a child who is beaten by your father you are far more likely to do the same to your own kids. The same can be said for any of the patterns we pick up. If your mother has spent her life being a martyr, sacrificing her dreams, her time, her very body to keeping a home and raising a family, you in turn, will be far more likely to shoulder this heavy, heavy burden. 


I remember feeling outraged at my sister-in-law’s audacity to change everyone 's plans because she had work to do and she wanted to join us for an excursion. It took me months to realize why I had felt so much emotion around that scene: it was because I would never have even thought to inconvenience the entire group based on my needs. I would have changed my plans or worked different hours. I would have accommodated everyone even if it made my life far more difficult. She was asking for what she needed. At that point in my life, I didn’t know how to do that. 


There are so many myths in our society that point to this idea of going alone. While human beings are communal animals, North American culture is largely based on the entirely false premise that to be truly successful, you have to make it on your own. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and all that hooey that enables those in power, who have all of the support they need, to keep those without it from working together to create their own success. 


Success is not a solo venture. Nor is learning. The most valuable things I have learned in my life have been in community with others. Human beings are all about community and connection. We need connection in order to be healthy. Babies that don’t get enough attunement from their mothers — that is the eye-contact, physical contact and presence that helps them to “feel felt” often have developmental and behavioural problems as they grow up. We need to be in community so that we can learn and grow and thrive. So that we can be happy. 


In prisons, people are isolated as a punishment. So why do we isolate ourselves and think that we’re going to be okay? I know that while I spent so much of my early twenties surrounded by other people, in many ways I was isolating myself in my romantic relationship because I was unable to be honest with myself or my partner about how I felt. I was afraid of disappointing him. I was afraid of being rejected. I was afraid that the story I had been telling myself and others about how amazing my life would be with this tall, handsome, clever British viscount would be ruined. Except that you can’t live in story and feel connected to the present moment. It’s one or the other: being here now and experiencing life as it unfolds, or living in a dream world, following the threads of your imagination, and ultimately boxing yourself into a desired reality that will never unfurl the way you hope. I know it doesn’t because I was always disappointed by the reality that I was living in. It wasn’t until I learned to let go of all the planning and the control and simply hold my hopes and dreams lightly, that I got to experience the true joy and freedom that comes with being in the moment and accepting life as it shows up. 


There is no wrong way for things to happen unless you decide it’s wrong. If, as I discovered a few years ago, you treat life like a science experiment, suddenly everything becomes so much more delightful. You have a hypothesis and you test it. You don’t know whether your hypothesis will prove true and so you’re guided by curiosity rather than by the desire to be right. When I stopped needing things to be a certain way and started letting myself get curious about why I was creating problems from situations, why I was seeing things as happening differently from how they should, I started to notice so much more possibility. I started to notice that if I just opened myself up to the learning rather than convincing myself that I knew what would be best, I was often pleasantly surprised. 


Now, even the most frustrating and dramatic occurrences have become opportunities for learning. I can have a freaking awful day — like yesterday, when I felt I was being cheated by my car dealership and was shouted at by the person who sold me my car — and take it as an incredible opportunity to observe myself. I was pissed. My chest felt tight and my heart and mind were racing. I took a walk and I still didn’t come down. I asked Josh (my husband) to help bring me down by looking into my eyes and breathing with me. It was a little better but I was not fully grounded. Even when I woke up this morning and went to meditate, I couldn’t get my mind to be still. It felt as though all of the work I have been doing to learn to ground myself had been locked into a vault to which I had no access. I was stuck in my mind, floundering, struggling to get out of the thoughts and feelings I was experiencing. I had lost objectivity. I wanted to be right. And so, I felt myself looping back into the fury of the situation, struggling to empathize with the car salesperson who was clearly impacted by all the crazy Covid-related supply chain issues the world is facing and for whom a hundred dollars is a really big deal. 


Now that I’m back in my body, back in the present, I can see how easy it would have been to keep this crazy loop going. It would have been so easy to latch back onto the thought “He was cheating me! It’s his fault I had to pay an extra $100 to have my tires installed! He should have had to pay for it!” Sure, I could choose to continue to blame him and get myself all riled up about the injustice, or I could just accept that because my winter tires weren’t available in the summer, they weren’t procured then and they weren’t installed into the rims. If they had been, he probably would have informed me at the time that it was going to cost an extra $100 and I would have simply accepted it as part of the cost of buying the car. I could expend a ton of energy getting upset about this or I could just accept that it’s what happened and move on. I can feel the resistance in my body to the acceptance but I know it’s what will free me from the prison of my mind. And that’s worth a whole lot more than a hundred bucks.

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