Seriously though, the word faith *shivers* brings me back to all kinds of memories that have nothing whatsoever to do with my current idea of the word. Few are pleasant.
The only positive influences I had around Christianity as a kid were so grossly hypocritical I outright fled to hedonism at my first chance to do so.
That being said, I find that developing a relationship with that word, faith, has been nothing but beneficial.
I was cheated on by a man when I was young. We were together five years and he was cheating from week 3 on, I believe. What’s more, he was really good at hiding it from me, but I had a feeling in my gut.
I’m not proud to say a young version of me knew that what I believed about him said more about me than it did about him. Naive nineteen-year-old me thought this meant that I should have faith in him despite my instincts.
Holy shit was I wrong.
That relationship was nothing short of traumatizing and the only thing that got me to leave, finally, was sheer exhaustion. I’d neglected myself for a man who needed so much attention because he never felt worthy of love himself. Abandonment issues. I have them too. It’s no excuse cock sucker. Yes I still hate him if only because he represents how little faith I had in myself–in which case that hatred is really just shame and embarrassment.
I feel it necessary to mention this because anger is often a disguise for shame and that is part of what I explore here. I think we need more words for more complex emotions. The English language is sadly sparse in this regard. There are emotions we don’t have words for and anger to disguise shame should have its own name. Maybe I would have addressed my shame sooner. Who knows?
DJ and I recently moved into a bigger apartment with a prettier view outside the city and finally made it out of that 390 sq foot box (literally the same size as a king county jail cell btw). I figured I’d be through the roof with excitement.
Moves are triggers for me. For a week afterwards I cry and panic and have that same gnawing feeling that something is off, something is wrong, something is not as it seems. We fight after I accuse him of lying, of cheating. There’s a part of my mind that knows I’m being irrational and another part of my mind that knows instincts, while not rational, should be heeded in this situation.
The thing about traumatized instincts is that they are developed from trauma, not rationality. So what’s the difference?
I think it’s pretty enormous.
It’s always surprised me the way my sister and DJ can get a fairly accurate read on a person in the first minute of meeting them. Usually, they are right.
Sometimes though, they are wrong, and the person we might have initially thought is a scum bag ends up being really down to earth. A great example of this kind of character is the handyman who I believe is called “Eddie,” in Augusten Burroughs’ memoir, Toil&Trouble.
I’ve always been one to tout the underdogs and from my point of view, if there is even a chance, its one worth taking. Being seen is sometimes all a person needs to remember themselves and I set out to be a witch and interpret dreams so I could help people. So this is where I started, young naive me, with the hope that the cheating fuck I dated back then would, with enough love, come to love me enough to face his cowardice and stop lying to me.
He never did and I left and he cried and he deserved it. Sorry not sorry.
Fast forward to a decade later and DJ is suffering because I exposed myself to that trauma for the sake of a hope. I’m not going to beat myself up about it. It’s passed. We have worked through it. Here’s the run down:
My initial fear is triggered by my trigger: moving and abandonment issues which were WAY bigger than I ever imagined.
I can tell the difference between the trigger instinct and the rational instinct because DJ never gives me that feeling like something is wrong, something is off. It comes along only during the times my abandonment issues do, and those are a hydra I must slay regularly unfortunately.
Nonetheless, accusing someone of doing something they aren’t, even when you are triggered and irrational, is a good way to push them right on into doing it…if they are immature. DJ might have a boyish sense of humor, but he’s my man through and through. Rationally, I know there is nothing in his character likely to go fuck a woman on the one hour lunch break a day I don’t see him.
Triggers and trauma are messy evil beasts and giving them the attention they ask for only feeds that energy. My old traumas were messing up a really good new thing. What’s more, my insecurities were so bad for a while that whether he was faithful wouldn’t have mattered–I was still stuck in that paranoid head space.
I think this is what led me to the bottoming out that I call surrender.
Cyclothymia involves cycling of emotions that are unpredictable, intense, and polar opposites–hence it is on the bipolar spectrum.
Depression and hypomania basically escalate from neutral until I freak out or bottom out. Surrender is the graceful way, and an enormous part of what this site is dedicated to. In a flow state, one releases the worry or object of attachment, simultaneously recognizing that we cannot control that which is without. All we can control, if we’re lucky, is our reactions to it.
So here I learn a different lesson around this cheating paranoia–for one, my reaction to an unfounded suspicion is unreasonable. Two, my reaction is from a past experience which means I am not being present. Three, if you can’t have faith in god, have faith in yourself.
Of course DJ accuses me of not trusting him. He’s given me no reason not to and I’m hating myself even more because I don’t understand it either and then the shame and then the guilt and then the clinging, and then the fear and the accusations again…It’s the cycle of shame. We all know this cycle and as much as shame is a bitch I want to stab with a fork and gobble up like spaghetti, the only way she goes away in this scenario is when I finally find the words I’ve been looking for–perhaps for years.
Hey, last time I trusted someone else’s instincts over mine I wound up in rehab with an STD after a vacuum abortion he forced me into. I’m trusting you more than my instincts right now. Please understand I’m doing my best given the circumstances. That being said, you don’t deserve to pay for his mistakes. I will trust you. I will not snoop through your messages. I’ll believe you when you say you love me. You can talk to me about anything and I’ll stick it out with you because I love you too. The one thing I won’t tolerate is lying. I promise if there ever is something and I find out, from any source other than you that you’ve been lying, I will leave without a word. That seems fair to me given the circumstances. I’m trusting you with my heart, mind and body. I love you and hope you have a good day.
It went something like that and it felt as awful as it did like an exorcism. That teenage girl back then really needed some self-respect, some boundary-setting-skills, and some faith in her own ability to operate independently.
Hell I needed it.
When review the facts, again, DJ isn’t the kind of man to do anything like that. Even if he were, he is straightforward as they come. Even if he had and he weren’t straight forward…would I be there anyways?
The ultimate form of love, the Jesus Christ version of unconditional love, is love your neighbor as you love thyself. Jesus is betrayed and crucified and still loved that betraying Judas. Unconditional love is the recognizing that, ultimately, what you believe about another person and how you treat them is your choice no matter what the circumstances. Jesus is such a baller because even when they were driving nails through his palms and his feet he was like, “I still love you all,” and this is the idea of heaven on earth–the unshakable human heart, seeing through the animal and the instincts to the person beneath and loving them even when the animal takes over–perhaps especially.
Love is not a transaction.
Love is a state of being.
That being said, I learned the hard way that nothing is worth feeling worthless over. The relative answer is what can I live with while maintaining self-respect?
Without self-respect, the cycle of shame is inescapable. If we cannot respect and love ourselves, it doesn’t matter how much another person loves us…we won’t see it anyways. I think a lot of people are here in their relationship with loving themselves.
We are in a difficult time culturally. Our economy is collapsing, we’re all stuck inside wearing masks, and a decision to elect a new leader is further dividing people along bipartisan lines. It can be difficult to feel a sense of worth when it seems nothing you do is paying off. When that’s the case, look at what the end goal is.
Mine was, surprisingly to me, a happy family. Not once in my life since I was sixteen-years-old did I ever think this would be my end goal. My conscious mind believed for a long time that what I wanted was to write a book and become a writer. At first it was a goal, a simple dream. Eventually it became an obsession, like doing what I set out to do would justify all of the fucked up things life can throw our way. I still want to write, but not for some sense of fulfillment or validation.
The trigger, and my Judas ex, and DJ’s saintly patience with me have taught me an extremely valuable lesson.
It’s so bland on paper. There is no replacing with words the experience of a lesson learned first-hand, but at least there are words here for guidance through those times when we need reminders perhaps.
When I promised myself I would tolerate no more abuse and discovered I fully believed in my ability to act for the sake of self-preservation if necessary, a wonderful thing happened.
The faith in myself that was crushed, along with all those naive expectations and childhood dreams colliding with the weird chaos that is reality, was resurrected. My irrational fears no longer dominate the narrative. When the what-ifs pop up, I know how to have faith in DJ because I know how to have faith in myself.
Love is a symbiotic state.
I realized that feeling worthless was not only harming me, it was indicating that I expected he was the kind of man who would pick someone worthless. It is, therefore, impossible to respect another without respecting the self–at least, you can only love another insofar as you love yourself.
When you wonder how much you love yourself, does it feel good?
We are interconnected this way. This is how reason helps us out of the traumatized instinct. What’s more, its a narrative about reason supporting love as reasonable, not the toxic, confusing, tragic thing it’s always been presented to me as before.
It’s a growing process though. We journey through our imperfections not with the goal of reaching some perfect end in which all is awesome and serene. How boring. Love is in how we navigate our way through these growing pains together. Are you gentle? Judgmental? Harsh? Adaptable? Kind?
We are all these things: human beings are multifaceted. Part of the journey is learning when to call on our capabilities and why.
When I see the way we have turned on one another in this country, this is the lesson that comes up, personally.
If you’re going to love yourself, let it be for the sake of loving someone else better. If you’re going to be mean, let it be for the sake of learning how to be kinder. If you’re going to give up, let it be for the sake of a stronger resurrection than ever before. I gave up on a broken love with a broken heart, a broken mind, and damn near a broken body.
The decision to love again and to trust DJ is the best decision I ever made. I can say that because I know that no matter what, there is no gift greater than believing I’m loved except perhaps knowing I’m lucky enough to love and be loved by others.
If you don’t like the word “love,” I once had an extreme aversion to it, as well as Christianity, Jesus, and any mention of things like god or faith. I used the word “see” for a long time.
Being comfortable in the self is necessary to look at another person without projecting. Knowing the self is necessary to see another person without projecting. I have a different, fuller understanding of what it means to love someone. I still feel bad for putting him through that and am daily seeing an improvement in our relationship as I learn to trust.
My dog, Anya, reacts much the same way to other dogs. It’s amazing the way dogs help us this way. She shows me what I need to work on. As my trust in my capabilities to stand on my own two feet, accurately judge a situation, and deal with the consequences of inadequate judgment increases, so her fear of other dogs lessens. She isn’t picking up on my victim mentality anymore.
Again, the shame arises just mentioning it. I knew I had trust issues. No amount of therapy has ever fixed them.
Back to faith:
I read a journal from when I was fifteen-years-old the other day. I’ve been keeping journals (44 in number now) for fifteen years. The second entry states my intention:
“I’m really interested in dreams and visions and magic lately. I think I’m going to become a witch and study my dreams and help people. But of course I can’t take on everyone’s problems. I need to fix my own before I can fix anyone else’s. From now on I’m going to keep track of all of my dreams and study magic and visions.” 15-year-old me didn’t know at all what that meant and she certainly didn’t believe any of that could be real.
30-year-old me forgot this is what I set out to do.
Last year at this time we were about to move to the 390 square-foot place in Seattle. I was drinking every day, smoking weed and cigarettes, and would soon be facing the darkest depression of my life.
Abandonment issues, pregnancy and abortion and pregnancy again, alcoholism, poverty, a move across two states, changing jobs, tight quarters, no pride, no mind even, the death of my best friend, my grandfather, loneliness, and jail are some of the things I’ve experienced in the last year and my year has been nothing short of fortunate compared to so many, many people’s.
I began to see how people suffer and how they stay strong. The way my boss’s smile falters when she needs her picture taken shows what she thinks of her appearance. The way the woman sneers when I tell her my dog isn’t friendly and would she mind waiting a minute reveals her disapproval and defiance…was she told what to do all the time? Did she work hard to train her dog? Could I learn from her?
I begin to see people and to respect them all immensely at least on the basis that they are human beings. I will say it…even our president. It is no small thing to endure suffering. It is no easy thing to survive, especially when the planet on which we rely is as mistreated as we have mistreated ourselves and others.
What is your worth? Perhaps a better way to phrase this question is, for whom and for what do you suffer? Is it worth it?
On faith, the book was there all along. I only saw that it was written when I decided I had to have faith in myself, not for my sake, but for those I love. In knowing myself, I am now able to help others.
I’m sober finally. I’m clean. I’m loved. My family is happy. My intention here was to document how this occurred and share it.
Now I’ve learned to work through my traumas with dreams, with magic, and with vision, but most powerfully, with story. This healing is half my lifetime in the making and there are daily records for the steps I’ve taken to tackle these. What’s more, there are dream logs tracking the symbolic story of these traumas in my subconscious, tarot readings, records of bizarre inexplicable experiences that I cannot wait to share. A book on using narrative and symbolism to construct one’s reality is in the works–in fact, it’s already written in 44 journals waiting to be organized and enhanced and made legible. But it’s there. Fifteen years of dedication to helping myself that I may help others, getting totally lost in the wilds of growing and forgetting my original purpose, only for it to appear here on the other side of the worst of it to show me it was there all along; I’d just been looking at it wrong.
It’s not about me.
Perhaps that phrase is better put this way: What’s about me is about you is about me. We are a symbiotic species. Words just won’t replace the experience of it.
I wrote even though I had given up all faith in any of it. It practically wrote itself given the writing is a compulsion, and I can only think that it did so because the original intent was not for me. It was for you person I don’t know who might enjoy this. It was for anyone hoping to feel less alone like I felt. And if it helps no one at all besides me, at least if I run into you one day, I’m a better person for this and therefore a better person to you.
Set your intentions.
Go forth love.
There’s no need for prepositions.
There is no name for it.
It’s a state of being.
Embrace your power and your boundaries in love.
Wasn’t that Christ’s main point?
Reconciling with God was like accepting my ex taught me something–distasteful–but God was a word, a symbol, a faceless entity, much like we use the words “they” or “people” to describe individuals with complex lives as inexplicably nuanced as our own. The word stands for a symbol that was stolen and manipulated many times by many leaders with motives to conquer and control over many thousands of years until the shame induced by the word GOD was all that was needed in every household to keep us subservient.
In AA, they say “God, whatever that means to you.”
Do not let traumas live on in the symbols designed to perpetuate them. Attribute new meaning, better meaning, and you will be unshakable. We were not made to be lowly and worthless and to live in fear of hell. Feeling worthless is hell–for everyone. I thank God I didn’t listen to the red flags of trauma induced by my choices around my ex this time around. I had faith. I attributed new meaning.
If fifteen-year-old me saw that here, she’d ask me to choose a word less loaded with “witch-burning” connotation, but no religion takes the power of that word from me. It is a state of being. A symbiotic relationship.
This is how Christianization of the world was achieved: appropriation of language and stories of pagan peoples. Those who wrote held the stories held the world. Hold your stories unique unto yourself.
I am taking this word back now.
Faith: to proceed knowing one does not know, trusting that as surely as one is affected, one also has the ability to affect.
This is how I have experienced faith.
Christ: Love is you is me.
God: Great Out Doors–no laws are more convincing to the human being than the laws of nature.
Know yourself down to the very meaning of the words you choose in each moment. Do not give your power away to the traumas of the past. We begin here anew.
And when fear threatens to undo you, set your boundaries and love yourself enough to respect them. Trauma is the result of a boundary crossed. If those in the past have taken your power away, know that you can take it back with faith–not the appropriated version…the real kind.
Prompt for Self-Discovery:
When you look at yourself, what do you see?
When you look at others, what do you see?
What labels do you use?
If you were to describe without labels or judgments, using your senses only, how would you describe yourself and others?
Are what you think and what you feel aligned?
Maintaining you can only control yourself and your own actions, what can you do to bring these ideas closer into alignment?
If they are aligned, what can you do to tell a story about yourself that makes you even happier to be in your own skin? This increases your light and your strength and makes you more available for others.
Be Well Humans.
Until next time.
All my love.