29 July 2012

The Lessons Never Stop - Do They

I guess I've lived alone too long.  It seems I've forgotten how to live with the strong emotions of another person without seeing those emotions as something to do with me.

Maybe I never did know how to do that.  Maybe I never really learned, as many children growing up in alcoholic homes do not, that it was ok to have boundaries, that other people's emotions aren't my problem.

I thought I'd overcome this, that I'd learned - rather late in life it's true - how to draw the line between someone else's emotional outburst and my own feelings.  And I think I have learned that - to some extent.  Yet, when it comes to anger, it seems, I've got some learning still to do.

I'm currently, temporarily, sharing living quarters with a friend.  It's the first time I've shared living space in a long time - five years any way.  And in those years living alone I've had the luxury of escaping from emotional eruptions when and how I chose.  And escape seemed, all that time, to be the best thing for me.  Maybe that wasn't so good.

For the last twenty-four hours my friend has simply exploded with frustration and anger over a situation  - what it is doesn't matter really - that is causing inconvenience and a certain amount of extra effort for him.  It has nothing, zero, nada, bupkus to do with me.  I didn't cause the situation, exacerbate it, or add to its difficulty.  And he is not aiming his anger at me, nor is he in any way looking to me for solutions or a place to lay blame.

Yet - yet - yet I keep expecting that to happen, and find my mind searching for ways I can assuage his anger, ways I can help him "feel better."  SHADES OF CHILDHOOD!!

I know all the reasons for this, all of the experiences from childhood, not to forget a seventeen year marriage to a mean alcoholic, taught me to work diligently and without pause in doing MY JOB to fix things that made others mad.  In truth, my childhood experiences convinced me that my very survival depended on the - admittedly 'childish' - strategies I developed for deflecting or even managing the anger of others.

The most important thing though is that I HAVE learned the core reason for my automatic reactions to anger.  I jump without pause into these ways of thinking because I'm scared!  Anger - particularly anger over something that makes no sense - to me at least - feels threatening to me.  And when I'm threatened I feel afraid, as we all do.

I thought I'd learned to tolerate this sense of fear over the years.  But, I'm wondering now if all I really learned was to escape from the fear by escaping from the angry person.

So now I'm confronting, once again, the reality that the lessons of life never really end.  I'm smack in the center of learning that there's more learning - even at the far end of middle age.  And I'm learning that - though my initial reactions to my friend's anger were just the same as my earlier reactions - I have made some progress.  I did feel afraid - afraid that the anger would be turned toward me.  True also, I did mentally conduct a frantic search for ways to 'fix' things for him - and thus, for me.

But on the positive side of the scale - I did NOT take action based on my thoughts and fears.  Hooray for me.  Instead I'm writing about it, attempting to transmute what's going on in me that holds me back, to transform it all into something creative.  And I'm sharing it with you - whoever you are out there reading this.

Maybe some would think that this isn't much - writing it out, sharing it out.  Maybe they'd be right - for them.  But for me it's a motion toward loving myself, toward gaining, in tiny increments, a sense of peace with who I am - fears and all.  And I say - Namaste to that.

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