Of all the things I have struggled with since I have been clean, practicing loving kindness is highest on the list. I know, I know- I don’t think I come off as someone who has a rough time with something like this. For sure, I know the appropriate way to act, and how to say the right thing, the thing people need to hear, most of the time. But there is a difference between how we intentionally show up in the world and the way we act, react, and even the way we think, when it’s only us alone with the chosen few who live their lives closely entwined with ours.
In other words, sometimes- too much of the time- I am an impatient asshole to my ex, who lives in close quarters with me ( supposedly a win-win for all parties, but in practice, not always the best), to my friends, and worst of all, to my kids. I struggle to be nice. I have a hard time keeping my temper in check. I yell too much. I say things I regret- if not immediately, then eventually. I hurt the people I care the most about, and it’s crazy because, you might recall from some of my earlier posts- this was one of the main reasons I wanted to get clean in the first place. I wanted to stop hurting people, especially the people I loved.
Well, here’s a news flash: You Don’t Get Better Over Night. Look, I am nowhere near as bad as I used to be, but I am also not the same person I used to be. The person I am now has a different tolerance for pain- because believe me, if I am hurting people with my behavior, I am suffering too. As a matter of fact, it has come to my attention that it’s possible I might beat myself up much harder than I do anyone else. But my truth remains the same- these are people I love, I want to treat them that way. Period. Without fail. And I could do better…in my head, I can almost always see where I went wrong, when I should have walked away, where I could have taken a breath, how I could have chosen to say nothing. Why? I ask myself all the time, Why couldn’t you have done better?
I think I know at least part of the answer- Anger has been a huge defensive tool for me for so much of my life. Anger kept me safe, kept people at arms length, kept questions from being asked that I didn’t know how to answer. When you are a volatile person, people tread lightly around you. Walk on eggshells, even. When being vulnerable is the thing you most fear, anger is a heady drug.
And there is the whole matter of habit- all those pathways burned into my brain, all the things that I let make me angry for all those hundreds or thousands of days in a row. Any switch I had lead to anger, because it was safer. Safer than being unsure, safer than being hurt, safer than being afraid. Anger is big, powerful, and much easier for me to deal with than the “softer” options, such as crying or, I don’t know, admitting that I messed up, that I am in deep trouble, that I need help.
But that was me BEFORE. And this is me NOW. And the woman I am today cannot tolerate the way it feels to behave this way. This morning, when I prayed my daily prayer, I asked sincerely for help- “Look God, I am serious, I NEED YOU to help me with this. Please, please, pretty please. I can’t do this on my own.” And then I said the rest of the stuff I said, and moved on to the meditation practice part of my morning. I had to smile when the theme of the day was “loving kindness”. My God does not mess around.
I have been deliberate with my words and actions all day today, trying to be gentle with myself, because I am growing, and because I am still starting out on the path to who I want to be, and because I just deserve it. And I have been gentle with others, because it has been easy to- it’s when things get rough, or I am tired, or overwhelmed, when it gets hard.
But I believe that when we truly want to change, we begin to change. And that when we sincerely ask God for help (again, feel free to exchange the word God for whatever word you feel comfortable with), help comes. We must do the footwork. We can’t just say “help me!” and then keep going on like we always have. You show up, and the benevolent forces of the Universe show up with you.
I am trying so hard to be someone who knows how to love other people in a way that is beautiful, rather than damaging, and I know it won’t happen over night. But I also know that it has to start somewhere. Why not here?