I wrote this a week ago. Inner critic wouldn’t allow me to post until today:
I am thinking a lot today about the times I have pulled away from support at just the time I have needed that support. Often it is a result of someone saying something that really hurts me, not getting where I am coming from or dissing or minimising something I say or feelings I am trying to express. I am not sure at times if I have blown what they have said out of proportion. I know it has to do with my finely tuned “abandonment radar” which is ready to run at the first whiff of danger. I can then pull away or react in away that causes me more damage. Perhaps I have an accident or go off alone in harsh circumstances when I would have been better to withdraw and yet stay self protected.
Today I had a lesson in this. On Wednesday I had experienced this kind of upset with a lady I know quiet well from the dog park. I felt sidelined and dismissed. I just walked away without saying too much. I was in a very deep grief on Wednesday, the last day of my radiation treatment for breast cancer when this happened.
When I arrived today at the park, she was sitting near the top of the park on the bench with someone else I know. Part of me wanted to be very far away. Also the bench was not in the sun but in the shade and there was a very cold wind blowing. My old people pleasing self wanted to seem accommodating and pleasant in the past would have brushed aside my own needs and feelings and gone to “make nice”, standing the shade even though it would have been uncomfortable.
Today I didn’t do that. I took some time at the other end of the park with my dog. But I had a burning feeling in my chest. Part of me was saying it was a bit extreme to cut her completely (the truth was I hadn’t “cut” her, I had said a quick hello). I think she had the best of intentions in telling me my pain over radiation “would get a lot worse before it gets better”, but it was not what I needed to hear and it hasn’t proven to be totally true.
It is true also that the radiation around my heart has caused symptoms of heat, burning, breathlessness and sadness… there is still a lot of abandonment grief around my heart. Today I did what I don’t always do. I took steps to protect my heart but I will admit to feeling a little sad about it.
After a time Jasper and I returned to the top end of the park to say hello again. My friend was bright and breezy. “Are you okay?”, she asked. “I was so worried about you the other day.” “It has been really hard”, I said. “I know its true what you said that I haven’t been through it myself, but my daughter has and I know it is how hard it is.” She said.
At times I get very mixed up as to whether I want to try to get close to people. I know they cannot always understand what I am going through, just as I cannot always understand totally what they are going through. At times I can also say to others “that must be hard” and maybe they will deny that it is and maybe it isn’t as hard for them.
I also know there is a pattern that when I am in some pain I may not always be received in a way that is needed by me. It takes time to get to know people. We are all similar and all different too. Not everyone is as sensitive or they may just hide it better. I am not sure.
Today it has been very much on my mind the way in which my extreme pulling away in the face of invalidation has left me on the outer, often miles from anyone I know. It is the pattern set in place after my father died and my then boyfriend abandoned me. Its a wound I carry deep in my soul. This same trauma has repeated many times over different years in similar versions.
Today after my visit to the park I was blessed to be having lunch with an old friend. We did have time to walk together in the botanic garden, have a nice lunch and chat. It was a huge comfort to me, as I end up spending a lot of my time alone. We spoke for a time about the wounding that is not necessarily deliberate, which comes from the clumsy word or insensitive comment. How do we deal with this in a way that it doesn’t lodge too deeply in us? How do we let go and forgive? When is it right to do so? And when does it end up hurting us?
I am not talking here about the nasty obviously abusive person who sets out to wound and damage but the bumbling person who just mucks up a bit. Can we in this case in W H Auden’s words learn “to love our crooked neighbour with our own crooked heart?” How much insensitivity should we accept? I guess it is all a matter of degree. We are the custodians of our own hearts. We are the ones that must tend their wounded spaces. We can only learn how to heal past patterns of abandonment wounding by a complex journey of trial and error that sometimes ends in smiles, and sometimes in tears.
To draw close, or to pull away, which is best? And is not this pattern of coming together and being torn apart part of the precarious human dance of intimacy and connection playing out in myriad forms part of what it means to be human and struggle to connect with each other?