Codependent Anonymous.

My dear Codependent,

For the love of humans, please stop apologizing for your existence.

You’ll find a full life if you find the courage to be yourself.

There’s no one better to be. The rest of the world can’t connect with you if we don’t know who you are.

We can’t reject you either.

I get it. I know. Your mask and your apologies serve as your protection.

I was once you.

Everything was perfectly planned–every interaction a performance.

But nothing was genuine, and I could never be perfect (codependent) enough.

In time, I learned to drop the mask, the facade, and the expectations of others.

And you know what?

People didn’t always like me anymore! Ah! My fear realized!

But I did. I liked me a heck of a lot more. And my friends–the people who saw and only wanted me, not some facade–liked me even more.

Relationships become powerful and fake friendships fall away when you rip off your codependency. And it. Is. Worth it.

I see you fake happiness a lot, and I don’t blame you. A lot of people get that confused–believing that maximizing happiness is the goal in life or that happiness is the only acceptable emotion.

It’s not true. All emotions are good. We’re meant to experience the spectrum. That’s the only way we humans know what the heck is going on! Emotions are information and experience intertwined. 

I’ve watched you numb yourself from uncomfortable emotions, but in that, I’ve seen you numb yourself from them all.

My dear Codependent, you can’t erase sadness without erasing joy.

Don’t numb yourself from emotional pain. We’re meant to feel. It’s the only way we’ll recognize joy when it happens. You don’t want to miss that.

Joy is not the happiness you fake; it’s something unmistakable, irreplaceable, and heaven-sent.

We only know joy when we’ve known pain. Sadness, depression, frustration, anger, melancholia.

So stop hiding from your own experience and from others. We’re meant to be seen and to feel–fully and truly.

Perhaps I should leave you now before I piss you off too much (feel the anger–it’s information, remember).

I hope you take the risk in and for yourself–to actually show yourself to the world and find out if you are enough.

And you are.

You always were.

Love,

An Ex-Codependent

 

 

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Touching People and Teaching Others to STOP TOUCHING PEOPLE

Life is a bit touchy. So am I.

Currently I’m working part time as a caregiver and part time as a counselor.

I support a client who is 95 and face the reality of mortality every time I see her. She’s lived. And lived. And lived. Soon she will die.

She is precious, resilient, stubborn, and needs me to help her pee.

I counsel sexual offenders who are adolescent boys and “men.” I face the reality of rape and violation of children’s and women’s bodies every time I see them. They’ve hurt. They’ve destroyed. Soon they will learn the concept of empathy.

They are not horrible at their essence but have done horrendous things. This I have to believe.

I sit with my elderly woman, while she munches on the oatmeal I made for her. I learn about WWII and what it was like for her to feed 8 mouths for dinner every night. I learn about what it was like to be a secretary (because what else is a woman going to be during her time?). I am told to not marry out of comfort right now.

My elderly woman is impressed by me—a young woman who moved across the country by herself.

“Do not marry. Don’t make that mistake. It is comforting to have a man there. But don’t marry until it’s right. Take your time. Remember that.”

“Alright. Hey, remember to chew with your back teeth. Yeah. There you go. Good.”

I sit with my adolescent sex offenders. I learn of the cluelessness and crazy manipulation that man is capable of. I counsel, but really, I’m teaching relapse prevention.

“I didn’t know incest was wrong, really.”

“I mean, yeah, she was drunk but we were going out so, like…”

“She was coming on to me. Swear to God.”

I teach them what true consent is, what thinking errors are and make them identify theirs, how to deal with anger more effectively/healthily. I ask if they’ve been abstinent from drugs, alcohol, and porn. (They have polygraphs every 6 months done by the county, too.)

Every group therapy session they check in by sharing what their week was like, how many times they masturbated, and of that the percentage of appropriate fantasies.  (I guess we’re really trying to get them to work their imaginations because they can’t use the porn anymore, making getting off a little harder.)

I go to my next caregiving shift and give my client a shower. I wash her, gently in circles with a soft washcloth and her special soap. As I rinse her back I realize how precious these moments are.

I’m touching the skin of a woman 70 years my senior. I’m taking care of someone through touch.

My clients of sexual offenses have destroyed others through touch.

Touch can heal, or touch can hurt.

I’ve chosen to do the former and teach others to never do the latter again.

What My Mother Doesn’t Know

I cry every time we part at the airport. I never let my mother see. I always wait until I’m alone on my short, short tram ride from where she is to my gate and security check.

She must stay. But I must go.

My mother hugs me tenderly—Once. Twice. Three times—every time I’m about to make the decision to fly away, back to my life I’m building in another state, one far, far away.

“I love you,” she whispers near my ear, her arms clinging softly to my back.

“I love you, too,” I stammer and pull away to find her face streaked with tears.

I’m not graceful in my turn to walk away. I’m not delicate in my “good-bye!”

I barely make it to the safety of my tram ride to break down, if only for a few seconds.

I feel the maternal gravity pulling me back to her, my mother, the woman who gave me strength, the one who showed me that ‘woman’ can do all things, the one I’ve rebelled against, found great fault with, and even greater annoyance. My mother is far from being a perfect woman. But she is my mother. And she is my advocate. She ultimately is the one human who I believe would not turn away from me.

I know this, I trust this, because she fought for me when I hurt her the most.

I did not go home for Christmas last year. I chose not to go home for Christmas last year.

I resented my mother wildly for things decades past. I resented my family. I resented that I never had a true childhood. And I could not handle the thought of being associated with any of my past.

So I didn’t go “home” to Florida. I spent Christmas in New York State. Entirely alone and by choice.

One evening a week or two before that Christmas (2014), my mother called me to confirm in confusion that I would not be flying to Florida.

I was parked in a Target parking lot when she called. My feet got bitterly cold in the car for we talked for an hour and half. I’ll rephrase for honesty’s sake: she talked; I screamed at her. Not the whole time but in large part.

I shook violently as I accused her of things I never had before or at least not with this passion and volume.

I shook even worse when she told me that she didn’t believe me.

I shook because I realized that either I was psychotic and she was right or that I was right and it was too tragic for her to accept. Both possibilities were terrifying.

I held my ground. I think we both realized that the conclusion of this phone call—this, our most epic fight—would define how our relationship would shift. It would shift into a new space, or it would die.

And that’s when it happened. My mother chose me. She chose to not only believe me but to fight for our relationship.

She told me that if I needed one year (one Christmas) away, then she would accept that. I’m not sure if she fully understood my pain, or the five-year old me that was screaming through me, the 24 year old. But she chose to love me.

When I needed her most and when I fought the hardest against her, she chose me.

This year I live in Oregon. I flew “home” for Christmas. I couldn’t imagine missing it. I needed to see my family, no matter the (horrifying monetary) cost.

My mother stood there in the airport two days ago, crying vulnerable with her feelings for me.

And I left her, flying back to the life I’m building in Oregon.

What my mother doesn’t know is that it was hard for me, too. The tears she cries are the tears I cry.

She must stay; I must go.

Twentieth Deathaversary

 

It’s late in the morning, and I’m still in my pajamas. I could be in Alaska with the rest of the mourning families at the YUKLA 27 memorial for the 20th anniversary of its AWACS plane crash. But instead I’m at my kitchen table, with a greasy face, greasy hair, and a now empty coffee mug.

I keep thinking I should do some grand gesture to honor this day.

My dad was in the Air Force when I was young. He was on the AWACS plane that crashed in Alaska in the fall of ’95.

Every year on this day, I try to hold space for whatever emotions and thoughts (however rational or not) bubble up.

That’s a lie. I thought it might sound great, mature, even honest. It sounds pretentious.

Some years I feel nothing. Some years it’s two weeks before or after the deathaversary that I feel something. Some years I mourn for me. Some years I mourn for my mom and her loss. Some years I’m pissed. ‘Geese?! I don’t get a dad because of fucking geese?! What a miserable Goddamn mistake you made there, Air Force!’ 

How does a sudden death of a dad affect an individual’s life? How might that play out?Well, that individual might hold a truth within from a young age that nothing is guaranteed, nothing is in her control, and that God, if one is believed to exist, isn’t going to protect her from pain, loss, or heartache. Life’s going to hurt.

Her family might take the path of living irritatingly cautiously. Perhaps that felt like living in a bubble. In that bubble maybe there were rules upon rules upon restrictions. Maybe the thought behind that was: rules can protect; risk can kill.

Maybe this individual grows up into a young adult and in her twenties, she might put life this way: Shit happens. Shit happens and then we fall apart and then we pick ourselves back up. We either do that or allow our spirit to die along with the dead.

Maybe she would think that people should fully mourn whenever the grief surfaces and honor all their emotions. Maybe her greatest belief would be that our emotions and our experiences are all valid.

Life is going to hurt. But it’s going to be heavenly, too.

Quick Thoughts on Grief and Hurtful People

Here’s something that’s been whirling about in my mind for days, something I couldn’t quite explain until my mind was at ease as it drifted to sleep last night. I captured my thoughts by typing them into a text to myself before the moments passed.

The people who say “Get over it” or “Why aren’t you over it yet?” are simply the people who refuse to go deep into their own lives of pain–maybe in that moment, maybe in every moment that they’ve lived.

To them you’re the problem because you reflect the true reality of our human condition. Of course it could be worse. Of course someone else HAS it worse. Ignore, avoid, avoid. ‘I don’t want to acknowledge the legitimacy of your pain. If I did, I’d have to acknowledge mine. And I’m fine. It’s a shame you’re not fine, too.’

I’m so sorry they’re hurt you. They’re hurt me, too. Don’t believe their lies. You are strong while you feel so weak. You are brokenhearted. You are wounded. Because it matters.

Grief is a weight of depression and rage and brokenheartedness. It never entirely goes away. It rather expands at times and contracts so small into such a tiny volume that you forget its presence at times.

But loss is permanent. So the grief will be, too.

Don’t believe their lies. You don’t deserve to be hurt by others’ incompetence at connecting and empathizing with another human being.

It’s important to share. Find the safe people. We need connection and understanding. We’re all and only human.

A Masters and A Move

I didn’t take a counseling job when I moved out to the West Coast a couple months ago.

Not a lot of people knew that—that I didn’t have my heart set on becoming a counselor anymore. I didn’t talk because I already had people’s unsolicited feedback on my move across the country.

Risky, they said.

Risky, sure, I agreed. Sounds like life, I thought.

I wouldn’t (do it), they said.

Good thing you’re not, I thought.

Sure, I said.

For the past couple years, I had lived in upstate New York, working towards a Masters in Mental Health Counseling, a degree earned in two ways—academically and emotionally. Unsurprisingly then, my perspective of myself and the world shifted.

I used to be think I should take care of everyone else, be a person who makes every effort to ensure other’s comfort, while ignoring my own needs. I thought nothing else could be as admirable.

Now I get it. I don’t have to claim to be fine when I’m not. I matter just as much as everyone else. My feelings have merit; they are information and should not be ignored.

This shift in perspective brought upon a change in how I saw my career path. I no longer need to be counselor because I no longer believe that that role is be the only thing to give me worth.

I desire the world to smile upon me, with approval of my achievements. But the truth is that I am not my achievements. I am not my appearance, my body, my materials.

I am an accumulation of everything I have ever experienced. I am human spirit, hopeful and fearful, receiving and offering love. I am not defined by the world’s expectations unless I allow myself to be.

When I realized I could do whatever I wanted, I decided to move across the country, without a job and full of hope.

I applied to some counseling jobs. I received some feedback. Then a different opportunity presented itself, and I took this job.

Then I worried: What will people back in Rochester think? What will family think? It’s not a counseling job. I’m not using my degree. Should I be ashamed?

Then I remembered: These are my choices. Of course some people are going to disagree, but I don’t need to allow that to bother me. I am confident with my choice.

Allowing my Dignity to Drown {Breaking Irrational Ingrained Behavior}

I won’t fight anymore.

I won’t contact, won’t initiate honesty (to see what you’ll say), won’t.

If your word is shit, then it’s time I learn.

It’s not my duty to save you, to make you comfortable despite myself, to lift you up, while my dignity drowns.

It’s not my place to control or be the guardian of boundaries that I think may work more for you than me, in spite of me, while my dignity drowns.

My dignity drowns, while you’re still dry. What I think is a service is really an unfortunate irrational, ingrained pattern of behavior of mine.

‘Take care of them, Kris. Take care, take care, take care. Because maybe one day they’ll get it. And they’ll be there for you; they’ll respect you for you, just as you’ve done for them all this time.’

…Like I’m putting in time—“doing time”—so that possibly one day in the future, I’ll be treated the way I deserve to be treated.

How about TODAY?

How about today accepting only the people who have the courage to be themselves with you, to treat you with respect, and to hold your dignity as equal to theirs?

It would feel wrong, wouldn’t it?

The respect. The kindness. The caring.

Because you didn’t have to sacrifice for it. It was freely given.

You’re not even sure how to register that treatment into your mind, do you? Can’t judge it…is it good, bad, neutral? We have no file folders on this!

No place to organize the respectful, equal treatment, you say? Then trash it!

And you do, don’t you? You have, haven’t you?

I know and I understand. You’re an incredible girl—an ancient soul—with a lot of hurt inside. It will always be there.

But don’t spend the rest of your life trashing the goodness of people because you didn’t earn it. Honey, we (should) never have to earn respect. It should be freely given.

Don’t let your dignity drown in waters deep with pain while others’ stand dry on the shore, comfortable, because you were careful to place theirs there.

What a kind soul, what a kind self-destructive soul you’ve been. Stop.

Let them struggle. Let the insecure struggle to find their standing. It’ll probably be in the water. Don’t control them; don’t make them feel comfortable despite yourself.

You’re not doing anyone any good. They’re learning nothing (just that they can use you), and you’re hurting.

Accept the respectable ones who freely give and stand secure. Freely give to them, Kris. Because with them, you’re freely giving back.

And THAT is what respect ought to be: an exchange.