Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Healthy Relationship is Possible

In thinking about The Healing Lane and wondering why my posts are so few these days, I realize I am torn about the level of transparency in my current recovery. During the earlier days of recovery my struggles with my dysfunctional behaviors beckoned reflective writing. It was a tool for me to process and release what was going on inside of me. I haven’t had the same drive to write, yet a part of me feels incomplete without some regular release. I am renewing my efforts to do this as a means to honor my own recovery. It is the next phase of my growth.  I’ve certainly accepted that there is no graduating out of recovery but rather a long journey of discovery and seeking greater and greater levels of health. Erma refers to it as the higher elevations. I like that. The struggles are different, the reflections less about those pivotal "aha moments" and more of a shift. Perhaps less dramatic but just as impactful as these shifts in my thinking are significant milestones along my journey. 

What has my life looked like in recent months? I have been practicing and applying all of the tools that I have obtained. I have come to this conclusion: healthy relationships require EVERY bit of therapy and recovery work. The dollars and minutes I’ve spent have a direct payoff. I am grateful for each and every investment. I don’t regret the cost to my pocketbook or calendar. It is perhaps the highest form of self-love I have ever done on my own behalf.  If I was a millionaire, I would set up a foundation for those who need the kind of intense therapy I’ve had the privilege of having. It would be a means of paying it forward to those who cannot otherwise afford it. The reason: I like this Healthy Sara and how I am showing up for myself these days. After all, I have been seeking healing for this very purpose. The driving belief is that in learning to do things differently, I can choose those behaviors and therein get different results. Bottom line: it works (she notes with a grin, a high-five, and atta girl). I wish I could gift this kind of value that I feel to others who are willing to put in the work to experience this kind of freedom and contentment. 

Update! About seven months ago I heard from an old boyfriend. Gotta love social media for the opportunities that present themselves these days. We have been in contact daily and gone through a  series of boundary changes along with the full range of emotions that accompany those. It has been a season of growth and adjustment, all seeking to relate honestly, authentically, and risk being vulnerable. A romance has blossomed. Next bottom line: I am in love (full blown smile, a blush and hug).

This reflection isn’t my story of falling in love, it is my thoughts about my story. Being in love is a whole new thing for me. Along with all the feel-good, hormonal highs from the dopamine and serotonin, are the doubts, insecurities, old tapes, fears, pain, and otherwise discomfort that my 50 years have accumulated. The two sides co-exist. Learning how to validate and appreciate both sides is one of the gifts of this new state of mine. The “feel good” is marked with sensations I had long ago forgotten. Giddiness, overall happiness, acceptance, and being sexually aroused are just a few of them. I say things like “I feel, 14, 25, and 50” because those ages all have meaning in terms of my relating to my fella. I was 14 when we first dated and discovered those feelings of love and sexuality. We remained good friends for many years, last seeing each other during a visit to our hometown when I was 25. I was married and he was engaged. We had no other contact between that time and most recently. I will share a lot more about the joys of reconnecting and to be in love. Just not today.

Let me share more about the doubts and discomfort. These require a fully stocked toolbox. Good news – I have one. First up: identify and own my feelings. Joy and love and happiness…not much to expressing those and sharing with the world these gifts. I certainly have a better appreciation for the love songs and phrases regarding being in love. It is very tempting to get caught up in those feelings and push aside the others. What an opportunity to do something different! How about validating those less desirable feelings, too? Debra has said so many times, “They can both be true. You can have joy AND pain (or anger or loneliness or…). They can coexist.” Paying attention to the physical signs in my body as well as my thoughts and feelings is a starting point for me. It is almost always a reference point in therapy (“And about this you feel…”).

So I’m doing that! I’m not only paying attention and identifying, but I am expressing and validating. I am speaking up and sharing. I am feeling so damned vulnerable I feel like a BrenĂ© Brown prodigy. I agree with BrenĂ© by the way…it doesn’t ever stop being challenging. It isn’t like I wake up and say “What a great to be vulnerable!” Quite to the contrary.  For me, if I were to put words to the approach it is more like “Let’s show up today. Beware: this might require some vulnerability on your part. Sara, you are worth it, you can do it, and you will be glad you did.” Healthy Sara speaking; she is right. I’m glad that I have been showing up and speaking up. I’m so very glad I’m willing to be vulnerable and honest. Healthy Sara is authentic and the real deal. I find that others also appreciate that. Those that don’t aren’t the ones I want around anyway.  In feeling, sharing, and expressing honestly these other feelings and the thoughts that accompany them, I actually validate the other feelings of joy and love as well. The whole person actually is happier! I've learned that in allowing some anger to be expressed leads to a deeper, truer happiness. 

This blog, and today this posting in particular, is about my journey in finding my authentic self, requiring being vulnerable to a great extent.  Through writing, affirming myself and sharing with others my thoughts about a topic, lesson, or event in my life, it is as if I’m coming out of hiding.  I am ready to share what it is like to be challenged each day yet having learned to process much of my own work and to validate and affirm myself for that work. I have so much to learn, so much to experience, higher elevations to reach.  I am happy to share today’s lessons, today’s experiences, today’s views. 

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