a painful process, indeed
We all grow up differently. We all interpret the way we grow up, during and after, differently. We all construct and tell our narrative on a reflection of how we experienced life and continue to from a point that is different than others. And everyone is very different. But we each understand, in a different way, each other. Not that we understand the understandable, but we want to. Most of us, anyway.
I was afraid, early in life, that I was not understood. So afraid that I developed a habit to pull away – withdraw. In that state, I could fantasize the “could haves” and “would haves.” I could live the happiness that could have been real in my mind without any chance of failure or rejection. I could project the outcome of how my relationships would have developed. All in my mind, all intangible, but all a very real feeling for me.
It became easier to just simply withdraw from any relationship, challenge, or success, then go on living those experiences in my mind, letting them play out to fruition in my mind, each on its own timeline, all the way to my fantasized life’s end.
I developed this ability on my own as a child, during a time there was no one to guide me in a different way, no one to care enough ask what I was thinking and correct me in love. I carved grooves in my mind that were deep, and dove into them to hide from reality. As I matured I ventured out, pulled by life. I did what “they” did, and got the results “they” did. I went to college, got married, had sons, bought houses, started and closed businesses. All the things expected of any mature adult of my generation in my society.
Those grooves were still there, though. They are not replaced without effort. And especially if they are not known. The game changes, but the skill developed to withdraw to a safe world inside the mind only strengthens without awareness, and without intervention. The results of withdrawal, though, at the adult stages of life, are devastating.
On a warm summer night in 2017 I walked past a yoga studio. I was at a turning point in my life. I was ready to die. I had experienced enough stress for more than one lifetime. I could not shake it off. All the self-help books, seminars, videos, programs that I had digested had only given temporary relief. My wound was deep, and positive thinking only rested on the surface in patches, leaving holes for my need to withdraw from it all to easily pass. After withdrawing so many times in my life there were few places left to go but to check out permanently. But I knew there was something better out there if I could just find it. I knew that because there always had been, something, just enough, to get me past it all – to get me through it just as I am going through a box of Kleenex right now.
I ran into a neighbor. “Hello, what are you doing here?” “I teach a meditation class.” “I could use that.” “It’s every Thursday night.” “I can make that.” So I went. I learned to calm my mind. That went on for months. I began to deal with challenges effortlessly that had once burdened me She also coached health and wellness. So I bought in. That went on for a few months, and I felt better. She also practices life coaching. I asked her to help me fix my mind. I knew there was something wrong, and I knew if I knew what it was that I was strong enough to meet the challenge to repair it.
We went through session after session, uncovering layers and layers of a person who was not me, but one the me had become to live in the world in which I perceived. The shedding of each layer hurt. There was disdain. I didn’t want it, but it was there. A feeling I developed for others that could be called on before or during a moment of attack. It was a way to protect myself. But it was a bad way to do so, and benefited no one, including myself. It had to go. The realization that I had practiced it hurt the most. I thought I had love in my heart. I did. Aware of this disdain, although it hurt, was the inflection point for change. Driving my every decision, though, was that well-developed ability to withdraw into my little world and shut out progress. That had to go to. First to come was an awareness level my coach brought me to. Then I had to accept that I had to deal with it. I wanted to and was committed to, but I did not realize how difficult it would be. I was shedding, and it felt like my cells were pulling apart. It hurt physically. It hurt emotionally. It was like leaving everything you know and moving toward everything you don’t. Seemingly everyone was withdrawing around me. I felt my coach was. I felt my kids were. I felt my wife was. No one was, but my perception was that they were because what was really happening is that I was wanting them to so I could have an excuse to pull away first, retreat to my mind, and let life play out perfectly there.
I made the conscious decision to not go back there to that place I knew so well. I closed the door and went into a state of deep sadness. It lasted for days, then when I wanted it to be over it went on for another week. I longed to go back to what I knew. My coach had assured me that I would like the new place, if I could get there. I believed her and stepped forward in pain.
It was just yesterday, I was going through my regular motions of beginning the day, not thinking of anything in particular. All of a sudden I simply did not wish to withdraw anymore. I cried in happiness, knowing I had reached the summit. The pain was gone, and I mean truly gone. I had a view of an entirely new lifetime ahead of me. One in which I could move forward in any direction I decided to, and live out all the possibilities in real terms, tangible, good and bad. But real. Knowing I stayed in it. Being known for a man who stayed in it. Being remembered as one who stayed in it.