I took part in a 9 month SEEL program (Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life). I wasn’t too sure about it at first. It sounded like a good idea but a commitment I doubted I could or would keep up. My roommates had committed to it so I did to, going against my many reservations.
One of the SEEL requirements was to meet with a spiritual director once a week. As much as I’d been interested in spiritual direction and had come close to organizing it on a few occasions, this was the part of the program I was the weariest about. What would I talk about? Would I be comfortable in such a situation? Would I be able to keep the commitment? Would I be forced to keep it up even when I couldn’t? Would I be able to have a director who I didn’t already have a relationship with? The last question was the biggest one for me. It almost kept me from the retreat.
Towards the end of the year I sat down with something on my mind that I didn’t know I had even been thinking about. As I often did after I got comfortable with the process and it’s just one of the things that just speaks to how great of a director I had.
I told her about an outing I had with my housemates and how angry it had left me. It wasn’t a huge event, in fact now I don’t even remember what it even was, it was just an activity that had quickly turned into community time, not hard to do with 4 people really. Whatever it was I do remember having fun at whatever it was, so did everyone else. But feelings of anger overrode the fun, especially after the fun was over. Don’t you just love how life works like that?
As I kept talking I started to realize how angry I really was about the whole situation. In fact the outing wasn’t very fun for me at all just stressful. I just pretended to be happy so I wouldn’t be the downer in the group. And true to form I got louder and louder, most people cry during spiritual direction, I get angry and talk through gritted teeth, yes, I did leave her office with a sore jaw on many occasions.
I realized I was angry because I had been living with these people for almost a year, yet I still had to explain to them what needed to happen so I could be part of the fun. I felt that I should have to explain myself to people I was supposed to be so close with after being together for so long. And, I thought, at that point, I didn’t need to anymore. That was a point of my anger, but it certainly didn’t end there
The truth is this wasn’t the first time, nor do I expect it to be the last, for something like this to happen. But there was one very distinct difference about this time.
My best friend wasn’t there.
Now I’m not saying she’s always been there when I’ve been in a tough spot and needed help. We do have our own lives. When I say, she wasn’t there I mean I couldn’t talk to her. Every time I’ve gotten angry about this before I’ve vented to her, immediately after, and she’d provide common sense to my mania. I was mad because no one seemed to care that I was “left behind” in some capacity. I know now, thanks to my director expecting the same results from my housemates, or just one of them was unfair. My best friend has watched (and helped me) adapt to my surroundings for years. So much so that it’s become second nature for her to make adaptations as well. The extra thoughts and explaining doesn’t have to be there. It’s one of the gifts of having begun your friendship at 5 years old. No matter how close I felt to my housemate’s time was not on our side. Expecting less than 12 months of friendship to have the equivalency of a friendship of almost 20 years was more than unfair. Naturally I see that now, given the time to reflect.
During a pause in my rant one sentence blows a hole in my brain. “They don’t get it and they never will.”
As much as I knew this was true I must’ve been in lifelong denial, until that day. Maybe I thought that I could change things, because I’M different. I can make people know things that others can’t. I’M ME.
Can’t I do the impossible?
I’m not God.
I can not do the impossible.
At least not on my own.
I have to take a moment here and say that my spiritual director can speak to my hidden aggravation. She herself has a neurological disorder; she might say condition or even blessing, which people just don’t understand unless they have it themselves.
Once I shut up, with her assistance, she went to work. The grand sum of her wisdom was this,
“Stop trying to get people to understand what they aren’t going to. It’s not within their capabilities to understand anything. They have no idea what it’s like to be you for a day and how much more work it actually is. If they knew they’d be exhausted and wonder how you do it every day. Stop trying to get them to understand, because they just aren’t, and that’s just going to leave you angry, and you have no time for that.”
It wasn’t a long walk home after my session but I certainly did walk a little slower. I was also thankful for the fact that I had to walk home rather than drive. The walk had become so routine that I could get home with big things on my mind and have everything somewhat processed before I walked into the kitchen, depending on the speed I chose to talk of course.
I wouldn’t say that my session was some kind of breakthrough, although it did feel like it at the time, and somewhat heartbreaking as well. The shock and revelation was that someone, other than me, was able to put into words, and tell me, what I’ve felt to some degree for my entire life. Several family and friends will tell you I’ve always been articulate. However there are still lifelong thoughts I am still learning to articulate.
I’m pretty sure without that session I’d still be trying to articulate that particular thought.
Among friends I’ve been known for my boundaries, among other things too, I hope. Among family I’m known for my lack of. This I am more certain about than the previous statement since I get reprimanded for it often. As I’ve gotten older the word “boundaries” is being replaced with “walls” more often.
So, I start to think.
Is there a connection between my “walls” and my desire for people to just “get it?”
If that wasn’t a self-question to lead myself into denial than I need some help of the mental variety. Being that I was fresh of a spiritual awakening session I did myself a favor and cut the bull, or caught myself before I got too far into it.
I have so many “walls” which I will now refer to as a secret because in the most primitive parts in my brain I know people won’t understand. I keep secrets from everyone, friends, family, coworkers, my parents, even my best friend. Why? Because I know they just won’t get it. I know I won’t be able to stand explaining all the details so I keep most of them to myself. Life can get hard enough as is I don’t need to invite more mental stress into my life, which letting everything out will do.
Everyone feels the need to belong to something somewhere, and often with someone by their side. My reality is I need to make a place for myself to belong rather than put myself into an established group. I don’t belong (strictly speaking) in normal society because I have to deal with more than they do. I don’t belong with people “in my situation” because they do understand (to an extent) what I have to go through on a daily basis. The problem with my being with people “in my situation” (for me personally) is that things quickly become a one up contest. I express a problem. They relate and give it a twist. I try to make things clearer. Their interpretation with a twist follows that. The conversation can continue on like that for days. The problem with the little twists are that more often than not it’s “I have that too, but worse, listen to this….” It leaves me feeling guiltier for not making the best of the situation than feeling like I’ve been helped, supported, and more importantly, listened to.
There was a night in college that will always stick out to me. I had a rough day, for whatever reason, whatever it was it just pushed me over the edge. I’m a bottle it up and then explode kind of girl, in case you haven’t already picked that up. I was lying in bed crying when my roommate came home. Seeing me in obvious distress she dropped her stuff and got on the bed next to me. The end of the conversation came when she told me that maybe if I let people knew how I felt more often I wouldn’t end up feeling like I did at that moment (or any other moment like it before or after this one). I looked at her like she was clueless, because to me, in that moment she couldn’t be more so. “If you only knew…..” I thought. She meant well, and did help me out somewhat, but that didn’t lessen my urge to want to slam my head into the wall so hard that I’d end up in the apartment next to ours.
There have been times that I’ve let people know everything going through my head.
Not one of those people is my friend today. The minute I tell them everything, that they asked to know, I’d like to point out they turn tail and run. I can’t say I blame them but they did ask. You’d think they’d make an effort to hang around for a while. But if people did that divorce rates for people with disabilities or parents of children with disabilities wouldn’t be so high. It really does take a certain kind of person to hang around and they don’t hang around every street corner waiting for some who might need them.
I do try and make small efforts to let people in but the response it never what I thought it would be, even from people who said they’d like to just know what’s going on in my life. Typically, if I get anything in response to my “letting in” its anger or accusations of trying to get people’s attention or pity; in fact, I’ve gotten that so many times that it doesn’t even bother me anymore. If someone feels that way about my honesty than that’s their business not mine, all I have to do is live my life. The other most popular response I get from people is “I’m sorry.” More often than not it’s worse than getting people’s pity, although they have been known to walk hand in hand as well. However, “I’m sorry,” is worse than having to deal with people’s accusations.
What people don’t get is I don’t want “Sorry.” I don’t need “Sorry.” What I really need is your help. That’s what I really want to. If you can’t turn to your friends for help, then who are you supposed to turn to?
I was determined to think of one person who knew everything about me, not including myself of course, by the time I got back to the house. As I got closer I would walk slower and slower. It was taking me longer to think of someone than I thought it would.
There isn’t a single person on the planet who knows everything about me.
To be continued………
*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on October 17, 2008