We only have the capacity to fight our own battles. But, how do we successfully witness someone we love go through a difficult time of loss? How do we effectively offer our ears and our hearts without solving or fixing their pain and suffering for them?
When the struggle does not belong to us our resilience is tested on another level.
Empathy is a beautiful attribute to carry as a human, but how do we learn to stand tall, hold the mirror for our friends and family without judgment, without mending the frame, the size, or the perspective?
I recently read a quote, ‘Mistakes are signs you are trying.’
It’s resilience. It’s patience. Life is just that: trial and error. Again, and again, and then again. It becomes our choice to try again, to redo, reorganize, or perhaps, refuel?
It’s choice that hangs us up, and we spend so much time simply trying to decide. Which we should, it’s our life and path after all. But mostly, it’s about taking responsibility for our choices, and then, in turn: our actions. If we are persistent and attentive then we will learn to move with the ebb and flow of life, and it’s this choice that will allow us to become supportive Empaths, as opposed to just another Culprit of Codependency.
This does not necessarily mean we have done something wrong, perhaps pain and loss had been inflicted upon us?
About eight months ago I found drugs in my apartment. My partner had been lying to me for almost a year regarding his avid use of narcotics.
Here is where I could have easily checked out, and let the world place a bumper sticker on my forehead that read: She did it again! She fell in love with an addict! Retrospectively, I know this statement is ridiculous, but at the moment, I was vulnerable, hurt, broken, lost, distressed and riding endless degrees of negativity. The list goes on, as I am sure you all are aware, and on some level have also experienced pain and loss very similarly.
I was judging myself. Simply, and that matter of fact. I was judging myself for something he had done to himself. It took months of investigation, repetitive and restless nights alone, hours of scrubbing apartment walls and floors clean, digging through boxes, and trying hard to hold my gaze and look at myself in the mirror. And through it all, sleepless nights, anger fits, resentment, and awful late night phone calls with ugly messages included, I realized that the hardest part of the fall to face, was myself.
I was embarrassed with my choices. Asking myself, how could I have done this, did I set myself up for this kind of disappointment? But, how could I have known?
That’s just it. Life happens. Fight or flight, baby!
Forgiveness is a lengthy process, and quickly I recognized that I had only one place to start, and that was with myself. Regardless of whether or not we’d be together or we’d be healthy enough to rebuild our relationship, I knew I could not outrun myself, or life for that matter, because if I didn’t heal I knew, I would never be able to love anyone ever again.
We did not make any crazy pacts, proposals, or lofty expectations for ourselves or each other, but we did ask for honesty, patience and space. Nothing ached more than the vibrations from my partner’s mouth asking for time for himself. Didn’t he inflict this pain on me? Shouldn’t I be the one demanding time for myself? Shouldn’t he be asking for forgiveness?
Instead, I started a blog, and it got me writing again. I made it to my mat just as a new Hot Yoga studio opened a few blocks away. I carved out a path for myself to be inspired by beautiful things again. Most importantly, I made time for myself.
The best thing I ever did for our relationship was step back, listen and provide the space we both needed to heal. By learning to become empathetic to ourselves, as individuals, we learn the value of acceptance without judgment. This acquired attentiveness with ourselves, allows us to then sympathize and soothe the loss within another. Forgiveness comes from the self, first and foremost.
I am not advising you to go out into the world and find an addict, but rather, and what has taken me some time to learn, is that we all love for different reasons, at different capacities, and our intentions vary in every relationship we build and engage in. But, if your intent is to love, for better or worse, then I hope you chose to struggle on. Pick yourself up, first, without expectations for yourself or others. Ask the universe or ask silently to yourself: to simply grow from every experience, ask for more focus from yourself, because from there you will find yourself ready and more willing to be open and express yourself accordingly.
And, as we practice gentle attentiveness we learn to accept that every human experiences struggle within their hearts, and this wildness must be tamed with time, patience, and space in order to open ourselves fully to truly engage and embrace the Empath experience.
Just as we learn to yield and merge into traffic, our struggles may not be solely our own to heal, but if we chose to ride alongside another in this life we must also learn to drive ourselves first, because inevitably there will be hard times when we must chose: fight or flight? My best advice is to turn and take the wheel.
Sara Consolati lives and writes in The Berkshires Hills of Western Massachusetts, where she works fora Neurologist, and indulges in farmers markets, hiking, and Hot Yoga on the regular. You can shop with her on etys.com: RobbinTheHood Vintage, Follow her Blog: JustMadForASentence.tumblr.com, or by email: [email protected].