January 26, 2018

How Stepping Away from Abusive Relationships taught me to Make Love to Myself.

I have a deeply insecure, wounded ego.

We all do.

We all have that face of ourselves which feels marred by a simple glance or scarred by rough words.

My insecurity, let’s call it her.

Her face changes with her mood—sometimes ashy, aged, and tortured; sometimes soft, graceful, and glowing.

I started a friendship with my daughter’s father (from whom I’ve been separated for about five years), a few years before we became a couple. When we became a couple, we had moments, sometimes hours, during which we had very honest, authentic, and deeply intimate conversations about a lot of things, including how we felt about each other.

One day, when I was feeling sensual, I wrapped my arms around his brawny torso while he stood at the sink washing dishes. I remember he brushed me off with an I’m not in the mood grumble, and I shrunk away feeling insecure, defeated, and very small.

Another day, when I was feeling light and open, he seemed attracted to me. We both seemed to oscillate in and out of sexual attraction for each other. I asked him from an innocent, curious place, “Are you not attracted to me sometimes? I felt when we were friends that you looked at me platonically at times and romantically other times. Was I right to think that?”

“Your face and energy change like water,” he said, with the blunt honesty his Capricorn self was so accustomed to. I liked that about him—his honesty. While there was no vindictiveness in his voice, there was a tension—a tension that had been there since we split for the first time before I became pregnant with our daughter. 

His statement reverberated through me. Something shook me and then vibrated through my bones in a way that calmed: “My face changes like water.”

It was one of those statements that stuck with me. There was truth to it. My watery Cancerian self agreed. I saw it in my reflection, often. I see it now, often. 

A relationship in the form of true intimacy is a mirror. Our deepest, most insecure self gets to be seen in it. Of course, our joys, our bliss, our confidence, as well as our authentic raw beauty are seen too. A relationship unlocks the inner mirror to our insecure self. That is perhaps the most profound, tender, and fragile gift for a human being. 

The man who echoed my own thoughts unbound my guilty inner knowing that change was the only constant in this life. His words breathed freedom to my shifting moods. His words validated my sexual feelings for him, ebbing and flowing as they were. His words soothed my restless soul.

His words took me back to myself. It had been a long time since I’d paid my sensuality a visit—a long time since I’d made love to my inner goddess, in all her shapeshifting and mind-bending ways. Somehow, his words told me, “You change and I kind of like that about you.” Somehow, they allowed me to say, “I change and that keeps life interesting. I like this about myself.”

In the end, I left him because the connection wasn’t right. I was still too wounded from two previous abusive relationships. He was the refuge I sought to shelter my inner storm. He was the 6’3″ gentle giant that accepted my I just want to cuddle tonight. Instead of getting aggressive and pushing his libido on me, he held me gently, caressing my long hair as it crept across his large, soft chest.

I left him because it wasn’t him I needed to make love with. 

I didn’t need a lover.

I needed, very badly, to make love to my soul.

I left her a while back, crying in the cabin alone, abandoned by her fiance in that straw bale house on a mountain in the middle of a snowstorm; the embers of the fire burning low while she shivered and shitted and vomited with the worst flu of her life.

And I left her, cowering in the closet, dialing 911 after her boyfriend pinned her to the fridge by the neck at 2 a.m. because she wouldn’t have sex with him.

Their actions—those of her abusers—took moments and yet left a painful resonance that kept her frozen, fearful of her own shadow for years.

For years, I needed her. 

I needed that highly intelligent, bright-eyed, gracefully tongued, and forever glowing don’t fuck with me power. I needed to remember that her existence was not tucked so far away.

I had tastes of my secure self. Let’s call her soul or Her with a capital H. I met with Her in energy work or acupuncture sessions with colleagues. I met Her in long, heart-opening chats with sister friends over tea or mulled wine. I met Her on hikes in the forest whispering to me through the rustle of branches and caressing my steps with her softness. I met Her in cups of frothy coffee, a pen in hand in a dark cafe corner lit by a stream of sunlight that shouted hope.

I had tastes of security when I was ready to dip my toes into the world of romantic intimacy in the years to come—my single mom years. In those toe dipping, test the water sessions, I met them: the soul-centered lovers, gentle men who have been wounded and are yearning to love and to be loved again. But the dance of our wounds suddenly spun me back to that need—the need for Her, that wholeness.

I thought I could do it: be a strong single mom, raising a girl to be empowered and courageous. But there are times I’ve felt weak like today, when I ran into a single mom friend in the grocery store. Something in me wanted to avoid her when she didn’t see me in her quest for an item a few feet away. Her seeking face looked serene and held that glow that drained out of me by my daughter’s I want to buy a toy with my allowance money mission throughout the store. 

What was that part of me that wanted to hide from this friend? What was that part of me that felt small and weak and overshadowed by a six-year-old’s desires? I couldn’t help but compare myself to this friend. My mind went there: to that deeply insecure and wounded place, all in the span of a few moments in the dairy section when we said a quick, awkward hello. And when I left that friend, I felt an inner yuck—that yuck that makes me want to hide and call out for a salve to offer a quick sense of relief. In that moment, the only salve I had was to white-knuckle my cart and run with a desire to write it out, or stretch it out on my yoga mat. So here I am typing it out and realizing the yuck was much deeper than feeling naked in a grocery store. 

The depths of yuck that our insecurities take us to can liberate our soul. Insecurity is the muck within which the lotus of our true self blooms.

Insecurity is the enoughness void of self. The shame we experience when we are insecure is the soul exposing the ego—the ego as the victim cowering in the corner of a closet or shivering alone in a cabin or hiding her face in the store. Insecurity is the woman who forgot her power; the goddess fearing her own light.

Tonight, when I returned home, this friend texted me that she also felt insecure for very different reasons than I did, but insecure nonetheless. I was aghast. I thought, “Oh how the ego spins on its own track.” We both felt not enough in that moment. “How sad,” says the soul. “How very sad and lonely that must have been for both of you.”

As I write, I set my soul free letting her caress me with words and voice and energy. She tells me, “You’re enough.” As my girlfriend and I text, we reveal our true feelings. I call her beautiful but frighteningly so. She echoes back that she thought the same of me during our run in: that I had a youthful glow. And the soul spins its song back at us, “You are always beautiful. You are always enough. You just are you—a glorious creature. Shine.”

When does insecurity become inner abuse?

I rewind back to my cowering self, shivering in a bed alone for three days with high fever. My emotions were as cold and uncomfortable as the drifts of snow that enclose Her. As I rewind back to the fear of being left alone when sick, I feel the insecurity and the grief over being left, his commitment ring on the bedside table, taunting her. The mental tape she played to herself in those days alone was not a kind one; these words were self-blaming and downright abusive. 

Insecurity as the voice of not-enoughness is a form of self-abuse. The thoughts that fuel insecurity, or the abusers who feed it with words, are the sadists. The victim who believe those untruths to be true is the masochist.

The soul frees us if we let her and if we listen to her whispers.

For years, I abused myself mentally and emotionally by blaming myself for dating abusers when I saw the red flags early in our relationships. The harm they did to me took minutes, but the harm I did to myself in the aftermath took years.

Up until recently, I’ve asked myself, “Why? Why would I, a strong, independent woman, have chosen relationships with abusers? Did something in me feel weak or unworthy?” I kept asking that to myself.

Fast forward to today at the grocery store, in the innocent face of a sister friend, I saw beauty. I saw my soul and I felt ashamed. That shame pushed me to find an escape.

Why are we fearful of our own light?

When I feel shame, I know it comes from that insecure place. I’m hiding something. I’m suppressing something, perhaps. My shame tells me that it needs a voice. So I let it breathe. I write it out. I get on my mat and stretch it out. I sit on a bolster and I meditate it out. I go for a walk and let nature draw it out. Sometimes, I dance or sing it out. Sometimes, I even scream it out.

Today, with my daughter in tow, I had no choice but to sit with it as I drove home. No song on the radio seemed to relax it. Instead, in that space of inner tension, I just surrendered to it. And she came for a visit: my soul. She got to breathe.

“Just accept the yuck,” she said. “Just breathe with it now. It will work itself through.”

And here it is working itself through with these words. Here you are, reading my process, perhaps going through one of your own. Here we are, side by side, feeling and experiencing the dregs of emotions—the stuff we might flush down the toilet and send to the sewer if we could. But we can’t.

Let’s face it: being human means having faces and moods that change like water. Being human means being insecure just as much, if not more than being confident. Being human means wrestling with the soul just as much as it means dancing with it.

The ego—that little “i” we like to call home—fears being swallowed up like a little fish by the mammoth whale that is the soul. What we don’t realize is that the purpose of the little fish’s journey is to be swallowed.

My little fish moments—shivering under the covers, cowering in a closet, white-knuckling my grocery cart—were moments where the soul opened her mouth and said to let go.

And I finally let go.

Here I am, swallowed, doing a back float down Her throat, realizing years of holding on doesn’t matter because here I am, floating. 

It is in the grace of whispering help that she comes.

She comes mouth wide open to swallow us whole, showing us how to make love to ourselves once again.


Author: Sarah Lamb
Image: Unsplash
Editor: Angel Lebailly
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron



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