I’ve dealt with many toxic or challenging or neurotic or aggressive people, and situations, in my life. Almost every day of my life, given what I do for a living. Usually, I am feisty, I listen, I argue, I agree, I disagree, I provide sources or evidence, I’m confident.
But we all have that one person who’s talented at getting under our skin. At terrifying us. At unnerving us. And so it was, and is, with a long-ago ex-, who I only dated briefly. She was crazy, and I don’t mean that casually. I mean, she was insane, part of the time at least, her emotions and anger and love and abuse moving up and down—and it was frightening. I remember shaking with fear. And I still get that way, when something comes up around her. She got into my heart, under my skin, and made me feel vulnerable and confused.
That’s a lesson in itself.
In the future, when something around her comes up, and it will, if the past 8 years is any indication…I could and should simply feel my heart. I could and should simply send her well-wishes, and absorb the blame and projections and hate and anger. Whenever confronted by her anger or lies, instead of reacting or trying to argue with her so folks understand the truth, I could and should simply feel my heart. Feel my heart. And then, when it relaxes, after some time, act or share or write or respond out of that, and out of some sense of taking responsibility—if not for her, for the reaction she causes in me.
Perhaps, that would transform our relationship, too, so that we can stop it with the hate and fear and lies and defensiveness, and become, if not friends, older and wiser beings, wishing one another only the best. Life is too short for fear, projections, and hate.
As Pema Chodron writes,
“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.
…nothing ever really attacks us except our own confusion. perhaps there is no solid obstacle except our own need to protect ourselves from being touched. maybe the only enemy is that we don’t like the way reality is now and therefore wish it would go away fast. but what we find as practitioners is that nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. if we run a hundred miles an hour to the other end of the continent in order to get away from the obstacle, we find the very same problem waiting for us when we arrive. it just keeps returning with new names, forms, manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating into ourselves.”
~ Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times