It was like a miracle, like an angel came down from heaven and touched me – and “just like that”, the voices went away, the anxiety went away, the constant sadness went away, the worry went away, the pain subsided so did the loneliness and the sleepless nights and most importantly, without any warning my need to have someone went away.
I no longer felt or even thought it was a good idea, that I had to have someone to be able to forget, or to be happy, or to enjoy simple things like cooking a meal or watching a show or taking a nap – I didn’t need anyone to not feel lonely or to feel vindicated or to use them as revenge. One day I felt like I woke up from a coma and I was here again, reincarnated from another life and feeling things I really had never felt before – ever.
It had been four years – four years of daily, minute-to-minute anguish that affected all areas of my life, all of my friendships, deeply destroyed my finances – just to name a few and now I was free, acquitted, vindicated – my sentence commuted.
Through my healing I had moments of clarity when I felt I had reached the point to be free, but in all of those instances something didn’t feel quite right and sure enough it would crumble and end, leaving me back at square one or at least setting me back. This time it felt solid. I even began testing it by allowing these destructive thoughts and feelings (of which I had many examples) in on purpose to test its strength – and nothing got through! I was cautiously optimistic, but thigns looked pretty damn good.
I attributed my situation of the past five years mostly to one person – my wife… but that was simply the easy way out. Yes, she caused massive damage in the way she conducted herself and the actions and decisions she made that tore me down and brought me to my knees, but my condition was really the result of a life time of trauma, insecurity, abuse, self doubt, lack of self love and self respect.
62 years of it – and now I finally could sit down and write about it because now my change, my core felt solid.
They say we fall into patterns over and over in our life, I for one totally believe that – I even believe that we live several lives and that we choose our life based on the healing and the learning we need to become whole some day.
For me, these patterns had to do mainly with my mother – I know what you are thinking, here comes someone else blaming his parents for his shortcomings and inadequacies – another person not choosing to be accountable or responsible for their own actions, and if you told me that 20 years ago, I would have agreed with you, but I was blind and ignorant, and that self accountability I thought I had, was simply fear and stupidity, because it gave me a false sense of my self-respect and an incorrect look at the trauma I carried inside.
My dad, he became a free-lance corporate auditor and would spend months and months away from our home, didn’t blame him but I wish he would have had the fortitude to stand up to my mom and come in our aid – he never did.
I don’t remember her ever asking me how my day was, or what made me happy, or if I had dreams or plans or even if I was ok. She knew nothing about me or how I felt inside, she was just someone that reared me, fed me, kept shelter over my head and forced me to study so she could maybe be proud of me like she was of my brilliant older siblings.
When I talk about it, sometimes people say: “that is the way it was in those days” – maybe that is an answer, but I don’t care. It was wrong and if that is true, no wonder why baby boomers are so totally fucked up with a divorce rate above 70% – although Google says 53%, but I am absolutely sure that number is wrong.
The humiliation and debasement were unimaginable. She took my sense of self to where I actually believed I was inadequate and incapable – and how did I respond to this complete lack of respect? I would buy her things, and clean so she wouldn’t have to, and sat with her to watch telenovelas and tried to understand her – putting myself on the back burner – but no matter how much I did, she would not change her behavior, I felt so abandoned and betrayed – it was unbearable.
So in the crucial years where we develop so many traits and learn from every word and action from those around us, I grew up not knowing the love and tenderness of a woman, their ability to be kind and soft and attentive, instead I thought of them to be threatening, mean and inflexible – unable to ever love me. In other words, sort of terrified of the possible outcomes. Think about it, if my mother was capable of inflicting so much harm and fear and sadness and loneliness, what could I ever expect from a stranger?
Because of this, I grew extremely shy and scared of rejection, unable to express my feelings or to stand for myself – but I felt like I had a tremendous “need” to have protection and calm so I just went on, keeping it all within, making due for myself.
I hated being shy, I had so many crushes on girls I hung out with but never capable of expressing it even in situations where their attraction for me was obvious and clear – I hated that, I wanted the love of a woman, I wanted to kiss and touch and feel. I knew my situation was not normal and I felt inadequate and not sure of myself.
In those days, the terms “depression” or “trauma” didn’t exist – I was both. I knew I was damaged but what kept me going is that I KNEW I WASN’T BROKEN and of course back then there wasn’t such a thing as therapy or medicine or yoga or any of that, so I dealt with it by ensuring I was never alone. I hung out with friends 18 hours a day, spoke on the phone all the time and in order to attract them more, I became jolly and funny, appearing to be confident and always “the life of the party”. People liked me and it felt good – but deep inside I was terrified to lose them – to be abandoned – to be alone like I was at home.
It is not that I was “sad”, it is more that I don’t remember ever being “happy” – it was like an ear ache, you know you won’t die from it but no matter what you do you can’t make it go away. I carried my mom’s behavior inside me and sometimes subconsciously my whole life – and that undercurrent guided much of my decisions and behavior, I believe often without me being completely aware of it.
And this drove me crazy – why would a child have to feel this way all of the time? Didn’t seem fair. I remember consciously thinking and deciding that I would raise my kids by comparing what she did and doing completely the opposite – and I did just that, the result, wonderful kids that are all so organically polite and honest and studious and successful and kind and confident, which made me realize, “Hey – the learned from me! Am I all of those things too?” I was, just that my mom and dad simply failed to remind me and by doing that with my kids, I broke the pattern.
When I was 18 “ME”, on the outside was this happy guy, “everyone’s friend”, funny, congenial, friendly and seemingly in charge – but inside… completely lost and empty. Afraid of what I would do when I graduated high school and my friends that I had spent every single day with for the past five years would start to scatter – I was pretty terrified.
My relationship with my mom was at its worst, with constant arguments and fights and I really was worried about my well-being and my future for the first time in my life – I think I remember my emptiness making me unable to think, the constant fear of being alone.
And then something huge happened – without ever having thought about it, a friend of mine presented me with a brochure from an exchange student agency – I believe everything is destiny and this was a sign – a huge waving flag.
Within four months, I moved to the States, left everything. My dad encouraged me to do it – “Things in this country are very difficult – you will do great there”.
From a city of 10 million people and a culture that is unique and thick in tradition and folklore and flavor, I moved to Dawson, a “don’t blink or you’ll miss it” town of 46 in the middle of the North Dakota tundra with one gas station slash restaurant slash store. I didn’t speak the language or knew the culture and I didn’t know a single person – I was also 4000 miles away from my pain and my fear – I foolishly thought I had left it there. I arrived on January 20th to 4 feet of snow on the ground and a temperature of 10 degrees below. It took me a while to figure out what I was doing.
I knew I was escaping from something but at the time, I didn’t realize there was no escaping, I carried “IT” with me, and it would take me 44 more years to find out what it was.
I was optimistic though… this truly was a new start away from so much conflict. So I began to re invent myself. Making friends was very difficult, I could feel the culture barrier pretty heavily. I was sort of a novelty, but Americans were cold and distant and I was really really alone. My group of friends in Colombia were truly “brothers” and I loved them dearly, it was difficult to miss them.
After six months the exchange program period ended and I went back home, I really hoped to find a glimmer of change and opportunity or any other reason to stay – but there were none. Things were actually worse because now my friends had started their lives and moved on and we had already drifted, my mom was really getting worse and I had no aparent future there.
So I returned to go to college – and started a brand new life. My confidence got better, I was getting in the grove of things and ready to undertake whatever challenges came my way. And one day, when I wasn’t trying so hard, worrying so much and overthinking everything, something came to me organically as it always should… not out of “need” – out of fate.
I met a girl – and she was crazy about me. And I was able to tell her how I felt. I was head over heels about her and we fell in love. It was beautiful, we were each other’s first lovers, we had some of the same issues and fears – it felt so right.
And with zero experience and total ignorance – I jumped all in. She became pregnant at 20 years old so of course… we got married. What did I know about being married? Nothing! I didn’t even know what that meant – her mom forced us to get married, and just like that, without even getting the change to build a relationship we were in the thick of it.
We tried – we really did. We gave each other attention and companionship and love as well as we knew how, but soon it all started to crack and one day, things began to deteriorate, not because I worked 80 hours a week and so did she, not because we had horrible money problems, not because we were so young and inexperienced our chances of making it were slim to none, not because our deep cultural differences – but I think it was that I just didn’t know how to love her or accept love from her, that simple – and after a short 7 years, two beautiful kids and both of us putting monumental amounts of effort to make things work – it just wasn’t going to happen and we ended. She left me, deleted me out of her life and after a while we never spoke again. I felt like a failure, I felt abandoned and sad and lonely and hurt and inadequate and most of all, I felt scared… to be alone.
So I left (more like, ran away) again – and started over in a new place.
Life went on – but within me nothing had changed, except now I was so hurt and sad over my divorce to the first love of my life, I couldn’t understand it – at all.
New Mexico felt right and at 30 I felt that I could think a little more rationally and make better decisions… set a course towards progress and happiness. It took a long time to get over her – I was devastated. It felt I was nobody without her, it felt I “needed her” to breathe and to live and to be happy.
But time does heal all wounds and my confidence got better. I had a great job, lived in a great place, had great friends, was making good money, had freedom and happiness and one day, when I wasn’t trying so hard, something came organically as it always should…
I met a girl – and she was crazy about me, but this time it was different – although I was so attracted to her and she made me so happy, and we had amazing times together, I was cold and distant and showed my hurt and my bitterness in how I interacted with her – but she fell in love with me anyway – no, that is what I thought, she fell in “need” with me and she confused it with love, and she suffered and cried and literally begged for my love, my attention, my care. She was only 20 years old – but a wonderful caring real person, yet full of trauma and sadness and loneliness – and that got me to allow myself to slowly fall in love with her because she thought I was confident and whole and we were both damaged . Until one day, I was head over heels about her – life is sure ironic…
We had kids and we gave each other attention and companionship and we had a home – at times it felt I was sharing my soul with her and I literally felt hers wrap around me. But one day, things began to deteriorate, not because we had plenty of money to spend, not because we were ten years apart and completely different and our chances of making it were slim to none, not because our deep cultural differences – but it is likely WE just didn’t know how to love each other or accept love from each other – but we gave it all, THIRTY TWO YEARS and both of us putting monumental effort to make things work – it just wasn’t going to happen and we ended. She left and almost immediately started a new relationship – I had never felt so much pain and again, it was a woman inflicting it in me.
This time was harder – after she left I began to “need” her – and realized that as years went by, our relationship as it often is with most people was about “need” – I needed her to keep me company, and keep me away from myself – and so did she.
She left me, deleted me out of her life and after a while we never spoke again. Once again I felt abandoned and sad and lonely and hurt and inadequate and like a failure and most of all, I felt scared… to be alone.
I was now 58 years old. I had spent my entire life – succeeding at most everything I did, starting new businesses, coaching great employees, inventing new ideas, learning, making friends, playing sports and thinking I had strong relationships but it took two monumental blows for me to find out that when it came to relationships with women I was inadequate and unprepared and that I lacked the balance and fortitude to maintain. That I had an overwhelming need to please, to grant, to give, to concede, to tolerate – at any cost no matter how detrimental to me and that those things, nice as they may seem are almost as toxic as the opposite.
It was a bitter-sweet discovery but a powerful discovery. Even the relationship I had always wanted with someone I met along the way and fell tremendous love for, the woman I had always envisioned and day dreamed to be with, the woman I fantasized about loving and caring for and having “a perfect world with” – even that didn’t work – because I also based that on “need” and confused it with “Love”. I was clearly the common denominator and it wasn’t easy to hear.
I kept giving things a lot of thought, this time with the help of an amazing therapist and I made a discovery.
From the time I arrived in the U.S., I probably worked for 30 or more companies and I got fired from 29. A job is not so much about the work you do, but it is a relationship. I wasn’t fired because I was wrong or right, a good or bad employee but because my very personality and peculiar behavior intensity and my constant need to give my opinion and go against the grain, were just too much for anyone to put up with me for too long. I know this, I admit it and it is not something I enjoyed – but because of it, common ground was never reached.
So I became self-employed. I figured if I just worked for me, make my own mistakes, celebrate my own successes and most of all, have complete autonomy of my actions and my course I would never have to disappoint or blame anyone else. Boy did that work out! That was the right choice because once I admitted that I would be better on my own, I never had another job again and I have been so happy for 17 years, loving what I do and interacting with people that love what I do, but parting ways usually forever.
I should have seen that same concept in my relationships with women. Yes I showed up on time, and did my work, and was polite and congenial and honest and I made the whole better – but there was that one thing, that chip in the vase that just devalued the total value of the vase itself.
After each disappointment, I grieved. I was terrified of yet another failure in my relationships with women and I wondered all of the time, why someone wouldn’t want a nice guy like me, a gentleman, a respectful and fun companion – what was so wrong with me that someone would just leave my side and preferred to be alone than with me? I opened doors and paid for dinner and gave romantic gifts and massages with candles. What was it!?
I kept asking and researching and discussing and suffering and blaming myself and cursing them. My allies would always say the same thing: “She is going to be so sorry!” – but they never were, I just didn’t understand it – but I kept “doing the work”, doing my due diligence, letting time heal my wounds and I remained focused although still sad.
I kept thinking that my happiness was in someone else’s hands, that I had to be with someone to be happy no matter what. If I could just find and change that one thing, that DNA strand I would make someone happy and in return they would make me happy – right? No – not quite.
One thing I did learn, was the pattern of the women I became attracted to. Nothing against them, nothing against me but it is important to note that the women I felt great attraction for, were always women that were basically unavailable emotionally, a little broken, incapable of loving another or caring for another due to a whole bunch of different reasons – women that were sad or in need or depressed emotionally or lonely or hurt. And I tried to “save them” “fix them” help them in any way I could, be so nice and supportive and understanding that they would see me as someone really special that truly cared about them thinking that once they realized that, love would be next and they would feel safe and cared for to easily fall in love with me – what could possibly go wrong? Well –a lot did.
You can’t love someone that is broken, just as when you are broken, love will come as need – and need brings obsession and worry. I was broken – maybe I still am – in either case, I was not “loving”, I was needing.
It always seemed to work for a while, but after all of the saving and fixing and the advice, we both realized it just wasn’t real – sometimes it took a few weeks or months… some others it took years, but we knew.
Remember the movie Groundhog Day? One of the most significant movies ever for me. All of his actions, good and bad were premeditated, learned, planned, plotted and nothing ever worked – it wasn’t until HE became whole that tomorrow actually became another day. I think it is like that with all of us, the answers are within us.
I was holding on, possessing almost buying their attention with acts of kindness and understanding – I wasn’t earning their love organically and naturally. And I projected weakness and obsession and “NEED” – until they all would feel they could not fulfill that responsibility. And sometimes I expressed my need with anger and frustration – well, we all know how well that always works!
But in the end – terror would always take over and I allowed terrible things to be inflicted upon me, things that I was aware were coming like a prisoner is aware of the pain about to be inflicted on him during torture, just that I could get away and I was either paralyzed or was unwilling to do so because at least these things maintained some kind of connection – it was a sick premise.
I endured things that would hurt more than any physical pain… disrespect, humiliation, insensitivity, cruelty, indifference, betrayal, dishonesty and a total lack of reciprocity – and they all amounted to something I was all too familiar with: “Abandonment”.
But then I all of it came together – the answer was so simple! The answer was so very hard – and the answer would have never came without the whole series of events that gave it to me – here it is:
My whole life, I wanted to be with someone – just anyone under any circumstances, so I would not have to be with myself! I had never developed a wholeness and a core, I wasn’t built on solid ground – everyone else had always supported me – that’s why when they left and wouldn’t hold me anymore, I would collapse.
I knew then what I needed to do – honestly I was terrified to do it. I had to become “self employed” in my relationship world and find the strength and the courage and the fortitude to believe in myself so I could finally stand on solid ground, feel strong, make my own decisions, not driven by need, or lust, or fear or obligation. Sounds weird huh… but it was true – I think I didn’t know how. I had never heard the simple phrases like “You can do it” “You are amazing” “Go for it, you’ve got this” – but worse, I had never said them to myself in this context.
That was the key – ME. But I had to do it not as you blindly commit to a stupid New Year’s resolution, or with the feeling you get after reading one of those cute memes on Facebook or listening to a song – I had to DO-IT with conviction.
I had to stop being terrified to wake up alone at night with no one to hold. Stop missing the flashbacks of laughter and bonding along the way, stop thinking destructively that happiness somehow [for me] would never come again because I always end up destroying everything. I had to start realizing that all of those things are just my past, my history, my experiences – but they do not define me, that there is a fourth dimension , something deeper.
But that wasn’t even it – I needed to realize who I was TO MYSELF –did I have enough traits and qualities to be happy with who I was? I think so. Was I a fair and self accountable person? Absolutely. Did I ever do anything to anyone with malice or purpose to harm? Never once. Was I selfish or mean or an asshole in any way? Well – an asshole yes, but a funny asshole and mean? Well, that depends of who was in the receiving end. Did I have interests and felt alive and wanted to experience more things in my life? Definetely! Did I admire the effort I always placed into everything? More than life. Did I appreciate my ability to be reciprocal or my patience and kindness and generosity? I really did. Did I know that I was an amazing father and the most loyal of friends? Totally. Was there anyone with more empathy than I? Probably not. The answeres were very obvious – I was already with the person I wanted to be with! ME!
And then it happened, one day without warning, without a list or a plan – a day like any other without specific meaning or significance arrived, and the voices had gone away, the anxiety wasn’t there, the constant sadness, the worry, the guilt, the pain in my core subsided and most importantly, my need to have someone went away.
I no longer felt that I had to have someone to forget, or to be happy, or to enjoy simple things – I didn’t need anyone to not feel lonely. One day I felt like I woke up and I was here again, reincarnated from another life, awake from a coma and I was clear and hopeful and happy. I felt like this particular lesson was over and now a new chapter was about to begin. I felt it deep.
“It was me all along” – the answer was right there all the time and yet, the answer was so far away, so out of reach or simply locked in a box for which I wouldn’t get the key until I learned to be appreciative and thankful and able to handle the truth:
It isn’t until you are truly happy, until you understand yourself, until you stop blaming others or at least understand their roles in your life, until you stop being the victim and take real action, until you realize you are mostly responsible for our fate that you will truly and honestly be able to understand others or love anyone.
And loving yourself – truly loving yourself is about the hardest thing you will ever have to do until you realize it is your birth right and neither guilt, nor abuse nor bad luck or depression or sadness or failure or anything or anyone else can deny it from you because it is inside you already – all you need is to want to find the key.
In life, we allow or we don’t allow, it really is that simple. After that day, I would never allow hurt from anyone for any reason and I would treat others simply because that is how they need to be treated, not as a down payment for a future friendship or relationship.
So here is my advice, here is the answer to put an end to your loneliness or turmoil or toxicity:
Find those that are compatible to you, those that make you happy and excited and that cause you joy. Find those that make you feel safe and those you feel like you don’t have to try at all with. But – also, let go of anything or anyone that give you a knot in your stomach, that take from you, that critique you all the time, that disrespect you or who you are, those that belittle you and don’t get you, no matter what previous role they had in your life, because you know who you are and that is all that matters. And by “let go” I mean – cut the fucking cord! End it – be done with it. Stop being a dish rag instead of a napkin. Stop making excuses to “see what if” – the longer you stay, the worse things will get even if at times things seem to “look up”.
Now, go arrange an introduction with yourself, get to know you and learn to like you until the day you understand that you will never “need” anyone.
I recently wrote this for a dear friend:
“What you don’t know is that it doesn’t matter who you are, or who anyone else things you are – because it is who you are…
Terrible things, weaved together with wonderful things, full of trauma and happiness and vices and habits and qualities and wisdom, destroyed by stupidity – uplifted by experience and personal wisdom – and all of that makes this wonderful person called “Ranae”. And it is her, and only her who knows all of these things that she is made of and how they are arranged within her and how they make her feel – so much so that NO ONE can ever pretend to “know her” or judge her or advice her or help her and most importantly – no one can ever hurt her.
Because she loves who she is and hates who she is, and knows that she can and cannot be or become. She knows she has her reasons but doesn’t need any, and she knows she is good but can be so mean and heartless. She know she is gentle and kind but can burst into rages of pure anger – and in the end it is only “Ranae’s Fucking Business” what she thinks, or why she does or how she lives or if she steals, or reads or when she takes a shit…
ONLY HER fucking business – and no one and nothing can ever interfere.
Now, go arrange an introduction with yourself, get to know you and learn to like you until the day you understand that you will never “need” anyone.