So my woman friend fell in love with my man friend – she fell in love with him, in love, I’ll say it again, she fell in love – but my man friend was on the fence, not every day but enough days to spell trouble, and then eventually he slipped off the fence onto the other side and wandered off.
She fell in. He slipped off.
They were both my friends and I was angry. I was angry and exasperated and hurt that my man friend would and could do this to my woman friend.
But this isn’t a story about a woman and a man or about my friends. This is a story about me.
This all happened a long time ago, but I felt it again just the other day, all fresh and in the moment, and those feelings came back, prepared and expecting me to receive them and applaud them in all their self-righteous certainty. As I always had.
And then something shocking happened.
I decided to question the truth of my thinking. Of all those self-righteous thoughts.
To begin, I listed all the judgments/thoughts coursing through my hard head.
At the top of my list were these three statements:
- He should have at least noticed FULLY the pain he was causing.
- He shouldn’t have opened his arms only to close them a few minutes later.
- He shouldn’t have been encouraging and then dismissing.
I could go on and I could curse, but I won’t.
So once I had this list I started to ask myself if these thoughts of mine were true, if I could absolutely know that they are true (thanks Byron Katie).
The answer: I couldn’t say I absolutely knew these statements were true.
So I then moved on to the next step. I wondered.
I wondered, and since I had a long car ride and no better occupation than deep inner investigation I had a good long time to wonder, if there was an underlying belief I held that all of these thoughts and all of my anger stemmed from.
Here’s where all that wondering landed:
Men should not dismiss and ignore women.
And not only should men not do this to any woman, they shouldn’t do this to me.
Ahhhh…. So this self-righteous indignation was at least a little (as in ALL) about me and not only about me sticking up for woman friend against man friend. Stunning.
I really gave myself the chance to just feel this, to feel the sense of hurt and shame and anger that was present in my body as I connected to this belief.
Then I went deeper: “How does this thought affect my life?”
I could see that at the very least it was fueling some of my anger toward my man friend.
I kept going: “What would life without this thought be like?”
It was shockingly difficult to imagine life without this thought.
So here is some of the conversation I had with myself to try to negotiate the possibility of life absent of this thought, this belief:
“Even if I don’t actually think this thought in my head, men will still continue to ignore and dismiss women and I will still be mad/hurt/angry/self-righteous about it.”
And then the fissure began in my once hardened mind:
“Maybe just maybe if I didn’t have this thought in my head, I could be a little more open to situations as they arise and not jump to conclusions…”
Now fractures were beginning to form in my self-righteous certainty.
“There is a crack in everything that’s how the light gets in.” –Leonard Cohen
This path of questions and answering and really listening to my own answers was causing cracks in the glass castle before I ever heard the sound of breaking.
Then I discovered the crown jewel of enquiry—I turned the thought around.
So I went from, “Men shouldn’t dismiss and ignore women” to trying this outfit on for size: “Men should dismiss and ignore woman.”
Blaaa…..Yuck…..This didn’t feel true or truer than the first statement, this felt rotten.
But then another turnaround came to me. “Women shouldn’t dismiss and ignore men.”
Well, I thought this might be true, and I was beginning to warm up to that possibility when the real truth hit me:
“I shouldn’t dismiss and ignore men.”
The heavens split, the drawbridge dropped, my heart opened.
Oh, the ache.
All of a sudden there it was: my tender, defensive self laid out before me. Out of my belief about what men shouldn’t do to women and shouldn’t do to me, I’d blockaded my heart.
I’m going to say that again and capitalize and bold the text to let the full force of it sink in:
I BLOCKADED MY HEART.
I’d closed myself off to hearing the man’s story. Not his excuses, but his story about being afraid, not knowing how to move toward intimacy, stepping toward it and then inexplicably stepping away. I’d shut down my ears to his fears. I’d shut down my heart to his part—his part in the story of being human, making mistakes…
(Yet even as I write this thoughts arise, like: are you defending the loser men who act sweet and encouraging to women only to dump them the minute it isn’t all about them?).
No. I’m not defending anyone. I’m sharing my story. I’m clearing a view to my heart.
I’m realizing that in shutting down, and ignoring and dismissing men, I’ve also been ignoring and dismissing myself—my own fear of being vulnerable with another, with a man, with opening my heart and taking a risk that it will break again and again: not because he ignores me or dismisses me, but because I love.
Because I’m human.
Because I’m fragile and I break.
And then oh, how the wounds heal me stronger, as long as I let them be there in the sun and don’t throw them or me or him down the dungeon stairs.
Instead we all stay up in the air, in the joy, our broken hearts on the mend.
As long as I stay open and wondering and remembering that woman and man aren’t so far apart, but are in fact part of one another, that who ever he is, he is my brother—
Then I can listen to his story and mine.
Let him be and take my time.
Eat the bread and taste the wine.
Know that all is well and all is fine.