Kindness, Awareness, Retribution

I am a bit socially stunted and in the last eight years moved so much that all my acquaintances lost track of me. Plus I was doing things I couldn’t explain and was ashamed of so that made me retreat from them even more. Now I have no one. I don’t even know how to be a friend, let alone have a friend.

I hold in most of my thoughts and fears around my parents and daughter. I don’t want to upset them or use them as therapists. When I say to my mom that I have to go swim because I’m really wound up, that’s me being subtle, because by then I’m in a real panic and about to lose it. It’s my code for, please mom, back off.

That’s why any comment made on this blog by people who have their own life challenges and problems mean more to me than anyone can imagine. I feel pathetic to say it, but you are the closest things I have right now to friends. You took the time to read what I wrote. That’s pretty much the nicest thing ever.

Thank you. It means so much to me I can barely express it. I’m not alone, am I?

Yesterday at the pool I had a great workout, a bit over an hour. Then I did go into the deep pool for a bit of stretching, but nothing too strenuous. These days I go into the deep pool mainly for two reasons, 1.) I stand at the side of the pool and dive in and I love that, and 2.) I can float to my heart’s content.

I’ve been eyeing the diving board and am working up the nerve to climb it and dive off of it. And when I say “dive” I barely mean dive. It’s not something I remember well from high school. But those bubbles as they hit your skin. They feel so nice. And it feels childlike to jump into the pool rather than walk into it. I think I’ll promise right now to dive off the diving board when I reach 199 pounds.

Being back at my local pool felt like being at the Ritz compared to the other pool. It seemed so big and wide and clean and familiar, also it’s brighter there. And light means a lot up here in the Pacific Northwest.

As I walked from the pool to the locker room, a young female lifeguard said, “Looking good.” And I shyly said, “Thank you.” I wasn’t sure if she was referring to my weight loss, or the fact that I can swim longer, but she could have been referring to the fact that my bathing suit, as I later discovered, was on inside out.

Go ahead. Laugh. I am. I mean it had a big white tag on the back…

Just when I think I have a little class or dignity… But it is funny. And I’m sure the lifeguard wasn’t referring to that. She’s just nice.

My point in bringing her and her comment up is this, that comment, two words, made me feel considerably better. It makes me realize that many of us are lonely and alone in a sea of people, but when one person does the slightest thing uniquely for you, it feels fantastic. She noticed me. It makes me remember that, now and then, I need to do more of that myself. We’re all people. We’re not automatons or zombies.

Last week a worker at the drug store carried my storage boxes to my car for me. I could have managed it, but he seemed to want to. That was so nice of him.

That’s the same reason why comments here mean so much to me. It’s a small human connection and I’m not very good at them. Today I shared a lane with the woman I enjoyed speaking to a couple of months ago. I would have loved to have that chat again and see if I can wrangle an invitation to hike with her and her friend, but she was chatting with another swimmer and I didn’t want to interrupt.

Opportunity lost. For now.

At the recommendation of a commenter, I spent considerable time learning about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (aka: ACT). I think it sounds like a really nice fit for me because it doesn’t require you to ask yourself why you’re feeling a certain way, it just helps you to deal having the feelings.

I especially liked this:

“Remember those old movies where the bad guy falls into a pool of quicksand, and the more he struggles, the faster it sucks him under? In quicksand, struggling is the worst thing you can possibly do. The way to survive is to lie back, spread out your arms, and float on the surface. It’s tricky, because every instinct tells you to struggle; but if you do so, you’ll drown.

The same principle applies to difficult feelings: the more we try to fight them, the more they overwhelm us. Imagine that at the back of our mind is a ‘struggle switch’. When it’s switched on, it means we’re going to struggle against any physical or emotional pain that comes our way; whatever discomfort experienced, we’ll try our best to get rid of it or avoid it.”

Continue reading here.

I’m going to see if I can understand ACT and then talk to my counselor about it this week. There are a lot of good books on the subject as well. My counselor talks a lot about mindfulness and now I think I can look at mindfulness in a new way.

I also appreciate imagery to help me with my intrusive thoughts. Perhaps when I’m finding myself in the middle of one, I can imagine floating on the water, arms and legs out, blissful. Not struggling. Just let it pass. Open the door for it to pass and leave. Replace it with another thought.

I spoke to my daughter last night and am planning to drive to see her on Thursday and spend the night there for the first time. I shared a little bit of what I’m going through with the separation and feeling as though I might never have known my husband at all. After I hung up I remembered one of the strongest reasons why I must not entertain self destructive behavior any longer is that she needs me to be a better person. She does not need a mom she has to worry about or mourn. I need to be strong for her. I need to be a good example.

Today I plan to leave the house early and stand in line to get help doing my taxes. I’ll be so glad when I get that over with. If all goes well I will still be able to fit swimming into my day later. Also, I’ve called a divorce attorney and am trying to schedule a short free consultation to get advice on what to do.

I looked up that saying, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” and found it interesting. Not sure if I already shared it here. Here’s part of it:

Vile and ingrate! too late thou shalt repent
The base Injustice thou hast done my Love:
Yes, thou shalt know, spite of thy past Distress,
And all those Ills which thou so long hast mourn’d;
Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d,
Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d.

I think I’ll feel better once I can act without worrying that he’ll threaten me or run off with all of his settlement money. I think I’ll feel better when I can treat him the way he deserves to be treated. I refuse to sink to his level or do what he does, but a small amount of retribution might be what the doctor ordered.

I’d rather be hurt and taken advantage of than be the one doing the hurting.


6 responses to “Kindness, Awareness, Retribution

  1. I have social anxiety and no close friends. What I’m learning through ACT is to accept that. And also your point of being kind and thoughtful to others. I have started trying to do that and it really makes me feel better because I really value being kind. Living according to your values is a big part of ACT because that’s where our self-esteem comes from. I can see you feel as though you haven’t been living according to your values and it’s no wonder then you feel so bad. But we can’t beat ourselves up, just identify our values and start living according to them. I like your quicksand quote. I struggled my whole life to avoid, deny those awful thoughts and feelings which now I know, just made things worse. And lastly, I’d like to suggest some of the diffusion exercises that have helped me a lot. There’s different versions: leaves floating downstream, cars on the highway or my favorite, stopped for a train. As the leaves, cars, or train cars move along past you, you pin your thoughts or emotions or visions that pop into your mind onto them and watch them as they move out of sight. Then you come back center and pin the next one on. Just keep doing this for a few minutes. It’s really quite relaxing and peaceful.

    • Oh my gosh, Cynthia, I never knew how important my values were until they were no longer respected and I set them aside. Never again. I’m really excited to keep learning about ACT and plan to buy that workbook. I like your diffusion exercise and have been surprised to learn how much visualization actually works for me. I never would have guessed! Thanks for you support, Cynthia.

  2. I’m a bit socially awkward too – I’m fine at work, but in my personal life I only have 2 or 3 friends that I feel truly comfortable with – they’re the only ones I keep in touch with.
    I love the quicksand quote – ill have to remember that.
    It sounds like you’ve come such a long way In a really short time – you recognise what helps you and what doesn’t help you, and you have started to come to terms with your feelings. That’s really hard, and you are doing great.

    • Thank you very much, mylittledreamworld. I would consider myself very lucky to have two or three close friends. I doubt anyone really needs many more! Thanks very much for your comment and support.

  3. I hadn’t thought about the context of “like a woman scorned” before, that’s really interesting!

    The ACT sounds interesting too.. there are a few things that I have managed to internalise which help and sound similar.

    Something a friend told me once: “think of a time when you were really happy. Hold it in your mind and step into the feeling.” It sounds a bit mumbo jumbo but it feels good!

    The other thing which I still struggle with is that just because somebody is trying to hurt you, doesn’t mean you have to be hurt, and that you can with a little effort let go of the things that wound you, because it’s only by holding them close that they can hurt you. It’s a discipline to make yourself say “this memory is no longer relevant to me” when you remember something that hurt or humiliated you, but it’s such a relief to let it go.

    Another thing that helped me was to acknowledge that part of me was wounded and terrified but at the same time to be aware that another part of me was strong and capable and could nurture and look after myself. I didn’t have to be one or the other, I could be both. I wrote myself a letter acknowledging what I’d been through and promising to look after myself and not let me get hurt again. It sounds so silly but it did make me feel much calmer and safer.

    I must admit I haven’t had to look after myself for a few years now since being with my current husband, who is lovely, and gentle, and if I needed to I hope I would remember what I learnt before and be resilient. I’m not 100% sure I wouldn’t crumple though!

    I think a lot of these techniques are probably from CBT or ACT or similar, they’re just bits and pieces that I heard about and found helpful. Different things work for different people.

    But as you say, the most helpful is friendly human contact, a shared smile waiting for a bus, a nod from someone you pass every day, a comment 🙂 Things that make you realise that for every horrible person, there are several dozen nice ones pottering around doing their best! And it sounds like you’re getting a lot of strength from wanting to be a good person for your daughter.

  4. Lucy, I love all the suggestions given to me for dealing with destructive feelings and don’t consider them to be mumbo jumbo or silly at all. I’m a desperate woman and will cling to any life preserver. I think acknowledging the feeling and noting that it’s no longer relevant is exactly what I need to do. I also feel that I should write myself that letter because I have accomplished a lot in these four months and I must remind myself of that often. The old me would have just been in the psych ward and returned drugged up. I really appreciate your words of wisdom, Lucy.

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