10 tips to Deal with the Walking Wounded

Dealing with the Walking Wounded isn’t easy.

No, I’m not talking about Zombies. I’m talking about people with wounded hearts; the scars that impact our ability to give and receive love wholeheartedly. And when it comes down to it, all of us have been wounded to a certain extent.

So how do we transcend our wounds, and how do we deal with the people in our lives who have not yet been able to transcend their wounds?

True love, we are taught, is unconditional. It is the essence of life. It is the foundation of all connection; some would say it is our sole purpose in life. Love is the invisible force that can mend our wounds and disappointments and soothe our longings. It is innate and yet mysterious. It is infinite.

Love, like the sun, is a powerful force that exists even when covered in the dark, dreary clouds of a winter day; love exists even when we are submerged in the depths of despair.

So why do we put so many conditions on our love? After we are brought into the world, innocently invoking love in the eyes of our observers, when does our ability to express love change?

I’ve been contemplating what causes a shift in one’s ability to love , and I have noticed that some people have an easier time of tapping into their loving side than others.

There are people who seem to exude love and bring out the love in others. They are compassionate, genuine, encouraging, forgiving, accepting, comforting, honest, unpretentious and secure in themselves. They maintain a sense of humor.

There are people who seem to have a harder time expressing their love, often due to  past experiences of rejection, betrayal, or a myriad of other reasons that may be less obvious.

The walking wounded may be guarded, suspicious, pretentious, egotistical, manipulative, dishonest, fearful, destructive, or insecure.  In their most vulnerable state, they may have an insatiable appetite for approval.

Most of us have some combination of these traits which can vary depending on our mood and circumstances.

I have been told I have an extraordinary ability for forgiveness and a tolerance for moving past being slighted or mistreated. I probably developed this trait in childhood, when dealing with the ups and downs of my mom’s mental illness. Even when she lashed out harshly while delusional or paranoid, I still felt compassion and love towards her.

Several years ago when I was in counseling, I was told that I may not always recognize when I am in a harmful or negative relationship, perhaps due to my ability to overlook so much hurt in my childhood.  Now I am learning how to love but let go when I am putting myself in a bad position. Letting go can feel like giving up, and I don’t like that feeling.

Here are 10 tips for dealing with the walking wounded:

  1. Loving myself is as important as expecting someone else to love me. The more I nurture and take care of myself, the more I am able to recognize and maintain healthy relationships. The more I love myself, the less likely I am to seek approval in unhealthy ways.
  2. I can’t help or fix everyone, nor can I know what is best for anyone other than myself. Distancing myself from someone who is being hurtful can be better for both of us. Growth often happens when we stop enabling unhealthy interactions and patterns.
  3. Seeking guidance from someone who knows me and in whom I trust when I am unsure about a situation or relationship. I have learned who I can trust and when to seek the guidance of a friend or counselor. It isn’t easy to navigate the intricacies of relationships, and its okay to ask for help when we are so close to a situation that our perspective has become distorted.
  4. Walking away from a harmful relationship can be better for me in the long run. Taking the difficult first steps away from a bad relationship can often be a bridge to better things. There is no better example in my own life than in my first marriage. For many years we struggled so hard to make our marriage work that we imposed unrealistic and hurtful judgments on each other. When we finally decided to let go of our expectations and see each other for who we were, we experienced the kind of love that allowed us to accept our differences and walk away.  Six years after our divorce, our relationship has healed, and we have become better friends and people than we were in our struggles to be husband and wife. I believe that is what unconditional love looks like.
  5. Seeking and maintaining relationships with loving people can have wonderful benefits to my soul and ability to love.  I want to surround myself with people who can teach me by example. I also want to be open the possibility that love can be found in the most unexpected people and not allow my own biases get in the way of witnessing the beauty of love.
  6. Recognizing that my own wounds may be distorting my perspective. Working on healing my own wounds can lead to a better vantage point with which to determine whether I am allowing my own insecurities to jeopardize a loving relationship.
  7. Living in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. I can’t change what happened to me in the past or predict what hurt or danger the future may bring. I can only take it one moment at a time and love right now. 
  8. Striving to be genuine and focusing on giving rather than receiving love. Here is a quote from one of my favorite books on love.
  9. Taking time to meditate, read, and contemplate about love. There is no better way to feed one’s internal garden of love than to provide the best fertilizer possible for the seeds that are planted.
  10. Love can be expressed in different ways. I can achieve the greatest depth of love when I open my eyes and observe all of the ways in which its infinite power manifests itself in this world.

And finally, since I am the eternal optimist, I will leave you with this thought that gives me great hope, taken from the Helping guidelines on Familie’s Anonymous Website:

“All people are always changing. If I try to judge them, I do so only on what I
think I know of them, failing to realize that there is much I do not know. I will give others credit for attempts at progress and for having had many victories that are unknown.”

The Mountain’s Healing Powers

“Some of us are drawn to mountains the way the moon draws the tide. Both the great forests and the mountains live in my bones. They have taught me, humbled me, purified me and changed me.”
― Joan Halifax

I find that when the soul needs healing, the mountains and forests are there to embrace me.

Unstoppable

I used to think a photo of a cardinal in the winter was so cliché

Now I understand the symbolism in this breathtaking image

Resilience in the midst of the coldest days and nights

This brightly colored bird atop the barren branches

Screeches defiantly into the cold air

You cannot stop me, cold

Creating Inner Peace in a Troubled World

“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”
― Etty Hillesum

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we were all able to work towards inner peace to such a degree that it resulted in global peace? It seems too far-fetched to imagine, yet still we must continue to strive to find that place within ourselves, as Etty Hillesum did in the midst of the holocaust. Etty was determined not to let hatred take over her soul, and to learn to see the beauty that remained.

I am learning to let go of hatred and to instead focus on love. I am learning that love is free, and hate always comes at a price. It takes precious energy to hate, investing in memories from the past in order to keep it going. In order to maintain the darkness of hatred, we must deny the cracks of light that penetrate that darkness. The small acts of love that surround us, even in the midst of this hatred, can sustain us if we allow ourselves to see and experience the true essence of our being. Indeed, I want to be the person who choses to take the path of love in each moment.

As Etty learned after being taken to a concentration camp, love requires a certain amount of discipline and practice when surrounded by hatred and savagery. We can always find a justifiable reason to hate, but don’t forget, we can just as easily look for a reason to love.

“I know and share the many sorrows a human being can experience, but I do not cling to them; they pass through me, like life itself, as a broad eternal stream…and life continues…” 
― Etty Hillesum

Learning not to Fear Failure

“When we begin to take our failures non-seriously, it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them. It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves” — Katherine Mansfield

In any given day, we will succeed at some things and fail at others. Failure happens to some degree every day. Over time, If we lose our sense of humor, we can begin to feel badly about our failures, letting those feelings compound into a statement about our self-worth. After all, who wants to fail?

There are times when a failure seems too big to make us laugh, and indeed some mistakes aren’t that funny. In those cases, does it make sense to continue to wallow in self-loathing, or to earnestly move forward in a new direction. Every moment offers us a chance for a new direction, and if we are mired in self loathing about our failures, we lose the chance to see the new opportunities that are available to us in the present moment.

I am resisting the temptation to see my move into a job that didn’t suit me as a failure. It was a learning experience, and I do not regret making the decision to change directions after several attempts to make it work. Resilience is one of my strengths. Having gone through much harder times, bigger failures in my life, I remain an eternal optimist, with a healthy dose of sardonic cynicism to keep me from being too naive.

Early in my recovery from an eating disorder, I had a sponsor who gave me a stuffed, quilted pig she had lovingly made for me. It seemed rather ironic, given my condition, but the words she said when she presented it to me have always stayed with me, even 35 years later. Her words were simple “Don’t wallow in it!”

I don’t expect everything in life to work out, and I don’t expect myself to be perfect. I know I will make mistakes, fail, fall down, and do dumb things. Sometimes I will be able to laugh at these things, and sometimes I will need to take a moment to cry.

Life itself fails us at times, and all we can do is decide, and decide, and decide again. Where to next?

Remembering Nature

I am remembering a time when

we didn’t need the internet

to tell us what to think

I am remembering a time when

nature provided everything

we would ever need

Now it seems we care

more about what is

on that little screen

than what is around

us and we can’t

separate truth

from fact

A Jones

 

 

 

Another Year of Adventure

The last big trip I made was ten years ago, when I went to Mamelodi, South Africa, with many other smaller adventures in between.

I am anxiously looking forward to creating new adventures in this, my tenth anniversary of new beginnings. I intend to make 2018 my year of adventures, in my personal life and my professional life, as I explore new career options. I look forward to sharing these adventures with you in the upcoming year. I will be sharing some of my adventures in the weekly travel theme posts.

 

Winter of the Soul

“Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.”  — Robert H. Schuller

Planning my Next Adventure

I went hiking in West Virginia this past weekend with my niece. There is something so exhilarating about hiking in the freezing cold with several inches of snow on the ground. I like the feeling of pushing myself out of my comfort zone, especially right now when my life is in flux.

I’m still grappling with my feelings about the way this past year has turned out, having left the comfort and security of a job I had for twenty years to try something new, only to find out the new job was a bad fit. I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss the comfort of my old job, even though the last couple of years there were especially difficult.

Now, here I am, searching for something else. I am impatient with the process, having worked since I was a teenager. I have a little time to figure out how I want to spend my final years working. The time off is giving me room to breath, recoup a little, and set some personal goals for the upcoming year.

During the past year, I have become obsessed with listening to and reading stories about women who have gone off on big adventures, and I dream about doing something like that myself some day. Recently I’ve been fueling this desire by listening to Tough Girl podcasts, and I have decided to set a goal for myself in honor of my big birthday this year, and also the ten-year anniversary of my dear brother’s death. The year Scott died, I did my first half marathon and also went on a medical trip to South Africa. I never got to talk to him about these adventures. Scott and I had always dreamed of doing the Amazing Race together, and I want to honor that wish by doing a week-long bike ride this summer. I will write more about it once I finalize my plan.