The Gift of Change

Photo by Honor Beauty

This story begins nearly two decades ago. Against the backdrop of two close family members succumbing to cancer, my fledgling marriage to a wonderful man succumbed to a number of things. Inexperience, lack of a practical plan, selfishness, impulsive behaviour, fear, pride, stubbornness, poor financial management, lust, and immaturity for starters. When I think back on that time, I can’t remember details. Life back then feels like a dream that slips further away with each moment of waking. I’ve come to equate this feeling with detachment. With trauma.

Fast forward to today. If you read my last post, you’ll know that I’ve been waiting out this past moon cycle to make a call about the space I’ve been trying to build with someone because it’s been tricky. I’m just going to set that down here on the table. Keep it in your periphery for a moment, okay?

Last weekend, I was able to join the fabulous Jenny Arndt at the equally fabulous South Coast Guest House for one of her day retreats. She’d messaged me because she felt, on a deep intuitive level, that she needed to coax me to come. Jenny was introduced to me by another incredible lady who is a mutual friend, but I’d only been crushing on her and her work from afar. I felt like she was kindred, and when I finally met her on the Summer Solstice, I knew I was right. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the workshop, which included some meditation, breathing, coaching and Qi Gong. I stayed open and curious, and after we practiced Qi Gong in the garden and sat down to free write before lunch, something cracked open like an egg.

It began with a question, posed to us earlier: “What negativities have I been investigating?”

The answer surprised me. 

For months, I’ve believed that my attempts at relationship-building were failing because of what the other person was struggling with. Despite their openness and vulnerability in sharing the grief they were working through, I thought the grief was the main barrier. As I reflected on this question Jenny posed, the word ‘neglecting’ appeared five times, and guess who was doing the neglecting? 

Me. I was neglecting myself.

I’ve created this narrative where I am a solid, independent woman. In so many ways, that’s now become my reality. But in relationship, I suddenly start to lose all sense of this independence and begin defining my worth through the relationship itself. I pour all of my energy and attention into the relationship. Into the other person. Into trying to help them. I used to believe this was a beautiful quality, a sign of my devotion. On the weekend, I realized this was co-dependence. 

No relationship in my life will ever flourish if I lean on it to satisfy so many of my needs. That must always be my job first. Romantic relationships should be like the icing on the already decadent cupcake of my life. The weight of my needs had become a greater barrier than the grief or the fear. This weight had been slowly crushing anything good that could exist between us. 

The heft of trying to fulfill my needs externally has also been crushing me, relationship after relationship. I’ve stayed in places far too long because of how desperate I was to see those needs fulfilled. I’ve stayed too long hoping someone else would ‘show up’ and ‘give me’ what I need. 

What I need from myself and what I need from relationship aren’t two separate things. They are the same, and they must be supplied entirely by me. I cannot ‘unplug’ (Jenny’s word) from myself and plug into someone else’s source. When I feel the urge to do this, I need to adjust my own plug and make sure it’s secure. If I’m not truly plugged in, I can’t truly see what’s in front of me. I can’t see the other person. 

“Stand in front of someone because we want to experience them rather than because we want to receive something from them.” – Jenny Arndt

Why did I begin this post with the mention of my marriage?

The day after this retreat, my mother handed off a huge bag full of photos and letters from my former married life. I realized that the dissolution of this relationship was the catalyst for these co-dependent tendencies taking root. Perhaps this behaviour was born from an unconscious need to prove I could make relationship work, which took precedence over realizing my own needs. Perhaps some separation anxiety took hold. Whatever the case, I knew in reading the first letter from a battered shoe box that I’d made a powerful connection.

These kinds of connections are the only way that I can change my behaviour. 

It took a couple of days to let that settle in and make sense. There was huge discovery, and then enormous emotion that bubbled out in ways I felt powerless to control. When this happens to me, I know the emotion is the surface layer and the truth is hanging out just below. Instead of writing, I did a lot of thinking. Instead of sharing, I sat with it for a couple of days.

There’s one more person who deserves a mention here. About a month ago, my good friend Paje (who took that lovely photo above) turned me on to this concept of Human Design. Through her exploration, we learned that I am a Reflector. There are all kinds of cool things about Reflector types, but my main takeaway is that I require a full lunar cycle to make a big decision. If I had honoured this slow pace in my past, I would have saved myself so much heartache. 

And so, with yesterday’s new moon, I told my truth; that I wanted to stay to see what this looks like as I learn this life-changing lesson. It seems unlikely that we really even know what is possible between us without me plugging back into myself. I don’t know what will happen next. I’m not measuring our time by the moon at this moment. I’m not waiting for anyone to ‘show up’. I’m showing up for myself. Maybe this person came into my life to help illuminate this truth? If that’s the case, it’s one of the greatest gifts of emotional growth I’ll ever get, and it sure as hell explains the deep connection I felt as we were thrown together by the universe.

I received a lot of blessings on my recent birthday (July 24th). Gifts of food, flowers, jewelry, books, art, words, crystals, wine, love. The greatest gift, however, is the gift of change.

This is going to be a radiant trip around the sun.