While on our second day of the Alaskan cruise, I had this dramatic experience that was proceeded by buckets of tears. I had a meltdown. There I was eating with Paul in one of the dining areas, looking at the expanse of the beautiful ocean, and I was crying and blaming Paul for my unhappiness. He was speechless as usual when I have one of these meltdowns… not being the sympathetic, comforting husband that I would have liked. But, really there was nothing he could say that would have made me feel better… not really. I gulped down my food without tasting any of it’s succulent flavor, and felt sorry for myself. We sat in silence, except for sounds of my sniffles, and nose blowing.
Awhile later, after feeling like I was ruining our trip that I had planned for, for a year, I figured I’d better find a way to get to the bottom of this, and fast because I was not willing to wallow in this kind of crap while on this trip. And what I surmised was I was having a “life experience.” The kind of life experience that “words don’t teach.” I was hearing my voice, but seeing mother’s story played out in my marriage. And I was beginning to realize how much I had done and said things to please Paul and practically every human being I’ve ever cared about. I wanted/needed his approval. In this life experience I was recognizing that I was forfeiting my own happiness and relaxation, but Paul could be in his happy zone. I thought the thought of asking if he would help me unpack the suitcases, but I wouldn’t/couldn’t bring myself to utter the words because I might hear his whine of not wanting to – which equals he’s not happy with me for asking… and I wouldn’t/couldn’t bear the pain of his disapproving whine. So, I did all the unpacking while he sat on our cabin’s balcony enjoying what we came on this cruise to enjoy… the cool breezes on our face, the beauty of the water, the horizon that went on forever, and the feeling of breathing in so deep that one could only experience relaxation to the very core of one’s being. But, NO, I cheated myself of that experience that Paul was basking in, while I played the role of good wife, pleasing wife, trip organization wife… And all the while I was feeling anger toward Paul, I was asking probing questions of myself. One of which was “How does my Inner Being see this situation?” And although I couldn’t in that moment answer that question, I KNEW my Inner Being wasn’t resentful of Paul, and also wasn’t concerned about the unpacking or any of the other things I had occupying my mind that I HAD to do. I asked myself for what purpose I HAD to do EVERYTHING that I do. And the answers began coming. I was afraid of experiencing Paul’s reaction to me which would most likely be that of unhappiness of some kind if I asked for his assistance. Which caused me to be aware that in my perception, I was exchanging my happiness for his. And his happiness always won out, when I was in control of the choice. And why was I doing that, I wondered? Answer: My happiness couldn’t be of that much importance to me or I wouldn’t be doing this. Ouch, that idea hurt!
I had learned through teachings, that when I make my happiness my greatest priority in my life, then I’ll be moving in the direction of being in touch with my Inner Being. But, I thought that to do that, I had to be in touch with my feelings, and now I was so conscious of how NOT in touch with my feelings I have been in certain areas of my life. And that HAD to change, and that had to change IMMEDIATELY.
So, I approached Paul, apologized for blaming him for my unhappiness. Told him, he was not in anyway responsible for the way I was feeling. It was all me. It was all me. I told him about the thoughts I had just considered, and how I had come to a new decision about my life.
I told him that this new idea could dramatically change our relationship. I explained how when we met, through my actions, I made it clear what he could expect from me. And he learned he could expect me to do almost everything that had to do with the care of our home, both inside and out. He could expect that I would handle our finances, and keep him informed of all major issues, and include him in the decisions. He could expect me to handle any problems with our pets. Of course, since the cats were mine, I would handle the cats. But, even though the dog was his, I would still be the responsible one for all of his needs. And Paul would get to simply enjoy the fun of having a dog, But, he didn’t clean up after him when we messed on the carpets. No, I took that upon myself to do that because the very act of Paul trying to clean it would cause Paul to experience either anger, sadness or something unpleasant… so I being the good wife, did it. Of course, I didn’t like it either, but I didn’t focus on that. I would often focus on how I was such a willing party to this because I was somehow thinking this was for the greater good. What a crock that was!
The truth was I was being a martyr. And I did an awesome job of selling it to myself for years without having to label it as martyrdom. But, I knew this was the beginning of new thoughts, new behaviors, and most of all new feelings.
I told Paul, that little by little, incrementally as I get a better handle on this new idea, I would be asking for his help. I explained how I had been acting like a martyr. And I was very aware, he NEVER asked me to do all that I do. I did ALL of it because I chose to. It was MY doing, not his. And I explained how I was angry with myself for feeling that I HAD to do it. But, it was time for me to experience happiness. It was time for me to live my life feeling joy. I wanted to let go of the “I have to do it” syndrome. I didn’t want to wake up one morning in my mother’s shoes… with a husband that was incapable of doing anything for himself, while I was sacrificing my life for his. Of course, I learned these behaviors the old fashioned way. I watched my Mom do it, and being the “A” student, I followed her example to the letter.
That meant if I saw something Paul could do on his own, but I could get to it first, I would do it, because after all, wouldn’t that endear him to me? The answer is NO, what it really did was keep me in the mindset of the snowjob I was doing on myself, that I am better at doing things than him, and that he is incapable. I had become the greatest enabler.
And to think I went through the 1980’s learning all about the evils of co-dependence, and thought I had conquered it. But, that insidious enabling thing I did, slipped right under the radar. Yep, I’m a raging co-dependent enabler. And it didn’t stop with Paul, I realized the great reach this enabling of mine had gone. It reached into my job; I enable the team of people I support. I enable friends. I enable family. If you are a breathing body, I’ll enable you… that’s how far this thing has gone and how good I am at doing it.
Since this revelation, I practiced this new awareness of paying attention to ME, and how I FEEL. And amazingly, even in an environment of where happiness should be easy, I found myself feeling stressful tension in my body. Yes, I’d be on my cabin’s balcony, taking in the beautiful coastline view, and my shoulders would rise, and I’d feel my body begin to contort. And then, I’d have to purposefully, lower my shoulders, and remind myself that my intention is to FEEL good or to FEEL happy. And I guess since the return of my Alaska trip, I’ve had a good deal of practice paying attention to my feelings because when I catch myself feeling anything but content, good or happy, I stop myself, and try to figure out how to shift whatever I’m thinking about into more pleasant thoughts.
And in the last month, I know I’ve learned to recognize what relaxation feels like, what happiness feels like, what joy over-flowing feels like, AND what NOT feeling good feels like. Allowing my feelings to be my guide has proven to be the life experience I’d been looking for. Because, the “hearing” about allowing your feelings to guide you, was an awesome concept that I could totally buy into, and totally believe, and share with others, but I had not yet really experienced it in a way that captured the essence of the words until the day of the meltdown. God Bless the meltdown. It was the catalyst for allowing me to have a “life experience”.