A woman and her husband were on a boat. She saw her friend struggling in the water to be afloat. Her nose was barely above the water. She reached out and tried to grab her friend’s hand. Her hand was slippery and she was too heavy.
Her husband noticed the drowning woman wearing a weight belt. The belt was loaded with gold. It was clear that the weight of the belt was pulling her underwater. “She needs to ditch the belt!” The husband said. The drowning woman would not let go of the belt of gold.
The boat was small and had no room for another person. “I have to rescue her,” the wife said. “She needs to ditch the weight first,” the husband said.
This was not the first time they saw the woman struggling in the water. This was not the first time the wife reached out to rescue her friend. The drowning woman had never let the weight belt go.
She probably could swim, only if she didn’t have the weight belt of gold pulling her down.
“If she let the weight belt go, there are many ways to help her to swim to the shore,” the husband said.
When I was married to a passive-aggressive narcissistic husband, I moved out of our marriage three times. Every time I moved out, my ex found a way to get back and I let him back. On the third time, I finally ditched my weight belt of gold. Looking back, the weight was not made of gold. It was my fear of unknown, insecurity about living on my own, and fear of walking my life by myself. Once I ditched the weight belt, I found I could swim first tentatively and then very well.
We can't rescue somebody who wants to hold onto the weight belt of what they think is gold, knowing that it is the cause of their distress.
It is very difficult to find ourselves helpless in the face of suffering of our friends. We tend to try to rescue them. It might be more helpful to sit with our own sense of helplessness. When we befriend with our own helplessness and learn to tolerate it, then we might be able to be compassionate in the face of other’s suffering without rushing to rescue them.
“Imagine you wake up in the morning and find somebody lying next to you. What do you want to see?” my therapist asked.
“A German Shepherd” I said.
My therapist looked as if he were suspended in the mid air. He didn’t expect the answer. We were working on my relationship issue and he was trying to prime me for a new relationship.
“What do you expect from a German Shepherd?” he asked.
“He sees me as I am. No more, no less,” I said.
My therapist seemed to be searching for words, and then said, “I was touched by your strong desire to be seen.”
Almost 10 years has passed since, and now I wake up every morning to find a 12 year old 80lb mutt lying next to me. I adopted him about 2 years ago. He is no German Shepherd and not a particularly affectionate type. He does have a physical presence. Warmth radiates from his body and I can touch his warmth without actually touching him. Sometime I wake up in the middle of night and quietly listen to his steady breathing, hear him talk in his dream, feel his paws moving when he runs in his dream, and smell his stinky fart! His whole physical presence make me feel safe and comforted.
Have you ever felt alone when your loved one is lying next to you? I have. That was one of the worst loneliness I had ever felt. With my dog, I am safe.
For the most of my life I tried to fit the expectations of others. For the most of my life I tried to make others fit my expectations. My Teacher said, “Remember, not all people operate in the same way you do. ” It has freed me from the misery endless expectations create. I can’t change how you respond. But I can let you know how I am affected by your response. The rest is up to you.
This is how I am. Deal with it. Or if not, leave me where you found me, and walk away.
This is how you are. I deal with it. Or if not, I’ll leave you where I found you, and walk away.
It’s not your fault.
It’s not my fault.
It’s just that this is how I am.
And this is how you are.
That’s how we all should be.
And some of us still keep on feeling our way for a sliver of connection in the treacherous territory between how I am and how you are. Continue reading