I am sitting on my bed writing this blog post as my husband stomps around the house in his frustration and rage. We just had a fight. They don’t happen very often anymore. When we were first married they happened all the time. A battle ground was how I described it. Sometimes I wanted to give up. I’m not sure now what helped me hang in there. I know it was the right thing to do, because our relationship is so wonderful. Most of the time we share the same mind about pretty much everything. We help each other through life. We lovingly call each other out on bullshit. But then, every once in a while, this happens. The person I used to be would feel insecure about myself; about my relationship; about my future; about my ability to have a lasting relationship. I would have the compulsive urge to fix it immediately so that I wouldn’t have to feel so uneasy one moment longer than I had to. This feeling led to pursuing resolution conversation with him before he was ready to talk. He would storm out to escape and I interpreted his escape as rejection of me. I’ve learned a lot over the last 11 years of marriage. One of them being that walking out means not now. Not never. When I would point out that his actions hurt my feelings, he would get mad at me for being unsatisfied with him and I was usually made to feel like I was the one who had made an error, not him. There was once a time when I felt like I had to fix his emotions. I had to smooth over the angry feelings he had towards me so I could feel good about myself and stop feeling so insecure.
Now that I have practiced the ‘letting go‘ technique, I can experience peace when there is a situation I cannot control. I have said my apologies, and extended the offer of truce. All I can do is wait. But the waiting doesn’t have to be excruciating like it once was. I have learned to surrender the situation to God. I trust that all will work out as I say my prayer, “Ho apono, pono.” It is a Hawaiian prayer translation meaning, “I’m sorry, forgive me, thank you, I love you.” I know he is acting like this because he is not ready to let go of his pain. With compassion and love, I say my prayer over and over in my head.
I don’t know when he will let go of his anger and reach for peace, but I don’t have to know. I can choose peace right now and it doesn’t have to depend on my husband’s choices or any exterior condition. And that doesn’t make me better than him. It doesn’t make me better than anyone. Any person can be the master of their inner life if they choose to be. We have all heard the saying, “Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it.” Instead of reacting, we can choose to respond. After all, response-ability means the ability to respond. When I think of the word react, I think of an automatic ego-driven insecure reflexive action in response to a stimulus. To me the word response sounds like love, patience, receptiveness, understanding, forgiveness.
But what if we don’t have the ability to respond? We’ve all felt that feeling of being so angry that we can’t control what we do. What if we know we don’t want to flip off the driver that cut us off, but we just can’t stop ourselves? We think, “This is not like me, but here I am doing it.” (I still have out-of-control moments like these. I’m still practicing the process.) It’s like we step out of our body and observe ourselves acting the way we don’t want to act, but we don’t see any way of stopping it. We just watch ourselves in horror, making mistake after mistake. And then we expect ourselves to feel better after letting out our anger on the object of our rage. But we don’t. Well maybe for a second. And then we step out and observe ourselves again and think, “You dummy. Why did you think that would do anything to make you feel not angry? Now you’ve just made things worse. Why can’t you make a move to resolve this in a healthy way?”
So how can we consistently respond instead of react? First, our emotions and our bodies are not separate. The state of our physical bodies gives our emotions feedback and vice versa. So if we aren’t feeding ourselves adequate nutrients in adequate amounts and then absorbing and assimilating them, physiological processes are arrested and we have a much more difficult time trying to control our emotions. Don’t feel discouraged if you haven’t been successful at adopting a healthy lifestyle. Quite often when efforts to eat healthy are derailed it is a result of not being mindful of our thoughts and feelings. Mindful eating is the only scientifically proven strategy for successful sustainable weight-loss or healthy eating habits. It’s not difficult to practice, but it does take commitment to being better than you were last year.
On the other hand, we could be eating really healthy, but if we don’t make an effort to become more aware or conscious of our emotions, triggers, behavioral patterns, and compulsive thoughts we have a much more difficult time trying to keep our impulses in check. Sometimes we decide running away from our problems will be the answer to our pain. Make it go away. I suspect many relationships are ended as the result of this kind of justification for our feelings so we don’t have to look at them. But we can’t run away from ourselves. And if we haven’t learned the lesson, the same situation will keep materializing in our lives until we do. The magical thing is that when we start loving and forgiving ourselves, we automatically do the same towards others. And other aspects of our lives heal too.
So from where does this commitment to being better suddenly materialize? It’s different for everyone, but it really comes from going within and getting real with our true selves. Prayer. Meditation. Sitting quietly alone without distractions. Breathing. Journaling. I decided I didn’t want to stay stuck in self-sabotaging behaviors anymore. A coach who kept me accountable helped me consistently seek a better relationship with myself. I found out that I liked a lot of things about me. And the things I didn’t like? I accepted them and my responsibility for creating them. Then, I intentionally let them go. I don’t have to fight them or feel like a victim of my own subconscious programming that has kept me behaving the same way for years. I can simply let them go.
As for my husband, he’s cleaning as an outlet for his rage. Which is fine with me. He’ll come around and let go of his anger eventually. We’ll talk it out and say our apologies and come together in mind, body, and spirit like we always do. I love him unconditionally. I love him for who he is and who he’s trying to be. I witness his humanity and love him for all of it. (even the not-so-pleasant stuff) For this moment and for as long as I consciously choose, I choose peace and love.