Acceptance, Challenging Beliefs, Family, Friendships, Relationships, Teaching & Learning

“… I’ll give you something to cry about”: How My Father Taught Me to Surf in The 80’s

My father has always had a deep love for the ocean, and in particular fishing and surfing. These were passions which were passed down by his father and upon becoming a father himself it was his great ambition to continue the legacy on to his own children. And what a lovely wish it was.

The day my father taught me to surf was a gloriously sunny day. It was the mid 80’s and I would have been about 10.

Now I know what you’re thinking,

“1985? You would have been pretty cool just hanging out at the beach wearing your Brian Rochford Fluro-Pink Cossie, smelling of Reef Oil and humming hits from your favourite record Choose 1985. But now you’re being taught how to surf? OMG Leanne, for a 10 year old you were really taking cool to a totally new level!”

Choose 1985.

Choose 1985. Was up there with Summer of ’87 as my favourite compilation. I’m pretty sure this was the first compilation that I ever owned that was by the “original artists” and not some povo knock off’s.

I know right! But unfortunately that’s because you are thinking of this….

Tricia Gill  Photo:Simone Reddingius www.jettygirl.com

Tricia Gill
Photo:Simone Reddingius
http://www.jettygirl.com

 …when my reality was actually this.

Waveski "Goat Boat" Rider Photo: www.travelblog.org

Waveski “Goat Boat” Rider
Photo: http://www.travelblog.org

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against a Waveski but they are called a ‘Goat Boat’ for a reason. It didn’t matter that there was no one around for me to impress (my father always sort out remote and desolate surf spots), I still wanted to be a cool surfer chick.

Prior to the surf lesson I was happily shredding up waves on my Moray Mach 7 Boogie Board. Ah, how I loved that board.

Me in my mind…

mach7

…me in Real Life

stregis-boogie-board

So I do understand that as he watched me mucking around in the foam, my father would have found it difficult to imagine that I was possibly having as much fun as he was out the back on the big waves.

My time had come. He grabbed me and told me that he was going to take me “out the back for a screamer”. It didn’t take me long to work out why he called them “screamers”.

My father fully trained me on the use of the made-for-adults device,

“Make sure you paddle as hard as you can.”

And then he went through a detailed safety induction,

“See this clip, if you get into trouble pull it open to get yourself untied from the ski, but only do it once you’re underwater. Otherwise it might smash you in the head and knock you unconscious.”

And then to round out my training he thoroughly assessed my capabilities,

“You’ll be right, stop being a sook.”

So after my comprehensive instructional it was really time to put all that theory to the test. He popped me upon the “fibreglass beast”, strapped me in and then dragged me through crashing wave after crashing wave by hanging on to my little foot strap thingies (which were wayyyyy too big for me).

Note the foot strappy things.  Pic: www.capacitysports.com.au

Note the foot strappy things.
Pic: http://www.capacitysports.com.au

That was it for me, I’d had enough. I pleaded to go back into the shore but it was too late,

“We don’t quit.”

Once out-the-back there was a moment of reprieve from the set which gave me an opportunity to cough up the 80 litres of sea water I had just swallowed.

And then in a mad attempt to either, distract me, get me excited or build some last minute confidence, he alerted me to the wave he had spotted for me,

“See that one? That big one out the back? Whoa, it’s huge. This one’s gunna be a real screamer. Here it comes”.

Things the detailed training program didn’t cover:

  • A check to see if I weighed enough to lift the nose of the ski by leaning back to avoid it nose-diving.
  • What to do when you don’t weigh enough and the “beast of a floatation device” nose dives.
  • What to do when you slip through the seat belt and the “beast of a floatation device” is about to belt you in the back of the head.
  • How to avoid the razor sharp paddle from smashing into your face whilst undergoing a nose dive.
  • How not to panic as you try to un-strap yourself from the “beast of a floatation device” whilst upside-down and under water.

Whilst underwater, thoughts of my beloved 1st Grade Teacher came to mind. I can’t remember his name but he was awesome. He was young and fit and he was a Surf Life Saver.

He told us heaps of stories about the people that he had rescued and there were two stories that I always remembered. The first one was how he had to shovel the vomit out of people’s mouths with his fingers before he gave them mouth-to-mouth, and the second was how,

“After the struggling part ends, drowning is actually one of the most peaceful ways to die.”

Convinced that this was the end I remembered those wise words and readied myself for my inevitable demise. How poetic it would be, being taken at sea.

Yes even as a youngster I had a flair for the dramatic. Apparently the reality was much closer to me be under for only 30 seconds in about 3 feet of water with my father right beside me.

Never the less, I had now tasted the far and distant fringes of a near death experience. Rather than see my second chance at life as an opportunity to “Carpe Diem” I was instead determined never to take a risk again.

My father knew that if he left me to sit on the shore and ponder the big questions of life, like why Corey Hart wore his sunglasses at night, I would always have a fear of the surf.

Corey Hart: "I wear my sunglasses at night So I can, So I can  Watch you weave then breathe your story lines."

Corey Hart: “I wear my sunglasses at night
So I can, So I can
Watch you weave then breathe your story lines.”

So right about here my father figured he had two choices,

1. Quit

  • He would have to “give in” and let me have my way by leaving me on the shore.
  • He would have to admit that maybe his way of teaching me things wasn’t the best or the only way.
  • He would have to trust that I would overcome my fears to try something out of my comfort zone without being pushed to.
  • He would have to leave the beach that day knowing that I’d had a “loss” that he’d created and hadn’t helped me to overcome.

2. Don’t Quit

  • He would have to continue on and drag me out the back and then literally throw me in the deep in.
  • He would have to trust that he knew what was best for me more than I did in that moment.
  • He would have to believe that he could help me overcome my fears and that I would leave the beach that day with a “win” under my belt.

When you look at those two choices it is no wonder that my father chose the latter, he knew, after many years of throwing me in the deep end, that if he pushed me to persevere that I would get there.  He also knew from experience that with his help I would overcome my fears and learn this new skill.

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about our loved ones wanting us to change or else. The two options that my father had perceived above are also underlined by the perceived need for change below.

 1. I Quit = I Need to Change How I Do Things

2. I Don’t Quit = You Need to Change How You Do Things

With the benefit of hindsight my father would now argue that there was indeed an option c) available to him that day. I could have quit my whining a bit and understood what he was trying to do, and he could have quit his disregard for my fears a bit and we could have met in the middle. We both could have changed how we were doing things.

But today I am just focusing on the sentiments of option b) you need to change. And what I am really interested in is when the “or else” part is added to the end.

To be clear I bring with me no judgement of the path my father took, not just because he is my dad and I love him, but because I would argue that the “or else” part offers us a choice. At that point we can either get-on-board with the change that is being requested of us or we can choose to accept the “or else” part of the deal and refuse to participate.

So my father made his choice, whilst I was still in tears after the first wave he grabbed me and back out into the surf we went.

He put me on another screamer, I got dumped and then I was really screaming. This cycle of dump/screamer/screaming would continue to go on. The more I got upset the harder I made it for myself and the more frustrated he became.

My father was stuck; I was obviously ill prepared but he had also greatly miscalculated the risks regarding my chances of failure. He needed me to overcome my fears and he did that the best way he knew how. He created a new fear which he thought was greater than my fear of the surf. So out came the old,

“If you don’t stop crying I’ll give you something to cry about”

So here we were, “change or else”.

I had a choice; I could have accepted to have received the “something to really cry about”. Having taken the “or else” option plenty of times growing up, I knew that a smack (it was the 80’s) and a time out on the sand would have been much easier to cop than to have to face my fears. And I also knew that the chances of him “giving me something to really cry about” were minimal in this context, I was 99% sure he was bluffing, which are great odds as a kid.

Through all my carry on, my tears and my pleas not to go out the back any more; I knew that I didn’t want to take the offer of the “or else” that day. I wanted to try and therefore I consented to change and I can’t imagine that I would have faced my fears to that extent without someone beside me who was relentless in their belief that if I stuck at it I would get there.

That day I did catch a wave and not just any wave but a real screamer. Only this time I was finally screaming with joy just as he had hoped I would.

In that moment, the entire struggle was justified by my father and forgotten by me.

So the question I ask today is, “Can we really force our loved ones to change if they don’t want to?” Aren’t they consenting by not choosing the or else part? Just as I did as a kid, is it possible to consent whilst pretending that we don’t?

Now I get that this is a really grey area, I’m not suggesting that it is acceptable to threaten children with corporal punishment to do things against their will. This beach story was nearly 30 years ago and even my father’s stance on smacking children has completely turned around.

But in our society we do threaten children all the time with an “or else you won’t be able to play on your iPad”, “or else you won’t get dessert” etc.

And have you noticed that a lot of the “or else’s” are left really vague? I would argue that this is the case because so often what we mean is,

“you need to do this thing or else, I will get upset”.

We don’t really want to add an actual consequence because we aren’t really interested in following through with our threats. We just want our point of view understood as one that we are really serious about.

It is such a common criticism of parents that I hear,

“No wonder the kid is out of control, they never follow through on their threats”

And I do see parent’s threatening misbehaving children all the time with,

If you don’t behave we are going to pack up and go home right now, I don’t care that we just got here.”

I would argue that this “not following through” is a good instinct, it’s an evolution from the way our own parents reacted by cutting off their noses to spite all of our faces.

Threatening less or ceasing to make threats that you don’t have a desire to follow through on in the first place is what is missing from the new model of parenting.

But equally I get how hard it is not to reach for this old faithful when the kids have spent the day winding you up and pushing your buttons. It is really hard to parent differently from our own parents, it’s hard wired into us.

I also think it is important to ask the question “Do our loved ones really need to change in the first place?” What would have happened if I was left to my own devices that day on the beach? What if I had never experienced a screamer out-the-back? Would I have been any worse off?

For the record to this day I do feel very confident in the water as well as oh so respectful of the power of the ocean, but would that have happened anyway because of my heavy exposure to the beach?

The path that my father took me on did come at a cost; he no doubt would argue that it was a very small cost and this many years later on I would tend to agree with him.

But I have strong memories of always being scared to try new things with him. I was never able to trust that he would listen to me when I told him that I was terrified. But in his defence, I kept coming back for more even though I knew what was likely to occur.

In essence I was saying,

“Dad, I’m happy for you to show me how to do this new thing but you need to stop ignoring me when I tell you I’m scared, or else.”

My father always chose the “or else” option.

I’m guessing that for him it was more important to push me through my fears once I’d started something then to worry about if I’d come back for more down the track. Or maybe he was super confident that his ends would justify his means and I’d keep lining up to be pushed out of my comfort zone.

The ideal is obviously a position of compromise in relationships and a two-way communication style that omits ultimatums. I would also be so bold to suggest, and you’ll disagree with me here but just let me plant a seed,

“that we need to reach a place where we can accept that our loved ones know what is best for themselves no matter their age or their circumstances.”

I know, it’s a hard one to swallow, and it’s a concept that I’ve only just come around to and often I do the opposite with my loved ones. The “I know what’s best for you” drum beats very loudly within me.

But until we reach that place, then I would argue that we can’t get this stuff wrong.

By being able to refuse our loved ones suggestion to change and by having the option to take up the “or else” part we can hold just as much power as our loved ones in that moment.

Or conversely if we chose to act then surely we take on just as much of the responsibility for the outcome as they do…maybe more?

Relationships are growth machines and they constantly plant seeds for us to develop, grow and change; it is because of the magic of the “or else” part, we get to choose the when’s, if’s and how’s.

Leanne xx

NB: To be very clear I am in no way speaking about the forcing of our loved ones to change in ways that are defined as emotionally, physically or mentally abusive. Such behaviour should never be tolerated and you should seek immediate help and support if either yourself or a loved one are at risk. Google “Domestic Abuse Help” in your local area.

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Challenging Beliefs, Forgiveness, Friendships, Relationships, Romantic Relationships

Is it Me? Do I Need to Change?

Hi Leanne,

Last night my brother sat me down and gave me a long list of the faults that he saw in me and now I have no idea what to do with it all. I feel like he read me like a book, being my brother he knows me inside out so he hit on some pretty big home truths.

He said if I didn’t change then he was done with me, that he has reached the end of his patience.

His list was long; I try to be a good person but I know I have a lot of demons and I don’t even know where to begin.

I have my own a family and a partner I love, a job that I’m good at and close friends who I also want to keep happy. 

I’m feeling really hurt and confused but also pretty helpless as I want to fix this but I don’t know how to or if I even should try. I really love my brother and want to do what I can. Where do I start?

Regards,

E.W

Hi E.W,

The reason you don’t know where to start is because this isn’t your journey. Your intuition can’t guide you in this situation because your intuition disagrees with the entire premise that there is anything wrong with you.

The negatives that your brother is seeing in you are his discomforts, they are about him. The uncomfortable feelings that you are experiencing from receiving his message however is all about you. (I’ll explain this part a little later on with an analogy about scruffy hair.)

Now I wouldn’t recommend confronting him about the mechanisms behind why he is striking out simply because it may just add fuel to his fire rather than help. What you need to know is that all he is attempting to do by having this conversation with you is to feel better. The way he has gone about it though clearly needs some work, but ultimately this is his journey. The one thing that you can do which may help him to feel better in the interim is just to listen and be open to hearing what he has to say.

This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with him, or that you have to commit to making any changes. Just listen to him and let him know that you’ve heard him by repeating his concerns back to him. Ask him to clarify anything that you don’t understand and then let him know that you appreciate that he has been able to share this with you and that you’ll have a good think about it.

And this will be the truth, because from the tone in your letter I’m guessing that this is all that you have been thinking about. So this is where I come in, my wish is to help you move past this E.W.

Firstly I want you to understand that the qualities that your brother is seeing in you which are causing him so much discomfort are the qualities that he doesn’t love about himself. The really interesting part is they are also the things that you are unsure about within yourself too. So by attempting to soothe him, the process will bring comfort to your own insecurities as well.

What is going on here is you are a mirror to all that your brother is struggling with. And here’s the thing, if you changed for him as he has asked you to do, and stopped reflecting what he doesn’t like; then he’d go and find another mirror which is identical to what you are reflecting to him now.

He is looking for answers and help to soothe the way he feels about the aspects of himself that he doesn’t like. He wants to find someone with the same “faults” as him who isn’t being hurt by them; he is looking for someone who is using these “faults” to their advantage so that he can follow the same path for himself. He is searching for the answer to the question,

“How do I feel better about myself?”

The “faults” that he has chosen to address in you are things that you don’t love about yourself either. That’s where so much of your pain comes from; it feels like he is telling the truth because you’ve had those same thoughts about yourself too. But it’s not the truth.

The truth never hurts, the truth always feels good. Other people’s truth about us hurt, never our own.

Blog Quote - The truth never hurts

There are probably other “faults” that he’s raised in your lifetime together but you are so disconnected to them that they didn’t hurt so you didn’t pick them up.

Let’s say you’ve got really short hair and your brother who has long unkempt hair said, “I hate the way your hair is so messy and untidy all of the time. You don’t take any pride in the way you present your long hair. It’s embarrassing”.

It’s doubtful that you would take that criticism on board or be hurt by it because it’s not something that you have said to yourself. It’s not an insecurity that you carry because you are so confident in your belief about yourself that you don’t have long hair. It is much easier to pick at a scab that is already there than cut a new wound.

You love your brother because of all you know him to be. You love him because you choose to look past the things about him that he would deem to be “faults”. Now it’s time to do the same thing for you. If you can look past your own “demons” and faults” to love yourself the way you love him; then you’ll show him how to do the same thing for himself as well as heal your wound.

Loving himself is the ONLY thing that is going to give him any relief. There is never a time when we are thriving, feeling awesome and kicking goals in all aspects of our life when we bother to stop and notice the flaws and shortcomings of those we love. Never.

Thriving & Flaws

Sure you can take on board his suggestions if they are things that make sense to you as areas that you wish to grow and improve in. But there is nothing you need to ‘fix’ about yourself because you are not broken. How could you possibly know just how amazing you are in certain moments if you didn’t equally know yourself as not-amazing in those same moments?

You will never be perfect and the great news is you don’t have to be. You will continue to change, develop, improve and grow. But you will also continue to stumble, yearn for more and find the need to try again.

Your brother is seeking your help so that he can stop feeling the way that he does about himself. Not consciously, but deep down he has chosen you because he thinks that you are capable enough to help him. In a really messed-up way he is saying that he believes in you.

It is twisted but the only reason he has struck out at you is because he’s desperate for relief. He’s not a bad person; he just didn’t know what else to do. He really wanted your attention on this and it worked, he got your full attention.

There are positives and negatives to every situation. You simply can’t have one without the other. There are people who have said that prison was the best thing that ever happened to them and there are people who’ve said that winning the lottery was the worse.

So start looking for the positives in all of the “faults” that your brother has pointed out to you. You know what the negatives of those traits has been for you, but what were the positives every time you “let him down”?

And they will be there; if you look hard enough the positives are always there.

Let’s say you didn’t pick him up from the airport when you said you were going to for example. He then felt really let down and like he didn’t matter to you. A benefit may be that next time he’ll make more of an effort to let people know how important things are to him; so you’ve helped him become a better communicator.

There will be many silver linings; I’d say that you could find at least 10 once you start looking for them.

In the meantime saying this affirmation every morning and night is really going to soothe you and diminish the hurt that his words have brought which are spinning around in your head.

“I release the hurt that I’ve been carrying because I know that my brother is struggling right now and his intention is to feel better. The most important thing I can focus upon is how I feel about me rather than the opinions of others about me.

I send him love and I chose to focus on the wonderful aspects of both him and myself. I release myself from the burden of taking responsibility for how my brother is feeling, his emotions and his feelings are his concern.

When negative thoughts about myself pop up I’m going to put my attention to how those perceived negatives aspects of myself have benefited someone in my life.

I’m a good person, I am doing my best and that is more than enough.

Everyday I become wiser, stronger, more open and more loving. I have nothing to protect myself from and nothing to be confused about because I’m clear that mine is the only opinion that matters.

I’m going to follow the path that feels good to me, and if it feels good to me then I know it is my truth and it is going to best serve the people I love.”

And E.W, every time you see your brother you can think quietly to yourself “I don’t have long hair brother, you do. And I love you no matter how scruffy it gets.”

You deserve all the happiness, love and joy in the world. And I’m sending you a big cyber hug right now.

Lots and lots of Love

Leanne Evelyn-Charles xx

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Acceptance, Forgiveness, Relationships, Romantic Relationships

Loving Letter to my Batshit Crazy Past Self

I was married quite young by today’s standards and had very little idea about who I was or what made me happy.

Early on our marriage became a perfect storm of confusion, anger, fear and hurt. And where that combination builds up to the point that you are no longer in control then the Batshit Crazy is never far behind. I define Batshit Crazy as behaviour that ceases to care about consequences, sacred lines or collateral damage in the pursuit of ‘making the pain go away’.

I often think about that young girl who felt like she was going out of her mind and I am committed to offering her ease about everything that she went through. She was the trailblazer that led me to this point; her instinct to push and fight inspired me to get out and look for another way.

I write this letter for her and for anyone else who has experienced so much confusion, fear, anger and hurt within their relationships that they’ve felt Batshit Crazy.

Dear My Past Batshit Crazy Self,

If you were to write an advertisement for your current relationship I think you’d find it a difficult one to sell.

For Sale: One relationship filled to the brim with misery, arguments, and emotional pain. Includes a critical wife who is starved for affection and an emotionally withdrawn husband who is defeated and broken.

But wait there is more! There is zero joy or fun to be had, that’s right zero! If you call now we’ll also throw in zero appreciation, zero compassion and all the blame you can carry!!!

I know you believe that there are no ‘winners’ from a relationship breaking down, but can you believe me when I tell you that there doesn’t have to be a ‘loser’ either? I encourage you to stop looking for one.

It was never your intention to be cruel or hurtful in your relationship just as it wasn’t his. It just happened, and it happens easily when you love someone without loving yourself. And there is no better way to lose your love for yourself then to focus more on what’s not great about another then on what is great about you.

You don’t need to put your hand up and declare that you are the bad guy here, but making him out to be one isn’t going to work for you either. It just creates another dichotomy for you to struggle against. If he’s so bad then why did you marry him? Let me guess? “He’s changed and he’s no longer the man you fell in love with?”

You are going to find this really hard to hear but the man you are married to isn’t lacking any of the qualities that you need or want. You made a great choice; you always make awesome choices when you follow your heart.

Neither of you has ‘changed’. Your dynamic has changed; but you are both just as capable of expressing as much love, appreciation and compassion as you did when you first got together.

You are two beautiful balls of wool that have gotten so tangled up that you are not expressing those aspects of yourselves right now, but they are still there.

I know; I hear you desperately asking,

“If I love him so much, if he hasn’t ‘changed’ and if he was such a good choice of husband, then why is everything so horrible?”

Deep down you already know the answer to this question, but you don’t like it and that is why you are asking me. And the lovely thing is that by the time you are ready to hear the answer, I promise you’ll no longer care about the question.

The question I’d like to ask you right now is, “Can you put your burning question on hold?” I know it seems really counter intuitive to do so, because for you it seems like the only question of any importance right now.

But I’d suggest that there are far more pressing questions to be answered that will bring you immediate peace, like “What’s great about me?” and “What am I doing to love myself right now?” and finally “Do I love and appreciate myself for the magnificent person that I know myself to be?”

Put your other questions on hold for a bit until the answers to the questions above become a predominate part of your thoughts. This is how you start sorting out your ball of tangled and knotted up wool.

Not his ball. Sorting out his tangles and knots has brought you more tangles and knots. Sort out YOUR ball. Let him know what your intention is, ask him for a little understanding about the space you need.

Get some perspective and see where the threads run. Enlist your friends as support; I said support, not ears to hear how knotty his ball of wools is.  Let them help you to see how beautiful your ball of wool is, let them inspire you of your abilities to untie some of these knots on your own.

Read some books, seek help, ask people how they’ve untied their own knots. Get some hobbies, spend time in the fresh air and sunshine. Exercise, eat delicious food, drink delicious wine, laugh more, go to art galleries, write, paint, take photo’s. Do all of the stuff that you love!

Let all of this help you to see the beauty within your own ball of wool. Let it ease the tension on your knots long enough so that you can untie them and give yourself a chance to hear your own voice again.

The coolest thing that I can tell you is that little inner voice of yours knows exactly how to untangle your ball, and quickly. Listen to it, let it guide you.

My advice to you is to commit to untangle your ball and ‘then’.

  • And ‘then’ decided if this is a relationship you want to be in.
  • And ‘then’ decide what your beliefs are around marriage and divorce.
  • And ‘then’ decide what your next step is.
  • And ‘then’ ask yourself the big questions.

Everything that is fighting inside you, all that Batshit Crazy behaviour is about trying to untangle your wool. Your eventual disentanglement is inevitable but how you go about it is entirely up to you.

You can do it as a couple or on your own; but if it’s not untangling your wool, then it is contributing to your Batshit Crazy behaviour. And why would you want to focus on the stuff that is making you miserable? Let it go for now, you don’t need to bother about any of it right this minute. It’s not going anywhere.

Untangling your wool has zero to do with if he loves you or if you love him, it has zero to do with whose fault it is, where it went wrong or if you ‘should’ be together. It has zero to do with whether or not you are ‘good’ at relationships or are a ‘good’ person. And it also has zero to do with how much you’ve been hurt and how much you’ve hurt him.

You can commit to untangling your ball of wool while you are together, you can cut the strings and end it now, or you can keep pulling until they snap. You cannot get this wrong because no matter what you do all roads lead to a place of disentanglement.

Your instincts will continue to guide you and your inner voice is now much louder so you’ll hear it much sooner. Every time you’ve ignored that voice it has gotten stronger and stronger, the Batshit Crazy has served you as a guiding light. So stop feeling embarrassed about it, everything has been working perfectly. It’s time to start easing up on yourself. You should be proud of all you have done to get to this point; all that you have been through will continue to bless all that you are.

As your future self I know how this story ends, you don’t work through it together and it takes you awhile to tend to your own ball. You’ll understand soon enough that it’s not the tangles that caused the Batshit Crazy in you. It was the distracting thoughts, beliefs and questions that led you away from tending to you own tangles and knots, and this is the stuff that has caused you all of the distress.

The day you made the decision to stop worrying about everyone else’s balls and untangle your own was the day that you took back your power, and it was the day that everything changed for you.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t get tangled or knotted up ever again, you do. The tangles and knots are a part of life and you wouldn’t be you without them. All that changes is that you stop stressing about everyone else’s threads. You finally understand that tangles and knots are OK, because you are perfectly capable of tending to them yourself.

All my Love, Your Future Self xoxo

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Acceptance, Forgiveness, Friendships, Relationships, Romantic Relationships

Batshit Crazy: A Familiar – Letter to my Batshit Crazy Ex

Dear Past Self,

Tricked you didn’t I? Sorry, but to write this letter to our ex would be futile. You couldn’t change or fix him when you were together so how do you imagine I’m going to have some magic solution to do it now?

The reason that I write this letter is because you need to move on and you can’t do that until you stop taking responsibility for his behaviour and well-being. It’s now time to let go of having an opinion about how he is living his life, because it is exhausting you.

Whether you realise it or not you are still trying to fix, help and change him. There have been so many arguments; you’ll tell anyone who’ll listen just how Batshit Crazy he has been behaving and how if he just listened to you more he could avoid a lot of heartache. You read articles and your first thoughts are “he needs to read this, this is what his problem is”, you hear things and you think “that’s the issue that he has”; regardless of how much or how little contact you have with him you are still focused on all that he is ‘not’.

Here’s the thing, that focus isn’t helping either of you. Deep down you’ve always known that it feels safer to try and ‘fix’ and take care of him because it means that you’ll never have the time to do it for yourself. The question I want to ask you is “Now you are not a couple, why do you care so much if he doesn’t get it together?” When you were first together you didn’t seem to perceive him as being as broken as you do now. Are you really trying to ‘fix’ him or have you been avoiding ‘fixing’ yourself?

I know that this makes you very uncomfortable, but it’s not something you need to be afraid of any more. Lots of people in your life know that you are not perfect and guess what, they love you anyway. You love loads of non-perfect people too; in fact the only person in this world who you don’t love because they are not perfect is you.

Your ex is acting Batshit Crazy right now because he is very hurt, confused and angry…but so are you. You have managed to keep some control over your emotions so it looks very different but it is the same, you both haven’t been coping. He screams, rants and loses control and you withdraw, pull away and control.

Controlling? Me? You know what I’m talking about, when you give him your stern schoolteacher voice to instruct him “Please don’t interrupt me when I’m speaking or this conversation will have to end” is only something you do because you know drives him crazy. You constantly pointed out his faults and you set yourself up as the authority, in your world you were always right and he was always wrong.

I’m not judging your choice of tools here, I don’t think you’re an arsehole, I don’t think there are any arseholes in this story; you were just two people trying to do their best in a highly emotional situation. Why wouldn’t you retaliate when he flipped out? It’s a scary thing to deal with, and imagine the mess that it would have turned into if you didn’t have a clear vision of what you thought was happening and if you didn’t try to control it? My point is the two of you were in it together; you both were and are struggling to cope.

Whether you like it not your ex in still in your life and that may or may not change soon. But this uncomfortable, frustrating and undesired situation is offering you the greatest opportunity for growth that you’ve had in years. This challenge holds him at its centre but the benefits will mostly be yours; I urge you to start focusing on the things about him that you’d like to see.

Remember we are talking about a person who you fell in love with and at one point you thought he was so together that you decided to partner up with him. Start focusing again on that, I get that this was a challenge that you couldn’t meet when you were together, so why would it be any different now?

Here’s why, because now the middleman is gone. He is out of the equation so now you have the time and the space to start to redefine how you see him and more importantly how you see yourself. Remember how you used to feel? Remember how capable, loving and happy you used to be?

You’ve complained for years about how you are always there for others and how desperately you crave for someone to do the same for you. You now have the time and the space to be that person for you.

You can let go of worrying about him; it has taken up so much of your precious energy and has offered you zero returns. I’m not suggesting that you stop caring about him; I’m suggesting that you stop the worry.

I appreciate how terribly hard this is to do so I suggest that you start really small. Whenever he behaves in a way that is Batshit Crazy tell yourself a new story, tell the story so it it offers you some relief.

“I know that I fallen into his Batshit Crazy world at times and I have reacted in ways that have added fuel to the fire and which has made me feel more upset. I also know that how he behaves is none of my responsibility. His behaviour has never made me feel unsafe but I have surrounded myself with support and a plan in the event that it gets anywhere near that point.

I’ve taking back control of how I feel and I have the power to choose the emotions that I respond with. I no longer allow him to choose the emotions I feel by reacting to his behaviour. To do this I am going to step back and pay attention to what he is trying to achieve through his behaviour. I am also going to focus on the positive aspects of him in order to maintain the good feeling life that I wish to live.

When I step back I know he is only acting this way because he is feeling very hurt, confused and angry. I know that he wants to feel better and that he’s not sure how.

He’ll work it out, and I look forward to the day that he feels really good again, but I release my worry about that. I’m going to try and remember him as the person that I fell in love with. I’m not going to do this because I think that it will fix or help him but because it is going to make me feel better. And when I’m feeling good there is nothing that I can’t handle.

When we get stuck on things and I find him to be unreasonable I’m going to ask myself the question “Does it really matter if I let go and let him have his way on this?”

I’m going to stop engaging with him about who’s right or wrong, I’m going to let go and let him ‘win’ if it means more peace and happiness in my own life. I know there is lots of things that he is fighting for that he doesn’t care about, he just cares that he doesn’t ‘lose’. I can understand this response from him, nobody likes to feel like they are losing something.

I’m going to cease being a resistant force that he can push against, I’m going to let as much flow over me as possible. I’m focused on the end game, not the nitty gritty of all of this. I get that there are no ‘winners’ or ‘losers’ here. There is only ‘happy and peaceful’ or ‘sad and tumultuous’ and I choose the former.

Right now I don’t have a lot of great things to say about him and that’s OK. I know that I used to think that he was a good person. I know that some of his family and friends who I like and respect as well as our kids really love him so I’m going to try to focus on what they see in him. Until then it feels much better to have no expectations of him.

I know I can’t live the joyous fulfilling life that I desire for myself if I’m focused on all of the negatives in my life. So on the days that I struggle to see any positives in him I’m going to refrain from dwelling on any thoughts about him at all, I’m going to keep the focus on the good stuff in my life.

I’m improving all of the time and there are lots of things that I can be appreciative for. It makes me feel empowered and energised when I focus on these things.

Life is starting to feel really good again, everything is going to work out just fine for me: it always does.”

Lots of love from your Future Self
xoxo

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Acceptance, Forgiveness, Friendships, Relationships, Romantic Relationships, Teaching & Learning

Batshit Crazy: The Acquaintance – My Partner’s Batshit Crazy Ex

I’ve written this piece as part of a series on dealing with loved ones who are struggling with acute hurt, anger and confusion. This particular letter relates to those relationships that we are bound to, through either another person or circumstance. It could also be a work colleague, an ex’s new partner, a close friend’s friend etc.

I believe that a difficult relationship that we have had in our past plays a large role in the life of our other relationships. There are going to be character traits that we don’t like that keep popping up in people that come into our lives. One of the most heated contexts that this happens is where our new partner exhibit traits that are similar to or the same as those of our ex.

When relationships end with one or both parties feeling acute hurt, confusion and anger the Batshit Crazy is never far behind. When this behaviour becomes so volatile that it crosses boundaries that are not easily forgiven then things can quickly spiral out of control. I define Batshit Crazy behaviour as not being limited by fear of consequences and as the sentiment of “I want you to hurt as much as you’ve hurt me, and I will so this at any cost”. (For further explanation regarding this please see my previous post introducing this series.)

When a relationship has broken down and the parties involved are still bound together by circumstance, people or children there is often no opportunity for the couple involved to stand back and get perspective. Under these circumstances it is difficult to change the habits and patterns that they have been bound by for years. With all of those wounds and triggers still present and active, neither has had the time and space to deactivate them. It is my belief that a third party, like a new partner, a friend or family member, or a professional can help bring about that new perspective.

It only takes one side to see it differently and to offer something new to the dynamic for the whole thing to change into one that is respectful, caring and supportive. And if the ex couple can have that kind of relationship with each other, then doesn’t it make sense that when they hit those similar impasses in their next relationship that they’ll be able to navigate their way through more successfully than in the past?

So if I was tied to an acquaintance who I felt was acting Batshit Crazy then this letter would set out the parameters that I’d like to keep all of my communication within. Not because it is the higher road or because it is the most loving way. Not because there is a possibility that the dynamic could shift into becoming more respectful, supportive and caring.

But because this approach offers a release from being at the whim of the Batshit Crazy person; because it empowers and it offers peace and relief to us as their targets.

I would encourage you to write your own letters if this is a dynamic that you are struggling with; I would also suggest that you don’t send them because this approach isn’t about the other. Just write it and feel the relief of looking at it all from a different perspective. Feel the relief of releasing your own hurt, confusion and anger and most of all feel the relief from being able to take control of the situation in terms of how it is making you feel. This is then a relief that you can share with your loved one from the benefit of your new perspective.

Dear My Partner’s Batshit Crazy Ex,

Where do I start? Your behaviour has been Batshit off the wall crazy. You know what I’m talking about; the texts, the late night abusive phone calls, the not showing up when you are meant to, the screaming in front of the kids, the insults, the legal threats, the stalking, the games, and all of the carry on.

Let us start there and finish here with the four phrases of Dr. Hew Len’s ‘Ho’oponopono’. I’m sorry, please forgive me, I thank you and I love you.

I’m not offering this to you as an endorsement of your behaviour or solely out of the hope that it might change it. I am doing this for me. I don’t have the power to change you but I do have the power to determine how I respond to you and to choose how I feel.

I choose to take the responsibility for how I am feeling; this doesn’t mean that I am taking responsibility for you or for the situation or that I’m taking the blame. I no longer care about whose fault it is or who is to blame; that search has held me to this dysfunctional dynamic for too long.

I’m taking back my power and I am going to choose to respond to you rather than react. I am choosing to step back and disengage from what you are presenting to me. I am choosing to focus my attentions on what is really going on with you. I am choosing to feel good about myself and the way I behave when I am in your company or when I hear about your behaviour.

This doesn’t mean that I will never feel angry, hurt, confused or upset with you; it means that I will feel those emotions at my choosing and not at yours. And I am going to do all of this by offering you empathy, love and acknowledgement of our similarities rather than focusing on our differences.

I have been where you are; I have experienced the pain, anger and confusion of a relationship breaking down. Whilst my behaviour manifested itself differently and may have looked dissimilar; the sentiment running underneath was exactly the same. I am choosing to focus on the fact that you are hurt and you want to feel better.

Let me say that again; you are hurt and you want is to feel better…and that doesn’t sound so crazy to me.

Obviously the way you are going about it isn’t super helpful; but I know that you get that and in actual fact you knowing this is probably making it all worse. And you know how I know all this? Because I’ve done plenty of super unhelpful things in my own life, and I’ve also felt trapped by the guilt of it.

Although you and I don’t know all that much about each other I do know that I love and admire your children more than words, and they are 50% of you. I also know that the man that I love and adore once loved and adored you so much that he asked you to share the rest of his life with him.

I forgive you for all of the Batshit Crazy things that you have said and done to me personally; and I hope that you can equally forgive me for when I have reacted and tried to hurt you. I am sorry for this, this is not who I want to know myself as. I know that neither of us has ever woken up and decided to be a horrible person for the day; sometimes things just happen but that doesn’t speak at all to who either of us truly are.

I am thankful for the challenges that you have provided to me; I haven’t always risen to them but I am committed to my personal improvement. You see, I want to live a life where I can rise above a heated or uncomfortable situation and you have provided me with more opportunities to walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk than anyone recently.

I also want you to know that in your ex you are always going to have someone in your life that cares as much about your children as you do. He is someone who is always going to be there for you and care about you as their mother. He may be your ‘Ex’ but he will always be you ‘Current Co-Parent’ and this is an important relationship that I wish to support.

I also wish to acknowledge that throughout this whole process your kids have come out the other side just fine. Actually they are better than fine; they are happy, and loved, and they are spectacular people…and that didn’t happen without you.

Through the act of writing this letter to you I feel so much better and in control. It is almost an instant change I feel when I hold to a vision of you that aligns with the vision that I have for myself.

It feels so good in fact that from this point on no matter what you do or what you say I am going to refuse to stray from it. That vision is; you as a person are worth loving, you are worth caring about and you are always doing your best. We have so much more in common then we have in differences, it feels really good to me when I focus upon that.

Lots of love and appreciation from a Fellow Batshit Crazy Ex

xoxo

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Acceptance, Challenging Beliefs, Forgiveness, Friendships, Relationships, Teaching & Learning

My Batshit Crazy Series

So what makes Batshit Crazy different from normal crazy or just plain old hurt?

By my definition, Batshit Crazy happens when there is an acute mixture of hurt, confusion and fear. It happens when we are no longer able to decipher any reason or logic from a situation; and when we cease to care about who or what around us this affects.

When we are totally overwhelmed by; and fearful of; the pain of our emotions and we’ll stop at nothing to make the pain go away. To an outsider it appears as erratic, unpredictable, and illogical behaviour and as though no lines are too sacred to cross.

I feel it is important to remember that in its essence this is a very human experience, we’ve all done and said things that we weren’t proud of. How far we took it and how we went about it may have looked different from total Batshit Crazy, but we’ve all felt intense pain and wished for it to stop.

While it is very easy to see the Batshit Crazy person as an ‘other’ I wish to propose this question,

“Is it possible to have a Batshit Crazy person in our lives without us having contributed in our own Batshit Crazy way?”

My answer to that question is no, but I’d love to hear what you think either in the comments below or through the LOVING BUSINESS Facebook Page.

It is my belief that you can’t play tennis on your own. Unknowingly we hit the ball back over the net ever time we too are left hurt and confused by their behaviour. Every time we defensively interpret their behaviour as Batshit Crazy rather than as a sad call for help, we become players on their stage.

Don’t get me wrong I have no judgement here. It is incredibly hard not to react to Batshit Crazy behaviour; I know I’ve done my share of lashing out in response and I will probably continue to do so in the future. It is really hard not to react defensively to behaviour that by design pushes our buttons.

Looking beyond what is right in front of us is the biggest challenge of any relationship, nay, of life. Imagine the lives we could inspire if we were successful at loving people for who we knew them to be deep down? Imagine if we did that no matter how cruel and unpredictable their behaviours were? Imagine what our world would look like if we managed to pull that one off?

At times we can interpret Batshit Crazy behaviour as funny and fascinating, there are whole websites dedicated to posting crazy text messages that people have sent. But it can also be violent, heartbreaking and relentless. The underlining issues are the same; they are not coping.

That woman on the train that we saw all over the news; the one who vomited out the racist tirade is a perfect example of Batshit Crazy. Imagine how difficult it would have been in that moment to have offered her compassion, understanding and love?

I honestly don’t think I would have. And not because I don’t think she deserves it or because I don’t believe in the power of a loving approach; but because I don’t think that the thought would have even occurred to me. I would imagine that instinctively all of my concern would have been directed towards her victim.

It has been my intention in writing this series to do just that; to put the thought into my head so in those high stress, high conflict scenario’s there is a small chance that I could step back and ask myself the question,

“What is really going on here? Are they crying out for help?”

In the series I have written 3 letters which cover the perspectives of;

The sentiments running through these letters can be universally applied to other relationships that we have, e.g. a Parent, a Sibling, an In-Law, a Partner, a Work Colleague, a Boss, a Friend, or a stranger on a train. I also wish to be clear that although these Batshit Crazy Letter’s are addressed to woman, I strongly believe that Batshit Crazy behaviour is in no way limited to the female gender.

I’ve also written these articles because I wanted to bring some empathy and compassion to the situation. Now before you go thinking that I’m pronouncing myself as a saint who takes the higher road I want to be clear that my motivations are much more aligned to my own self-interests.

I’ve found that when I’ve looked beyond what is being presented to me and I’ve tried to focus on the real person and the real issue; that it has brought me much more of what I want. I want peace in my relationships and in those stressful situations.

It is also an approach which helps me align with my own higher sense of self. I say I want to experience myself as a compassionate and caring person; well what better context to give that a go in then a Batshit Crazy one?

My goal is to interact within the parameters of this sentiment:

“I am hearing what you are saying and it makes sense to me that you are feeling this way. I know that there is a lot going on that I’m not seeing too. I’m here to help you understand that what ever it is, you are more than it.

In the meantime I’m going to chill out a bit from being so defensive. I’m going to look past what you are presenting to focus upon what I know to be true about you.

I know that just like me; all you want is to feel loved, safe and heard. No matter what you do or say, you are valuable and I know that you are doing your best, just like me. You are, just as the day you were born, a magnificent being.

I want you to know that I feel blessed to have you in my life; because it is the uncomfortable things about you that are helping both of us to grow.”

Dear Batshit Crazy Person

Like I said I don’t always get it right and I never will, but the good news is that even when I let my hurt and confused loved one down; the interaction causes both of us to desire more peace and harmony in our relationships.

‘Letting them down’ also reminds me that they don’t need me to ‘help’ them; they are magnificent beings that are more than capable of seeking out the solutions for themselves.

So who’s with me? Who’s up for the challenge of redefining our own role in the Batshit Crazy dynamic?

Leanne xx

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