When Playing the Blame Game, No One Wins.

How many of us blame our job troubles, financial instability, broken relationships, or other negative life situation on our family, loved ones, or anyone else but ourselves? At some point we all do it. Unfortunately, there are those who never acknowledge that they can only blame others for so long before it’s obvious who is responsible for their current situation.

“One of the most destructive human pastimes is playing the blame game. It has been responsible for mass casualties of war, regrettable acts of road rage, and on a broad interpersonal level (social, familial and work-related), a considerable amount of human frustration and unhappiness. The blame game consists of blaming another person for an event or state of affairs thought to be undesirable, and persisting in it instead of proactively making changes that ameliorate the situation” (Cohen, 2012).

I think back on many different conversations that took place with my second husband after finding out about his ongoing affair and secret family with another woman. There are a few statements I want to dissect, all of which illustrate the thoughts above. Before I delve into the things he said to me, put yourself in my shoes for a minute – imagine the sense of betrayal I am feeling at this point. Imagine having your entire world turned upside down in a matter of seconds. Imagine what a situation like that does to someone with extreme anxiety, not to mention the depression that was lying in wait for the opportune moment to pounce. Now imagine listening to these words coming out of someone who had just been caught in his own web of lies and deceit:  

“I never wanted any of this to happen. I believe she intentionally got pregnant so I would leave you. She tried to railroad my whole life, and has now ended up succeeding.”

First, he very clearly believed one of two things: 1) that he genuinely was her victim, or 2) that by making me believe he was her victim, I would have pity on him, forget it ever happened, and move on with our life together. I am honestly inclined to think that he believed both to be true to some extent, but his history of gas lighting clearly points to the latter as the belief with deeper roots in reality. Either way, he actually thought those words would help his case. Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne states, “Blame is an excellent defense mechanism. Whether you call it projection, denial, or displacement, blame helps you preserve your sense of self-esteem by avoiding awareness of your own flaw or failings” (2015). I sprang the news on him that I knew, so he went into defense mode. What better defense than to say it was all her fault? Never mind the fact that it obviously takes two to have an affair, to continue having an affair, and then to make a baby after two years of said affair. It’s not like she can intentionally (or even unintentionally) get pregnant without his help. Last time I checked, it takes more than eye contact to make a baby.

To railroad someone means “to force someone to do something before they have had enough time to decide whether or not they want to do it” (Railroad, 2019). I would argue, dear sweet ex-husband, that there is no such thing as railroading someone’s life when you’ve made the conscious decision to sleep with that person for years on end.

“I couldn’t trust her any longer after she told me she was on birth control and then got pregnant intentionally.”

First of all, birth control isn’t 100% effective. Condoms aren’t 100% effective. The only effective way to make sure someone who is not your wife does not get pregnant is to…I don’t know…may not sleep with someone who is not your wife? Just a suggestion.

Second, what a lovely use of projection, which “is a psychological defense mechanism in which individuals attribute characteristics they find unacceptable in themselves to another person” (GoodTherapy, 2016). Place yourself in my shoes again. I just found out that this man – a man I trusted with my whole heart – has been cheating on me for years. In his hurry to paint himself as the victim, he tries to earn pity by saying she betrayed his trust. Really? In that moment I found it unbelievable that he would seek to make me feel sorry for him by bringing up a term as volatile as “trust” in that moment. Especially after years of gas lighting me by making me feel crazy when I would question why he went somewhere or came home so late. It was all a big blame game so everyone was at fault except himself.

“She is a pathological liar. Don’t believe anything she tells you.”

Again with the projection. This statement came hot on the heels of me informing him that I had spoken with her before I confronted him. I had her side of the story, though he did not know this until I also had his side of the story. This might come as a surprise, but the only thing their stories had in common was the fact that the child was his. All other details (time frame, activities, etc.) were completely different. After lying to me for nearly our entire marriage, he expected me to disregard her side of the story because she makes things up. Apparently they were a match made in heaven.

“I hate who I am. But I am the way I am because my parents never wanted me.”

This was coming from a 51 year old man who left home when he was 17. After 34 years of making his own decisions, fighting in two wars, and moving to the other side of the world, he thought it was still acceptable to blame his parents for his low self-esteem. His rationale was as follows: “My parents had me late in life, they both worked and were never home, they didn’t spend time with me when they were home, and I had a rough child hood because of it.” He stated that this led to low self-esteem, which in turn caused him to behave in ways that he hated (including, but not limited to, his affair). After sharing this lengthy sob story with me, he asked me to move to a different state and start over with him. His goal was again to win my pity by blaming his parents for a childhood that apparently directly caused his infidelity. He even managed to squeeze out a few tears for effect.

He is a narcissist who has clearly perfected the skills necessary to play the blame game. That being said, “unlike other games, the more often you play the blame game, the more you lose. Learning to tell when you need to own up to your role in a bad situation will help you grow from your experiences, and ultimately help you achieve more fulfilling relationships” (Krauss Whitbourne, 2015). He sought control and blamelessness by pointing his finger at other people each step of the way.

“Please don’t tell our friends why we are really getting a divorce. I would like to save face as much as possible.”

In the end, he still wouldn’t be honest with some of our closest friend. He proceeded to tell them that our divorce came about because we simply “grew apart.” I did not provide the truth, though I still wonder if I made the right choice. He acted in a despicable way, but still wanted to come out of it clear of fault in the eyes of others. I chose not to tell the truth to several people because I didn’t see the point in ruining his reputation. Our life together was over, so it was time to focus on myself and not cause additional pain for either one of us. I can’t help feeling, though, that if he was truly sorry for his actions, he would have owned up to them before everyone. Let me give anyone reading this a piece of advice: if you ever hurt your significant other by choosing someone else over them, don’t make things worse by trying to pretend it never happened. It’s like spitting on someone after running over them with your car. Do the world a favor and take responsibility for your actions.


I’ve spent a lot of time and energy (this is a very emotional topic for me) talking about how someone else plays the blame game like a strategic chess match. However, I am not innocent of the blame game. Although I learned the value and freedom of forgiveness after that experience, I struggled (still struggle!) with a couple different things as a direct result. The first is that I habitually play the blame game with myself. Although my ex and his girlfriend were the individuals who chose to behave as they did, to this day I battle the idea that if I had just been a better wife, if I had just been a little less anxious or depressed, if I had just given a little more physically, he never would have sought comfort or passion in someone else’s arms. He even told me that the reason he looked elsewhere was because I wasn’t meeting his needs. That almost did me in. For someone who has an chronic issue with overthinking and taking things to heart, these were some of the worst words he could have said to me. I am one of those people “who blame themselves for everything, even when they’ve had nothing to do with an unfortunate outcome. This isn’t just false modesty or fishing for reassurance; some people do believe that they cause every bad thing all or most of the time” (Krauss Whitbourne, 2015). In much the same way that it takes two people to have a long affair and two people to make a baby within that affair, I also believe that it takes two people to let a marriage get to the place where one feels the need to find someone else. The rational part of me chides myself for believing that, but the emotional part of me will always believe it to some extent. This has bled into many different areas of my life and will probably be an ongoing internal battle. I take responsibility for too much, even when I am not at fault. Whether it’s healthy or not, that is part of who I am.

The second way that experience forever changed me is how I perceive my relationships with other people. Trust does not come easily, small things are blown out of proportion, and motives are misjudged. That’s all on me. I cannot say that I do those things or think those things because of my ex’s actions. His actions scarred me, yes, but they do not rule me unless I allow them to. I make the choice to not trust someone’s actions. I make the choice to blow something out of proportion. I make the choice to misjudge someone’s motives before I give them a chance to explain themselves. My own struggle with the blame game lies in my desire to blame past experiences for current and future responses to others. To say that I can’t trust someone new is no different than my ex saying that the way his parents treated him as a child caused him to shatter my heart. It’s just not true. By forgiving my ex on a daily or hourly basis, I am setting myself free of the excuse that he is to blame for any relationship issues since our divorce.

It’s hard to trust again, but trust I must. It’s hard to forgive him, but forgive him I must. It’s hard to forgive myself, but forgive myself I must. The game of life does not need to be synonymous with the blame game. Take responsibility for your own actions and hold others accountable for theirs. Pointing fingers unjustly serves no purpose in the end.

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.” – Mary Oliver

 

References

Cohen, Elliot. (2012). Stop Playing the Blame Game. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-would-aristotle-do/201207/stop-playing-the-blame-game

GoodTherapy. (2016). Projection. Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/projection

Krauss Whitbourne, S. (2015). 5 Reasons We Play the Blame Game…But Rarely Win. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201509/5-reasons-we-play-the-blame-game

Railroad. (2019). From online Oxford Learner’s Dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/railroad_2

Soundtrack to a breaking heart

music

Trigger warnings: depression, abuse, suicide, lots of emotions

I am a musician at heart. I took many years of classical piano lessons, which taught me how to feel each note and appreciate each dynamic chord. Speaking of the word chord, I find the various definitions of the word to be incredibly fitting. According to dictionary.com (n.d.), one definition for chord is: “a combination of usually three or more musical tones sounded simultaneously.” Right below this definition on the website is the following definition: “an emotional response, [especially] one of sympathy.” Music and emotions are synonymous. You can’t have music without emotions. And emotions can be explored and interpreted with the aid of music. There is a reason that music therapy can “promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, express feelings, enhance memory, improve communication, [and] promote physical rehabilitation” (American Music Therapy Association, 1998-2018). Simply put: music is powerful.

For this very reason, a lot of people have playlists for different moods or occasions. Whether we are in love, heartbroken, feeling festive, or even just going to the gym, there’s a song for that. I personally have a playlist with a simple name: Heartbreak. It’s frustrating how frequently I turn back to this playlist. Maybe it’s bad luck to keep it on my phone, but it’s easier than recreating it every time I need to lose myself in some melancholy tunes. The songs represent some of the most painful moments in my life. They bring back memories of heartache, but also bring comfort and reminders that life isn’t as hopeless as I may think right this minute. Since they have been such a big part of me for so long now, I thought I would share them. There are so many feeling and emotions associated with each song, but I did my best to categorize their message. I have so much in common with people experiencing various types of heartbreak. Each of these songs are dedicated to you. I see you.


To the used and abused

Christina Perri: Jar of Hearts (2011)

I know I can’t take one more step towards you

‘Cause all that’s waiting is regret

Don’t you know I’m not your ghost anymore

You lost the love I loved the most

 

I learned to live half alive

And now you want me one more time

 

And who do you think you are?

Running ‘round leaving scars

Collecting your jar of hearts

And tearing love apart

You’re gonna catch a cold

From the ice inside your soul

So don’t come back for me

Who do you think you are?

 

I hear you’re asking all around

If I am anywhere to be found

But I have grown too strong

To ever fall back in your arms

 

And it took so long just to feel alright

Remember how to put back the light in my eyes

I wish I had missed the first time that we kissed

‘Cause you broke all your promises

And now you’re back

You don’t get to get me back

 

I don’t know which is more difficult: getting out of a mentally/emotionally/physically abusive relationship or staying out of one. It takes a special kind of person to use and abuse another human being. Thankfully, I have never been physically abused, but I have been to hell and back with emotional and mental abuse. I have been taken advantage of. I have been stabbed in the back. I have been used for my generosity and forgiving nature. And in spite of that, my abusers have had the audacity to request I stay with them. They make empty promises with their fingers crossed behind their back.

This song brings tears to my eyes for a number of reasons. The lines “who do you think you are? Runnin’ round leaving scars, collecting your jar of hearts” is a reminder that abusers don’t stop at one. If they have beaten you down, chances are they have beaten down others before you and will beat down others after you. That is a person to get away from. Don’t go back. On the other hand, I love the defiant strength that builds throughout the song. The rose colored glasses are off. The game is over. Find that inner strength and don’t go back to that life. You are strong! You are a beautiful soul! Don’t stand for abuse of any kind.


To those with regrets

Britton Buchanan: Where You Come From (2018)

I trade guts for glory
I trade love for pain
I trade my tomorrows
If you just say my name
This spoon and this needle
This blood in my veins
I’m an innocent victim
On a runaway train


But it’s time to let go
It’s time to break free
From these sins that I hold
And this blood that I bleed
Don’t say goodbye
You don’t have to hold on
The place where you come from is gone

This. I love this. It’s okay to set your regrets free. We’ve all made mistakes. We all have actions we wish we could undo, words we wish we could unsay, and pictures with 90’s hairstyles we wish we could burn (for those born in the 90’s or later….shut up…your time is coming). I get chills when I hear the line “Don’t say goodbye – you don’t have to hold on.” Give yourself permission to let go. Give yourself the go ahead to stop beating yourself up about things you can’t go back and change. Regret, guilt, personal grudges…they accomplish nothing except cause you pain. We can never move forward if we are constantly looking back. If you did things you regret (who hasn’t?), the present is your opportunity to change for the better, to shed that old self, and take the first step into the rest of your life. Don’t let past mistakes keep you from experience the life staring you in the face right now. My cousin recently reminded me of a brilliant Bob Ross quote: “We don’t make mistakes. We just have happy accidents” (n.d.). Each happy accident opens new doors and offers opportunities to learn humility or practice forgiveness. Acknowledge those experiences and move on, rather than focusing on them and holding on. You’ve got this.


To the fighters

Julia Brennan: Inner Demons (2016)

They say don’t let them in

Close your eyes and clear your thoughts again

When I’m all alone, they show up on their own

‘Cause inner demons fight their battles with fire

Inner demons don’t play by the rules

They say, “Just push them down, just fight them harder

Why would you give up on it so soon?”

 

So angels, angels please just keep on fighting

Angels don’t give up on me today

The demons they are there; they just keep fighting

Cause inner demons just won’t go away

So angels please, hear my prayer

Life is pain, life’s not fair

So angels please; please stay here

Take the pain; take the fear

 

They say it won’t be hard; they can’t see the battles in my heart

But when I turn away

The demons seem to stay

Cause inner demons don’t play well with angels

They cheat and lie and steal and break and bruise

Angels, please protect me from these rebels

This is a battle I don’t want to lose

 

What I absolutely love about this song is how it brings to life the fact that it’s so difficult for others to understand what people with mental illnesses go through. It’s easy to stand on the outside looking in and say “do this” or “do that,” without an appreciate for the emotional and mental anguish happening under the surface. I see this song as a cry to the outsiders to have compassion and acknowledge that my behaviors and mental struggles are not always a choice. No one would choose to live this way or fight such darkness. When people tell me repeatedly that I worry too much, that I’m overreacting, or that I’m being irrational, I want to shout, “give me a little credit!!” I know all that. But telling me that is not going to change the fact that the chemical imbalance in my brain makes it impossible at times to rationalize my way through a situation. It’s not always helpful to point out to us how irrational I am being. Rather, please acknowledge that I am trying and appreciate that sometimes all I need is a quiet companion on my journey to find clarity within my far from simple reality.


To the homesick

Lindsey Sterling (feat. Andrew McMahon): Something Wild (2016)

You had your maps drawn
You had other plans
To hang your hopes on
Every road they led you down felt so wrong
So you found another way

You’ve got a big heart
The way you see the world
It got you this far
You might have some bruises
And a few of scars
But you know you’re gonna be okay


Even though you’re scared
You’re stronger than you know

If you’re lost out where the lights are blinding
Caught in all, the stars are hiding
That’s when something wild calls you home, home
If you face the fear that keeps you frozen
Chase the sky into the ocean
That’s when something wild calls you home, home

 

My best friend shared this song with me shortly after I moved out of state. I’d never lived more than a few miles away from where I grew up, so moving 700 miles away was a bit of a system shock. I made this somewhat rash decision after having my heart ripped out by my ex-husband. Over the last couple years since the move, I have learned that there are different types of homesickness. There is the homesickness in which you yearn for the people you love. There is the homesickness in which you want to find your way back to a place of peace, security, and belonging. There is the homesickness in which you just want to feel safe in someone’s arms. All those things are home to me: people I love, peace, security, belonging, and safety in someone’s physical embrace. There are days when I still am scared to be so far away from home. My heart, or rather my heartbreak, led me on this adventure, for better or for worse. Someday I hope to experience less homesickness. Until that time, I listen to this song and remind myself that home is always closer than I think and that I am strong enough to find my way back at any time.


To the broken

Danny Gokey: Tell Your Heart to Beat Again (2014)

You’re shattered

Like you’ve never been before

The life you knew

In a thousand pieces on the floor

And words fall short in times like these

When the world drives you to your knees

You think you’re never gonna get back

To the you that used to be

 

Tell your heart to beat again

Close your eyes and breathe it in

Let the shadows fall away

Step into the light of grace

Yesterday’s a closing door

You don’t live there anymore

Say goodbye to where you’ve been

And tell your heart to beat again

 

This is a song my sister shared with me at a time I so desperately needed to hear it. Not long before, I had been over at a good friend’s house. It was actually the friend who found out about and informed me of my husband’s on-going affair, so our friendship was both strained and immeasurably strong. I could not determine whether or not I hated her for bearing the news that ruined my life or loved her for telling me what no one else could or would. Either way, no one else saw into my pain quite like she did. I remember standing in her kitchen, then leaning against the wall, sliding to the floor, and crying my heart out on the cold tile. This was only days after the bomb had dropped. I had reacted with little emotion up until that point – I had been too numb and in shock. I remember telling her I had no idea what I was going to do. I remember the feelings of complete and utter hopelessness, loneliness, and brokenness. Then this song came along, perfectly describing the state of my life. It certainly didn’t fix things – nothing could fix things – but it brought some element of piece. I’m not the only one who has been crushed beyond recognition. I’m not the only one who has survived. I’m not the only one who has started to rebuild again.


To the actors

Christina Perri: Human (2014)

 I can hold my breath
I can bite my tongue
I can stay awake for days
If that’s what you want
Be your number one

I can fake a smile
I can force a laugh
I can dance and play the part
If that’s what you ask
Give you all I am


I can turn it on
Be a good machine
I can hold the weight of worlds
If that’s what you need
Be your everything

 

But I’m only human
And I bleed when I fall down
I’m only human
And I crash and I break down
Your words in my head, knives in my heart
You build me up and then I fall apart
‘Cause I’m only human

 

This song speaks to me on so many levels. I am an actor. I can be whoever anyone needs or wants me to be. At some point, though, something must give. Even the best actors can only keep up their façade for so long before they break. For my kindred spirits out there, it’s okay to let others know that we have chinks in our armor too. It’s okay to remind others that we can’t be strong for everyone else. It’s okay to give ourselves permission to not be perfect. “I can hold the weight of world if that’s what you need” – but I shouldn’t have to bear that weight. It’s difficult when so many of us, myself included, have set a precedent for strength and reliability. Those are invaluable traits, but not if it means sacrificing ourselves in the process. We matter too. Be what others need you to be within reason. Don’t forget about yourself. Don’t forget that you are made of flesh and bone and human brokenness just like anyone else. Sometimes we have to let ourselves be weak so someone else can bear the weight of our world for a bit.


To the betrayed

Demi Lovato: Stone Cold (2015)

 Stone cold

You see me standing

But I’m dying on the floor

Stone cold

Stone cold

Maybe if I don’t cry

I won’t feel anymore

 

Stone cold

Baby

God knows I try to feel

Happy for you

Know that I am

Even if I can’t understand

I’ll take the pain

Give me the truth

Me and my heart

We’ll make it through

If happy is her

I’m happy for you

 

Stone cold

You’re dancing with her

While I’m staring at my phone

Stone cold

Stone cold

I was your amber, but now

She’s your shade of gold

 

God knows I try to feel

Happy for you

Know that I am

Even if I can’t understand

I’ll take the pain

Give me the truth

Me and my heart

We’ll make it through

If happy is her

I’m happy for you

 

Don’t wanna be stone cold

I wish I could mean this

But here’s my goodbye

Oh, I’m happy for you

 

So many emotions with this one. This song tears my heart out all over again every time I hear it. This was another song shared with me after I found out about my ex’s affair and betrayal. The line “I was your amber, but now she’s your shade of gold” is obviously one that cut me to the core. It took my name and slapped me in the face. Setting that aside, my interpretation of this song might be different from someone else’s. Some people might see this woman as a push over. A door mat. She’s standing by and letting some other chick steal her man. And that is probably all true. However, I see an underlying theme of forgiveness. Instead of getting angry, she let’s go and puts his happiness before hers. That is what I tend to do, whether it is healthy or not. In the end, I believe that mentality is what made it so “easy” to forgive his sins against me. I also recently told my new ex-husband that I genuinely hope he finds happiness and that his dreams do come true. I don’t see the point of holding grudges or wishing misfortune upon someone who has wronged me in any way. As with any grudge, it will do me more harm than the other person. For me, this song represents the pain and agony that goes with betrayal, along with the bittersweet relief that goes with forgiveness. Let go of the hate and bitterness so that you may see all the love that is out there waiting for you.


For the survivors

Brian & Jenn Johnson: You’re Gonna Be Okay (2017)

I know you’re trying hard to just be strong

And it’s a fight just to keep it together

I know you think that you are too far gone

But hope is never lost

Hold on, don’t let go

 

Just take one step closer

Put one foot in front of the other

You’ll get through this

Just follow the light in the darkness

You’re gonna be okay

 

I know your heart is heavy from those nights

But just remember that you are a fighter

You never know just what tomorrow holds

And you’re stronger than you know

 

When the night is closing in

Don’t give up and don’t give in

This won’t last, and it’s not the end

It’s not the end

You’re gonna be okay

 

Where do I even begin with this one? Depression is real. Depression is scary. As someone who has struggled to find a reason to take my next breath, these words are a war cry. If I had a fight song, this would be it. Don’t give up. It may be an uphill battle, but it’s a worthy fight. For me, the wars that rage on at night often seem a little less overwhelming at sunrise. Another Bob Ross quote is appropriate here: “You need the dark in order to show the light” (n.d.). Sometimes it’s so difficult to see beyond the here and now. The hope that comes with tomorrow is too far out of reach to actually be worth considering. I am here to tell you that you aren’t alone in these struggles. The sun will rise, bringing with it a promise of new discovery and grace. I have struggled, currently struggle, and will struggle going forward. We’re in this together. I see you. Please see me.


 

References

American Music Therapy Association. (1998-2018). Retrieved from https://www.musictherapy.org

Brennan, Julia. (2016). Inner Demons. Inner Demons. Lyrics retrieved from https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/juliabrennan/innerdemons.html

Buchanan, Britton. (2018). Where You Come From. Lyrics retrieved from http://www.metrolyrics.com/where-you-come-from-lyrics-britton-buchanan.html

Chord. (n.d.). Dictionary.com. Retrieved from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/chord

Gokey, Danny. (2014). Tell Your Heart to Beat Again. Hope in Front of Me. Lyrics retrieved from https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/dannygokey/tellyourhearttobeatagain.html

Johnson, Brian & Jenn. (2017). You’re Gonna Be Okay. Bethel Music. Lyrics retrieved from https://bethelmusic.com/chords-and-lyrics/youre-gonna-be-ok-bright-ones/

Lovato, Demi. (2015). Stone Cold. Confident. Lyrics retrieved from

Perri, Christina. (2011). Jar of Hearts. Love Strong. Lyrics retrieved from https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/christinaperri/jarofhearts.html

Perri, Christina. (2014). Human. Head or Heart. Lyrics retrieved from http://www.metrolyrics.com/human-lyrics-christina-perri.html

Ross, Bob. (n.d.). From The Joy of Painting. Retrieved from http://mentalfloss.com/article/65452/20-bob-ross-quotes-make-life-better

Stirling, Lindsey. (2016). Something Wild. Brave Enough. Lyrics retrieved from

Photo credit: Unsplash.com

The Lotus List

lotus

I believe God sends us people, songs, quotes, etc. exactly when we need them. I recently had a conversation with a friend during which I began to dredge up some of the things that will forever exist on my Coulda-Shoulda-Woulda List. (We all have that list. If only I would have tried… I should have done… Instead of choosing this, I could have chosen…) Even as I was speaking, I knew it was a pointless exercise, but I couldn’t help bemoaning that I didn’t act on a certain inkling at a specific point in my life. This friend wisely reminded me that “time is linear” and we can’t play those games with ourselves – every moment, regretted or cherished, brings us to where we are at right now. Every choice, and each unique outcome, helps mold us into who we are and who we will one day become. It was the kick in the butt I needed to fold up that Coulda-Shoulda-Woulda List and toss it over my shoulder. Naturally I went back and picked it up later (chronic anxiety…duh), but I slipped it in my pocket for future reference instead of reading or studying it just then.


Regret: “Feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over something that one has done or failed to do” (n.d.).


It’s true that we all have regrets. I think if anyone says they have absolutely no regrets, they should probably regret lying. When I was young and dumb, I used to arrogantly say that I would live my life with no regrets. After well over a decade of making adult choices and facing the humbling consequences of said choices, I have realized that living without regrets is an unrealistic goal. I would be better off setting my sights on facing those regrets, living with them, but not letting them control me. While mulling over these things, I was again slapped upside the head with words I needed to hear:


 “Reflection is necessary, but dwelling is an issue. When reflecting, remember how it felt, what it was like, but don’t stay too long there because that dwelling opens the door for regret and disappointment, which then leads to longing and depression.” – Amy Thompson (a kick ass woman I am lucky enough to call a dear friend)


It’s like my other friend had a conversation with Amy and said, “Hey…say something to Amber about regret. She needs it right now.” What a beautiful thought that it is okay to reflect on our struggles, on choices we perceive as incorrect, and our experiences that came about because of our choices or the choices of another. But not dwelling on these things? I mean, come on… you’re talking to a an olympic gold medalist in overthinking, over analysis, and anxiety. If there is one thing at which I’m a pro, it’s dwelling on mistakes. Amy hit the nail on the head by saying that focusing on mistakes, or simply looking back more often than forward, delivers us into depression’s waiting arms while swaddled tightly in a cloak of shame and self-loathing.

After dwelling on the fact that I dwell on things too much, I’ve realized something today. Rather an epiphany, really – see Amy…good things can come from dwelling too long! Maybe not. ANYWAY. What I realized is this: I cannot value my personal growth from struggles if I cannot love my mistakes as well. Wait…what?! You mean that minor mistake that kept me awake for three nights straight? Or the big mistakes that led to three failed marriages? I’m supposed to love those?!

Yes and no. I’m not saying that if you are actively making a bad decision you should stop, take a selfie to celebrate the moment, and then hang the framed photograph on your living room wall. I’m not saying you should make decisions without any real thought because either way it will lead to growth. I’m not saying you should consciously make bad decisions to see what kind of profound, existential awakenings you have as a result. I’m also not saying that when others make bad decisions that negatively impact or even hurt you, that it’s okay to stay in that situation or relationship because you will grow through it.

What I am saying is that hindsight is 20/20. We can look back on our choices, at the fork in the road where we went left instead of right, and say we made the wrong choice. We can also look back and say there would have been less pain if we had gone right instead of left, but we don’t actually know that, do we? All we know for sure is that we made a choice that forever impacted the direction of our life and it will ultimately make us into a more beautiful individual if we only embrace the challenges and grow.

This is a nice segue into showing off more of my new ink (I have to give ink credit to Johnny Tracey at at Elysian Ink in Des Moines. He’s an amazing artist!). I absolutely love everything about the Lotus flower. Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful in nature, it’s symbolism is moving.

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In Buddhism, the Lotus represents enlightenment and spiritual awakening because “the wetlands flower begins life as a seed in muddy riverbeds, and must rise through muck before blossoming in the sunlight” (Mind Fuel Daily, 2018).

When we are in the grips of depression, an anxiety attack, a divorce, the death of a loved one, or any other emotionally traumatic situation, it’s difficult to picture surviving at all, let alone seeing beauty in the end. The Lotus reminds me that in the dark times – in those moments when I am surrounded by muck – it takes perseverance. It takes patience. It takes courage.


Perseverance: “Continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition” (n.d.).


My question to myself is this: when a regretted decision leads to painful experiences that in turn break me and make my soul a little more beautiful, can I appreciate the new me without also saying a prayer of thanks for the bad decisions? Can a decision actually be called “bad”…? I have regrets. I have lots of regrets. However, I am who I am because of what I could have done and did not. Those regrets are a gift in disguise. Maybe that Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda List should be renamed the Lotus List?

I leave you with wisdom from the Skin Horse.

Namaste.

velveteen

 

References

Mind Fuel Daily. (2018). Symbolism of the Lotus Flower. Retrieved from https://www.mindfueldaily.com/livewell/symbolism-of-the-lotus-flower/

Perseverance. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster online dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perseverance

Robinson, Katie. (2017, Apr 28). The Secret Meaning of the Lotus Flower. Town&Country. Retrieved from https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/arts-and-culture/a9550430/lotus-flower-meaning/