Finding Your Rhythms: When to be Close and When to Separate

Entrain: “To draw along with or after oneself.” ~ Merriam-Webster

Entrainment is syncing our rhythms with someone else’s. Women who live or work very, very close to one another will entrain to another or several women’s menstrual cycles.

We are all easily drawn into other people’s rhythms.

However, entrainment is not usually beneficial in most relationships.

Most people don’t know what their true rhythms for closeness and separateness are. I know I didn’t even begin to explore my own pacing until my late thirties.

Did you ever have the feeling that you wanted to go, but still had the feeling that you wanted to stay…” ~ Jimmy Durante

Yeah, I know you don’t know the comedian, but he says it all. I would stay too long or not stay long enough. This could be at parties, other social events, and most importantly, in relationships.

Some of the beautiful, intelligent, creative women I’ve had the honor to know stayed with me a long time before kicking my young ass to the curb, or for that matter, even my old ass. But more than that, some would be very clear and committed to their own way and pace of doing and being before I got there.

I’ve asked hundreds of women what they were like after leaving a relationship. So many have said things lie, “I started yoga, kept a journal, planted a little garden, meditated…”

“Then what happened?” I’d ask.

“Then I met soulmate number 12 or 15, and within six months, I stopped yoga, my garden turned into weeds, etc., etc.”

By the way, many men do these exact same things and then “lose themselves.”

I adapted to a lover’s schedule, pace, needs, appetites, agenda, diets, etc. Why? Because I didn’t now what my own rhythms were for closeness and separateness were.

By the time my ex-wife and I got together I knew how long I could be at a social event – an hour. She would stay two or three, and we did this gladly with never an argument because we took separate cars and cared and trusted each other’s time frame needs and fidelity.

Now when I go out for dinner or coffee my maximum time for relaxed and refreshing conversation and interaction is right at two hours. And all my friends now this about me.

So, have you ever let your rhythms for closeness and separation get too far in sync and “lost yourself?”

It is one of the kisses of death to creativity, intimacy, communication, and way too often, contributes to the demise of relationships.

Here is the mysterious poem that illustrates this:

The Wind, One Brilliant Day ~ Antonio Machado

The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odor of jasmine.

“In return for the odor of my jasmine,
I’d like all the odor of your roses.”

“I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead.”

“Well then, I’ll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.”

the wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:
“What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?”

Translated by Robert Bly

Every Time You Say “YOU,” You Will Pay!

The rule for men and women’s communication before, say Adam and Eve, was to not talk much about anything.  Adam never told Eve how he felt about the apple thing. Then there was a huge communication advance somewhere around the 80’s – “When you say or do, I feel…,” and then you would fill in the blank – “When you don’t show up on time I feel angry, disappointed, hurt,” etc.  To be sure this was a great break from the silent treatment.

I’ve had many clients say to me, “Well, I learned in couples’ counseling to say to my husband, ‘When “YOU” don’t make love to me often, I feel rejected, not sexy, not beautiful, and I need “YOU” to find me attractive.’”

“What did he say?” I asked. “Did you feel heard – really listened to?”

“Not at all! He got defensive and said in his harshest tone, ‘Damn, baby, “YOU” know I find you attractive. I married you, and it just seems like “YOU” are just too needy sometimes.”

Here’s what I used to do when I was not very smart just so you’ll know I learned the hard way what I’ve said so far. When I was young and dumb – when I was upset, disappointed, annoyed and even angry or hurt – “YOU” need to stop saying… or Why don’t “YOU…?” If only “YOU” would stop or start or, God forbid, I wish “YOU” would get some damn therapy. Well let’s just say my track record was not very good for this, and many other reasons, and that’s why I had to do what seems like 10,000 hours of therapy.

About 20 plus years ago I thought, “Why do I need to say, ‘When you say this, I feel…?’ Why not just say what I feel?” In other words, tell my lover, partner, parent, friend, child – “I feel…;” “I need…;” “I want;” “I hurt;” “I’m sad;” or “I’m angry.” Now you really smart people will say, “But how will they know why I’m sad or angry or hurt if I don’t tell them?”  When you take out the “YOU’S,” they can usually listen, and more often than not, even ask questions, like “Tell me what is wrong?” or “Tell me more.” If you don’t have to fend off any “YOU’S,” guess what happens — a conversation, communication — just imagine that.

So this is how most arguments or fights go, but don’t really go anywhere.

I’m going to tell about “YOU,” what you’re doing or saying, and how you’re wrong. Then he or she is going to tell “YOU” how “YOU” didn’t say that.

We tell the other person what they just did wrong, or “YOU” are not saying it right, and then you tell him/her, and they tell you, and this is a four-hour marathon where at the end I don’t know anymore about “YOU” and “YOU” don’t know any more about me – and I jokingly say, “This is too often called marriage?”

Every time you say the word, “YOU,” you will pay when you’re having a conflict, confrontation, or argument because there’s something about the word “YOU” that triggers people unless it’s followed by a compliment, and if not, we get our buttons pushed, or worse case, we really regress. As soon as I say “YOU” – the person almost always goes into defense mode. Hell, you may have already stopped reading this and are preparing a defensive rebuttal, and that is what most people do when they’ve had enough “YOU’S” hurled at them – they stop listening. “You” throws many into flight, fight, or freeze.

“I,” on the other hand, says, “Let me tell you about me, and then I want to hear your thoughts and feelings about this.” “I” tends to keep me in my adult self, my new brain, my neo-cortex.

…The truth is you turned away yourself,

and decided to go into the dark alone.

Now you are tangled up in others, and have forgotten

   what you once knew,

and that’s why everything you do has some weird

  failure in it.

From Kabir translated by Robert Bly

Seven Years to Seven Minutes

It ain’t dying’ I’m talking about, it’s living…”

Gus in Lonesome Dove

Hold on, there’s a good and true ending.

Let’s say your doctor tells you (God forbid), “You have seven years to live.”

Here are the four questions I had to ask myself when I did this exercise:

  1. Where will you go?
  2. What will you do?
  3. Who will you take with you?
  4. What are you waiting on?

When I answered these questions at seven years, I said I’d live in my mountain cottage in the pigmy southern Appalachians and travel to Austin. I’d continue to write and see clients part-time and would take my wife with me to both places.

Okay, now your doctor didn’t read the x-ray report correctly and he said, “Sorry, you only have seven months.”

Then I answered the same four questions. I was surprised by how those answers changed. The answers really changed when it got to seven weeks, and dramatically changed when told seven hours and then seven minutes.

Well, I did this exercise with a good man who came for a two-day Intensive Session with me in my mountain retreat. He had literally been told his cancer would take him in six to eight months.

Long story short – when I asked him the four questions with only seven months to live, he said: “I want to take all my old friends and family to the Redwood Forest in California and find a tree that we could make a circle around, lay down on the ground and hold hands.”

What a beautiful image he placed in my head. I asked him the last of the four questions: “What are you waiting on?”

He replied: “That’s asking an awful lot – the money for airline tickets, car rentals, etc., etc.”

I’ll come back to this in a moment.

His wife was with him and I asked her to come in the studio where I had a daybed.

I told him and her, “Now you only have seven minutes to live, and I’m going to step outside and give you your privacy.”

I had no idea what would happen. When the bell rang, I went back in and they were spooning and weeping and laughing. The wife wiped away some tears and said, “He told me something he’s never told me in 35 years of marriage.”

I never asked what that was – it was theirs’ only.

About a half-year later, his wife called me to tell me two things. The first was that he and she and 14 family and friends went to that magnificent forest, circled a tree and held hands. Not one person he asked declined. The second thing was that he was peaceful, serene and beautiful in the days before he went. He knew he was deeply loved.”

I ask you to try the exercise and answer the four questions, and then answer this fifth question posed by one of the greatest poets, Mary Oliver:

“…Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.”

~ The Summer Day

 

Designated Problem: Let’s Get Rid of the Label

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding about ourselves. C.G. Jung

“Mend his life.” “You really need help.” “Fix her.” “If he would just get into therapy.” “If she would only stop drinking.” “We’d be all right then.”

No, you wouldn’t be and neither would they. You see, one of the greatest barriers for people to overcome is being the “Designated Problem” in the family, marriage, or workplace.

The label impedes the growth and healing of everyone concerned. When all the focus and attention is put on the alcoholic, addict, non-communicator, the one unable to be in touch with their feelings or their reality – that’s just too much weight on anybody’s shoulders. The shame, embarrassment, and guilt is enough to make anyone unable to really change.

For over 35 years I’ve worked with angry, depressed, aggressive, traumatized men and women, and one of the first things I do is help them see the truth: that it is the system, dynamic or context that is the real culprit.

You see, even if the Problem Person does deep psychological, emotional and spiritual work and grows and changes, if he or she goes back to a toxic workplace, an untreated family, or a dysfunctional marriage, he or she will soon be the Designated Problem again, and again break everyone’s heart and hope.

For decades I was the designated problem in my family—the outcast, black sheep, troublemaker, alcoholic. No wonder my shoulders were bowed to the ground all through my twenties. Lord, the therapy and recovery I had to do to lift that burden!

I wrote about my work in the men’s and recovery movements in The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man and Flying Boy Book II: The Journey Continues and aired my family’s less than clean laundry, and my own problems with relationships, alcohol and not knowing a feeling if it bit me on the ass. My dad and I didn’t speak for ten years he was so angry. Back then I was beginning to see that there was more to these problems than just me, my dad or my girlfriends.

“We” are the problem – wife as well as husband, children, grandparents, and even the babysitter. We all are the problem.

Most of us, I know I did, have to turn to an objective, third-party like a therapist, coach, sponsor, who can help to more readily identify each person’s patterns of behaviors, problems, histories, hang-ups and character defects, and I promise the formerly so-called Designated Problem will get better – indeed we all will.

So when you think you are or they are the sick ones, remember Rumi’s words: “The fault is in the blamer. Spirit sees nothing to criticize.”

Why We Can’t Be Rejected

“When we lose someone and we find ourselves, we win.” Anonymous

One of my best, dearest friends I’ll call K has broken all contact. She doesn’t call; she doesn’t write; she doesn’t send flowers or return texts, and seemingly doesn’t miss me at all. My psychologist brain says, “don’t take it personally.” My human heart says, “she has rejected me and it hurts.” But here’s the truth. You and I can be dismissed, avoided, shunned, hell even banished but we cannot be rejected.

You readers will say, “Well you’re just wrong. My boyfriend rejected me last week.” “My father has always rejected me.” “My best friend hasn’t spoken to me in over a year. Don’t tell me she hasn’t rejected me.”

No one can reject us. Here’s why – because it’s never about us. We are the creators of, not only our outer worlds but our interior ones as well and what we are drawn to or deny is already in us lying loose, latent or floating down that ole’ river D-nial.
I was well into my 50s, having “felt” and “thought” I’d been rejected numerous times before it became clear to me, thanks in large part due to my long-time therapist and mentor, Dr. James Maynard.

You see, I lived my relationship life foolishly thinking that if I was attracted to a girlfriend or other loved ones it was because something was in them that was not in me – that perhaps it was their lovely disposition that pulled me into their orbit. They were “attractive” because of their looks, spirituality, intelligence, groundedness, sense of humor, etc. all things that my low self-esteem told me I lacked.

What James and decades of experiences showed me was that real attraction for others, and they to me, emanates from within and goes out to them. Attraction thus is self-generated, rather than coming from the other person and when I’m no longer attracted to someone or I’ve integrated their qualities I stop generating the interest in them but I do not reject them nor they me.

This truth becomes obvious I hope in Rumi’s poem:

The minute I heard my first love story
I went looking for you, not knowing
How blind that was. Lovers don’t
Finally meet somewhere, they’ve been
in other all along.     Translated by Coleman Barks

Those we love who we think are rejecting us are rejecting those things in themselves they are no longer able to pull out of their own inner or outer shadowy part of themselves that they projected onto us.

A woman I loved a long time ago and am still good friends with I’ll call B was extremely intelligent and cleaned houses for a living when I met her while giving a lecture at a local university. She was also a nurturer, mother and possessed boundless sexual energy. I was a counselor, writer, still too much in my head and anything but a nurturing, parenting person, with little to no domestic inclinations at the time. Of course we got together. During those four years later – I became a pretty good step-father with a greater inclination to nurture and after we went to many therapy sessions we broke up. Once again at first I thought she had rejected me. To make a long story short she went back to school and got a master’s degree in counseling psychology and is one of the best working therapists.

A couple of years later I got married to Susan, bought a home and we set out to have children that hopefully I would spend a lot more time with than I would in hotels and conference centers.

broken heartGoing back to K – she left, either because she saw things in me that she was not ready to embrace or already had successfully embraced or perhaps never needed and therefore I guess I rejected the “sunny” disposition she had in abundance while I was my grieving my despairing divorce. She rejected my “old age” and perhaps I rejected the youth she possessed but was still somewhere in me even though I was having a terrible time finding it. She rejected my seriousness, and damit, I rejected the spontaneity I saw in her that I have always longed to have more of and on and on. Our paths diverged because I needed to access all that she manifested, and she either needed to access some of what she saw in me, but to be clear, neither of us did anything wrong nor did we “reject” the other.

When I said in my earlier book, Writing From the Body, that people tend to be drawn to artists because they dream of being creative but they’ve been told that they are not, or they are afraid to succeed or fail having way too many credit cards, cars and a house payment they feel they must pay off first. However, “If we spot it, we got it,” as the old AA saying goes. So we tend to “acquire” the artistic creative person instead of “accessing” the artist, writer or the tender, compassionate domestic, nurturing, sexy person we’ve been all along.

So the next time you or I “feel” rejected see Solutions below:

  1. Make a list of the qualities, characteristics, attitudes, traits you have found in other and acknowledge and further develop them in yourself.
  2. Remember the attraction for others starts inside you and proceeds outwards, and as the Indian poet Kabir says, “I say to my inner lover, why such a rush…” because I say he or she has always been inside us waiting for us to stop projecting onto others.

CLOSURE: A Made-Up Relationship Term

If you’re going home for the holidays, trying to recover from a divorce, a break-up or really any transition, change or loss may I suggest we stop looking for Closure.

Closure is, according to the dictionary, “a psychological term that describes and individual’s desire for a firm answer to a question and an aversion to ambiguity.” And it is a “set has closure under an operation if performance of that operation on members of the set…” I never understood math or calculus and people are not mathematical equations. And just because we long for lost love, happier childhoods, better outcomes of all kinds and what we wish would be, never gets finished like a math problem or a business deal. The idea of closure is a therapist’s shell game – find the closure pea under one of three cups. The therapeutic community tries hard to not know there was never any pea in the first place. Closure is a made up modern psychological word. It probably came into use sometime in the 60s. Perhaps Gestalt therapy, Primal, EST, later Forum and Insight, all agreed we should seek this state in order to move on. Moving on does not require closure.

You see after each failed relationship, no matter how bitter or sweet the ending, we still think about them when we see someone who looks like them in an airport. On a holiday we see them in the window of a passing Toyota, and if we don’t see them there, we see them in our dreams or at the very least, we hear “our song” on the radio.

My first love, mostly unrequited, on-again-off-again, high school and college sweetheart and lifetime friend, got married very young to a very unkind man. However, we saw each other at class reunions, funerals, weddings and sometimes late at night when neither of us could sleep we’d call and talk for hours. No matter how many hours of therapy I did looking for this enigmatic, amorphous thing called closure, I never found it. However, we explored the option of being together for decades. The closest thing to it was the four hours we spent in a Hampton Inn in downtown Austin when she learned she would be leaving this world thanks to the curse of cancer. We sat down and told each other everything in-between loud sobs, laughter and watching the other customers nervously leave the restaurant. You know I still think about her. I’m writing a novel with her as the main character. Now anyone reading this might think I need more therapy and you’d be right – one can never get enough says this therapist of 35 years and counting.

For those of you like hard research – 3,000 men and women were asked on a questionnaire would they consider remarrying their ex-spouse if they were available? 70% said they would definitely consider it. So much for closure. Do you know how many people marry their high-school or college sweetheart after their spouse dies? Me either, but it is quite a few.

Okay literature and movie aficionados, look at literary books published before the 60s. Steinbeck’s Joad family did not find closure in California, no closure in Hemingway, Fitzgerald and certainly none in Faulkner, Hawthorne or Huckleberry Finn and there is not even any in the Bible.

“Oh, Rhett, why can’t we just get closure?” “Frankly, my dear I don’t give a damn…”

Bogart and Bacall or Spencer Tracy never found it.

Hans Solo never even thought to ask.

Even Butch and Sundance remain frozen in time.

Finally, I bet you never heard your grandparents or parents, if you are over 40, use the “C” word.

The bottom line, some people leave us and some people come back and some leave us again and the parents, siblings, former best friends aren’t now who they were, they are ghosts that still haunt us, memories of who and what they were like and how things used to be like or never were. If one of my best friends, who left me for reasons unknown, was to appear today at my door, she could never close up the sorrow of the she who left. If my father, who is still alive at 90, and I tried to get “closure” with the 30-year-old father he was, is impossible. That young, green father is dead and gone. The feelings we have that make us seek closure are coming from memories we have of the past and the illusions we have of our futures should go.

SOLUTIONS—

1. A line from a Robert Bly poem, “The people we have loved, we will always love…”

2. Use your therapy money to help you find resolution – oh wait, that is Closure’s kissing cousin, never mind.

3. The word closure originated from the word “enclosure” and that is what we really do at the end of a relationship. We build an enclosure in our hearts and at the same time we let go as best as we can, and never let anyone tell you when you have grieved too long.

So What’s the Holdup on Being Held?

As Part II to my previous post, “Isn’t It Touching,” I thought touch-starved men might be interested in considering the following ideas.

  1. Most men either have one male friend who lives in Russia or Tasmania, but they haven’t  met face to face in 30 years, or they have none – solution? Get more men in your life.
  2. Where to go to get a healthy male hug or simply to be held? Men’s gatherings like the one I led two weeks ago in the mountains of North Georgia – 70 good men with Mentor Discover Inspire (MDI)! 12-Step Programs that sober men attend. Go to a Mankind Weekend – an excellent place for male comradery.
  3. Stop settling for bullshit conversations sometimes, not always, but talk and listen to what is going on inside of them and you.
  4. Deal with the “Moral Injury” perpetrated on you by boys and men and the hurt and injury we have done to other men.  (Definition of Moral Injury: An injury, a wound to an individual’s moral conscience and compass when men witness or fail to prevent acts that go against deeply held codes of conduct. Moral injury is a betrayal of what’s right and often results in PTSD because of unprocessed grief, guilt, anger, embarrassment and shame.)
  5. Remember C.G. Jung’s words, “Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.” So don’t condemn men who need to be touched, and for God’s sake, don’t condemn yourself for still being a live, breathing, touch-starved man.

 

Excerpt from best-selling book The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man

The following is taken from my first best-selling book, The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man. I thought it was timely to share this since I will be keynoting at two men’s events this month:

Oct 19-21 The Bubba-Buddha Men’s Empowerment Weekend for Mentor*Discover*Inspire Organization (MDI) ~ LaFayette GA

Oct 26-27 What Does Healthy Masculinity Look Like Now? ~ Sponsored by Lenoir-Rhyne University ~ Asheville and Hendersonville NC

I hope you will find something in this post that will touch you in some way, and I will be pleased to hear from you.

In 1981 I read one of the first articles about Robert Bly’s work with men in New Age Magazine. While I was moved and completely understood what he was saying, several years passed before I felt the truth told by the man who spoke to me as one who had lived my life. His father was an alcoholic – so was mine. His mother treated him like a magic person and gave him what C.G. Jung terms a “mother complex” – so did mine. He had escaped the world of men – so had I. He said that men who didn’t get in touch with their own deep masculinity found themselves unable to make commitments, hold down jobs and have good relationships. They constantly projected their souls onto the women they loved and left. These men did not have male friends because they only trusted females. He called them “Flying Boys” – I was a Flying Boy.

Unconsciously I had denied many things masculine and male in me. Though I looked and dressed like a lumberjack, I kept my hair long like my mother’s. I saw maleness as exhibited by my drunken angry father and wanted no part of such meanness. I had seen maleness via the cultural fathers who sent their sons to Vietnam to live out their, and John Wayne’s, dreams of heroism and cultural domination. I wanted nothing to do with such maleness. I looked toward the feminine and tried to look like a sensitive man who would not use his intuition to plough through people’s souls and bodies. My spirituality was deeply feminine and finally soft. During my early 30s, thanks to Bly, Laural and others, I realized that I was one who was completely out of balance and quickly approaching a “sickness unto death.”

If you fly away from commitments, responsibilities, intimacy, feelings, male friendships and your own body, chances are you are a Flying Boy. If you are a woman reading this, chances are you have loved or come into contact with a Flying Boy.

Flying Boys frequently use fantasy to escape reality. They hide in their mind/intellect, reason to avoid the pain they keep in their bodies. They appear to all but those closest to them as sensitive, gentle and completely in touch with their feelings. The truth, except in the most extreme circumstances, is that they seldom even know they have bodies and feelings.

Fate and circumstance always seem to be controlling their lives. They can’t quite make life work for themselves. When things do begin to work out or they finally succeed at something, they fly off in pursuit of another city, lover, job, degree, religion or drug. recovery treatment center image jumping between two mountains

Flying Boys are often addicted to sex, work, pain and failure as much as they are to intensity and darkness. They are constantly coming down from ecstatic highs and descending into deep, dramatic depressions. They seek the extremes and are bored with the in-between times.

Flying Boys often grew up in dysfunctional families. Their fathers were both emotionally and physically absent. Their mothers often tried to compensate for this loss. In the process, the Flying Boy learned to reject his masculinity and grew to overvalue the feminine. He experienced his feminine side vicariously through his mother and other mother-like women in his life.

Where Do I Go from Her: Writing Out My Divorce – Part I

In this unusual blog post I am sending out samplings of my new soon-to-be eBook. I am very interested in your thoughts and feelings about this little project. So if you have time and the inclination to leave me a note or email me at john@johnleebooks.com, I’d certainly welcome and appreciate any and all responses. Thanks –John

 

Search and Rescue workers have been trying to tell people for years that when you are lost in the woods just stay where you are and they will come and find you. The main reason folks end up in critical situations is because they are afraid to stay where they are and that no one will find them. So off they go, searching for a way out, and they can’t be found until days, weeks—or never. I’m going to stay here and wait and write my feelings, thoughts, and reflections until someone finds me. I’m going to try and figure out where do I go from her.

PREFACE

When we were gullible kids my friends and I actually thought if we dug hard enough, long enough, and deep enough we’d come out in China. So we kept digging. When we were teenagers, we thought if we wanted to be rock stars badly enough, it didn’t really matter that no one knew how to play an instrument; we just formed a band. When we went to college, we actually thought we could marry the captain of the team or the head majorette, if they could just get past the fact that we weren’t as beautiful as they. When we got married, we actually thought we could stay in love forever—but as it turned out digging a hole in the backyard was really more doable than the subsequent separating, divorce, or death, and then the surviving and moving forward.

I’m writing most of this most unusual memoir at my mountain home in the foothills of the Appalachians. Sometimes I even talk to this mountain, along the lines of, “So what do I do now?” I also sometimes hear a response: “Be silent and wait like I have for thousands and thousands of years.” Dog lovers will not think I’m totally nuts as I speak to my Giant Alaskan Malamute who lays loyally by my feet. “And you? Anything to contribute to this process of letting go?” She always replies the same thing, “Learn to pull something ten times your own weight and then we’ll really talk.”   One night, as I stared at the chessboard my former wife gave me one Christmas, and I swear it said, “Sometimes the king is the first to go.” Novels I’ve read, formerly sitting quietly on several dozen bookshelves, whispered, “Love has no clean-cut beginning, middle, or end.” I told them all their advice was solid, picked up my favorite poet’s book, and randomly opened it to the page that read, “Once you have loved someone you will always love them.” And to that all I can do is say, “Amen.”

INTRODUCTION

I love what I do not have. You are so far…” Pablo Neruda.

It seems to be a fact that loving is so short and forgetting is so Goddamn long. That’s all I need to say most days, but I’ll scribble some more words into this leather-bound journal that no one may read. Hell, like most of my journals it will probably sit passively on shelves receiving dust. So why take the time? Like my journal teacher in abstention, the dearly departed May Sarton says, “Why talk about it? I say, talk about it’ because these are the things we bury and never do bring out into the open. And what is a journal for if they are never mentioned?”

When X first told me about her need to divorce, I left my body, hovering, clinging to the ceiling, certain I’d come back down. Now days have passed and months have passed and even years have passed. I try to re-inhabit my body and make my soul catch up with the fact that while we send pictures of our cats and dogs to each other through email, there are few words between us—a text here and there—and sadness becomes sorrow.

Yesterday my young friend Kat asked, “What is the difference between sadness and sorrow?” I’ve never been asked that question, nor have I felt the need to distinguish the two. But I think of sadness as an emotion that comes naturally, if one allows, and it goes and then it comes again as life dictates. Right now it would seem I am in a permanent state of sorrow, a feeling that will be less, greater, even greater, and less again, but at this moment feels like a river that will never make it to the sea.

Sadness is as transient as joy, lasts as long as laughter or fear, and then disappears altogether with the new arrival of things—good news, a promotion, a book deal, a new love. But sorrow is four seasons long, it is the constant backdrop for the play that continues, though the setting, character, and time changes.

Sadness is, “she’s gone,” and sorrow is, “she’s not coming back.” This is reinforced everywhere you look, felt every time you see the candleholder you bought together or the painting you picked out to hang in the living room of your cottage, felt every time any song from Bach to Beatles is played, no matter how different the setting. Sadness is seeing doors shut. Sorrow is seeing them sealed. But sadness and sorrow can also become the creators of a new life, a new vision, a revived energy, enthusiasm, and guide. But first I had to learn to navigate the uncharted territories of divorce, disease, depression, despair and get to a land where love grows out of the ground of new kind of a sacred, secular faith. This is not the kind of faith of our fathers and mothers and forefathers and –mothers; not written in holy books, taught and told by priests, preachers, gurus, and Rabbis; but more likely referenced by poets such as David Whyte, who wrote, “…When your vision is gone no part of the world can find you…Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong…” This is where I know Faith—or at least this man’s faith—may be found.

I went to my cottage in the pigmy mountains of North Alabama and started unbecoming all I’d been in order to become who I am meant to be. This journey, while still being taken, started with a journal. This is what happened and this is what I felt and learned when my vision, my wife, and my life disappeared.

 

Enhancing Emotional Intelligence – Part II

Separation vs Isolation

Emotionally intelligent people engage in separation instead of isolation. By age two children begin the process of separating from their parents. By age twelve they are fully engaged in the process; unless the parents did not experience healthy separation from their parents, in which case they will tend to cling and limit their adolescence’s ability to move away from them in a healthy manner. This limiting, hovering, or clinging creates the tendency for teens and later adults to move more and more towards isolating when they need time to themselves, space and awareness, they need to renew and regenerate their energy to be with lovers, friends, children, or parents.

Separation generates closeness and intimacy because men and women can learn to detach instead of disconnecting when tired, overwhelmed, drained or exhausted by too much contact and stimulation. They get to pull away in a functional way and then return ready for more communication, commitment and caring.

Isolation leaves everyone in the dark because no one knows when the person is coming back or if they ever will come back, which very often triggers people’s unexposed, unexplored abandonment issues.  The “Isolator” closes themselves off to intimacy and can result in everything from feeling distant to contemplating divorce and ultimately to depression.

There are many forms the “Isolator” can employ, but the main one the emotionally challenged person tends to favor is to become a “Distancer.”  This is the person, who during conflict or confrontation, tends to say things like, “fine, I’m out of here,” or “whatever,” before walking or running away to work, alcohol, drugs, affairs, or other mind numbing, body numbing, emotion numbing behaviors. Luckily we can continue to become increasingly aware of the strategies that don’t serve us and learn new ones that do.