The whole world could praise Sung Jung-Tzu and it wouldn’t make him exert himself. The whole world could condemn him and it wouldn’t make him mope. He drew a clear line between the internal and the external.Chuang Tzu
via Mark Nepo
Whether a week or years down the road infidelity will cast a shadow on your life regardless of the angle of approach you take on your path. There will always be someone there willing to condemn you and put you in what they think is your place.
This is why I want to live in the world as Sung Jung-Tzu. A clear line between the internal and the external, a line between what is mine and what is not.
Alas, I do not.
On occasions too numerous to count over my life I have struggled to live “without being affected by others.” As a result, I find myself seeking to be liked, avoiding conflict, wanting to be understood and, as Mark Nepo writes, not “taking the voice within seriously…waiting for someone else to tell us what moves us is real.”
However, one of the many silver linings of this experience is I have found a voice that is uniquely mine. A perspective that emboldens my spirit and leaves me feeling empowered. And I have moved closer to a healthy disregard for what other people think. A disregard for the opinions of people more interested in perpetuating my shame than being a friend.
For example, a few months ago an anonymous, unskillful, and hurting grief troll that knows Painter and I have showed up and dumped their emotional damage into the comment section. They offered nothing vulnerable or truthful about themselves but more ill-informed attacks on my character, life, and efforts to live forward.
Like Brene Brown, “I tried a couple of social-media-hurt-reduction strategies over the past two years. The first turned out pretty awful: I responded.”
I don’t do that anymore. Generally.
A year ago I would have simply lashed back and called out these interlopers, defended myself, had multiple days living in an emotional shame-based pity party and taken their words personally.
This is the cycle for living day-to-day with a Partner we betrayed, that struggles to find constructive outlets for their pain and instead vomits up what they think about those that betrayed them. They shift their pain onto us, and already feeling responsible and shame-filled, we respond as martyrs, victims, or entitled. Often we fall back onto indignity, defensiveness or stonewalling.
Regardless of their actions, because we are still struggling ourselves, and with ourselves, we contribute to a cycle that reinjures ourselves and others.
To say I don’t care would be a lie. Today it still hurts but I recognize it for what it is: hurting people, hurting people.
However, what I do know is I get to choose what I get to do with my pain. I can fight my pain by fighting them or I can recognize that Pain is my friend, reminding me that the grief I carry is real. As Mark Nepo writes in The Book of Awakening, I struggle with “how to stay open to what others feel and not to what they think.”
Pain is not wrong, it’s what I do while trying to avoid pain that causes the injuries to myself and others.
However, the other truth is what other people think of me is none of my business. Which is a difficult lesson to apply. The first step is, as my Good Doctor reminds me when I think about responding, “Consider the source.”
When I respond I treat their opinion as if their opinion has merit. I feed their pain energy by pushing my pain back. I know they are consistently wrong and yet with each of my responses, their contempt grows. They get angrier and crueler the more my pain presses back against their pain. With each clash, the energy crashes together raising the amplitude and the pitch.
It took a while for me to learn they aren’t actually interested in me, Painter, or the truth. Their actions are a reflection of their own smallness and attempt to avoid their own hypocrisy, smallness, and pain.
As such, I laughed out loud at a recent set of comments from all three of these people declaring I repeatedly ignore “the honest in-your-face reality checks that a number of your friends have tried to give.”
Also, I’m a bit unclear how this person defines “friend” because based on my experience with Warren and Kanga they were never actually friends.
With friends like them who needs enemies?
Even before this I only considered Et Al, Droopy and Birdie friends. The others weren’t even on my radar.
Add to this the repeated nonsense from these trolls and Flying Monkeys that I made “no apology to any of these people.”
Which lead to me spitting cereal all over my Chromebook.
In reality, I’ve offered privately and publicly to meet with any of these people, to listen to anything they have to say to me. I even went so far as to write each individually and offered to meet them. Several responded with threats, abuse, and contempt.
As such, I don’t feel as if I owe apologies…and with the exception of Et Al, probably never did.
However, I want to take a moment and think about how these fairweather associates behaved and make a distinction between them and my actual friends because prior to this experience I didn’t make a distinction.
As you walk this path you will discover there will be individuals that claimed to be your friend that will need to go. They will either choose to edit themselves out of your life or you will have to choose to edit them out so that you can begin to separate what is true from what they think is true.
Depending on your skillsets, life, and situation these may not be anything simple action. You may find yourself pursuing them or locked into a drama triangle. As hard as it may be to accept, to change these dynamics will require you to accept the role as a bad guy.
Change makes people uncomfortable and sometimes angry. Your change will lead you to play the role of the bad guy in their lives as they attempt not to look at their own role in the play, protect the status quo, and avoid changing too.
As several people that know all the Flying Monkeys and Painter have reminded me: “you were a far far better friend to them than they were to you because before and after you still tried to maintain a relationship.”
As such, this experience has taught me how friends behave and perhaps if I talk about it, you will find some perspective by which to choose what you need moving forward.
Lastly, as a reminder, if you haven’t heard it today: you are worthy of love exactly the way you are. Today. At this moment, even with your betrayal, lies, shames, and secret.
You are not a monster. You are not a narcissist. Your behavior does not make you unworthy of being a parent, lover, or partner. You are not wrong, broken, or garbage.
Go to therapy. Own what is true. Stay or leave. There is no wrong or right answer. It is your life. Learn to let go of the mythology others attached to you.
You can do this.See you around.
See you around.
Six Types of People that Don’t Deserve to Hear Your Shame by Brene Brown
- The friend that hears your story and feels shame for you, gasps and confirms how horrified you should be, and then there is an awkward silence. Then you have to make them feel better.
- The friend responding with sympathy instead of empathy.
- The friend that needs you to be the pillar of worthiness and authenticity and he or she cannot help because he or she is too disappointed in your imperfection because she believes you let them down.
- The friend so uncomfortable with vulnerability she scolds, “How did you let that happen?”
- The friend who’s all about making you feel better and out of his or her own discomfort refuses to acknowledge you could be crazy and make terrible choices. “You’re exaggerating. It isn’t that bad.”
- The friend that confuses connection with the opportunity to one-up you.
Don’t ever be disappointed by gossip, it’s the trade mark of fake friends. Rather be grateful that they didn’t stay long enough to do more damage.Davis Macron
The Right Messages
Here is a list of what my friends have not done:My friends have not weaponized my shame. My friends have not told me I should be done grieving because my grief makes them uncomfortable. My friends have not called my clients in an attempt to damage me professionally. My friends have not written to my doctor spreading misleading bullshit in a manipulative, self-serving, and grandiose attempt to triangulate and isolate me from support and help. My friends have not posted publicly all over social media tagging my name with a #metoo hashtag. My friends have not gone to a successful business networking group I started to help the community in which I love and lived and slandering me with wildly inaccurate accusations.
My friends have not weaponized my shame. My friends have not told me I should be done grieving because my grief makes them uncomfortable. My friends have not called my clients in an attempt to damage me professionally. My friends have not written to my doctor spreading misleading bullshit in a manipulative, self-serving, and grandiose attempt to triangulate and isolate me from support and help. My friends have not posted publicly all over social media tagging my name with a #metoo hashtag. My friends have not gone to a successful business networking group I started to help the community in which I love and lived and slandering me with wildly inaccurate accusations.
Nor have my friends tried to hurt Painter or Beatrix personally or professionally. Nor have my friends sought out strangers and associates on social media spreading rumors, lies, and half-truths about Painter, Beatrix, or me in an attempt to further divide and shame us.
My friends have not written to, or about Painter, Beatrix, or me, describing any of us as soulless, unredeemable, and dangerous cons. My friends have not offered an ill-informed diagnosis of Painter, Beatrix, or me tainted by confirmation biases, their own issues, or armchair psychology. My friends have not told me to stop talking to Painter or Beatrix because they are a bitch, dangerous, pathological, or any other nonsense.
My friends have not picked a team or encourage others to pick a team. My friends have not sought out Painter telling her what they think of her choices before and post-discovery.
My friends have not confused constructive criticism with grief trolling while hiding behind anonymous accounts, simple-minded labels, and self-congratulatory righteousness.
None of my friends have tried to insert themselves into the end of my relationship with Painter, made a play into her panties, or treated her like a victim.
Not one of my friends tried to triangulate, isolate, gaslight, manipulate, or demonize my humanity, Painter, or Beatrix’s. Not one of my friends tried to insert themselves into my relationship with Painter in an attempt to split us.
Painter’s “friends” did all these things.
Warren, Kanga, Droopy, and Birdie have. Repeatedly.
And some of them continue to do so.
As the children like to say on Facebook, they can “eat a bag of dicks.”
I’m looking for the person who loves me not despite my vulnerability and imperfection, but because of it. I’m looking for what I call my ‘move the body’ friends. I’m looking for the folks who are going to show up and wade through the deep with me… and I think it’s a myth that you should have more than one or two of those.Brene Brown
However, my friends did behave like friends.
My friends never excused anything I’ve done as justified. My friends never blame Painter or Beatrix for my decisions.
My friends took my calls and returned my calls. My friends called me and gave me someplace to stay and listen to me cry out in anguish, pain, shame, and humiliation over my self-inflicted wounds.
My friends have listened without judgment knowing they do not know the whole story and never will. My friends have given me a safe space to grieve the losses in my life. My friends never shamed me for feeling how I feel. My friends have enough self-awareness not to project their own hurt and pain on me and my selfish and unskilled behaviors. My friends show up on a regular basis and love and accept me knowing about my Ugly.
My friends have never used my shame, humiliation, guilt, or grief to prop themselves up.
My friends read my writing and stand by the fact that I’m man enough to own my behavior without throwing myself on the sword or throwing Painter under the bus. My friends recognized I have taken responsibility and gone to great lengths to make amends where I can.
My friends also remind me that there’s far more to my relationship with Painter then simply this part of the story. My friends encourage me to follow my heart and never discouraged me from loving Painter intentionally, extravagantly, or unconditionally.
My friend encourages me to greet Painter’s venging and anger with patience and understanding while reminding me of the realities of the situation and actions. My friends never sought to split Painter and me through ghost stories, fear-mongering, or armchair psychology. My friends consistently remind me of my unskillfulness and encourage me to embrace the truth of who I am and what I did.
Most importantly, two years later, my friends are still here.