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Saying “I Love You”

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Sometimes those three words are easy to say.

…to my daughters, my friends…

Other times, even thinking about their utterance is frightening.

I yearn to tell Alaska that I love him, but I don’t.

Is it fear of rejection?

I know he won’t reject me…

If he was going to reject me, it would have been long before now. Read more

Discussion Ad Nauseam

Discussion Ad Nauseam

AtPeaceLast week I was having a huge struggle with my feelings about Mick.

I met this Dreamboat through Tinder while trying to detach from him a bit, expecting it to just be a weekend hookup. That’s not how it turned out.

After my first weekend with Dreamboat, my mother came into town for a couple of days for Thing #2’s graduation. My ex-in-laws were also in town as well as one of the girls’ cousins.

Dreamboat didn’t need much attention. He works 3rd shift and knew my family was in town so we spoke briefly on the phone a couple of times and texted a couple of times, nothing big. I paid an equal amount of attention to Mick.

Unfortunately Mick didn’t think it was enough. Last Monday afternoon he had a tooth removed and he spent the next two days in excruciating pain. I know how that feels and had spent the week prior commiserating with him about toothaches. When I wasn’t around to do that, he got upset. And, because he was deliriously in pain, he was telling himself stories that I was leaving him.

I had lunch with Mick Monday afternoon. I wanted to spend some time with him before everything started to get crazy.

After that, Mom got into town Monday night. I spent Tuesday with mom and daughters. Thing #2’s graduation was Wednesday afternoon. Mom’s flight out was Wednesday night.

It was fast and over in the blink of an eye.

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Simple vs. Complicated

FINE

As my emotions start to clear out of my head a bit, I am less confused on some things and more on others: less about TC and more about me.

Actually, TC is quite simple here. He’s not even being mean about it. He’s just being himself and I can’t fault him for that. He’s vulnerable with me in the ways he’s comfortable being vulnerable with me when he feels comfortable. It’s only confusing to me because he can be so open, but then he becomes so closed off. It’s like a switch is flipped, turning things inside of him on and off in an instant. I am not really defending him as much as stating a fact.

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A Meeting With Mr. X

A Meeting With Mr. X

Photo Credit: lanier67
Photo Credit: lanier67

Mr. X and I met briefly last week after a brief and uncomfortable text conversation. I was going to share it with you here, but it’s longer than I remembered it to be.

In short, we decided to meet so we could hash a few issues out face-to-face.

I was nervous because of some things I said to him before he left town on some family business.

We talked about our situation and how it needs to work for both of us. (I have to admit that I am really starting to like this “open communication” and honesty thing. Especially when my ‘partner’ doesn’t hate me for sharing my feelings…)

  • He agreed only to tell me about future “plans” or fun things we’re going to do if he’s at least 75% sure it’s going to happen (or 80%, I can’t remember…). Anything less than that and he has to keep it to himself so I don’t get my hopes up 😉
  • I agreed that I need to back off. I need to practice patience. He totally spoiled me at the beginning with attention (not a complaint, just an observation) and I got used to it. In fact I loved it, even though I knew that it couldn’t possibly be that way all the time.

It’s surprising how attached I have become to him in such a short time. We’ve only ‘known’ each other since the end of November, but he already knows so much about me.

Even more than Loserman did.

And Mr. X still likes me…

Getting Rid of Resentment

Getting Rid of Resentment

I have a tremendous problem with resentment and letting things go. This article helped me understand that it’s important to “turn that frown upside down”. And it’s just plain healthy to replace those hateful thoughts with tender lovingkindness. ❤

How to get rid of resentment

written by: Bodhipaksa Nov 09, 2011

Ann Lamott, in her novel Crooked Little Heart, says that holding onto resentment is like eating rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.

Resentment is seductive. We assume on some level that it’s going to help us, but it doesn’t. It just causes us pain.

This is something that just about all of us need help with.

1600 years ago, a compiler and commenter of Buddhist texts called Buddhaghosa put together an extraordinary “tool kit” of ways to deal with resentment. I was recently looking at this guidance, which is part of Buddhaghosa’s encyclopedic work on meditation, The Visuddhi Magga, or Path of Purity, and thought it was so fresh, well thought-out, and relevant that it was worth restating some of what he had to say.

Twelve techniques for getting rid of resentment

1. Lovingkindness practice

This one’s pretty obvious — if you’re a meditator at least. You can simply call to mind the person you’re resentful of, and cultivate good will toward them. We have a whole section of this site devoted to teaching the metta bhavana (development of lovingkindness) practice, so I won’t say much about that here, except that it does work! When I first started practicing meditation I had a lot of problems with resentment, and I was often surprised by how quickly my anger and resentment toward someone would just vanish.

2. Reflect that resentment is never justified

Buddhaghosa suggests that we “reflect upon the saw.”

This one needs a bit of unpacking. There’s a “Simile of the Saw” in the early Buddhist scriptures, where the Buddha says that even if bandits brutally sawed a person limb from limb, “he who entertained hate in his heart would not be one that carried out my teaching.” In other words, it doesn’t matter what the provocation is, hatred is never justified. The mind can go “but … but …” as much as it likes, but hatred remains a negative emotion that destroys our happiness, causes suffering for others, and prevents us from experiencing peace.

Pretty much all of us, though, carry around the idea that there’s such a thing as “righteous resentment.” And we assume that hatred is justified. We tell ourselves stories about how bad the other person is, and this seems to make it natural for us to hate them. What we’re not doing is taking responsibility for our ill will. It’s our interpretation of other people’s actions that makes us hate them. We cause our own hate.

Don’t take the parable of the saw literally. Of course (unless you’re an advanced practitioner of superhuman stature) you’d experience hatred toward an aggressor who was torturing you. That wouldn’t mean that you weren’t a Buddhist — but it would mean that in the moment of hatred you would not “be one that carried out [the Buddha’s] teaching.” The point of the parable is simply to undermine the idea of “righteous resentment.”

Incidentally, some Tibetan monks and nuns who have been brutally tortured by Chinese security forces have avoided developing hatred toward their tormentors by means of compassion — reflecting that their torturers are building up bad karma for themselves.

3. Winning the real battle

Hot on the heels of the advice to reflect on the parable of the saw is an admonition to reflect that in developing hatred you’re actually giving a person who hates you what they want. (This is assuming that the other person hates you, which isn’t always the case.)

What does a person who hates you want for you? Bad stuff, that’s what. Buddhaghosa points out that hatred makes you ugly, causes you pain, destroys your good fortune, causes you to lose your wealth (or not to create any, perhaps because you’re distracted), detracts from your reputation, loses you friends, and leads to a bad rebirth. This is all bad stuff.

Someone who really hated you might wish all these things on you, and here you are doing them to yourself! You’re handing your hater victory. You’re doing him or her a favor. And by getting angry at an angry person, Buddhaghosa says, you become worse than them, and “do not win the battle hard to win,” which is of course the battle with yourself, to remain happy and unruffled.

So basically, we reflect here that true victory can’t come from getting angry at an angry person. That’s defeat. Victory comes from remaining calm, loving, and equanimous.

4. “Accentuate the positive”

Buddhaghosa suggests that we think about something positive in the other person, so that you can “remove irritation.”

This works, too. Resentment doesn’t like complexity. When you bear in mind someone’s good points — even things (dammit!) that we admire — it’s harder to keep the resentment going.

5. Develop compassion

But if you can’t think of anything positive about the other person, or if they truly don’t have any positive qualities (although that’s almost impossible) then you should develop compassion toward them. In Buddhaghosa’s world view, a person with no redeeming qualities is bound for the torments of the hell realms, and is therefore worthy of our compassion. I should stress that in Buddhism the hells are not permanent and are not punishments — they are simply places where we are reborn for a while as a result of our actions. Buddhist hells are a kind of “fat farm” where we burn off our bad karma.

6. Notice how you’re causing yourself suffering

As Ann Lamott points out, resentment hurts us. Buddhaghosa offers many reflections along those lines:

If another person has hurt us, why should we then hurt ourselves? In your life you’ve had to give up many things that brought you happiness, so why not walk away from resentment, which makes you miserable? If another person has done something we disapprove of, then why do something (like getting angry) that we would also disapprove of? If someone wants you to get angry, why give them the satisfaction? You may make the other person suffer with your anger. Then again you may not. But you’ll definitely hurt yourself. The thing you got angry about is impermanent and in the past. So why are you angry now?

He’s kind of unrelenting, that Buddhaghosa.

7. Reflect that all beings are the owners of their karma

This is a common reflection in Buddhism: all beings create their own actions (kamma) and inherit the consequences of those actions. The other person may have done things that are unskillful, and those actions will cause them suffering. So what’s the point of you doing exactly the same thing, by acting out of the unskillful state of resentment? It’s like picking up a hot coal to throw at the other person. You may hurt them, but you’re definitely going to hurt yourself.

The other person, if they are angry with you, is causing themselves pain. It’s like, Buddhaghosa says, them throwing a handful of dust into the wind. They may be aiming at you, but it’s their eyes that will end up smarting.

Reflecting in this way we can untangle our respective lives. The other person’s faults, real or imagined, are no longer an occasion for us to exercise our own faults.

8. Reflect on exemplars of patience

Buddhaghosa goes a bit over the top with this one, devoting almost as much time on this method of dispelling resentment as he does on all the others put together. His approach is to remind us of various past lives of the Buddha, or jataka tales, as they’re called. These are mythological stories about the Buddha’s previous lives, as he developed the qualities of compassion and wisdom that led to his awakening.

I’ve found that being in the presence of someone who is very patient causes me to let go of my resentments. I had a good friend in Scotland who I never — not once — heard say an unkind word about anyone. Sometimes I’d be bitching about someone else, and my friend would just come in with some wise and kind word about the other person’s life that would put everything in perspective and leave me feeling a bit petty about having ranted. Even now, just calling that friend to mind helps me evoke a sense of patience.

9. Reflect that all beings have been your dearest friends and relations in a previous life

I’m not big on past lives, or in belief in rebirth generally, but if you do take that kind of thing seriously, then Buddhaghosa’s advice is to remember that because of the beginninglessness of time, every being — including those you get most pissed off with — have been your mother, father, brother, sister, son, and daughter. When that person was your mother, they carried you in their womb, suckled you, wiped away your snot and shit, and generally lavished you with love. And we can reflect, Buddhaghosa says, thus: “So, it is unbecoming for me to harbor hate for him [or her] in my mind.”

Being one of a scientific bent, and not putting much stock in reflections that rely on assuming that rebirth is a reality rather than a myth, or perhaps a metaphor, I find myself approaching this advice in a different way. Let’s take rebirth as a metaphor: change is happening all the time, and so we’re each reborn in every moment. Each moment we die and are reborn.

Each momentary contact with the world is part of this process of death and rebirth. In fact, each perception is a kind of birth. It’s the birth of a new experience, and thus of a new “us.” Each contact that we have with another being is part of this process. Each time we see someone, hear someone, touch someone, even think or someone, a new experience arises and a new being is born. So in this way, all beings that we have contact with are our mothers. Each being we have contact with in this moment helps give birth to the being that exists in this moment. And since, in our immensely complex world, the unfolding, never-ending death-and-rebirth of each being is ultimately connected with the never-ending death-and-rebirth of each other being, all beings are our mothers.

10. Reflect on the benefits of lovingkindness

You can reflect on the benefits of lovingkindness, and how you’ll deny yourself those benefits by indulging in resentment. What are the benefits? Well, it’s worth reflecting on that through examining your own experience, but here’s Buddhaghosa’s list, which comes from the scriptures: You’ll sleep in comfort, wake in comfort, and dream no evil dreams. You’ll be dear to human beings and to non-human beings. Deities will guard you. Fire and poison and weapons won’t harm you (although that seems unlikely, to say the least). More plausibly, your mind will be easily concentrated. You’ll be reborn in a pleasant realm (or at the very least the future you that arises will have more a pleasant existence than the being that would have arisen had lovingkindness not been a part of its previous existence).

Some of these are plausible. There is scientific research showing that there are health benefits, and mental health benefits, from practicing lovingkindness meditation. Friendly people generally seem to have a more pleasant experience of the world, with less conflict and more fulfilling experience of others. You’ll deny yourself these benefits if you indulge in resentment. Resentment is the saturated fat of emotions, clogging the arteries of our happiness.

11. Break the other person into tiny pieces

Mentally (not physically!) we can dissolve the object of our resentment into various elements, asking ourselves what exactly we’re angry with. Is it the head hairs, the body hairs, the nails, the teeth, etc? Is it the solid matter making up that person, the liquid, the gas, the energy?

This might seem a little silly. In fact it seemed silly to me, right up to the moment that I tried it. There had been resistance to the idea, because I thought, “Well, of course I’m not angry with any of those things, I’m angry with them — with the person as a whole. But setting that resistance aside, and just reflecting on the bits that make up a person takes you away from the thought of them “as a whole” and you temporarily can’t be angry with them!

As Buddhaghosa says, “When he tries the resolution into elements, his anger finds no foothold, like a mustard seed on the point of a needle.”

He’s right.

12. Give a gift

This one’s delightfully straightforward and earthy. If you give the other person a gift — especially something you value — then you break the dynamic of your resentment. You shake things up within yourself. You have to think of the other person as a human being with needs. You have to think about what they might like. You stop your mind from going around and around in the same old rut of complaining. You have to let go of your damned pride. You have to take a risk. You have to make yourself vulnerable.

And giving to the other person changes the dynamic of the relationship. If there’s mutual resentment, then you may shock the other person into seeing you differently.

Buddhaghosa points out that giving naturally leads to kind speech:

Through giving gifts they do unbend
And condescend to kindly speech.

Of course you may be thinking something along the lines of, “Wait! I hate this person; why on earth would I give them something?”

But that just brings up another question. Do you want to end your resentment?

Well, do you?

What have I done?

What have I done?

I have a very wise friend (actually I have a couple)… but this one and I talk frequently about spirituality and her views are very similar to mine. Neither one of is “Christian” — those beliefs do not seem to fulfill either one of our spiritual needs. But, until now, I have not met a person with so much in common with me as this. In fact, I think I have scared several people away telling them about these things that make my life a little easier to cope with.

 I believe that we are all here to serve a purpose (to “get it right” as I say). Each choice we make is like a test, for lack of a better word. Each time we make the “right” (or good) choice it’s like a gold star on our chart. Each time we make the “wrong” (or stupid) choice one of those stars comes off.

If we reach the “correct” amount of gold stars (“get it right”) by the time we die, that means we “figured out what it’s all about”. We have passed the test of our character. At this point we actually get to create and start our own universe! If we don’t “get it right” we are reincarnated again as something and given the opportunity to “try again”.

Now, mind you, the number of “gold stars” is a very incalculable and arbitrary number. In my version I still haven’t figured out who determines that “number”. But — Jesus, Buddha, Confucius and very few others are likely the only people who have passed this “test” and achieved their nirvana of a new universe.

My girlfriend believes pretty much the same thing… Except that, if we have a “do over” situation, WE CHOOSE OUR NEW LIFE EVENTS BEFORE WE ARE REINCARNATED to our new life. I had to ask her about this one, though. If we choose the stuff that’s going to happen to us, won’t that make it easier for us to “get it right”? Isn’t that cheating?

She responded, “No, it’s not cheating, because once you actually start your new life, you won’t remember anything about your previous lives. You won’t actually know what to choose at the time you need to, you just place certain experiences along your path so you can learn something important from each one of them. Hopefully, helping you to influence you toward the correct (good) choices along the way.”

Either of these theories notwithstanding, I don’t know how many times I have “done life over” in order to “get it right”, but I have a feeling that it’s already been quite a few times. What happened to me in my past lives that made me choose this path for me this lifetime? What have I done!?!?! What am I supposed to do!?!?!

I think that what I have learned most from believing in either one of these theories is that every time something new, challenging, painful, fun… happens to me and I have to make a choice or have feelings about it, I think to myself: What am I supposed to learn from this? How was this supposed to help me grow?