A.W.A.R.E.

My first husband never took responsibility for his behavior or anything that happened in his life. He spun lie after lie to cover up his bad choices. Funny, I was one of those bad choices myself. I chose to, well, I made the choices I made and I have had to live with them. I have spent my entire adult life feeling like I am paying for the sins of my youth. I mean I am really good at making bad choices. I’m also really good at taking responsibility for my choices.

How small behavior changes can have a ripple effect
Don’t Underestimate the Ripple Effect of Your Actions

That’s part of what this journey I am on is really about – figuring out why I do what I do, even when really deep down I know it’s not what I should do. We all have moments like that. Some make huge impacts on our lives immediately. Others are like a tiny pebble dropped into a pool of water. The ripple effect can be major sometimes.

I guess I am super thankful God has the capacity to forgive and show us grace and mercy. Now if I could just do that for myself… Learning who I am through the Enneagram, I’m hoping, will allow me to see who I am through God’s eyes and give myself a better understanding of me, and those around me. I am hoping I will be able to have compassion for myself, and more for those around me when we run into differences. I hope to be able to show grace and mercy to those around me as well. And eventually, believe I am worthy of forgiveness myself. And forgive others more quickly as well.

Just knowing does not change our behavior

I recently took a class on-line called The Science of Well-Being through Yale University. Something we talked about in week 2 was the misconception that simply knowing is not enough to change behavior. We have to actually put that knowledge to work – turn it into an action – before we can change our behavior. That’s what I want to do, figure out what action I need to take to change the behaviors I don’t like that I do.

When my kids were little, we had a family counselor come to the house every few weeks to help us with some issues we were having. I was a single mom and young and trying to juggle it all on my own. It was hard. I was always tired, both physically and emotionally. So asking for outside professional help seemed to be a good idea.

One time the counselor was working with us on breaking a behavior cycle that wasn’t the most positive. He asked us to think about what was going through our minds right before things got crazy? What did we notice was happening to our bodies? These were the signs to watch for so we could attempt to break our pattern. When we noticed these things happening, we need to work on removing ourselves from the situation and go away from each other to calm down. Then we could come back and try to talk things through more calmly. A better choice and different pattern.

If you see the pattern, we can change the behavior

Noticing those physical changes in our bodies would allow us to take control of our behavior and make the changes we wanted to see happen. Warning signs, if you will. It’s like watching for a tornado. If you know the signs, you can go for safety and survive the storm. My hope is learning about myself through the Enneagram will help me see those patterns and make the changes I’d like to see in my own life.

Back to The Enneagram Type Three book, In Day 2, Beth talks about, when something is happening that we would like to change, think of the word AWARE:

  • Awaken – notice how I am reacting in my behavior, feelings, thoughts and body sensations. Just like the counselor said to do all those years ago. He was a really smart guy. If I can find these signs, I can train myself to respond differently to what ever is happening around me.
  • Welcome – be open to what I might learn and observe without condemnation and shame. For me, SHAME is a huge issue. My behavior is widely motivated by trying to avoid things that bring me shame. And I’m not even Catholic!! I need to ask myself, what would be so terrible if I did this differently this time? What do I have to lose? What’s the worst thing that could happen? Because if I do what I usually do, I already know I don’t like that outcome.
  • Ask – ask God to help clarify what is happening internally. Praying. It’s just that simple.
  • Receive – receive an insight and affirm your true identity as God’s beloved child. And then get out of my own way, be quiet, listen and do what I know I should do. Be brave. Philippians 4:13.
  • Enjoy – enjoy my new freedom from old self defeating patterns of living. What a relief??!!

It sounds so simple. If only. It’s working to change 50 years of habits. That’s what is so challenging. But it’s OK. It’s what I want to have happen. And even if I don’t get it right the first time, there will be other times to try again. And someday I will get it right and then there will be times that I mess it up again. As long as I keep trying, I can do this.

There are major life events that I wish I had mastered this concept before they happened. My life would be so different now. Part of me wished I didn’t have to go through those things. Another part of me is really glad that I did, because it’s made me who I am today, and I really like who I am today. It’s wonderful that God has been able to gift me so many amazing opportunities in spite of myself. Mostly I would love to take back the pain and hurt I have caused for those around me. I suppose those moments shaped them as well. The good news is, today is a new day and I can move forward and work on being a better person.

One thing I can say, I have a great life. Amazing family and friends. And a God that always loves me.

Behavior that shows me love

So if you’d like some insights on how to love me, here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Reassure me by telling me you like me and like being around me
  • I love to hear how proud you are of me and my achievements
  • When I’m working, please don’t distract or interrupt me. Yes, I have ADD.
  • Feedback is always welcome as long as it is not overly critical or judgmental. I will get defensive and your words will fall on deaf ears.
  • I am the best me when my things in my life are harmonious, tidy and peaceful. Yes, I get distracted and make messes – but eventually I do clean them up. Too many messes over whelm me and I just can’t.

What are some ways you feel loved?

forgiveness

What does forgiveness mean? Here’s what the online dictionary says:


for·give·ness/ˌfərˈɡivnəs/Learn to pronounce noun: forgiveness; plural noun: forgivenesses

  1. the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven.”she is quick to ask forgiveness when she has overstepped the line”

Origin

Use of the word FORGIVENESS over time


I hate it when a definition uses itself or a form of itself in the definition… Not helpful. So I looked up forgive and here’s what I found:


for·give/fərˈɡiv/Learn to pronounce verb: forgive; 3rd person present: forgives; past tense: forgave; gerund or present participle: forgiving; past participle: forgiven

  1. stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.”I don’t think I’ll ever forgive David for the way he treated her”
  2. stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for (an offense, flaw, or mistake).”he was not a man who found it easy to forgive and forget
  3. cancel (a debt).”he proposed that their debts should be forgiven”
  4. used in polite expressions as a request to excuse or regard indulgently one’s foibles, ignorance, or impoliteness.”you will have to forgive my suspicious mind”

Phrasesone could be forgiven — it would be understandable (if one mistakenly did a particular thing).”the arrangements are so complex that you could be forgiven for feeling confused”Origin


Spending this time by myself, I am purposefully looking inward and discovering who I am as an individual. Now, at 50 years old, you would think I would know who I am. I do not. I have always, happily, been a part of someone else my entire life.

I was my parent’s daughter. I was born and lived with my parent until I became…

My friend’s roommate. I went off to college and we had the best of times sharing a dorm room until I became…

My husband’s wife. I, after all, went to college to get my MRS. And I did. I just didn’t pick a very good mate. I’m thankful I picked who I did, as because of that relationship I learned empathy for abused and battered women. I also became…

My children’s mother. I found myself, after divorcing that abusive man, a single mom and doing the best I could. Comparatively, I did really well. Though most days I didn’t feel like it. My children have grown up and become amazing humans that I am so proud to call my children. They are married and have beautiful lives. That gave me the freedom to go and find a new love of my life and I became…

Someone’s girlfriend. And I loved every second of that. I truly thought I had finally met my match. We were so happy. We have such similar likes and dislikes. We rarely argued, let alone had a fight. It was bliss. But then one day he decided to tell me he had been lying and pretending all that time. And in the blink of an eye, I became…

Just me. For the first time in my life, living all alone. After a few months of grieving the loss of that wonderful image of a life, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I still have my mom and my children and their families in my life. I am just not living with any of them. For the first time in my life, I can be selfish and do exactly what I want to do when I want to do it, exactly how I want to do it. Within reason. And it’s so strange. And I like it.

Given this time to look at my behavior over the span of 50 years gives me good memories and bad memories. Some of the bad memories I created myself. No, let me rephrase that, nearly all of the bad memories I have created myself. I only have myself to blame. I’m not ready to share all the details. I can share that I have some forgiving to do. To myself.

Forgiving is hard. Period. But it’s the right thing to do. Always. It says so in the Bible.


Proverbs 17:9 (RSV)
He who forgives an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter alienates a friend.

Matthew 6:12 (RSV)
And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors;

Matthew 6:1415 RSV)
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.


I need to forgive others. God forgives me. All anyone has to do is just ask, right?

Then why is it so hard to forgive myself? I mean, for the most part, I am pretty quick to forgive others. And with my memory as terrible as it is these days, it’s super easy to forget what someone did to begin with.

I always remember what I did.

So that should make it easy for me to forgive myself. Right? Not so much.

One of the things I am going to forgive myself for is picking bad husbands. Each time, yes there were 2, they were completely different. One a little better than the other in some ways. Even my last boyfriend was a huge improvement from my husbands. Thus thinking he was “the one” that I would spend “the rest of my life” with. Well, had he been honest about who he was, he would have been. Now, good for me for making better decisions. Good for me for not repeating the same mistake more than once. I cannot control the bad character on my last boyfriend. However, I would like to figure out how to see that coming next time so I don’t repeat that same mistake again.

Another thing I am going to forgive myself for is hurting other people’s feelings. Now, when I realize I have done this, I usually try to say I’m sorry to the person I have wronged. You know, kinda like one of those 12 step things. It makes sense that I should admit that I have done wrong. Sometimes it takes a while for me to realize what I did was wrong. Which means sometimes I can’t find the person to say I’m sorry. Sometimes I can.

Once I spent a good bit of time hunting down an old boyfriend to tell him I was sorry I broke up with him and that I hoped he could forgive me. I was in a really weird and bad place and it’s a super long story but honestly, I look back and don’t even feel like I was living my actual life at the time. I feel like I was possessed for something. I was completely out of character and not just for a day or a week it was for months. My behavior at that time completely altered my life. My ego wants to think that everything was supposed to happen that way so I could be on the path I am on now. Truth of the matter is, I don’t know what I was doing. And I really hurt him in the process. So a number of years later, the internet became a thing and I was able to find him and send him a letter apologizing for what I did. He actually called me and basically told me he forgave me. It made me feel really good that he accepted my apology.

There was another time that a friend, who is, let’s just say, on the codependent side and super long story short, I had to end the friendship because she was causing way too much stress in my life and all of my subtle hints just weren’t working. I ended up writing her a letter letting her know how neurotic and selfish she was being and how it was interfering with my life. Of course that friendship ended. Truth be told, I don’t remember the details of the original letter I sent her. I just remember I told her my opinion of her overall behavior and not in a sugar coated way. Years later, I ran across her old number and text messaging was a thing now. I sent her a long text apologizing for my behavior and asked if she could forgive me. She ended up calling me and saying she could. We started a friendship up again. However, she holds that letter over my head all the time. My ego thinks the letter is still on the forefront of her mind because she knows what I said are things she knows she does but doesn’t like about herself and isn’t willing to work on on her own. But that’s her issue, not mine. The fact that she would even bring that old letter up once makes me question our friendships authenticity. To me, saying you forgive someone, but you really don’t, is worse than not actually forgiving someone at all.

And that’s what I find myself doing to myself. Often.

Over all, I think I can forgive myself for those bad choices. I am going to write down in my goal list, “I have forgiven myself for the bad choices in men I have made in the past.” and remind myself of this daily. Some day I will feel it. Even if I don’t feel it right now. I’m not saying that I shouldn’t continue to own the behavior. I should. And when I do, I work on making decisions that will help me not to do that same behavior again. I am also going to remind myself, when I doubt my worthiness of forgiving myself, that I made those choices in that moment because I am human, and my human side was showing. I can’t go back and do any of it over, I can only move forward with better choices today.

In case anyone else is struggling with this issue as well, here are some sources I found on the web that you might enjoy reading as well: