My very dear friend Mary, who is neck deep in year 4 of my life transition, just posted this image and the link to Elizabeth Gilbert's post on her greatest lesson from the Oprah's The Life You Want Tour.
"During Oprah's speech at the Life You Want Tour, she quotes Glinda the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz, in that fabulous moment when Glinda banishes The Wicked Witch of the West with this line: "You have no power here."
Oprah was talking about how important it is in your lives to be cognizant of where you have power, and where you do not. She said that so much of the stress and pain we bring into our lives comes from trying to interfere in other people's energy fields — trying to meddle in domains where we simply have no power."
Elizabeth goes on to talk about having "a history of getting deeply, profoundly, aggressively over-involved in other people's energy fields — losing sleep and peace over my worry and judgment about other people's lives. (Or, rather, I should say, losing sleep and peace over MY PERCEPTION of other people's lives.) Getting involved where I have no power. Neglecting my own growth and development because I'm too busy minding somebody else's business. Making myself sick with anger or disappointment or sorrow or frustration over how somebody else has behaved. Often destroying relationships because I go around messing where I have no right to be messing. (I don't care if it's out of love and concern — I still have no right to be making myself crazy by getting involved in somebody else's energy field.)"
"But now I have this new mantra in my head, one of the best lessons of the whole Oprah tour: YOU HAVE NO POWER HERE, LIZ."
I have been writing for weeks about surrendering and accepting life as it is. Reading that this was such a big message from the tour makes me feel not as alone with this problem. It feels good to know I am not the only one who has a history of "getting deeply, profoundly, aggressively over-involved in other people's energy fields."
I have made my life a big co-dependent mess of getting so involved in other people's mess that I neglect my own. It is a coping mechanism for sure, but I truly do care about people and I want to help people.
I don't feel that it has always veered towards martyrdom, but in this moment, I will own that it has been easier to focus on others than to focus on all of the fear, anger, disappointment, neglect, abuse, hurt and loss that I have stuffed into my Mary Poppin's travel bag.
I am spending time with the emotions hidden in my bag so I can really feel each of them and understand each of them, so I bring them into the light and heal them. Each time I pull out an emotion, it has less charge than the last time. Each time I pull out an emotion, it feels more like an old friend instead of a scary monster.
The ending my old life and starting this new one has been a blessing in that I no longer have anyone who can make me remain who I was, who I thought I was, who they want me to be.
Those around me know that I have a real aversion to being called my boy friend's wife. It gets really ugly, when this happens. Usually I blurt out loudly, "uhm, fuck no." I am always mildly embarrassed at my strong reaction, but the truth is I don't have good connotations with being someone's wife. It isn't because he isn't a fabulous man who I proudly recognize as my partner, but I am don't trust myself to not slide back into wife role which I haven't completely redefined in my own head yet.
I accept that along with getting over involved and taking on other people's problems as my own, I also give away my power without even being asked to. I acknowledge that the men in my life have not asked me to submit. I have done that on my own. Almost as an offering that maybe someone will choose to keep me.
I have zero experience with marriage being a good partnership. Marriage in my experience has required me to define myself once, and stay that person. To define my choices and stand on issues and not budge. To make my choices and be prepared at all times to defend them. To accept my partner as is and be happy with not having my needs met or even acknowledged. Marriage to me means swallowing my hurt so as to not start another fight. Marriage to me means not being able to cry, even in the privacy of my own home. Marriage to me means burying my emotions and thoughts so that my partner doesn't have to be uncomfortable.
Until I am certain I can hold my line in keeping my power, I won't even joke about marriage. Until a time comes when I feel solid in my definition and expectations of my partner and what marriage looks like, I want nothing to do with it. It makes my bowels go into overdrive and my gut gets really fucking loud when marriage is mentioned. The noise and my facial clenching usually kill any further discussion of marriage.
Right now my bowels are very happy with my freedom and ability to make a hard line and hard decisions if I need or want to.
I had to be the most selfish mother ever and choose to put myself first, above the perceived comfort and pretend security of my children. I gave up and lost an awful lot to gain my freedom. I am proud of myself that I no longer take my needs lightly.
Elizabeth reminds us that we have no power in anyone else's domain, energy field, or over their choices. Even when we know we are right ( ha ha ), we have no power in their lives.
I am finding that as I focus on myself, I have less interest in trying to have power in other's lives. It takes me forever to untangle myself from some of the mess's I find myself in. But it feels so strange to hear someone's problems and know I could help them fix it and force myself to keep my mouth shut. I am practicing asking, "How can I help you?"
I am finding that the people who I get most sidetracked by rarely have an answer to this question. They just want to vent, not brainstorm the problem.
I have to have tools to learn. Asking "How can I help you?" is a good tool.
Next, I have to take a deep breath and accept that they are not listening to me even when they say they want to brainstorm. Acknowledging this helps me to not be disappointed when they choose a stupid option that from experience I know will not work. Or after for-e-ver, they accept the option you suggested in the first place. In my experience it takes someone hearing a new concept or radical idea two or three times before their brain can even really "hear" it.
Another tool is learning the art of distancing myself from the outcome.
Another tool I am learning is to feel that "gut feeling." For the first time in my adult life, I can now feel when my "gut feeling" is speaking to me. It feels like anxiety and panic. That feeling in my life means I am compromising who I am or that I am taking on someone else's problems and stress.
I don't get anxiety or panic when I am true to myself. I get these feelings when I am not focusing on what is in my control. I get these feelings when I am trying to sort through my stress and I can't make myself set aside the parts that "aren't my problem" from what I really have control over. I am having to do a lot of quiet time to hear my gut and not my guilt.
I have a core group of friends, that I now call without hesitation when I need their time & brains. When I can feel myself losing my power or when I have become so focused on someone else's problem that I have claimed it as my own, I turn to these very trusted friends. They know I am not asking them to tell me to be heartless, but they know I have a difficult time separating what is my part of the problem and what is totally out of my control. These friends do not judge me or the situation. They just help me sort the mess out. With help, I can lay it all out, identify what is under my control and what I have to let go of as it is not mine.
My hope is that each time I walk through this process with my friends, that I am learning the skills to do it on my own. I feel like I am also learning to spot the traps I fall into with regularity. One of those traps is not being
"cognizant of where you have power, and where you do not." Oprah
Learning where I have power and where I don't is huge to me creating the life I want to live. Learning to focus primarily on my power without feeling guilt is a big work in progress. It is a lesson that I believe will get easier the more this "muscle" is used.
I know that part of my life purpose is to share information and guide others, so I am sure I will have plenty of opportunities to practice being kind, sharing what I have learned, and then stepping back and allowing people to find their own power, in their own time, or not.
Thank you Mary for sharing Elizabeth's post with me!