Like a lot of people today, I was talking with a friend about the death of Carrie Fisher. We reminisced that Star Wars was, for each of us, the first time we’d ever seen a movie in a theater. I was six years old. The whole family dressed up for the occasion, and my Dad drove us ALL the way to the Continental theater, a whopping twenty miles from our home in Arvada, to see it. I remember my tiny person feeling even tinier in the huge theater, all those people all around us, every seat filled, the boom of the soundtrack reverberating in my belly, and my brother clasping his hands over his ears to keep it at bay. And the feeling, seeing the huge letters on a giant screen during the opening crawl, and the whole movie, really, that something important and magical was happening, but I didn’t understand quite what it was at the time.
I am experiencing that same feeling now, one of anticipation and wonder. Though, much to the dismay of some, I’m sure, it’s not about Rogue One. Though, on a metaphorical level, it does involve light sabering the crap out of demons, personal and otherwise. When I am finished with this task, my wild hope is that the change will be the stuff of magic, and I will be largely free from these heavy burdens. As I wrote here, I vowed to disallow abusive people into my home or heart. It has been months, and it remains easier said than done. It is arduous, painful work, alienating, too. There are many forces against me in this. They are my family. They are my friends. What are you doing? How could you? Sea sickness is imminent for gosh sakes, Colleen. Quit rocking the fucking boat!
But I have already started and cannot stop, if only for my own delicate soul. I refuse to have my heart trampled, yet again, by my own idiot compassion*. I deserve better than that, truly, finally. The greatest challenge lies in the fact that the people I am excluding are people who (save one) have shown me great kindness and generosity. They’ve given me wonderful gifts, care, opportunities, a bed in their home. But they have also belittled me, the hubster, our marriage, our way of life, blamed me for their problems, tried to shame me into doing their bidding. And thusly it gets tricky. How much is okay? Do I give a second, third, fourth chance? Where do I draw the line?
Here. Right here. Now. This is why:
When I go with the status quo, and allow the abuse (however small) to continue, people still like me. Still speak to me. Still think I am good and generous and kind. But I suffer. Words reverberate, a rain of fist blows, one after another after another. I sometimes want to die.
When I rock the boat, the abuse stops, and is replaced by an eerie quiet. The silence of anger and rejection, that I could be so unkind, ungrateful. I am left, the tiny girl of my childhood, watching Star Wars in a theater alone. But wait! The hubster is there, always, because I treat him the way I want to be treated, kindly, lovingly, with dashes of silliness and great care. Now that the theater is empty, we gallop around, light sabers and blasters, the FORCE with us. We laugh. Darth Vader frightens us and we hold hands. This is better. This is good, right, and true.
Good golly, yes. Keep rocking the boat!
*From Pema Chodron – Idiot compassion refers to something we all do a lot of and call it compassion. In some ways, it’s whats called enabling.
When you get clear on this kind of thing, setting good boundaries and so forth, you know that if someone is violent, for instance, and is being violent towards you —to use that as the example— it’s not the compassionate thing to keep allowing that to happen, allowing someone to keep being able to feed their violence and their aggression. So of course, they’re going to freak out and be extremely upset. And it will be quite difficult for you to go through the process of actually leaving the situation. But that’s the compassionate thing to do.
It’s the compassionate thing to do for yourself, because you’re part of that dynamic, and before you always stayed. So now you’re going to do something frightening, groundless, and quite different. But it’s the compassionate thing to do for yourself, rather than stay in a demeaning, destructive, abusive relationship.
And it’s the most compassionate thing you can do for them, too. They will certainly not thank you for it, and they will certainly not be glad. They’ll go through a lot. But if there’s any chance for them to wake up or start to work on their side of the problem, their abusive behavior or whatever it might be, that’s the only chance, is for you to actually draw the line and get out of there.
We all know a lot of stories of people who had to hit that kind of bottom, where the people that they loved stopped giving them the wrong kind of compassion and just walked out. Then sometimes that wakes a person up and they start to do what they need to do.
Another great (and relatively short!) read on idiot compassion can be found here.