Going in Circles

around and around

Recently, my mother and I were in a taxi that got lost driving between Rhinebeck and Syosset New York.  The area was unfamiliar to us and though we were sure we were lost we were not certain until we came around a bend and saw the same weathered fallen tree that we had already passed an hour before. This morning I had a moment like that. I came around a bend in my awareness of my self and realized that I had been there before.

For weeks I had been nursing some hurt feelings over a misunderstanding with a friend. A few days ago I finally brought the whole thing up and began to talk about it.  Last night, I sat down and wrote a long email. I did not want the problem to get any bigger so I took time choosing my words, and thought carefully about what I wanted to say. I avoided any thing that sounded like blame or an accusation, and I acknowledged that I was not presenting the facts but simply my own experience. I sent the email off feeling relieved but also like I was covering new ground and doing something differently than I ever had before.

This morning I woke up to a simultaneous “personal ah ha”, and a smack myself in the forehead “what the hell was I thinking” moment. I still felt good about the email I had sent, but I realized that there was absolutely nothing new about the original problem or in what I had written the night before. Like my experience lost in the taxi, I realized that the terrain I had been traveling in was completely familiar.  It was not only a place that I had passed through frequently at other times in my life and with other people, it was actually a place I had already been with this same friend a few months before. Behavior patterns are sometimes described as loops or spirals.  In loops we go around and around continuously revisiting the same problems and patterns over and over again.  With spirals we go around and around as well, passing by and revisiting places we have been before, but in the best case scenario we spiral up as we go around, and move gradually into new realms of experiences and awareness.  All these years I was sure that I was moving in an upward spiral and it turns out, at lest in this one area, I have been stuck in a loop all along.

At a dinner recently, one of the women at the table shared that she was contemplating divorcing her husband because she realized that he would never change.  “No one ever changes, she said”.  I was offended by her comment.  After all, haven’t I changed? It feels like everything about me and my life is in a constant state of change.  I no longer yell at my kids or come unglued when something unexpected happens. I see my cup as half full now, instead of half empty and I no longer cross to the other side of the street when I see someone I know coming so that I do not have to see or talk to them.

This morning I am aware that some things may have shifted but at my core I have not really changed.   Maybe the woman was right– maybe no one ever does. I accept that certain parts of me will be my traveling companions for my entire life. I can only hope that I will continue to become more conscious of them and that they will become more familiar.  I experienced a bit of that consciousness in my “ah ha” moment this morning. I am often hurt by any experience in which someone does not have time for me.  I tend to take someone else’s busy life personally.  An inner voice reminds me that if they cared for me they would make time for me and pay more attention to me.  It is an old piece and like a merry go round travels a well-worn track.  When I listen to that voice, I believe that if I can find the right combination of behaviors, if I can do all the right things, if I can explain exactly what I want or what is going wrong, than I will finally get enough love and attention.

This morning I am hugging the little girl in me who was first ignored and who believes that there is a correlation between being loved and getting time and attention.  I am laughing and tousling her hair. My heart goes out to her as I feel with her again the confusion of feeling unwanted and alone. I know that once again this moment is about me learning to pay attention to me and making and having time for myself.  I whisper softly in the girl’s ear that I will always have enough time for her.   I take her hand and invite her to take a ride on the merry go round with me, but only one.  I assure her that although there is something comfortable in being in a familiar place, going around and around and around over and over again stops being fun after awhile

3 comments to Going in Circles

  • katie

    I love you. This is great. Cycles are natural, but can be a vortex that sucks you down, a loop that makes you dizzy or a springy thing that lifts you up. Sounds like you are making good choices for Marlene.

    This also reminds me of a story- I remember once when James and Louis were little, James was having a fit about not getting enough attention. Thing is, he was an attention hog. He would wake up early to get time with me before his brother woke up from the time he was an infant. Yet somehow, he made me believe that he got less attention than his brother. I watch the old videos now and see that the camera was very often focused on him while Louis jumped up and down in the background like Shrek. When they were older, Louis said to me, “You know how people have an attention meter? It let’s them know if they have gotten enough attention or not? Well, James’ attention meter is broken.”

  • Feigie

    The first time Hank and I ever spoke, Mar, we had an exchange about whether or not people change. He was convinced they did not and I, of course, was adamant that they do, being four months pre-grad school in psych. It took several decades to realize that Hank was right, right in the way that you are describing here. We put so much energy into trying to change, thereby reinforcing our feelings of inadequacy and not being okay. Embracing the little girl as you have done here, that is the goal. Accepting the parts that don’t change, that is the real task. And my sense is that when we do, ironically, that is when we experience real inner change. I just love that you spent the time with your little girl in a way so nurturing for her. You inspire me, here and in so many ways. Carry on. I send you heaps of love.

  • Rochelle

    Marlene, you touch my heart. Your writing is beautiful and humorous and wise. Thank you and I miss you!

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>