Not My Problem- A Little Buddha Story.
It is the middle of the night, and I am wide awake. Insomnia isn't new to me. Since my fiance’s death, I have had many sleepless nights. However they have been a rare occurrence lately, so the restlessness of the last few nights has been bugging me. I have found that writing helps. My insomnia is tied to my life. When there is too much going on, when I am stressed, or emotional I can be kept awake. Writing helps me clear the energy and usually after I write which normally involves tears streaming down my face I will feel clear. I knew what was eating at me for the last few days but out of stubbornness refused to pay it any attention, only the thing is I do not get to choose what I can push aside and what needs me to work through it. I have tried to deny the impact of this situation, I have tried to tell myself it doesn't matter, that in a few weeks I will not care one bit. That it is not worth my energy or a second of my time. My head is on board but judging by these sleepless nights my body is not getting the message. What is it that has me so rattled? Come with me as I unpack what on the surface seems like a silly facebook comment but that triggered trauma from my childhood and hopefully, by the time we get to the end I will have cleared all the emotion attached and make peace with something out of my control…. then sleep well into the morning hours.
Backstory on this. Two and a half years ago my fiance passed away. It was sudden, and we were both 29 years old. That is not what this story is about, it is just a little context to highlight that over the last few years letting go has been a massive lesson in my life. From moving out of the house we shared, to getting rid of his belonging, to moving far away to start over. From lost relationships to lost dreams, all with a lost sense of self. The losses were piled so high I got used to letting things go. I quit the master’s program I was in, I gave most of my things away, and in a dark humor sort of way when something from the life we had shared fell away all I could do was laugh. A company I co-owned was no exception. It just seemed to fall away from me, and the person I started it with kept it going. It was just like that. It just fell away, her and I stopped seeing eye to eye and letting go had become the norm for me so I let go of that as well. It coincided with the breakdown of the relationship I had had with her. Once one of the greatest relationships in my life it had shifted and we could not get back to what we once had. This was not the only relationship that has fallen away as the years have gone by. I am not who I was before Rene died, some relationships got stronger, others fell apart, and I have also met new amazing people that fill my life now. I have made peace with it all; it’s just the way. No one to blame, no one's fault, life moves us on, and things change.
Only this particular situation was different; I woke up one morning after not having any real communication in months to an email highlighting everything she did not like about me. A solid 15 paragraphs with everything from how I am a fake and a terrible friend, to how I never gave her thanks for being by my side when my fiance died. It was beyond mean, deeply personal and when I got it I could do nothing but laugh. I knew that was all her stuff. To be in a place so angry you are willing to send a once friend a two-page email stating all things you hate about them; I did not take much personally although it did feel personal. I replied kindly, a way I could be at peace with. I would not be baited. I was content with it all and moved on, however, later would receive an I love you text out of the blue and those words oddly enough, those sweet words, were my tipping point. It was too complicated for me, and as high school as it seemed to me I told her I wanted no more communication.
I worked through my emotions around it, but it never felt clear. I hated that I had to swallow the pain of getting that email. I was unwilling to defend myself to her and get into some silly fight. I am clear with who I am and know it is not my place to dictate how others are allowed to feel about me. She felt those awful things to be true, so like an ugly break up sometimes you just have to find a way to get over it yourself. Then out of nowhere, she leaves a sharp comment on a facebook post…
I read it and had a reaction I knew was so much bigger than her comment. Her words were not that big of a deal, and yet I was profoundly shaken. I sat with it and asked why. Why do I care? I already know she doesn’t think highly of me, as detailed in a fucking email, so why would I care?
Yesterday morning it hit me hard. It came to me in a flood of pain. Her comment created the same feeling of rage and violation as the time my childhood abuser walked into my adult home. He had abused me most of my childhood, and I had pushed it down, told no one, and carried it all inside. Then he walked into my house with other members of our family, and I felt violated, but what could I do? No one knew his dirty secret that I had been carrying so how could I say anything now?
I never even told anyone at that time even as an adult. I again stuffed down my pain and carried his secret and the pain for 5 more years before I told, he was tried and sentenced to jail.
So I know, it was only a stupid facebook comment. But I could not say what I wanted to say, which was ‘you have no right commenting on here. You were a bully to me, and I created a boundary, and you are crossing it.’ But there I was again, hushing myself because I did not want to be the one creating drama. I can’t say anything because to everyone else my behavior would seem way out of proportion. Just as if I had screamed at my uncle to get the fuck out of my house. I worried what others would think, how deleting her on facebook would be seen as a little hysterical when I have complete strangers on there. I thought about how I would be seen as rude, deleting an old friend for a silly little comment... Just how I was labeled the outsider for never wanting to come to family events as he walked in free as a bird. Because no reply would be appropriate because my reaction was to her insensitivity to my previous boundary and not to anything she actually said.
Only I am an adult now and know abuse is not my fault, and other people's bad behavior towards me is not something I have to keep a secret.
I was reminded of two things as I have been sorting through this. One eloquently said by one of my favorite poets Shane Koyczan about other people’s opinions of us, “Not your fucking problem.”
The other is a little more zen. The Buddha story. A teacher gave me this a long time ago, and I have never forgotten it. Thank you Kylie S.
It goes something like this:
One day when Buddha was walking through a village. A very rude and angry young man came up to him and began insulting him. "You have no right to be teaching others!!!" he shouted. "You are as stupid as everyone else. You are nothing but a fake!!" Buddha was not upset by these insults. He just smiled. The man insulted him over-and-over again, but the only reaction he could get back from the Buddha was a smile and silence. Finally, he stomped his feet and left cursing. The disciples were feeling angry, and one of them couldn’t keep quiet and asked the Buddha, “Why didn’t you reply to that rude man?” The Buddha replied, “If someone offers you a gift, and you refuse to accept it, to whom does the gift belong?” “Of course to the person who brought the gift,” replied the disciple. “That is correct,” smiled the Buddha
Quietly I have thanked her for showing me I still have a lot of work to do around the abuse I suffered as a child, and I am proud of myself for taking the time to dig deeper and understand where my big reaction came from. I am unwilling to carry the secrets. For all of us that have carried big fucking secrets for a long time apparently even little invasions on boundaries can feel like massive assaults.
Well, here we are. We have made it to the end, maybe you see yourself in this, maybe you like the Buddha story or prefer Shane's way of seeing it, either way, I wish you a good day.
I am off to bed!