As promised in last week’s post, I have a little story for you. So, I’ll be having a cup of hot tea and an almond biscotti while we sit together. Go ahead. I’ll wait while you get a cup of coffee or tea for yourself. When you get back, we’ll start with our story.
You all settled in now? Good.
Once upon a time…
So, here is how the story goes. You live in a beautiful house. You take pride in maintaining your home and yard. You fertilize and water, kill the weeds and mole crickets, and mow twice a week in the growing season. You have put in beautiful landscaping and fruit trees. Your children love to play barefooted in your lush grass and you enjoy sitting outside and enjoying the beautiful yard you have created…there is only one problem…your next door neighbor…
Your neighbor doesn’t care a bit about the condition of their yard or house. They spend no time maintaining the house or yard so naturally, there is very little grass – mostly just weeds and sand. There are a few patches of grass, but since your neighbor doesn’t mow, those patches look like they could be harvested for hay.
The problems for you are many. When you sit outside to enjoy your children playing outside you’ve gotten so that you have to keep your back turned just so that you don’t see the mess. Occasionally, your children have stepped on stickers that have spread from next door. Naturally, this doesn’t make you happy, but it doesn’t upset you nearly as much as seeing the snakes in your yard this morning! Snakes!
What to do??? You are working extremely hard to keep your yard in good shape. You sacrifice sleep on Saturday mornings and spend money on products to keep your yard as beautiful as it is. It was bad enough that your neighbor neglects his yard maintenance and you have to see his messy yard daily, but now his lack of responsibility is affecting your children’s comfort and safety and your peace of mind.
What We Can Control vs What We Can’t
Before we go further, let’s explain the analogy. Your property lines represent the realm of control and responsibility in your life. The grass, landscaping, plants, weeds, mole crickets (yuck!) and snakes (eeek!!) represent the specific things we have control of in our lives…our thoughts, our words, our actions. And our thoughts, words and actions? They show up in the things we say, the tone we use, the way we treat our children, the things we do for fun, our choices about faith… our mental health, our happiness, the things we do for fun, the values we call our own, the way we spend our time and money…these all fall under our thoughts, words and actions. In other words, we are responsible for ourselves and other people (including our spouses) are responsible for themselves. That’s it. Period. Yes, our thoughts, words and actions do influence others, but they do not control them. And other’s thoughts, words and actions influence us, but they do not control us.
How does this story and discussion apply to healing from betrayal?
It helps us to divide what we can have control of from what we cannot control. Think about this. If we are spending any time at all trying to manage something we have no control of, we are 1) wasting valuable energy and 2) wasting valuable time. We are spending time and energy trying to do something that is impossible instead of spending our time and energy on something that can be productive and helpful for us.
So, back to the story, if you are spending time trying to make your neighbor cut his grass, which is in his yard, then you are trying to manage something that you cannot control in the end and wasting time that you could be spending making your life better.
The fact is, the only person you actually have any control over is yourself…and that is not only good news, that is GREAT news! It is such great news because it means you have complete control over how you work through this difficult issue that has come up in your life and if YOU have control…that means YOU can actually do something about it. Can you go back in time and rewrite history so that this painful event never happened? Of course not, but you CAN be in charge of what you do from here to heal and move forward, either with or without your spouse.
So the first step in healing and moving forward actually contains two parts. Stop examining and mowing your neighbor’s yard and start spending more time taking care of your own! It sounds harsh but let me put it another way. Stop wasting any time trying to do something that is ultimately impossible and will wear you out (controlling another person’s thoughts, words and actions) and re-examine what it means to mow your own yard. What do you need in order to heal? What are the things that empower you to move forward? One of the best things you can do for yourself as you explore your own yard is to begin journaling. Journal what is making you mad, sad and glad. Journal the questions you would like to scream at your spouse and journal all those crazy, mixed up feelings you are having. Journal the different thoughts you are having as you go back and forth between thinking about leaving the relationship and staying. Writing is not a magic pill, but over time, it can help you clear your head and process the many confusing thoughts you are probably having.
I leave you today with a homework assignment! This is always the first assignment I give my Living Beyond Betrayal groups. Your first task is to do something good for yourself this week. It doesn’t matter how small it is, it doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time…if you love flowers, buy a bouquet for yourself at the grocery store. If you love the beach, go take a walk there. If you love reading, wander through one of the book stores in the area and pick out a new book. If you love tea, pick out a new flavor at the grocery store and set a time to sit down and try it out. Have lunch with a friend, take a bike ride, take 30 minutes to wander your neighborhood and take pictures, go see a movie, attend a yoga or zumba class… You pick! What you choose is not the important thing…the important piece is that you spend a moment exploring yourself then act on what you decide.
When you do this, you will be acting on your own behalf to begin intentionally healing. You will be taking charge of your own thoughts, actions and peace of mind. You will be mowing your own yard!