The actual expression is “Just another bozo on the bus.” But I find it insulting to call myself a bozo, so I’m just not going to do it.
Anyhow, I’ve spent the week watching my partner fight with her co-counselor, which has been easy to do, since the fighting has been exclusively on email. I’ve read emails and given advice for how to take the jabs out, which is advice I am much in need of receiving. Sometimes there’s a part of me who wants to leave the jab in just because. Just because causing trouble is such fun, even though it can turn a friend into a lunatic in a heartbeat. I have been counseling my partner not to be like me. Ever.
Anyhow, as I’ve read these emails, I’ve found myself praying not to be like either of them, not to get triggered, see the other person as a threat, behave or speak unskillfully, or, to put it more bluntly, like an obnoxious asshole. And as I’m praying to whatever/whoever, I am also knowing that the chance of that prayer coming true is exactly zero. Zero, zero, zero. Probably writing this email about something my partner is trying so hard to work through is unskillful. Metta for her as she searches for a way through the land mines of fear and hurt and disappointment, as she tries to be close to someone, as she tries to figure out what belongs to her in the confusion of conflict and insanity.
I keep talking about our unevolved brains, and here it is, watching from the outside, getting to really see it. When the reptilian brain gets involved (face it, it’s pretty much always involved and often in control), we lose any sense of self mastery and we’re off into the games of one-up, control, blame, shame, judgment and all the other lovely traits our old brain uses to protect us from emotional harm in relationships.
They call it codependency in therapy, but I’d rather call it the reptilian brain. I am having an image right now of an alligator eating my old therapists. That is my reptilian brain at its carnivorous best. I don’t know which part of my brain is enjoying it so much, but I am enjoying the image. A lot. So much more fun than codependency.
Anyhow, here I am, with my reptilian brain, watching and recognizing the one-up, the I’m better than you, the here’s what’s wrong with you, the here’s how great and innocent I am of all wrongdoing except maybe one small thing which I will give you as a consolation prize. Here I am.
I’m sure if Don had lived and we had kept getting closer we would have engaged on the reptilian level. We did, just a touch, about 3 weeks before he died, for the first time. But you know, after 7 years, we could take it. After so much working together and letting each other disagree, I think we could have taken more of it, and admitting we’re all reptiles some of the time and starting to laugh about that is my idea of real intimacy.
I don’t know how my partner will crawl out of this one. I am trying to help, because it’s so interesting to be on the outside, and then to have these conversations with her about when we turn into reptiles with each other. It’s so painful for us, for the long married, because we long so deeply to just feel loved, and then these years come in which, well, that’s a bit hard to find. There’s so much at stake. And forgiveness…you have to come to this place I’m in right now, where I really know I’m just on the bus with a bunch of other reptiles who are sometimes also gorgeous and spiritual and loving, just like me. There’s no better than. There’s only with whom I can be more gorgeous than alligator.
It’s like this–I worked with a woman once, and every time we had a meeting I left with a migraine. I didn’t feel like a reptile with her. I felt like reptile food. I was definitely triggered, every time, but I couldn’t get to my own power, and even when I did it was like sliding backwards down a slope that had rocks at the bottom. I just couldn’t stand up for myself enough, and that gave me a headache. Was this woman a reptile? She was certainly very aggressive and powerful. But no matter what my opinion of her, the fact was, I couldn’t hold onto my power or my voice. I tried. And that was the problem. I tried and I couldn’t. So I ended the relationship. Which she saw as a reptile thing to do.
Oh, how scared we all are, all the time.
But the point is, there are people I can’t walk through the fire with, and no matter what’s going on with them, it’s only my business to say that yes, we’re on this bus, we’re equals, but I don’t think I’m going to sit next to you because when I do I turn into a reptile or reptile food too easily or too quickly or too often and I can’t get to gorgeous often enough.
I am trying to teach my brain to remember this. Because there is humility in knowing when someone is too much for me. When I can’t be gorgeous, only reptile. There is humility in telling someone with whom I’m often gorgeous that I’ve just turned into a reptile, and I’m sorry. I pray for humility. I pray to know how often I am wrong, and I pray to remember I am gorgeous at least as often.
Grief holds these lessons. Because when there is loss, death, trouble, what is unimportant is scraped away by the pain, and you are left with this–how can I be gorgeous just a little more often? Especially with the people I love? But also with the people I’m wanting to blame for my own inability to be my best.
I may only remember this for two more seconds, but they’re a good two seconds.
Metta for all of us. Let our hearts grow big enough to love each other in all our reptilian and strangely beautiful dark/light.