Website and blog for Lindsay Marks, author of Daddy Issues

Archive for the ‘Identity’ Category

Quirks

Quirks. We all have them. Some of them are considered “normal,” meaning no one comments on them if they come up. Say the quirk of not eating broccoli, for whatever reason. No one will raise an eyebrow about that one. But other quirks elicit double takes, like “I can’t stand buttons,” or “I love ketchup on my cereal.” Who knows where these quirks come from?

Then there are the quirks associated with sexuality. What is normal, what is harmful, and who decides? If I say I like something that makes you uncomfortable, are you honor bound to “fix” me? Or, am I supposed to talk you into doing it until you get used to it? How do we accept each other the way we are on issues that make us squirm?

How much is a partner supposed to try things that the other partner likes if the thing in question is an actual turn-off? Is it okay in a loving relationship to simply not satisfy our partners in those areas? To say “no” to some things the other person wants? We’re supposed to respect ourselves first, so you could make a case for that. On the other hand, is it healthy to deny one’s desires for the sake of a relationship that is strong in every other way? To never bring it up or express a yearning for something we’ll simply never get? What do you do with that yearning? Or, as in things like movies or family holidays, could it be as simple as taking turns?

I love this quote from Gretchen Leary’s “A Call for Compassion“:

I can handle your quirks. Can you handle mine?

My hope is that a strong relationship would eventually be able to accommodate all desires of both partners, at least in some form. True unconditional love would accept and in fact strive to fulfill the partner’s desires even at one’s own (temporary) expense. This, at least, is my ideal. I wonder how often it happens?

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Which crime is worse?

I’ve been a news hound since right about 9/11, but the uncovering of horrific crimes in recent weeks has made me rethink that policy. I’m finding some of these stories so disturbing that I’m considering shutting it all off altogether. It’s taken me a little while to get at what’s really troubling me. It could be that I’m no better than them.

Boston bomber. Cleveland rapist. Which is the worse crime? The 19-year-old who in a few moments killed three people (including a child), maimed dozens, and threw a city into panic mode, or the 52-year-old who kidnapped, tortured, raped, and caused the miscarriages of three people for ten years?

Both of these crimes are beyond the pale. How do we measure the evil? By the harm caused? By the number of people affected? By cataloging every single moment of pain, fear, anger, hatred, and loss their actions caused? Or are we also horrified by the depth the perpetrators allowed themselves to sink into darkness? How far did they have to sink to become the kind of person who could do these deeds?

Yet, if they are that sunk in darkness, are they not as trapped and destroyed as their victims? I think my own revulsion comes not so much from facing the effects of the deeds, tragic as they are, but from trying to understand the mindset of those who would do them.

We assume they sunk there by choice. We assume, therefore, that we have the right to punish, to wreak revenge, to cause the same amount of suffering that they did. But can we ever fully punish such deeds? And even if we can, would we not be going as far down the path of darkness as they have?

I’m asking myself how many times in life I’ve allowed myself to go down the path of darkness—so far down, that I hurt myself. So far down, that I hurt others. I’ve definitely gone far enough down to lose my empathy in my obsession with whatever wrong or hurt had eclipsed my life for that moment. How hard was it, on those occasions, for me to get out of that darkness? Hard. It would require not just sheer strength of will but also a shift in my perception of myself. I had to redefine myself as in the light. I had to remember that the overall reality of my life is to be in the light. This was often very difficult. And, I had the mental tools, some strong support, and a basic faith that light was where I belonged. For those who do not have those tools, I wonder how hard, if not impossible, it is to pull out of it.

A couple weeks ago, I had a fight with the man I’m dating. It was over something trivial, something temporary in the process of getting to know each other. But I allowed it to get under my skin. I allowed myself to sink so far into my anger that I did not notice how I was punishing him with my coldness. I felt completely justified as I stewed over what was the briefest of moments in an otherwise strong relationship. It took several hours for me to snap out of it. Besides just cooling off, I had to notice that I was going someplace emotionally that I didn’t want to be. I had to choose to turn around, to remember love. Then, when I could focus on him again and empathize with his feelings, I found out I’d hurt him. It wasn’t until then that I could experience and express the appropriate sorrow for my actions. And only then, could we finally make progress together on the issue.

But what if I’d stayed in my anger? What if I’d stayed in that darkness? It was a choice, after all. I could have. Would I have been any better than the perpetrators in Boston and Cleveland?

The perpetrators of Boston and Cleveland sunk into darkness and chose to stay there. We have that same choice every day.

Notice the darkness. Turn on the light.

Love is a decision

A friend who has read my book Daddy Issues recommended this article to me:

Why Some People Hate Sex: the Fascinating Psychology Behind Sexual Revulsion

It’s a terrific, eye-opening article. I found much of it moving and instructive. For example:

The Latin adjective intimus means “inmost, deepest.” So real intimacy means, first of all, that both partners listen deep inside–i.e., get to know their inner worlds of emotion, desire, and vulnerability–and then reveal what they’ve learned to each other in an atmosphere of loving acceptance.

This is the scariest place for many people. In my own relationships, I’ve found when I’m crawling the walls and needing to reveal something deeper, often my partner doesn’t want to go there. Or, when he has a moment of despair, I misinterpret it and take it personally. It’s only when both parties can agree that they will do their best to meet that need whenever and however it comes up that the relationship can deepen and grow. Love becomes a decision, not merely an emotion.

A few years back, the book Love-Making from the Inside Out, by Dr. Bill Cloke, transformed my attitude about relationships. I had thought that I had to be perfect, to have all my issues settled and all my neuroses handled before I could expect anyone to love me. Dr. Cloke’s book taught me instead that it’s in our moments of weakness and vulnerability that we can feel the deepest and highest love. A love partnership is when both make the commitment to keep the love flowing when one or the other needs it, not merely being okay with the person when they’re totally fine.

My last relationship failed because while one of us was willing to make this commitment, the other admitted they were not. There was nowhere further we could go after this discovery. We couldn’t get any closer. It saddened me because in many ways it was the best relationship I’d ever had.

So my challenge to myself is: Am I available to hold someone when they’re going crazy? Am I willing to be there when my partner is defeated and hurting? Will I stay by his side when he’s filled with self-hatred or internalized anger? Will I listen and try to understand his childhood phobias without trying to change him?

That’s the love I want. And I think it’s the love we all need.

Shame on me?

Happy New Year, everyone… am now back from the constant party that is December. Hope your holidays brought you peace and joy.

At an inspirational business networking meeting last night, one of my fellow attendees spoke compellingly about where she’s found herself in her career. After several decades becoming well-known for what she does, she still hasn’t achieved full-on reliable cash flow and success. She’s a freelancer in a very competitive field, and even though she’s received awards and every door is open to her, she hasn’t yet hit on that one startling success that will guarantee her security for life. And, sitting there before our little group, she admitted to something I also wrestle with: shame.

I get caught in this trap myself. Here I am, a supposed grown-up, yet I still struggle to feed and clothe myself. At this stage in life, I should be thinking wistfully about retirement and years of ease — or at least, that’s what the prior generation trained me to expect. It doesn’t look like my life will ever go that way. What did I do wrong?

I did make a decision several years ago to follow my dream. In the sense of not yet starving and being able to live in an area I love, I’ve succeeded. But I will never be able to stop. My life doesn’t sport the accoutrements of many of my contemporaries. I’m not wanting for anything, but I’m not living a life of ease, either. Should I be ashamed?

One of the other attendees at the event last night pointed out that we’re all caught up in the maelstrom that is our country’s adjusting economy. She reminded us not to take our personal situations personally. We all agreed that the requirement to downsize, to simplify, to hone in on what we really need to be happy and healthy has strengthened us in recent years. When I think about how much money I wasted in earlier years pursuing things I didn’t really want because I thought I was supposed to want them, I now shake my head.

Yes, things have been tight. I’ve had to make choices and forgo things that before I could have gotten easily. But I’m running lean. I’m tougher. I know what I’m made of. Very little fazes me at this point; I now know how little cash it takes for me to be happy. I suppose then that I’m the consumer-culture’s nightmare.

When the economy does turn around, as it seems like it’s poised to do, I’ll be armed with the knowledge that I don’t need what I thought I needed. I will be much less inclined to waste, to over-indulge. I’ve lived without it for so long, and I’m lighter for it. Why take it back on?

So in 2013, I’m leaving behind the inclination to feel ashamed I haven’t achieved the worldly wealth I’d been raised to expect I’d have by now. I’ll embrace the fact that following my dream has brought me a different kind of abundance. Perhaps it doesn’t fill my bank account, but it does fulfill my life. And I’ll be prepared, when the time comes and the economy turns around, to hold onto what I’ve learned rather than slipping back into thoughtless consumption.

Shame? No way. That’s pride.

About the, you know, sex…

I wrote to my dear older friend to tell her about launching Daddy Issues. She’s someone I’ve known for years and really respect. She’s also the matriarch of an astonishing family and one of the most spiritual people I know. So, I had to warn her a little about the, you know, sex.

She wrote me this:

Whoo Hoo, yippee, hooray for you… I’m proud of you… Keep in mind that our sexuality, explicit or otherwise, is part of our humanness and should be celebrated, especially when we come to terms with, AND WRITE ABOUT, it… Your writing, it seems to me, is a blessing and a step forward. It’s your unique take on life. Now, go bask in the bounty of good all around you, and that includes your talent…

So grateful for that vote of confidence! And for the truth that I believe as well: that we should celebrate our completeness, see ourselves as whole, not as bits and pieces where some parts are good and other parts are bad.

It’s all good.

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