Mi ha-ish hechafetz Chayyim, Ohev yomim lirot tov?
Who is the one that has a passion for Life, loving every day, seeing the Good? (Psalm 34:13)
The day Figaro died, I chanted this prayer for him. He sat and listened, purred as usual. Did he know it was his last day? I don’t know – but my boy enjoyed every day to the fullest, regardless. So while I chanted, I wove in this promise: that from him, I would learn to enjoy my own life. I would stop caretaking others, and people-pleasing; I would raze the foundations of my childhood conditioning, and I would rebuild, slowly and carefully, my life from my own center, consulting no one.
This isn’t easy for someone who has lived a life solely based on serving others. If others were at peace and happy, I felt my purpose here fulfilled. I could sense when they weren’t. I drained my essence continually, patching, mending, holding space, listening, sensing, observing, learning – and there was also a profound sadness that came along with observing when someone felt unsafe socially. I wanted to protect those ones; I wanted to give them safety by saying “I accept you. I love you, with all your flaws.”
This led me into romantic relationships with the wounded. I could see the little-boy innocence, fear peeking out of their eyes every now and then, and my protectiveness drove me. It was powerful beyond words, the inner lioness who wanted to care for, love, and heal these men. There were three only, because I am monogamous and fiercely loyal, but it was enough for me to see this pattern of self-abandonment in order to caretake others. I over-used my compassion, and brought understanding to the times they engaged in cruel behavior and words toward me. But if a little boy is wounded, this kind of understanding and unconditional love has them lash out even more. Has them grow to despising. Mommy is responsible for all my anger; put the darkness I feel on her, and let her carry it all.
If you understand what I have written thus far, this post is for you.
I understand now why someone would tell the world she is “self-partnered.” This last relationship, and the betrayal that shocked me to my core, has sealed shut any – at all- interest in me for romantic relationship. The idea repels me on a level I can’t seem to explain enough to the opposite sex.
I have experienced that my inner conviction, my complete solidity that I am only interested in focusing on my own life now, has drawn men in droves. The younger ones have been, surprisingly, kind and sweet, able to take the word “no,” and remain friends. The older ones don’t seem to be able to really hear my no. They persist. I think somewhere in the ’80’s, we taught men that no didn’t mean anything at all when it came from a woman.
And so, I did a ritual in which I married myself. I made vows. I had still been carrying fear that I would self-abandon and put a man’s needs first, and make excuses for terrible behavior.
But since I also know this about me: that I keep vows at all costs,
I finally, at last, made vows to myself.
I had the rings from my past intended marriage, of course, and these were resized for the other hand. They represent the biggest lesson of my life. Broken promises, and a love I believed in that was unconditional love on my part, and deceit on his. They are a reminder to me that a man’s word means nothing, and I must observe his actions. Not make excuses for those actions, but observe them with clinical detachment. My heart and life are worth this; I believed a man’s word, and it changed on a dime. These rings he was adamant were mine “no matter what,” and then – since apparently love and keeping his word wasn’t enough – given in compensation for the many thousands of dollars my parents had already paid for wedding ceremonies which were, last minute, not going to occur.
Later, he then threatened me for these rings, all words and promises forgotten, saying they were his “Property.” This is what a man’s word is worth. This is how lasting it is. I wear this reminder now on my hand, and will do for the rest of my life. (NO, I am not saying “all men” are incapable of keeping their word. I am saying – to be safe, one must observe actions of men and women. Actions! One day, maybe I’ll marry the man who keeps 98-100% of his word. 😉 )
The rings I “married” myself with and made my vows with belonged to both grandmothers. On my Mother’s side, and on my Father’s. (incidentally, I also wear my father’s wedding ring and my mother’s. Yeah, I love family. I am grateful for them – more than I can say.)
I had my paternal grandmother’s ring coated in rose gold, which gives rise to the main point of this blog: the rose gold rule.
When you’re a person who wears rose-colored glasses, seeing the good in the people around you, red flags just look like flags. Your rose lenses cancel out the warning color. This is a beautiful gift to have, because personalities of others and acquired damage during this lifetime are not who that person actually is. We tend to define ourselves by our surface personalities and learned behaviors, but beneath that is someone’s soul-level essence. Being able to see that is a gift I tried to deny and correct, in the early days of my hurt. For a long time, I kept seeing the good in the latest ex, and worked to maintain a friendship – until the disregard of me went too far, and I saw that this kindness was entirely one-sided, and had been for quite a number of years. The devastation of seeing how I was discarded and disregarded had me wishing to change and remove my rose lenses. But dwelling in suspicion and self-protection isn’t my nature. I love people too much.
So when I did my ritual, I chanted again “The Sea Lion’s Question” (which is now Figaro’s chant,) and I accepted that I am someone who will always see the good.
To stop trying to remove my rose lenses eased a lot of pain in my heart. We really need to accept ourselves as we are, and work with what we have.
Yes, as I mentioned, I am razing the foundations of the life I’ve built on people-pleasing, but once you reach bedrock, at the end of it all, you’re still you.
Evven ma’asu habonim ha’y’tah l’rosh pinah
The Stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. (Psalm 118:22)
My rose-colored lenses became my cornerstone. Once my greatest weakness, it has now become a strength. I have accepted that my deepest drive is to bring healing to others, to help them accept and love their own human flaws. It is why I became an actor; it is why I write. If we could only realize we are ALL human, and the things that embarrass us, the things we hide from each other, are shared by all, wouldn’t we then be able to stop judging? Wouldn’t we then be able to connect and have compassion for ourselves and for the others we meet along the way?
This has been my question since I was a teenager, and struggled with such crippling social anxiety, I couldn’t eat in public, or talk on the phone; I couldn’t do things that other people didn’t even think twice about. During school at Juilliard, I would take my meals up in the elevator to my room. I ate in the cafeteria maybe once or twice my entire first year, and when I did, I was such a mass of nerves that I was sick afterward.
So I had to examine this, and I had to learn. Accepting my own humanity, learning to celebrate and shine light on the places that were fraught with embarrassment, was the gift that Juilliard, and RADA after it, gave to me.
“What are you afraid of?” They asked. It was the continual question I was faced with. They threw me onstage naked, and mostly naked, thinking they could expose the fear-places, but it wasn’t in my body. It was embedded deep in my shame of being human.
Lear, IV.VI; 125
GLOUCESTER: O, Let me kiss that hand!
LEAR: Let me wipe it first; it smells of mortality.
Once we accept our humanity, and all it comes with, we are set free. I was set free of eating disorders, of seeing food as “the enemy,” of the anxiety around smelling like a human (I still can’t stand the stank that happens after a day in Disneyland, though…) of the potential embarrassment around any social gaffes that might arise…
all of it. Once I had developed compassion – and even love – for all of that, I was set free to love people. My newfound freedom came at a steep price, as I still was operating with a non-updated operating system. My old OS told me that while I loved and cared for others, and had great compassion for their shadows, it was my JOB to love them, and having boundaries for myself equated to rejection of others.
Every time we deny or ignore our needs in order to please others, every time we fail to create and maintain a boundary, we are whispering to our innermost selves “their needs are more important than yours.”
What happens then is our self esteem crumbles a little bit every time.
We then become dependent on others’ approval for our self worth.
We then, over time, become dependent on their seeing and appreciating how we care for them – because at that point, our entire identity is wrapped up in the value we have in others’ eyes, and that value only exists if we are recognized as a support and caretaker.
So. When I married myself. (haha. that sounds so corny, but try it, it’s so freeing.) I came up with what I call “The Rose Gold Rule.”
We’re all used to the Golden Rule, right? Some of us have been carrying that thing around and living by it so staunchly, we’ve fallen into harm.
Treat others the way you wish to be treated
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,
Love your neighbor as yourself,
there are quite a few variations. In Hebrew, it is phrased in the negative: Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man.
Regardless – those of us who need to learn what I have spent this entire blog rambling an introduction to, and what I am about to lay out, needed a new ADDENDUM to the rule.
First: the very important distinction. YOU GET TO LOVE OTHER PEOPLE. If you are an empath or a kindhearted person or any of the other words used to describe someone who just plain cares,
stop trying to force yourself to remain angry with people you can no longer connect with, for whatever reason. Anger is your armor, your protection, isn’t it. They can’t harm you again, if you keep reminding yourself that you had better not be suckered back into believing the best – so you should remain angry, yeah?
OH, HELL NO.
Anger is a secondary emotion. Underneath it is usually either fear or sadness. Maybe both, if someone you loved didn’t see your goodness, and discarded you, as happened to me.
Anger was my protection, my assurance that I wouldn’t stay tied to that person, or give any more years of my life to “pining” for him or waiting. Anger was my insurance. That I could move on to another relationship.
Do you see the flaw, here?
Carrying anger keeps me tied with a toxic bond. Carrying an anger fence would ensure that when, one day, I do open my heart to romantic relationship again, I would still have that old story, and it would be placed onto my new partner. My psyche would still be warning me, and the warnings would just wear a new face. Nope, oh hell no.
When I married myself (haha…that cracks me up so much every time I write it…) Part of the vows were that I love myself completely as I am.
I love that I love other people so much. That I see the good in others had me create a vow that protects me. This vow is: I get to love others, but I will not support and enable their damage. I will not carry their baggage, as I have my own to carry.
I will work on myself with self-compassion, and with the same kind of forgiveness and tenderness with which I view others’ damage and hurt places.
I believe we are all in this world trying to do our best. I also believe there’s an addition to this which it took me all these years, a shattering relationship, and three therapists to learn: and that is the vital importance of boundaries. I have limits now. They are strong. They don’t need to be enforced in anger. In fact, they *remove* anger. If anger was the signal that my boundaries and needs had been trampled, oh, two miles back, well, if I know I will hold my boundaries, I do not need the anger at all.
Anger is not where my strength dwells. Love is.
Which brings me, at last, to the Rose Gold Rule.
for those of you who are still reading ;), to whom this applies, you can go on keeping that golden rule, and good for you. But we need an addition, because we allow ourselves to be treated badly, due to compassion with the damage that causes the harmful behavior.
Rose Gold Rule: I will not allow myself to be treated in a way I would never treat someone else.Tweet
yeah, I use the word “never” quite consciously. It’s an absolute, and it’s a word that usually signals that we’re speaking from a very young part of self.
THIS IS A YOUNG PART OF SELF that needs to be spoken to, quite firmly.
At times during my relationship, I found myself actually gasping in surprise, thinking, “I would never treat a human being the way he just treated me, let alone someone I said I loved, who was my lover. Never.”
“I would never say such a thing to someone else.”
“I would never break my word like that/ gaslight like that.”
Rose Gold Rule: I want all you kindhearted ones to learn it. You get to keep your rose colored glasses. Please do, the world needs them, and soon enough, I think we’ll be able to walk around and just spot others of our kind, as we grow more and more rare. You are rare and your heart is needed here.
Now learn the rose gold rule.
You can love, and walk away. You can love, and say “I won’t allow your damage to treat me this way. I wish you healing.” Bless and release.
DO KNOW that it isn’t painless. It comes at a cost for hearts like ours. Let it hurt, and let it go. Keep this rose gold rule as a vow to yourself. The pain of closing gates on someone you love, and mourning them as if they have passed away, is far more clean a grief than the pain of daily allowing harmful, disrespectful behavior toward you.
One pain allows you to grieve, and then be strong and whole to continue the work you need to do in this lifetime.
The other pain diminishes you, and will eat away at your energy until all you can focus on is NOT your work here, but how to manage that other person’s treatment of you.
THEIR BAGS ARE NOT YOURS TO CARRY, dear heart. Put their bags down. Pick up your own. Walk on. Love, and release.
Love, and release.
I’ve heard already from two people who are going to give themselves rose gold rings (and one who already did, just by instinct) to remember this rule. Please let me know if you are inspired to do so, as well, or any variation thereof.
I love you. I believe in you. You can do this. We can do this. We are harming no one by loving ourselves. In fact, maintaining boundaries is an important teaching to give, and we are helping others by doing so.
…and, true to form, I am not editing this monster. Read at your leisure, take sips, skip over the long bits, do as you please. Enjoy, and I hope someone is helped by this.