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This May Be One of the Most Important Questions In Life

The Most Important Questions of Your LIfe
LISTEN TO THE FULL ARTICLE HERE: THIS MAY BE ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTIONS OF YOUR LIFE
(WARNING CONTAINS LANGUAGE)

“I’m always paranoid when he’s on the computer because I’m not sure if he’s talking to her. He tells me that I’m psycho but I find how he deletes or erases only messages from her and then wonders why I get so upset.” A journal entry of mine I revisited looking for an answer to one of the most important questions in life. 

A question that revealed something about me and my approach towards love.

Reading back now as a 40-year-old woman I can’t help but say….what in the actual fuck! It’s clear the girl who wrote on those pages and the woman I am today are two different people. 

However, under the guise of a simple inquiry, I was now forced to set my differences aside with this young lady. Together we would confront past fears, insecurities, and distorted beliefs. 

Today I share with you the same question presented to me. 

How did you love before you were hurt?

In this thought-provoking article, I break down this inquiry. You will find that my answer to this question was anything but simple. More like a baseline. A reflective venture, wrestling with the consequence of past heartache—both a source of negativity AND opportunity. A journey towards acceptance of an undeniable truth that ultimately brought me to my knees. 

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Invitation to Introspection

The Game-changing Question Explained 

Always in the market to pick at old wounds, I was instantly attracted to the concept of this question. Probably because when it comes to questions (and most likely due to my ADD, OCD, and other colorful things my brain hosts) I have never been your simple “yes” or “no” kind of gal.

Before I go further, I want to clarify that I am not a relationship guru. I have no intention of telling you what to do or even pass judgment on you. As I share my shameful relationship beans, you will see quickly that I have zero room to talk.  

I am just some chick who has fallen in love with Stoic philosophy. Driven by all the ways it has challenged me to confront crucial questions in my life. Ultimately helping me work towards being the version of me I want to be.   

As ever, it is my mission to share these insights with you. Not only as a source of inspiration but also for the connection. 

Cause girl didnt you know –I am psycho too!  Give me a little whoop whoop if that resonates with you. 

The Importance of Introspection

Before I ever understood anything about the power of reflection, or journaling (which ironically is one of the most encouraged exercises in Stoic philosophy), I’ve always been an avid journaler.

I believe my first journal entries inquiring about life, God, and “Deep Thoughts by Vanessa”, dated back to… 1992? 

At the sweet age of 9 years old, having a head full of curls and a hair-do shaped like a football helmet, with my tongue hanging out of my mouth as I began every entry the same way, “Dearest Diary” …

I my friend, was an existentialist. (Who knew!?) My mission: To ask all the important questions in life!

It’s wild for me to watch myself grow up going back through those books. Many were filled with cute questions, faith-challenging inquiries, and going on and on about my newest crush of the week. Not all my journals were that easy to read. There are a few books in those stacks that I have contemplated burning.

They are so sad, so painful, yet incredibly insightful. I am grateful for my courage built over time letting those journals live to see another day. 

They are my legacy.

You don’t need to have a library of drama-filled diaries like me to engage with introspection. However, you do need thick skin because sifting through the origins of your emotional baggage is no easy feat. It requires an open mind and some raw ass honesty. 

“Deep human connection is the purpose and the result of a meaningful life —and it will inspire the most amazing acts of love, generosity, and humanity. 

Melinda Gates

Human Connection = Human Satisfaction… Sure Bout Dat?!

Through numerous studies, it is widely recognized that human connection is essential in our lives. As per Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a theory in psychology that represents a 5 tier model of human needs–intimate relationships, belonging, friendships, and love are on tier 3. These elements play a big role when it comes to addressing significant life questions.

However, since you’ve been in the business of being a human for some time now, you know that as much as relationships can make our lives richer, they can equally make our lives miserable.

And when stuck in the thick of it, when renting out space from Hell Inc. Realty, we forget we can move if we want to.

Instead, we let all logic seep out the cracks in the walls and the poorly designed windows of this shitty rental causing high costs in our emotional power bills. Masked by the fear of uncertainty about where are we going to live if not here, these underlying factors lead to a lot of stress and straight-up unhappiness. 

It is in these particular situations that you feel most blind. But in this same space is when you start asking important questions about your life that will help you gain clairity.

How Did You Love Before You Were Hurt? 

For a lot of us, before we knew pain, our love, came from the most sacred place inside of us. Our innocence.

You might as well chuck the term trust in there too. For if you have never been cheated on, and under the spell of your first love (and the lies that Disney movies told), how could you fathom your new Boo intentionally hurting you?

In navigating the framework of this question that led to more questions about my life, I walked through the phases. How I gave love from the most righteous of places to being tainted by the world around me. Without any strong tools back in those days, I was defenseless about how conditioning from my environments shaped my beliefs. 

The Pre-Hurt Phase

This is the place before you start telling another person what to do. Can you remember a better time than being in a space without worry? Or having the agonizing thought of “What are they up to”?

Instead, the deepest questions you might have been asking about your life sounded more like: When is lunchtime? Should I skip again today? Why is she still ragging on me?

Remember the time before the app “Life 360”? A time when certain technology didn’t exist, so EVEN IF YOU WANTED TO….you couldn’t be “psycho”?

When I took myself back to my first serious relationship I remember the ease of puppy love. I specifically remember being quite content with my group of friends. Knowing he was off with his group of friends.

It was genuinely ok. We would just meet up later and engage in yucky love stuff then!

There was nothing to worry about or fear to compare a scenario to at that time……until there was. 

But even then, in my teenage years, my “psycho-ness” lived within the borders of what had been done to me and no further. As I learned how to be a partner in a relationship, before I felt real pain (betrayal) I was able to give trust and love easily to another person.

 Almost unconditionally —my baseline.

We Learn As We Go

Sadly at some point, your innocence is just lost. Even if you hadn’t experienced terrible heartbreak just yet, you saw it in relationships around you. 

Back in 2003,  my then-husband was invited out with a group of guys to go play pool at a bar down the street. We were young and new in town. Having just recently joined the military. 

He would go off with them and I would stay back with my baby and the other military wives. 

I was totally fine with it. I thought it was good for his morale and equally it would be good for me to meet new friends. 

As the wives started talking (complaining) about their husbands one of them said with a twang (we were stationed in the south) how she bet her husband took off his wedding ring because so and so’s husband does the same thing every time they go out together. 

I started to feel panic set in. I can’t fully remember exactly what was said, but the conversation went into stripper poles and naked women. That was it and I was out! 

I picked up my then 2-year-old baby, hopped in the car, and drove white-knuckling it all the way to this Bar/Strip Club/Where Cheaters Meet type place. 

My mind was racing. I was already forming all the things I was going to say as soon as I saw my ringless husband, with Bambi on his right and Vanilla Sapphire on his left.

I pulled up, and with the baby in tow, I marched into that bar. And there he was…….

Playing pool. 

With a group of guys. 

All of them with their wedding rings on hand. 

No Bambi, and no Ruby Sapphire in sight.

Pysch-ooooooooooooooooo!

This is why your Pscycho: The Negative Impact of Heartache

Nobody walks into a new relationship intentionally swinging their emotional baggage at their next suiter. To be honest emotional baggage is more like a disease that lays dormant within your body. 

As it becomes active, the symptoms are subtle at first. It starts with fear. Then your walls slowly start to go up like the power windows of a car. And then that urge. You know what I’m talking about.

The urge to control. You don’t WANT to be psycho. It just kind of happens naturally.

Because let’s face it – going down memory lane, almost 90% of the time it’s the other person who can’t help themselves, and they always gotta go and mess a good thing up! Seriously though, in the grand scheme of things, this is the perfect time to start pondering some important questions in your life about the person you are with.

Sadly it only takes ONE thing to change a whole-lotta things within you. From your new relationships to the deflation of your self-esteem, which then bleeds into your overall interactions in the world. 

When I finally found myself in a new relationship many years later, it was quite explosive early on. And it wasn’t just on my end. My partner also exited the pain train with his own small carry-on roller case of emotional baggage. 

Lucky for us, we were both older when we met. We both had been in long(ish) enough marriages so we were level-headed enough to know that some of our arguments were the product of wounds from our pasts.  

If you were lucky, or out on a Friday night, you could spot us arguing in the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant, margarita fueled and him hollering “I am not him!”. 

Or, you might have had the pleasure of hearing us through the walls of a hotel room during a company Christmas party with me screaming “I am not her!”.

It would be a very long time before we would be able to recognize the totality of our past wounds. How they were always the source of heated arguments. A way for us to dismiss uncomfortable questions, that almost brought us to the end of our life together.

Power Trips

As our relationship started to grow, our fear of losing “a good thing”  kept our hands firmly grasped. We were both hell-bent on making this relationship work. Unfortunately, we went about it the wrong way.

Instead of our “showing up” for one another through sharing our vulnerabilities––our past experiences, emotions, feelings, and/or behaviors to form a connection and learn the other person— in place stood two people with puffed-up Egos.

Each trying to establish some sort of authority. Letting the other person know “Uh uh motha fucka, I’ll be dammed if I get hurt again”. 

And so we placed unrealistic expectations upon one another based on our fears. Expectations with high stakes, expecting the other person to instinctively understand the heart-stabbing pain caused when certain lines were crossed. 

And boooyyyyyyiiiiiieeeee, when lines were even tested, the retaliation we shot at each other never seemed to match the crime. 

The things that pissed him off I thought were freaking ridiculous. And the things that pissed me off….it was the silent treatment for him. Something I took pride in long ago as being my superpower. 

Yea well, super no bueno. 

Sign Here, Regulation and Rules

Maybe we didn’t know ourselves enough at the time to know what we wanted (today I would use the word needed). But we sure as hell knew the things that we didn’t want. 

Believe it or not, we both created lists too. Mine had things on it like:

No Farting

No Nintendo

And if you’re thinking about re-joining the military, HAIL TO THE NO! (He too was prior military).

>>>>Sign Here<<<

His list was much shorter than mine, but he too was specific about certain little quirks. We made it funnily, but I believe deep down we both knew it wasn’t a joke. 

Unfortunately, as we believed these “wants and don’t wants” were the beginnings of creating “healthy boundaries”, I can see now that they were rules.  

Today our dialogue between each other is much different. Through a lot of trial and error (how is this man still talking to me today I sometimes unconsciously think) we recognized the difference between what boundaries looked like vs rules…

Which usually started out sounding like this:

You …

Have to do this

CANT do that

ARENT ALLOWED

And then it was followed up with some dramatic threat.

I know it’s not just us and this is typical in a lot of relationships. But I also firmly believe this statement to be true: If not recognized in time, the impacts of emotional baggage can break up relationships just as easily as infidelity or abuse.

Your Self-Esteem and Everything That You Do

Wounds that are unspoken, but deeply felt, can change the way we see ourselves. Depending on what happened in that last relationship, we give into a narrative that is ridiculous and a thousand percent untrue. 

If the time is not taken to heal from past hurts and mentally ( rationally) process certain things, we risk walking around pondering things like:

How we code ourselves with such harsh words and false narratives starts to chip away at our self-worth. And as much as we say we don’t want to be in the same shitty relationships again, we stick to a pattern of familiarity. Leading us to find ourselves with a different guy, but the same asshole vibe.

Or worse…we give up on love altogether. Never to want a relationship again, leading us to lie to ourselves reaffirming that we are better off alone. 

What we fail to admit and say out loud is “I don’t trust that people stick around. I cannot deal with the pain of being left again. I don’t have the energy to search for someone who may or may not ever feel that I am worth sticking around for”.(Another distortion I struggle with in the friendship relationship department today….but that’s for another article!)

Having a pessimistic mentality on your views on love, bleed into everything else in your life. Your faith in yourself for important follow-throughs. The way you experience experiences alone versus if shared with someone with your values.

Mining For Gold: The Positive Impacts of Heartache

Summers ago, in celebration of our 10th year of marriage, Husband Face and I went on a trip to Italy. Spending the majority of our days in Rome, on a romantic whim we decided to spend the day down South in Pompeii. Walking from one ruin structured space (hosting a glass-enclosed ash-shaped body) to another, it was here I learned that Archaeologists happen to be just as interested in what lies beneath the streets.

A place where some serious answers to alot of questions about Ancient life could be found.

The septic tank system. Most specifically from picking through ancient human poop. 

Burned bodies, stories of slaves kept in caves, and now secrets revealed from ancient human waste…My little heart was so full that day. Tell me more! Tell me more!

Although this knowledge might make you say “Ew”, the study of human waste in an archeological context was super insightful. Used for educational purposes, the archeologists not only learned what these people did during their daily lives, but from their diets to disease and their hygiene practices, they could understand things on a deeper level. From public and environmental health, as well as urban infrastructure insights, no info would go to waste (ha, ya like that?!).

My point is, that important information can come from the most unlikely of places. And if this whole human waste thing doesn’t strike you then how about this…

It’s not just the rain, people, that help flowers grow…mmmkkkkkayyy?

The Paradox of Love and Pain 

It is in the same expedition of revisiting the ghosts of relationships past, you become the archeologist. And your pain…well, is your waste. 

Contrary to popular belief, not all emotional baggage is detrimental. Nor should it be avoided. When unpacked and sifted through with a different lens, it can be used as a means for change. An opportunity to empower yourself with the same things that once tore you down.

From Psycho to Shero

My frequently uttered nickname “Psycho”, once a word that came off so condescending—  no longer holds any power over me. I look fawnly upon it, and also as a source of comedy.

You might have picked up on that by now.

Today, I embrace it. I offer myself grace and have taken full accountability for the unfavorable actions that I may have (or have not) done… that seared me with that scarlet letter.

But most importantly, it has doubled as a nice big spotlight for the types of people that I have vowed to keep out of my citadel. Away from me and my possie of good peoples that surround me today.

I recognize that the use of the word is thrown around loosely by the most immature of people. Just like the word C-U-N-Thursday (another strong word that I like to say, but won’t cause women are taking their time in embracing that one) it is used to hurt.

Their tongue is a weapon. Their words —bullets. 

Yea well, sticks and stones bitches, sticks and stones.

Today, I have a healthier perspective of who I am. I do not ruminate (as much as I used to) on past responses or actions. Nor will I give in to the games that the gaslighter likes to play.

Just like in the movie Gladiator, where Maximus (Russel Crowe) was forced into the life of a Gladiator, I was constantly in an arena forced into battle against others: gaslighters from previous intimate relationships, former friends, AND even family members more times than I like to admit. These encounters alone forced me to ask hard questions about who I allow into my life.

But guess what, all of those conflicts were not for nothing. Today, I can see that shit from a mile away. 

I have the tools now (and better armor). I recognize the difference between communicating (or debating) with a grown-up verses someone who is just not capable.

As much as my past experiences have been my senseis helping me identify potholes to look for, they have also been my guide leading me towards a better understanding of forgiveness.

And who it’s truly for.

The Art of Let Go 

Back when my then-boyfriend shouted out to me “I’m not him” in that parking lot –where he was going with that–he wasn’t wrong. Fresh in this new relationship, I was blinded by my rage, lost in my low self-esteem….

 and drunk on margaritas. A bad mix btw!

By running myself down some questions about my past life… how could I compare the two relationships? Not only were each of them the complete total opposite of one another, but nothing about the stage I was in at that time in life was close to the circumstances of 7 years prior. 

How much sense did it make to assume that because this guy did this, you are going to do it too…WITHOUT acknowledging all the other factors that were also at play? 

As I have started to practice going over past relationships with a level of detachment, my new approach became an opportunity to look at the entirety of that relationship as a whole. From facts to circumstances and even from the level of the other person’s shoes. What this person might have required from me and the ways I wasn’t able to show up (in those days I had nothing but stickers and crayons for tools).

This reframe has given me a new perspective on the lies I once believed about myself, and even how I approach new arguments with my partner. Because our arguments are new. They represent unchartered territory. They have also become an opportunity for us to use as a means to constantly reflect on some important questions about our life together.

A Pardon for Two

In regards to the relationship Boo was referring to, If you asked me about that relationship when it first ended—fueled by feeling wronged, beyond hurt things didn’t go as planned, believing I was damaged goods because of it, I would have put it all on him. 

Today, I will tell you something completely different. I may look back still with a kind of grief because dissolution is never in anyone’s initial plans, but I am thankful for the experience of it. I would not change it and I’m at the conclusion that regret is nothing more than wasted emotional energy. 

How admirable for two kids to try to do right by each other and make a heavily challenged relationship work. And that’s the thing. They were kids.

Kids who didn’t know any better. Both came from broken homes and didn’t know how to be the partners each of them needed for one another. And that’s that. 

RIP.

One Last Thing To Consider… 

Dissecting how I loved before I knew pain, it was in the questions I asked myself that showed me where I needed to create change in my life.

But, I had one more area to explore. 

A final realization that I had to come to in order to complete my answer (solution) to this framework of a question.  

Now, you’re not going to like this. I have shared this thought before and am always met with resistance on the topic. Shit, at times I still don’t like to admit it. But it’s the whole truth, nothing but the truth so help me…help you!

People gonna do…

what people gonna do. 

This is one of the most simple, profound, yet complex truths in life: You cannot control anyone else’s actions. Only your own.

Not only for the sake of navigating relationships in your life but for ALL THE MOVING PARTS of your life. This critical truth is your vigor. 

Wasted Energy

The worrying, the rule setting, app checking, and all the ways I let my jealousy demon take me through my rundown checklist rituals —was fucking exhausting. 

The struggle is real! I got lost in the rituals of addiction; patterns and thoughts that were untrue and unserving to me. So I had a decision to make. If I was going to be tired from anything anymore, it wasn’t going to be from playing Nancy Drew. 

If I was going to feel mental exhaustion it wasn’t going to be from: 

  • Giving into my obsession of “always looking”  
  • Lying to myself that my behaviors were accomplishing something
  • Enforcing my rules with my person (parenting them basically) with the same broken record of “you can’t dos”

Instead, I put this energy into my partner productively. Communicating all of these things that I was once ashamed of as part of my vulnerabilities. Sharing the hard questions I asked myself, communicating my needs in this life.

I also put a lot of energy into me. To not only work on my issues of trust but to stay consistent in working on my self-esteem

Cause you know what–I’m a babe, y’all! Do I love this man…YES! But I will not force, beg, or plead to make anyone “stuck” with me.

I finally believe that I am something to lose. And ironically from experiences that led me to believe otherwise, I know that I am also someone special to be found.

Conclusion

As I leave you to reflect upon what this question means to you, asking yourself significant questions about your own life…

if and when you get to the painful parts, just know they are not meant to hold you back but propel you forward.

They are not events that happened to you but for you. 

Approach with caution, and take your time, but don’t shy away from your history. It holds wisdom. Allowing you to make more informed decisions. Ultimately, bringing you closer to living a life that resonates with however your best life looks like to you.

Happy Holidays Girl!

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