When I was nineteen, I was working at Hooters in Hawaii, located in Honolulu Harbor. I wore a name tag that said “Kyla.” A young marine was at one of my tables with two of his friends. He had striking blue eyes and far too many tattoos. When I went to take their drink order, he pointed to my name tag.
“Is that your real name?” He asked, “Because I hate that name.”
“And why’s that?” I asked.
“Because I’ve got it tattooed on my arm, in big old English letters. I was engaged to a girl named Kyla back home, and she dumped me while I was in boot camp.”
“I don’t believe you,” I told him.
“I’ll show you,” he said. “I tried to cover it up with another tattoo, but it didn’t work; you can still see it.”
He rolled up his sleeve and showed me the tattoo. It indeed said “KYLA,” in big old English letters. He had covered it up with a tattoo of a large Maltese cross, but the letters were still clearly discernible underneath.
“You see what I mean?” He said with a smile. “I absolutely hate that name.”
That was the first conversation my ex-husband and I ever had.
The last one, seven years later, was quite different. But it was also in a restaurant. Chef Ho’s, on 82nd and Second Avenue. He sat across from me, his eyes bloodshot because he hadn’t slept in days. I was leaving him. He had pleaded for us to have dinner together, to talk. We were seated at a table conspicuously located in the middle of the dining room. He asked me if there was any chance we could reconcile. Without missing a beat, I said no. Because he looked so broken, I tried to summon some compassion, some feeling I had left for him, but there was none. My blood had gone cold. He looked as if he was going to break down, then and there in front of everyone, in the middle of that well-lit room. He didn’t, though. His eyes welled up but he held it in.
Later we walked out into the street and he offered to walk me home.
“I’m sorry Rob,” I said. “I don’t want you to know where I live.”
I’ve never seen someone get shot in the gut before, but I imagine his face that night, as I said those words, is what they’d look like.
Maybe this moment should’ve felt like a victory to me. I finally had caused him to feel the same immense pain he had inflicted on me for years, or at least something like it. It didn’t, though; it felt how transitions feel. Bleak, unsafe, unnerving. I just wanted to fast forward, to some time years in the future, but of course I couldn’t.
Now, though, I can. Fast forward, to a totally different life. This one, in which I am a wife again, and a mother too, to Jayden and Brodie.
I told that story to my boss and Jed Wednesday evening. I don’t remember how it came up; I think we were telling stories about where we’d lived before. I can’t talk about Hawaii without talking about Rob. I told the story with feeling, but not attachment. It’s a part of me, but it doesn’t define me anymore. What a wonderful place to get to.
You’d think I wouldn’t volunteer something like that to my boss (and yes I left the Hooters detail out), but working with my therapist, I’ve come to understand that I’m far more forthcoming and trusting than I give myself credit for. And my risk paid off; both my boss and Jed kept referencing the conversation. Not the content, or because it was out of place, but because of how good it had made them feel: like we were connecting, authentically.
I created that. That’s how powerful I am.
When I posed the question yesterday about observer/participant/source, I reflected on it for myself. In this group, I have perceived myself as all three at different times, and this cycle more than most I’ve been very aware of when I was the source of connection — or disconnection.
In some ways, it’s the wrong question. It makes you think you have an option. “I can choose to show up as just an observer.” “I can choose to just participate.”
No. That’s false. The truth is, we are always source. It’s just a matter of whether we acknowledge it to ourselves and act accordingly. The real question is: what are you sourcing?
I wasn’t feeling good all week. I was worried about my upcoming performance review at work, worried again about money, worried that Brodie is sick, and feeling disconnected from Jimmy. Jimmy and I used to do so many things together. We ran a Meet-up group together, we’d go to the gym together, we’d go grocery shopping together, we’d do workshops together. Now with the boys, that’s not possible. We do most things and events separately, and only a few together. I realized I missed the way things used to be.
But I only realized that after sloughing through the mountain of worry and stress piled on top of it, that had caused me to be distant from him all week, in the little time we did have with each other. I felt myself begin to blame him. This is his doing; he’s getting too preoccupied with the new center, too wrapped up with the boys, and he’s neglecting our relationship.
Once I dug down and saw how I was truly feeling, through, I did something I maybe have never done when I’ve begun to feel strain in our relationship. I talked to him about it and got vulnerable.
It didn’t go well—at first. It turned out he was in a state of overwhelm too. The boys had been having regular meltdowns, as they’re going through a lot of changes right now, and every single one was causing him to question himself as a parent. He said he was having trouble being present to what I was feeling, as he had struggles of his own.
Typically, a comment like that would’ve caused me to shut down and shift out of vulnerability. He’s not receptive, he doesn’t care about me, he’s only worried about himself. But, I didn’t. I asked him to tell me about what he was going through. He did, stubbornly and grudgingly at first, but as he kept talking he began to let go and open up.
I listened and offered support. I then told him what felt most vulnerable to me: that I missed how our relationship used to be, back when we could do more together.
It was vulnerable for me because “that’s not who I am.” I’m not some clingy wife. I’m independent, self-assured, etc.
This is one of the ways in which I invalidate myself. I was also worried about his response, that he would be annoyed, or view me that way.
Of course he wasn’t, and didn’t. He said he missed that too. After that, the nature of the conversation changed. The tension was gone. We kept talking, now about other things—the center, things that happened that week, we made each other laugh.
The interesting thing for me is that the issue I raised doesn’t have a solution. We really can’t go back to how things were. It’s a new world order, and we simply can’t do as many things together. But, expressing those feelings to him in an open and vulnerable way shifted my experience of them. It also created what was missing: connection.
One thing Jimmy pointed out was the ways in which I was the one creating disconnection. I’d come home from work and my head was somewhere else. I’d neglect to kiss him hello or goodbye. As I reviewed my behavior over the prior week, I saw that he was right.
That’s the rub; we are always source, and we are always sourcing something.
That was what was so aggravating about ALP4’s legacy project. Those of us who pulled the project together were irritated at team members who jumped in at the last second, coming along for the ride, and literally “free-riding” on the efforts of others. Talking to them, they were almost insistent they had caused no harm to the effort, confused by our frustration. They were merely observers, then last-minute participants.
They were source, because we are always source, and what they sourced was a drain on the project (it is what it is).
As some I confided in commented after I vented my frustrations: “Maybe the project would’ve been better if those people hadn’t been involved at all.”
Part of me does feel that way.
I also know, though, that truly adopting source means 100% responsibility. What was missing me from me that caused them to show up that way?
What’s maddening about that question is that while it is the right question to create an inner shift to being source, it may not yield the right result. You may have stepped into source fully but you still can’t pull in the people on the fringes—because of how powerful they are (and if only they’d use that power for something other than disconnecting, observing, criticizing, free-riding, etc.).
So it’s the end of the cycle, and what does any of this have to do with anything? I think these are the main areas I ultimately focused on this cycle, while my goals buzzed in the background. Sometimes the cycle doesn’t end up being about your goals. I made significant progress in therapy and connecting to my feelings. I have made progress with connection to others too, though only to a state of heightened awareness—in other words, I am much more aware of when I create connection and when I create the opposite. Action and change are what’s next.
As to being source, I’m focused on that too. I am eager for the Mastery course. Tammy’s death still weighs on me. I try to stay away from “why,” it’s a useless question, but I do remind myself of the need for urgency. I don’t know how long I have left, but I know it’s less than yesterday, and I didn’t come here to just “get through” the days, or be in stagnation, or be content. And I’m not going to wait or put it off or say I’ll start with the new year. I am grateful to have taken the trainings, to be a part of this group, and to have opportunities to continue my self-development. I thank all of you for committing yourselves to the journey and for all that each of you have contributed this cycle. Getting to continue this work in a community of people fighting the same fight is a real privilege, and I am so appreciative of it.