Adventure in Codependent Empathy

The last time I saw a counselor was this wonderful woman named Drew while I was living in Indy. Right at the end of my time in Indy. I only saw her a couple of times, but in those few sessions she almost immediately informed me I’m highly codependent. Not because I can’t function without other people around. I can. I do. I have done many times. My codependency comes from the fact that I place a lot of my self-worth in identifying with the struggles of other people.

It is my greatest ambition in life to love people by making their lives easier. In theory this sounds like such a selfless ambition, but if you look at the fact that this is where I find a lot of my self-worth, it turns out I’m sort of a monster. Just one of those things. It’s such a dangerous balance. Such a slippery slope. Constantly seeking out my motivations and checking my impulses to see why I’m helping or listening or moving or acting or remaining.

peter petrelli

The beauty (I think I can say this without you taking this to mean something boastful) of this codependency is that it makes me inherently empathetic. I’m not fantastic at empathy. I’m not, but I work terribly hard at it. If I’m going to let people’s lives wash over me then I need to be able to handle it and take them into such delicate consideration. I want so desperately to help.

The danger of this codependency is that I can let that empathy consume me. I let problems or pains of others pour over me like the final, straining wave taking me down with it. I’ve gotten better about this. Once after college a friend informed me very secretly that he had cancer. I didn’t leave my room for a day. Not because I was concerned or sad. No no no. Because I put myself in that position and became useless. Because that’s what happens. I become useless. (On the whole, I am useless)

It’s important, it’s so important to empathize. Those that can accurately and appropriately do it with me have been known to change my life. Those that completely lack it are sociopaths. (That’s a truth) Those that let it consume their lives and destroy them are selfish. I’m my most selfish when I allow the pains of others to wash over me like they are my own.

Codependency, in any form, is so tricky. I’m finding my balance now, but it still can destroy me. It can destroy me so quickly.

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Adventure in Nashville Cats

This is what we listened to as we made our way into Tennessee. It was a much needed retreat.

A few months ago I saw that Ben Folds would be performing his concerto with the Nashville Symphony and the Nashville Ballet. After a few weeks we pulled the trigger and my friend Jared and I bought the tickets.

Saturday morning we packed up the car and made our way south. 7 hours.

Some times a thing a brain and a body needs to do is get away. Just forget about the rest of life for a couple of days. Some call them “vacations.” We call them “braincations.”

Things I recommend packing if you ever take a trip to Santa Claus, Indiana:
acid indigestion
books
cryogenically frozen head of Walt Disney
donut
eggs
fire
grandma
hip hop
imagination
juice
king of spades
Let It Be
money
nasty notes
opiates
policies
quiet disposition
ruckus
soup
trouble
unlimited fun
veal
whale watching book
x-rated whale watching book
yodelers
zip-lines
(that’s just good advice. you’re welcome in advance)

On our way we passed Dinosaur World. If you know anything about me, you know this means I started screaming “DINOSAUR ZOO! PEE PANTS NOW!” We agreed we should stop on our way home.

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We also came across signs for the Falls of the Ohio and had to stop. We had so much time. (it’s important to know that there are a lot of secret pictures coming, and Jared hates secret pictures. I won’t apologize, because he won’t know. Will he?)

This was a whole tree, a whole dern tree. Just sloshing back and forth in the waves. River waves. Can we talk for a moment about how some times rivers have waves? If they’re big enough and full enough. Splash. Splash. photo 5 (2) photo 5 (1) photo 4 (4) photo 3 (2) Trees essentially reduced to mulch. Giant, sloppy, sloshy mulch.photo 3 (1) photo 2 (2) photo 2 (1)We made our way south and arrived in Smyrna. I-24 Campground. Very adequate. We set up camp and went for an exploration. Scenic Smyrna. Where there are no restaurants on Saturday night when you want them, but food stops galore on Sunday when you don’t. Important fun fact about Smyrna: Pretty sure everything in this town is named after my cat. Or maybe the Fates were trying to remind me that I abandoned her for a weekend. Gilley Lane. Gil’s Hardware. Gil’s Family Center. Pretty sure my cat was mayor of Smyrna at some point. Cat Mayor of Smyrna. I’m sure you saw it in the Times.

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Dressed like we weren’t sleeping on the ground we drove to downtown Nashville. Some times a symphony is enough to open your soul again. To let it breathe. Some times a ballet pushes your soul over the edge. Some times the combination of symphony, ballet, Ben Folds, a good friend, and a night away are enough to clear your head completely.

After the show it was so nice out, and we were so close that we couldn’t not stop by James K Polk’s grave. Before getting trapped in a parking garage for a year.

photo 1 (3) photo 4 (5) photo 5 (3)After we were graciously allowed freedom from the parking structure by a car of treasures we went back to the old homestead. I-24 Campground, again, classy as it sounds. Right there on Old Johnny’s Rest.

A cold, cold night led to a hot day. We got up early and sought out coffee, much needed coffee. It’s amazing how 7 hours in a car can really wear on a body. In Smyrna there are signs all over about a man named Sam Davis. (Based on the actual photograph of Sam Davis on a marker near “his home”,” he looked nothing like his statue. Seriously, nothing like.) We had to know who he was, so we went to his home. A couple of things, Smyrna. It wasn’t ole Sam’s home. It was his parents’. Also it was closed, because Sunday. Sam died in the Civil War, as so many 21-year-olds did. Basically he died because he was captured and had papers on him. He also said this thing, “If I had a thousand lives to live, I would give them all rather than betray a friend or the confidence of my informer” Again, the marker by “his home” left off that bit about informers. Glossing over history, Smyrna. He also, apparently, gets compared to both Nathan Hale and Jesus a lot. Like a lot a lot. I, um, okay, Smyrna.

We drove around for a while, and finally we saw it. The word “Marina.” We followed the signs. We ended up at the place I had tried to get us into for camping. One. Huge. Lake. A reservoir really. This reservoir. A fishing hobo called us “Tarzan and Jane,” as we pointed out to him where we saw a bunch of fish and carried our shoes. It was beautiful. It was life-giving. It was so peaceful.

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What’s wrong with your, firefly? Don’t you know it’s day! Go back to the night!photo 4 (7) photo 4 (8) photo 5 (4) photo 5 (5) photo 5 (6)

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A little more than reluctantly we packed up our campsite and headed into East Nashville to meet a couple of my friends from Huntington for lunch at the Lipstick Lounge. Before we hit that open road again.

We had three objectives on the road back. DINOSAUR ZOO!!! Cave. Most Awesome Flea Market in the World. We made it to Dinosaur World. We reasoned ourselves out of a cave and missed the flea market because the conversation got too good, and we were distracted.

At exit 9 on I-469 in Fort Wayne there are 9 of these way up by a house. I have wondered for years what they were. People, the answer is here. Thank you, DINOSAUR ZOO!

photo 3 (14)Spared no expense.

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Mostly our time at DINOSAUR ZOO consisted of Land Before Time and Jurassic Park references. Spikes. Long Necks. Three Horns. Flyers. We aren’t very good adults. Just don’t tell the government or they’ll take away our…adult privileges? I don’t know what adults get.

This is a Sharp Tooth (technical name)photo 1 (5) Three Hornphoto 1 (6) More three horns.photo 1 (7) photo 1 (8) J and that Mammoth had a real thing going on. As is my custom, I ruined the moment.photo 1 (9) This Sharp Tooth tried to end mephoto 1 (10)photo 1 (11)The selfies are for my friend Katie. Follow her hashtag. #selfiesforkatie
photo 1 (12) This may be my favorite picture. Ever.photo 2 (7) Long Necks.photo 2 (8) Three Horns are my favorite dinosaur. They’re racist, but I love them.photo 2 (9) photo 2 (10) This guy looks like a total idiot.photo 2 (11) photo 2 (12) photo 2 (13) The Sharp Tooth tried to eat J, then ya know, changed his mind. Classic dino.photo 3 (7) Long Necks. Probably looking for tree stars.photo 3 (8) Yep yep yepphoto 3 (9) photo 3 (10) photo 3 (11) photo 3 (12) photo 3 (13) This guy just looked a real bully. a classic bully. the kind that got picked on himself so to make up for it he was extra mean.photo 4 (9) photo 4 (10) These reminded me of Muppets. I think mostly because bright blue, but I also have a pretty clear memory of marionettes that weren’t too far off from this.photo 4 (11) photo 4 (12) photo 4 (13) photo 4 (14) photo 4 (15) photo 4 (16) photo 5 (7) photo 5 (8) photo 5 (9) photo 5 (10) photo 5 (11) photo 5 (12) photo 5 (13) photo 5 (14)A beautiful landscape. I’m sure it was always this peaceful then. photo (64)

Also, an important and weird truth about DINOSAUR ZOO. There were hundreds, and I do mean HUNDREDS of caterpillars all over the ground. Racing along at our feet. I spent most of our time walking on my toes. I think the objective is to keep you aware of your surroundings, super aware, so that when the dinos come to life (you know they do) you’re already so on edge that you can run. I still would have been eaten alive.

950.2 miles.

It was all worth it.

It’s true that some weekends you just need to be aware. Like a brain restart. In a few weeks, we do it again with our friends Dan and Rachel. This time we head north. My brain is already freaking out, so that the braincation will be worth it. (I’m a planner)

 

 

 

Adventure in Redemption Tales

They’re remarkable. They’re the most beautiful stories that exist to tell. Stories that take completely hideous, shattered pieces and put them back together even better than before. It’s beautiful. More over, they’re important. No. They’re essential.

I have a few favorite redemption stories.

Severus Snape: Harry Potter.

snape

We go on a journey with Snape for 7 books. Arguably, Snape’s story in the series is just as important, if not more. The thing that saves Harry in the first place is love, and the thing that gets him through every year is love. Snape makes some pretty horrible life decisions, following the Dark Lord being a key one. And honestly, Snape is redeemed the moment he turns to Dumbledore for help, but we don’t see that until the end of his life. We see the actions of a man so ravaged by heartache he won’t or can’t let us see beyond that. And in a few tears we learn the truth about Snape. That his redemption came with great pain, as all redemptions do. A lot of Snape’s was self-inflicted. Most of it. Grace is a terribly hard thing to accept. Dumbledore offered it to him, but Snape chose to hide his true intentions. I won’t get into why that too is selfishness, but to some degree that choice took away the pride of it. I can’t say this enough. Grace is a terrible hard thing to accept. Wizard or not.

Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader: Star Wars

vader

Regardless of your opinions on episodes 1 through 3, what you’re looking at is a six movie series about one story. One. Story. The fall and redemption of one man. Innocent kid. Noble ambitions, and then. Guys, darkness is so tempting. It’s so, so tempting to just give in. To want power. To crave accolades. I get it. I really do, and then once you’re in that mess it’s even harder to get out of it. An addiction, to anything, is always with you, and it rested with little Anakin until the end of his life. Until he made one final push in his last moments and sought redemption. Darkness is so tempting.

William the Bloody/Spike: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

spike

Spike is a monster. I mean that literally. Spike is a vampire, who spends centuries killing people. And like Anakin he started out a sweet guy. Just taking care of his mom, writing horrible poems, being the butt of all of the jokes. He kills not one, but two slayers. He spends the better part of 7 seasons trying to kill Buffy too. At the end of season 6 Spike snaps. He tries to rape Buffy, and when he realizes what he’s done he leaves. Seemingly forever. He goes through a series of trials, cleansings, for one purpose. Vamps don’t have souls. Well, now two do. Angel and Spike. And Spike paid for his. When it was back, it ate him from the inside. Because knowing the truth makes the whole world a lot harder to take. Ultimately, Spike’s soul saved us all. Knowing the truth makes the whole world a lot harder to take.

Edmund Pevensie: The Chronicles of Narnia

edmund

This one is my favorite. Edmund did not start out a sweet kid. At all. He was a brat and a bully. He deliberately betrayed his family. Not like “hm, ok this is fine.” No. Edmund was all “yeah. they’re dumb. I can be king. I’m outtie, and they’re done.” (Pretty sure that’s a direct quote). Ya know what’s worse about Edmund? He knows. Even as things get worse, he knows. AND he knows how he could get out of it. BUT HE DOESN’T DO IT!! He just keeps on saying “yeah, no thanks. Ol’ Pete’s a know-it-all and Susan is a snot and Lucy is funny looking. I’m not gonna deal with them anymore.” And Edmund is STILL welcomed back into the fold, AND his king says “yeah, you’re supposed to die. I’ll take care of it.” Which Edmund assumes means negotiate. Oh Aslan negotiated. He negotiated himself right onto that stone table for ONE kid. One punk-ass kid. One punk-ass kid who grew up to be a kind king and a grateful and wise man.

In 1999 on the floor of a huge room of a lodge on a winter retreat, curled up in a ball next to Katelyn Knuth, Hayley Johnson was also redeemed. She continued to make horrible mistakes. She continues to make horrible mistakes. And every day she struggles to look at the world and live in it knowing the truth. Why even bother staying knowing it’s only going to get darker here and there’s light she can live in? Darkness is so tempting. Every day darkness is tempting. And some times she gives into it. Every day, every hour is a struggle to accept grace. But without it she’d be lost. Without it she’d be dead. Without I am lost. Without I’d be dead.