You Don't Have to Be the Jackass Whisperer

As you may know, I'm a fan of the podcast Ghost of a Podcast.  This weekly show is hosted by the psychic/medium/astrologer Jessica Lanyadoo where she answers a listener question and then gets into the astrological forecast for the week ahead.  Sometimes I skip over the listener questions because her answers are so specific to this one person's chart and while that can be interesting, it's not always the sort of voyeurism I'm into on any given day.

This week, though, the listener wrote about her own psychic abilities and how she'd followed them in pursuit of finding her own life partner.  Now, I'm not super-expert on this, but what I know about psychics and mediums is they often can't "read" themselves -- so I'm going to chock this up to the listener's own intense gut-instinct and intuition, which is what most psychic ability derives from.  Anyway, this listener said she asked the Universe to bring her a soulmate and it did -- but what she learned from that was that soulmate is different from lifemate -- which is interesting on its own.  After that experience, she had another relationship where the Universe "brought her what she asked for," but it wasn't quite right and then on the third time, the Universe delivered the one.  Except that "the one" has unmanaged mental health and alcohol abuse issues where this listener alludes to abuse enacted on her and this man's children.  I'm not sure that she's explicit about that being "only" mental/emotional abuse or if it is also physical abuse, but abuse, nonetheless.  The listener wants to know from Jessica what to do because her psychic abilities brought her to this man but her many years of trying to get this man into treatment for his troubles have been unsuccessful.  This listener writes of a "magnetic pull" to this man which makes her think she can't and shouldn't leave him because he's the one but she doesn't know what to do.

And I think you know where this is going...  Jessica could see where it was going, too.  

While I was muttering out loud to no one in my apartment, It isn't psychic intuition that magnetizes you to a fucking alcoholic, Jessica was gently (more gently than me) suggesting that perhaps the "lesson learned" about the difference between soulmate and lifemate had actually not been a lesson learned -- because it seems she's in that position again.  And also, abuse is abuse and no one should hang around for that.  Jessica dropped this Brené Brown-ism (which apparently is Brené Brown quoting someone else):

You're not the jackass whisperer, Jessica said.

"Jackass" is a pejorative term that doesn't quite fit the sentiment of what this listener is writing about, but I see where Jessica draws it in.  Instead of jackass, maybe stubborn or stuck or human unwilling to learn fits better.  Depending on the severity of this man's mental health issues, it could be something related to co-dependence or the partner equivalent of helicopter-parenting.  And I say this because I lived it -- as I'm sure you have puzzled together by now.

I tried, for years, to "coach Tom out of his funk" and teach him how to be happy and show him what reciprocal love could be.  I was doing those things because I saw us as a partnership (even if nontraditional) and loved him enough to become devotional to him in this way.  I thought I was helping.  I thought I was magnetized to him.  I thought that the stars had aligned to bring us together.

But here's the thing: I was helping.  I was magnetized to him.  The stars had aligned in this way.  This was all part of what I was here to experience in this lifetime.  Of that, I am firmly convinced.

Jessica said something along those lines to her listener and then said that even if it was part of her path, that didn't mean she had to stay forever and keep getting the shit kicked out of her.  She could still leave.  And while I 100% agree with that, what was missing in Jessica's response was what I've found to be the most significant part of my own healing on this subject:

I was meant to fall in this hole so I could figure out how to get out of it.

I was meant to learn from this.  I was meant to learn that me trying to "help" an alcoholic who didn't even acknowledge that he was an alcoholic or who said he "knew he should treat women better" but never did -- I was meant to learn that me trying to help in a situation like this doesn't mean I rationalize what he's doing or over-inflate my importance or role in his dysfunction by thinking that me "having a talk" with him is going to change anything on its own.  What I learned is that the way I "help" in a situation like this is to support this person I love by holding both him and myself accountable to the change we both want and need to grow as people.  And that it isn't "helping" if we keep having the same conversation over and over and over again -- the same fight over and over and over again -- that the same cycle keeps happening over and over and over again.  That's not helping.  That's hurting.

Yes, I was magnetized to him.  My entire world was him.  Even almost seven years after leaving him, I still feel his presence in the fabric of my being.  I love him.  I will always love him.  But that doesn't mean stay with him.  That doesn't mean this abusive behavior is worth tolerating because I feel this pull.  That doesn't mean that magnetism is necessarily healthy. In fact, in my case, magnetism was an abusive cycle of manipulation and gas-lighting that made me dependent on him for "stability" and "groundedness" -- neither of which were realities for me with him.  I thought they were.  I thought that's what he provided me.  But it wasn't that at all -- it was abuse.  I was drawn to him because he made me believe he needed me.  He made me think I was this elevated, perfect person.  He made me feel more loved than I've ever felt in my entire life.  And then when he'd flip the script and tear me down and demonstrate (both through words and actions) how little I meant to him, it made me panic and want to do anything to please him again.  

That is how our "magnetism" worked.

Yes, I thought the stars had aligned to bring us together.  I so vividly remember the first moment I saw him, the first moment he came over to talk to my friend and me, the first time he held out his hand and said in a kind and hopeful voice, "Hi, I'm Tom."  I remember getting to know him over the next few weeks and months and how many similarities cropped up in our backstories.  We connected immediately, as if we'd just been waiting twenty-something years in this lifetime for this moment finally to arrive.  I definitely believe that Tom and I are souls who have encountered each other many, many times over countless lifetimes and that finding each other in this go-round leveled us both up in major ways.  Especially in our early years knowing each other, influencing each other's art, being each other's support systems, co-creating community and chosen family.  That's not something that happens with every person we meet -- it takes a very specific kindred soul to do what Tom and I did in our time together.  Knowing how great we were as a unit invaded my brain whenever it would warn me that things between us had changed -- that our paths were diverging.  I didn't want to see that or believe that -- I wanted to believe that we both wanted to stick together for the rest of this lifetime, come hell or high water, we'd always work it out.

But we stopped being able to work it out.

That doesn't mean that those stars had never aligned.

This came up recently in a conversation with a friend who had a decision to make: it had been really difficult for her but she did it and what I said to her after is a mantra I adopted in my post-Tom existence: you made the right decision.  You know that you did because it's the decision you made.  What I mean by that in a bigger sense is not just that taking this action or not taking this action is the be-all, end-all, but, rather, that making that decision sets you up for the learning you are ready for.  If you decide to do something, it might result in something painful -- my decision to leave Tom is case-in-point.  But I was finally ready to endure that growth spurt -- I was finally ready to dig in, do the work, and start the long road towards healing.  "Making all the right decisions" doesn't always create the map to sunsets on white-sand beaches.  Sometimes it has to do with our willingness to engage in this lifetime's curriculum -- what are you here to learn (and teach) and how are you going about learning it (and teaching it)?

While I've had many opportunities to engage with my lifetime's curriculum and learn from it, many of my biggest lessons have come from my experiences with Tom.  He is my greatest teacher -- because I was willing to learn.  I was willing to go on offense instead of defense -- I was willing to open up to vulnerability and move away from walled up defensiveness.  It took time to develop that openness -- it took me agreeing not to shove these difficult feelings in a box under my bed, but, instead open that box up and go through the contents.  I decided to feel my damn feelings -- and learn from them.  It's no wonder I still hold love for Tom -- he provided these opportunities for me to learn.

As I've healed and as I've evolved, it's been important to share my story for my own well-being.  But it's also an interesting barometer for where others who are impacted by this same person are, too.  When Tom's bandmates block me on Facebook for asking them to keep an eye out for certain behaviors...  When I see his other "best friends" still doing a Cocktail of the Week with him, even though they have expressed concern over his abuse of alcohol...  When I have others connected to him suggest my essays about my lived experience with him are "spammy"...  Well.  That says more about where those people are in their evolution than it says about me.  

Don't try to win over the haters.  You're not the jackass whisperer.

What that could also say is "spend your energy wisely -- not everyone is ready to start today's lesson."

Win or lose, just that you choose this little war is what kills you
And either/or, it's that this war is maybe also what thrills you
- Ani DiFranco

It's not only Tom who sets little fire everywhere to put off doing the work.  We all do it, in our own ways.  We find excuses, we find comfort even in toxic cycles and patterns, we do so much work to put off doing the work.  And the thing that's also true?  Just because you learn a lesson, it doesn't mean everyone else needs to/wants to/can learn that same lesson, even if you believe it could save their life.  Release the binary of "good or bad" and remember what our friend Hamlet says: Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so.  Maybe it's not about what's good or bad but what we are able to learn as a result of our experience.  

So, with that, be kind with your energy.  Spend it wisely.  I tried to drag Tom kicking and screaming into what I thought was a healthier and more productive mindset, but all he ever did was resist me, which drained me.  So I tried harder.  And lost more, every time I tried.  I don't regret the trying because I learned from it.  I had thought that I was teaching Tom -- but I was teaching myself through my own lived experience.  

I share this -- and I share my story with him -- not to force anyone to get up off their asses and finish what I failed to do with him in the ten years we were each other's lives.  I share my story so those who want to engage with what I learned can.  And those who don't want to?  That's OK, too.  My energy is devoted to my path forward, which includes sharing what it's been like for me to start healing from a really painful transition away from a toxic relationship with an alcoholic.  That doesn't mean I only sit in pain all day long -- quite the opposite.  I have liberated myself from so much of that pain by working to understand it and see what it has to teach me.  

What does your life have to teach you?

How are your energies being focused?  

How do reciprocities manifest?

Where do you go from here?

Beware of people who tell you to "get over it" or "move on" or "let it go."  Ask them what they mean by that.  More often than not, those requests or demands are rooted in their own discomfort.  Engage with your story in a way that feels productive -- focus on offense instead of defense, let go of blame and ask, instead, what do I stand to learn?  That's been the key for me, at least.  

Anyone with something unproductive to say in response? Well, I think we all know: it's haters to the left.

Listen to "Reckoning" by Ani DiFranco

This post was written on October 17, 2021 for the Anything Goes in 2021 daily writing project.  More details about that here.

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