who are emotionally dependent often carry an unspoken
feeling that life is passing them by, that they have
missed their personal boat somewhere along the way.
Life, which had promised to be so exciting, full of joy
and surprises, has turned out to be as level and barren as
the salt flats. The truth is, if life feels flat, it
probably means we're letting others define what our life
should be and haven't taken the risk to find out who we
are and what we want.
Children are natural-born risk takers. They move out
into the world and toward others with their arms wide
open. For children, life is full of mountains and
valleys waiting to be explored. There's nothing
level about the life of a healthy, spontaneous
child. One moment she'll be rolling around in a fit
of glee, and the next moment she's grabbing aggressively
for her doll and sobbing.
When we see a child acting level and flat, we take her
temperature. Why, then, do we feel it's okay for us
to ooze through life on a boring, uniform plane?
What, after all, is enthralling about a life that's safe
but lacks wonder, enthusiasm, passion, and joy?
What's normal about living from an apathetic place within
ourselves that knows no spontaneous gratitude, sense of
rightness, and harmony with the scheme of things?
Often we fall into the habit of living blah lives so
gradually that we aren't aware of how flat and bland our
lives have become. When my first husband left me, I
realized how level my life was.
When the shock wore
off, I experienced an explosion of emotions. I'd be
low, then I'd skyrocket into a frenzy of rage and desire
for revenge. I'd be thinking of suicide, then I'd be
giddy with fantasies about the possibilities that lay open
the years it took me to heal those wounds, I
experienced the widest range of feelings that I'd
had since I was a teenager. Becoming aware of
how painful my life was because of its flatness, I
decided to do something about it. One of my
first, fleeting reactions was, "I'm never going
to let myself be hurt like this again. Never,
never, never!" To protect myself, I
locked myself up in an emotional bubble-dome, out of
reach and invulnerable. But that didn't last
long because I gradually began to understand my own
role in the breakup: how my emotional
dependence and low self-esteem had helped level my
During my first marriage, I was unwilling to be
aware of what was going on inside of me or in the
relationship, for that matter. It was simply
too scary. As a defense mechanism, I became
funny on the outside, covertly and ineffectually
venting my anger by telling funny but barbed
stories. Later, when I was able to see my
actions with love and forgiveness instead of
flinching, I chose to act differently. I
changed my promise never to be hurt again to two
affirmations that I still live by.
The first was I choose to live my life
fully. For me, that meant a commitment to
risk taking and to experiencing all of my
feelings, whether joyous, painful, or
indifferent. It also meant a commitment to
honor dreams long shelved. I had tried to
avoid risk and pain for years. Now I was
learning that in order to live my life I had
to embrace life's whole package: the pain as
well as the joy, the risks as well as the
certainties--the entire gamut of emotions and
possibilities. It wasn't a decision I made
lightly or easily.
I was helped immensely by this passage from Khalil
Gibran's The Prophet:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises
was often filled with your
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being,
the more joy you can contain.
My second affirmation was I will never give
myself away again. Giving myself away had
depleted me so much I no longer felt there was a
"me." To counteract that void, I
decided to explore my boundaries, beliefs, and
desires. What did I want to do with my
life? Whom did I want to do it with?
What behavior was acceptable to me? What could
I do to increase my independence and my ability to
love others? How could I be a supportive yet
firm parent? What dreams longed to be
fulfilled? What did I need to heal in order to
resist the temptation to give myself away again?
As a result of my inner exploration, I finalized the
divorce, went to graduate school, and learned to
become a better parent and friend to myself.
Patton Thoele continues her quest to help
readers enhance their self-esteem and tap into
their core emotional strength. Geared to women
who too often find themselves meeting the
wants of others at the expense of their own
needs, the book provides necessary tools to
help readers transform their fears into the
courage to express their own authentic selves.
By sharing her own journey and the journey of
other women, Thoele helps readers learn to set
boundaries, change self-defeating behavior
patterns, communicate effectively, and become
a loving and tolerant friend to themselves.