Sunday, August 5, 2007

Expect the Unexpected

The tall pines stand in silent witness to morning’s rosy glow creeping over the solid mass of the mountains surrounding me. White clouds frothed with pink lay scattered across the sky like whipped cream on a bowl of plump, ripe raspberries. A crisp morning breeze rustles the leaves of the aspens. It’s a Rocky Mountain high kind of morning.

There’s something magical about being in the mountains, though, perhaps it’s just my state of mind, not really dependent upon where I am, but where I’m not. At home, the accusing stare of the 101 things I ought to be doing but am not getting to, litter the landscape, clutter up my conscience. The lawn that needs mowing. The bathroom shower that needs cleansing. The book that needs reading – or even writing.

Avoidance strengthens fear, and yet, in the world of household chores calling me, avoidance is an awesome gift I don’t indulge in without pangs of guilt creeping into my thinking. I skip the list and settle into indulgence. Far from home, chores and To Do lists are far from my reality.

I’m not a list person, anyway. At least, not in my daily life. I write a list to take to the grocery store and promptly forget it on the counter. The game becomes, ‘what can I remember without calling home?’ I look for the value in my forgetfulness and turn it into an exercise in memory. Can I remember all 15 things? Can I use the grocery store aisles as an opportunity to test my recall abilities?

Finding value in all things is an integral component of creating a beautiful life. When I look for what is good in any given situation – based on reality naturally and not my magical thinking focused on what I would like it to be versus what it truly is – I create opportunities to be surprised by the unexpected. As Oscar Wilde wrote, “to expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.”

Expecting the unexpected is not a license to let go of rational thinking. It means staying connected to intellect and allowing my intuition to guide me – especially where people are concerned.

Some people come into our lives with the speed of a freight train blowing through town. When I met Conrad the intensity and velocity of his attentions were unexpected – and not unwelcome. Wow, such a talented and successful man was interested in me? Cool! And thus I fell. I took his unexpected attentions and turned them into the expectation that he would be true to his word and never hurt me. In his railroading me into line, I got bowled over by the weight of his convictions that he knew what was best and right for me. I took my intellect off what he was doing, -- hurting me -- and kept my mind on what he’d told me he would do, -- never hurt me -- even while he was. I fell in love with the prince of my dreams and ignored the ogre prancing before my eyes.

When we first meet someone, we do not know who they truly are, just as they don’t know who we are. New people in our lives can be the best thing that ever happened to us – or the worst. They can contribute joy, laughter, friendship, fun, shared experiences, or, they can contribute pain and turmoil. Because I let myself be beguiled by his appearance and the circumstances of our meeting (a business associate introduced us), I made a decision to let him into my life, and the lives of my daughters, too quickly.

Quick access was important to him – he needed to ensure I didn’t see who he truly was until he had me under his spell. I obliged. It was easy. I didn’t want him to see how needy I was, and how his assertions that I was the most amazing woman he’d ever met affected me. So, while he seemed like an unexpected gift from a benevolent dating god smiling down on me, he wasn’t really all that unexpected. He was part of a pattern I’d indulged in most of my life – Find my value in someone else’s praises and don’t look for my value in me; in who I am, what I do, what I believe in, what I value.

I value friendship. I value the people who have played a role in my life for many years. With Conrad, I devalued my friendships and bought into his insistence that he knew what was best for me. He was the only one who cared.

Gavin de Becker aptly describes the series of tactics conmen such as Conrad employ as thus:

  • Forced teaming
  • Charm and niceness
  • Too many details
  • Typecasting
  • Loan-sharking
  • The unsolicited promise
  • Discounting the word “No”

(Source: Protecting the Gift. Pg 210. Survival Signals)

In those first heady days of that relationship, Conrad used every single tactic to perfection. He convinced me my talents as a communications professional were critical in his efforts to take the company public – “It’s you and me against the world of high finance. Together we can make this happen.” (Forced Teaming)

He used his considerable charm to snow me – his very first statement to me when I suggested we had met before was a seductive invitation to step into his web, “If we’d met before I’d never have let you go.” One Saturday, we had a meeting at his office (did I mention he was really, really busy and simply could not make a meeting during the week). I brought coffee and muffins. His old-world charm was seductive. He met me at my car. Held my door open. Insisted he pay for the coffees and muffins. Enthused about the coffee (it was regular old Starbucks) and the muffins as if he'd never had such great tasting muffins before. (Charm and niceness)

During one of our first meetings, I sat on a chair on the other side of his desk feeling somewhat uncomfortable and exposed as he described, with sensual explicitness, the joy of washing a car, his hands moving through the air in seductive curves. He asked me about my colour preferences for car interior leathers and explained why as a woman, my choices were so incredibly relevant to their efforts to build the 'perfect car'. He also mentioned how his former wife didn't have any interest in what he did... (Too many details and Charm and niceness)

Typecasting was easy for him. He constantly stated I was naïve, lacked experience, and hadn’t really experienced true love in my life.

His early gift-giving was overwhelming – creating an aura of gratitude. I gave you gifts. You owe me. (Load sharking)

I remember wondering about his promise to ‘never hurt me’. I never suggested he would. Why did he think it was important to reassure me? (The unsolicited promise)

And, finally, discounting my No. I refused his invitation for a date, insisting I was not interested in dating, I’d just left a longterm relationship. I needed time to soothe my aching heart. He pressured and pressured me until I acquiesced and said yes. My No became an unheard voice in the wilderness of his lies.

In the end, it was easy for him to dupe me. I wasn’t expecting the unexpected – his duplicity – I was expecting his adoration. In my expectation, I kept my eye on what I was looking for, not on what he was doing.

In healing, I have found the value in that experience and used it to build the foundation of my beautiful life today. I didn’t live my truth back then. Didn’t keep myself free of my victim’s thinking. Today I know better, and I do better.

I still slip. The grace is in catching myself before I fall out of step with my truth by stepping into someone else’s. Recently I had an opportunity to participate in an interesting project that appeared, on the surface, to have merit. It probably does. But, I know it's not the place for me. I said yes too quickly, even though I knew enough to know it isn’t right for me. I seduced myself into thinking that this opportunity could be good business for me. I ignored my intuition and smothered it with thoughts of, Relax, Louise. This is a good idea. It's business. It's not personal. Not true. When my intuition tells me to walk away. I need to listen.

I had to clean up my Yes with a clear No. I had to remind myself that it is my right to make choices that support me. And I had to be honest about my mistake. A good learning experience for me.

I've spoken with other women friends about saying 'yes' even when No is screaming for attention. It's habitual. When we say No, we're ignored. Ask the millions of women who have had unwilling sex how often they've said no without being heard. Unfortunately, the No also gets stuck in our heads, and is never spoken, leaving us victim's of our unwillingness to 'create waves', to speak up, to disagree.

Learning to say No is a powerful process for every woman. Learning to say no without justifying, rationalizing, explaining is equally as important. When we stand by our No, because it is our right to speak it, without explaining the 'why', we claim our right to make choices that are right for us -- and ultimately, the world around us.

My goal, my mission, my belief is to do the right thing. I can’t do the right thing when I step off with the wrong foot into places I have not determined whether or not I want to go. I live in a world of community. I want to make a difference -- In my life, in the lives of those I love, in my community, in the world at large. In doing the right thing for me, I create the possibility and the space for those around me to do the right thing for themselves as well. As long as my ‘right’ doesn’t make them ‘wrong’, we are all free to express ourselves without fear, without hesitation, without holding back on our truth.

I trust myself to be responsible for my choices, for my own happiness. I trust others to be responsible for theirs.

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