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  • Writer's pictureClaire Spencer

Listening

"One of the most underrated human strengths, is the courage it takes to make the choice to become fully conscious. That's what you do when you illuminate your triggers. That's also how you invite more light into the world." - Xavier Dagba


How many people are you willing to hurt to prove you are not loved? I'm lucky. I have never been hit, with intentional violence, by another human. I've made it 43 years with no bruises or broken bones from lovers, caregivers, or even an angry stranger. And, I have not escaped violence. An angry lover grabbed my wrist, and I walked out of the house. Another loomed over my body, yelling, as I stood at the door, trying to both calm them and keep myself safe as I left. And like almost all women, there are countless instances of coercive sexual negotiations - guilt tripping, judgement, manipulation, witholding. So common in my experience that I hadn't considered them as violent until recently - rather a normal, everyday fact of relating. In the sunny living room of a retreat several years back, on the first day of a sharing circle, another participant shared (paraphrased): "I grew up in a violent home. Compliments were precursors to suffering - praise was used for manipulation, and it was only a matter of time before violence returned. Now, I find myself so isolated from the world. You all have been so welcoming and gracious and warm - and I can't accept it. The kinder you are, the more suspicious I feel towards you." Recently, I came to realize a disturbing theme. All my experiences of violence have one thing in common: each person refused to believe in my love - in the possibility of being loved. Because they did not believe it, they were searching for evidence to prove their belief - that they weren't loved - and in doing so, finding ever more demanding ways to "make me" prove it. "If you love me, you won't abandon me when I yell at you. If you love me, you'll perform sexually against your own desire or physical capacity. If you love me, you'll let me track you on your phone and read (into) all your messages." Or, "I know you don't love me, there's no way you're not lying." "I know you don't love me, none of the loving things you have done matter; what matters is the one time you didn't call me fast enough, or you showed up late, or you dared to speak to someone else while I was present." In my experience, in the end anyways, they were always right. The man who was convinced I was cheating was, in fact, cheating himself (out of self protection against being alone). I did leave him. The man who treated warmth from strangers found himself ever more angry that people were "so fake" and, in his anger, alienated an entire group of well meaning strangers. I did love all of them for many reasons - for their kind heart, for their artistry, for infinite aspects of their being. However, I had to find a way to love them from the distance that was safe for me. Some simply moved to an outer circle of my life. Some have been blocked and cut out, and I am limited in my loving to hoping they find the help they need. I have always have been able to hold compassion; what I struggled with is acceptance and understanding. This past week, I came to an understanding of the ways that I have deeply hurt others with my own lack of self love. Turning away from a lover because their love triggered deep feelings of unworthiness. Rejecting a relationship because my own self-imposed "girlfriend duties" felt onerous, and instead of examining myself, I turned in anger towards them for their "expectations." It's easy for me to understand the idea that "my ability to love another is only limited by my ability to love myself." What I didn't understand is that the consequence of failing to do the work on myself is that not only are others not loved - but they are hurt. Hurt by rejection. Hurt by distrust placed on them that belonged to another. Hurt by the confusion of offering their very best only to be met with abandonment. Hurt by my gathering of evidence of their badness, and abandoning all the goodness that they embody. I'm sharing this today not to shame or judge any of us. Rather, to encourage self reflection in the hopes that together, we can choose a different cycle - a different story. We often get asked, at Fit for Service, what the "Service" part is. We don't give members a project to focus on or a cause to take up. The cause is personal. When we find our way to our own love of self, we can stop the suffering that otherwise, inevitably, leaks out into the world, and most heartbreakingly, onto those we are most intimate with. I will close this newsletter with a quote by Africa Brooke, - I cannot say it better than she does; and reading her words inspired me to believe that global change can, and does, begin within. Love, Claire


"How free would we be if we stopped training ourselves to be a society that's quick to shut down dialogue, to censor, to label, to humiliate, to misrepresent, to cancel, and to create enemies where they don't exist..." - Africa Brooke



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