Marq and I were watching a movie a few nights ago where abwoman and her husband and teenage daughter were driving in the middle of the night and started getting heckled and taunted by a carload of do-no-gooders on the freeway, out in the middle of nowhere with no cell service and no passing traffic. (by the way, I would not recommend this movie, it was terrifying)
Anyway, the bad guys kept ramming their car and eventually ran the family off the road to the point that their car wouldn’t drive. Then they demanded that the family exit the vehicle. They then separated the woman and her daughter from the husband and drove away with them.
One bad dude stayed back with the husband and drove him to a remote place and dropped him off, only to come back a few hours later to get him.
That was the scene that did me in . . . the one where the husband had to hide and decide if he was going to get in the vehicle with the bad guys and gamble whether he’d end up back with his wife and daughter or if he should just keep hiding, knowing that if he were separated from the horrible kidnapping situation, he’d have a lot better chance to do something about it than if he became one of the kidnapped again just so he could be with his wife and daughter.
Marq and I paused the movie there, and discussed what we would do in that situation — we both decided that we would keep hiding so that we could be on the outside of the situation and observe it, above it so we could observe it, away from it so we can have our full faculties and mobility to move into it in the safest and most effective way to help the ones kept captive rather than being a prisoner inside of it.
Ugh. What a choice.
It was a tough choice and it choked me up. Marq then went on to explain to me why he does a lot of the over-protective and on-guard and super prepared things that he does. Because he always wants to be in a position where he can have as much mobility, choice and sovereignty as possible so that he can actually be of service and not mired down in the thick tar of situations that can arise when one steps into any kind of oppressive situation.
These are the choices we have to make sometimes when we love someone and when we value life.
And often they are split-second choices. Sometimes they are well thought out and strategic — this choice to stay outside of thick tar-covered life situations. But either way, they are hard choices that others are quick to judge who have not been in dire situations like these.
I have to thank my lucky stars for the ones who refuse to be part of tarry situations or who didn’t get pulled into the tar. Maybe they didn’t choose, they were just fortunate this go-round. But the ones who are on the outside of the tar are in incredibly opportune positions to throw someone a rope. And they are the ones who can stage really effective interventions.
That’s where I’m going with this. To my intervention that happened unexpectedly in the kitchen of my dear friends, West and Kami. By unexpectedly, I mean that I DIDN’T EXPECT IT. And I guess that’s how interventions are supposed to go.
I want to start by saying that you can’t call someone on the carpet effectively unless you have a track record of loving rapport, trust and respect. If someone calls you on the carpet that you don’t feel safe with, that you don’t respect, or someone you feel like PUSHED YOU into the tar, it doesn’t work. It just feels like another hit.
But when someone who you know loves you and wants the best for you, an intervention can be one of the best things that can ever happen to you. And it can simultaneously feel humiliating and uncomfortable. And like a relief. And like a punch in the gut. And like love. Yes, all of these at the same time.
I am so grateful that we all, in our human family, have different personalities and different gifts. All of them are important and all of them matter.
When someone is spiraling down, I have seen several different ways that those around them handle the spiraling down. There are the ones who only sympathize with you and let you be as sad and pathetic as you need to be. They listen and hug and empathize and sympathize and comfort. Man, this is so needed and I am so grateful.
And then there are the ones who only accuse and find fault and want to give you a quick solution based on all the things you did to get yourself in this situation. And they seem to know exactly how you can RIGHT NOW get yourself out of it and never have it happen again. These ones often have a list of the things you’ve done in the past that they didn’t approve of and they’ve done the math on all of it and you are always far more in negative numbers than you can ever see yourself working your way out of. It’s accusations, faults and pre-made solutions that are so far off the mark that the only result of the interaction is more division and more shame and more frustration. Because almost never have these people been through something like what they are professing to be an expert at. These are the times we need to turn on the Charlie Brown adult voice filter WHA WHA WHA WHA…..
And then there are the ones who call you on the carpet and show you all of the sides they can see, including the ones you don’t want to see for yourself. They make you aware that they are aware and that they want YOU TO BE AWARE of what it seems like you are doing. It’s not an accusation. It’s an intervention, and it’s rooted in CHOICE. They want you to make the choice that keeps you alive.
They are coming from a place of WANTING YOU TO SEE SO MUCH GOOD IN YOURSELF that you are willing to STOP DOING THE THINGS THAT ARE DESTROYING YOU. So like I said, these people are effective because of the rapport and trust they’ve built. They have “earned” the credibility to speak some harsh truth to you about how you’re destroying your own life. It’s not an accusation and it’s not a criticism. It’s a loud and booming yell at you as you run toward a really high cliff that will mean a fall to your death. It’s love, actually.
So I walked straight into an intervention. We rent the top of West and Kami’s house and that’s where we stay in the cold months. That’s when this happened. We have to go down the stairs to get out of the house and when this happened, I don’t think I’d been down those stairs in several weeks. I made myself a little place to hide and I’d covered myself up with a permanent blanket made of Cheetos, m&ms and shame.
And it was a short intervention, but it was potent. It was effective. It was to the point. I don’t remember exactly the chronology of the conversation but it contained the following elements:
“Melody, we can’t stand by and be part of this anymore and we can’t keep it from Marq. You are in an abusive situation”
“You could put a stop to it today and you’re the only one who can do it.”
“We wish you would do it because we love you, but if you don’t do it, we can’t be part of it any way and we are stepping away from this situation today.”
“We have watched you slowly die, hide, gain weight and wither away in spirit every week since you got here. You are not okay. We are here to support you but we can’t support what you are doing to your life by staying in the situations you are in.”
“You’re allowing things that we cannot allow and all we can do for you at this point is not participate in it any longer.”
“We have seen, we know now. Now you know that we know. And so now you have some choices to make.”
“And…..we are going to tell Marq everything we know, because we love you.”
So here I stood in the kitchen, naked as a jaybird in all ways pertaining to the soul, and I was speechless. I was exposed. I was humiliated and relieved. I could not run and hide. I didn’t have an argument because I knew these two well enough that my default arguments of “But……” would always be met with….
“Melody, where is your accountability?”
“Melody, this does suck but you are the only one who can put a stop to it.”
I knew that arguing was futile. I knew they were right.
Well, then Marq entered into the conversation, and the details of what had been happening for months that had turned into years became new knowledge to him. So he and I went upstairs and had to have some very honest conversations.
I have only made my husband cry a few times. And it was out of sheer frustration. This series of conversations was one of those times and I did it again just about a month ago. He gets frustrated when I behave as if I am powerless, when I forget what I know to be true, and when I go into my stubborn default martyr mode. He has been reduced to tears by this because he does everything he can possibly do to help me without taking away my choices and my freedom and often I just keep doing the thing that is killing me, which in turn, kills us. He was tired of a million vicarious deaths.
So after this intervention, I made some choices. And I made them swiftly. And it was hard. And the early consequences were dire. But the consequences always come around anyway and often the longer you wait, the more extreme the consequences are.
I wanted it to be someone else’s responsibility.
I wanted someone to come save me, but not in a messy way.
I wanted to go to sleep until it was over.
But I was submitting to things I’d NEVER allow someone else to participate in and endure.
I was hiding it.
I was participating in my own slow death.
I was isolating and putting myself deeper and deeper into a cave so that no one else could see what was really happening.
I was ignoring offers of help and encouragement.
I was building more walls and digging more holes and weaving more heavy blankets of tar and fat and busy-ness and stories to cover myself with so that I could disappear.
So I had to look at myself in that mirror. I was aging in that way that self-betrayal ages you, I was feeling old and chubby and I looked like someone who was trying to die by being crushed or smothered or smashed or just by disappearing.
And now, I was exposed. I was in a corner with nowhere to back into but back into myself.
I see myself as someone who, when I’ve made it to an age old enough that I know my time has come, might go out into the woods and die alone just so that I don’t have to do it front of others. So if you’re like this and a part of you is being killed by something that you’re allowing, it makes sense that you might try to go and do that in a dark corner, alone. And you might think that’s what you’re actually doing, but others really can see it. Sometimes it doesn’t really matter that they can see it because we can’t control what others can see and they can’t control what we do when they DO see. But we also can’t wait for it — we can’t wait for someone to finally see and stage a big intervention.
Sometimes we have to stage our own intervention on ourselves.
So I set off to give MYSELF an intervention and I wrote down all of the things that were happening, and the role I was playing in all of it. I wrote down what it was doing to me and what it was doing to my marriage, my health, my children and my future,
And I did the hard thing and put an end to it and the consequences were devastating. A lot like pruning most of the branches from a favorite tree . . . branches that might look healthy and strong from the outside but are diseased and spreading disease on the inside.
When you put a stop to something that’s killing you, It’s often a lot like pruning that favorite tree and then having to put the branches in the fire.
It’s something that’s best done right before winter. Because it’s about to get really cold in your life when you prune a lot of disease from your tree.
So you can put those branches in the fire and let them warm you or you can keep trying to pull them out of the fire to glue them back on — and be burned by that fire every time you try to pull a branch back out. Because it’s going to be a long and cold winter of gaining your nutrients and exercising the discipline required to not submit to a story that you are dying or already dead. And not submitting to the story that you should never have cut those branches off and you can somehow glue them back on, even if they are diseased.
That’s what winter can feel like to a severely pruned tree, and especially to the pruner.
But it’s actually healing time. And this kind all starts with hearing a hard truth that someone had the courage to tell you. Sometimes you, yourself are the hard truth that needs to be told.
When we think there’s some way that we can beat our shadow, and we think we have…then we hide it even more when it shows back up. The thing is, our shadow is inextricably part of us and we will never be able to make it go away. And why should we? The ramifications of thinking there’s some GOOD THING we can do to never struggle in life again are devastating because we need community more than ever when we struggle. When we retreat in the darkness to hide our struggles, there IS a sweet spot of isolation where you get the message and come back. But it can start to smother you like tar if you stay there for too long. There are so many things that are medicinal when the timing is right and then go toxic when they start to rot. Isolation is this way.
I wish we didn’t hide our struggles and our need to go into isolation for a while to figure things out. Why can’t we say, as if we were trekking into the literal wilderness; “ I am gathering some intel in my shadow, will you come get me if I haven’t returned by this time?” And not shame each other for having to do it,but support each other in going there “to get what needs to be got.” Sometimes you’ve got to do it alone and other times it’s nice to have a friend come along. But no shame is needed, ever.
It’s a tarry place. There’s the starry sky and tarry cellar. I was closing my eyes and pinching my nose and slowly letting my body sink into that immersive black tar – it was holding me and I just wanted to be held. Sometimes we will settle for anything that is holding us, even if it’s like quicksand.
That’s why we need others to intervene sometimes and call us on the tarry carpet.
And they’ve got to stay outside of our mess to be able to do it. That’s where they can be most helpful. There’s only so much others can do before it turns to codependency and mutual paralyzation. At some point, someone has to decide to climb out or stay out or get above it all so that they can be the one to throw the rope.
This can look like callousness and dissociation but it’s actually mercy and accountability and sacrifice. If everyone is drowning, everyone is dying.
Just beware of the ones who push others into tarry pits in the secret dark and throw them a rope in the public light. But that’s a conversation for another road.
So on The Road Where I Got Called On The Carpet, I learned the valuable lesson of WISDOM. The wisdom it takes to know that being in someone’s mess is a great place to help them — but making sure you’re on solid ground outside of a tarry mess is probably the best place to be able to help everyone OUT OF those places. I think we need people in both places.
So I am practicing that, and trying to unlearn what I used to think was true about being right in the middle of the messes. It can look the same because being WITH SOMEONE on solid ground next to their mess, while they are in their mess is right next to ENTERING INTO THE MESS with them.
I am learning to be powerful by learning to throw a rope to others from a solid place rather than throwing myself in, where now we have two people to save. And I’m learning to take the rope when someone throws it and not expecting them to jump in with me.
It’s a hard lesson to learn, but I’m here for it.
So, beautiful soul,
When have you been called on the carpet? AND What could have happened in your life if someone would not have shown you the kind of uncomfortable love it takes to have that conversation with you?
Thank you for staying next to me in this awkwardness. Tomorrow we will go even deeper in, on The Road Where I Remembered My Sins.
I love you,