Kelly Wendorf, MCC, MECD
What’s OK, What’s Not OK
There are times in one’s life, many if you are lucky, where the journey takes you to an abrupt right angle turn in the road. A decision is made. An insight is gleaned. An epiphany granted. Or sometimes a crisis occurs such as an illness or a death. Either way, you are stopped in your tracks and the way forward is via a whole new set of GPS coordinates. These are transformational moments that change a life’s trajectory.
What may surprise us as we head down our new path, is how suddenly some of our old relationships no longer quite fit anymore. It’s like that feeling when you’ve worn just flip flops all summer and then put on a pair of heels. Or you’ve donned nothing but sweatpants during all of lockdown and then put on a pair of slacks to go to the office––not comfortable.
But we’re loyal, and we love them, and ‘they’re not so bad really’ so we stuff ourselves into those ill-fitting relationships, dreading the next phone call, feeling anxious about the next gathering. The thing is, we’ve changed. We’ve grown. We are not the people we were before that bend in the road. Perhaps we have a new depth, or we’ve awakened to new values that are non-negotiable to us now.
In the life of someone who is committed to their growth, maturation and transformation, there comes a time of a natural attrition of commitments. We become keenly aware of the subtle nuances of energy––what gives us energy, what takes it, what diminishes our life force and what contributes to it. As we learn from the horse herd and from nature, energy is a prime resource. For an animal of prey like a horse, energy makes the difference between getting away from the lion, and not. We learn that the leader of the herd moves the least, therefore conserving the most energy.
But modern humans didn’t get the memo about energy and the importance of conserving it and tending to it. We run around with our hair on fire most days. We expend energy without consideration and wonder why we utterly collapse at the end of the day. We say yes to things that don’t really feel right. We take on projects that take too much from us in return. We keep people in our lives who for whatever reason take up way too much bandwidth, or who do not support who we are becoming in the world, or who are not taking responsibility for their energy.
This is when you need to do a clearing of your life of the kind of energy that you allow into your orbit. It’s a time of inventory: what is ok, what is not ok for you now? Who really sees you, and supports you, and who does not? Who takes responsibility for their energy, and who brings a lot of baggage and drama to your space? You cannot continue to move forward in your life and go next level if you surround yourself with energy that brings you down, that sucks the life force from you. Not only are you responsible for the energy that you bring to the world, you are also responsible for the energy with which you surround yourself.
Over the years I have had to learn a very hard, but essential lesson and it is this: love is unconditional, but relationships are conditional. I can love someone and still not allow them into my life. I can love someone but firmly say no to behaviors or patterns. In fact, one could argue that conditionality is an expression of love. When I watch my alpha mare Artemis skillfully guide her herd in its daily affairs, she levies strict and firm conditions on who does what, when, where and how. I have seen noncompliant horses be sent away until they learned the rules of order that support a system of safety, peace, connection, freedom and joy.
Buddhist teacher and author Lama Tsultrim Allione recounts an exquisite example of the conditionality of love in its fiercest form. One day she was dining with the Dalai Lama alongside other practitioners and teachers. The subject arose about the sexual misconduct of a specific male teacher who abused his female students. One woman said, “We are working with him with compassion, trying to get him to understand his motives for exploiting female students and to help him change his actions.”
The Dalai Lama slammed his fist on the table, saying loudly, “Compassion is fine, but it has to stop! And those doing it should be exposed!” All the serving plates on the table jumped, the water glasses tipped precariously in the wake of his explosion.
“Suddenly I saw him as a fierce manifestation of compassion and realized that this clarity did not mean that the Dalai Lama had moved away from compassion. Rather, he was bringing compassion and manifesting it as decisive fierceness,” she writes. “His magnetism was glowing like a fire.”
The revered Pema Chödrön, another Buddhist teacher and author coined the term idiot compassion. “It refers to something we all do a lot of and call it compassion,” she writes. “In some ways, it’s what’s called enabling. It’s the general tendency to give people what they want because you can’t bear to see them suffering.” Chödrön, exposes the danger in this: instead of offering a friend strong medicine, bitter though it may be when ingested, you feed them more poison. This, she says, is not compassion at all. It’s selfishness, as you’re more concerned with your own feelings of safety and comfort than attending to what a situation, or a person, actually calls for.
Take some time this week and do an inventory. Let your body tell you what feels ok, what feels not ok. You’ll know the ‘not ok’s’ by how it feels, like size-four jeans on a voluptuous and sexy size-twelve body. You’ve grown, in a good way, and your body knows it. As the poet David Whyte writes in his poem Sweet Darkness:
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness to learn
anything or anyone that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
Special Announcement! Do you want to have healthier and more supportive relationships in your life? Join us for our upcoming course Assertiveness Training for Empaths – a 12-week course. Space is very limited and registration closes October 14th, so don’t miss out! Join EQUUS Founding Partner Kelly Wendorf and EQUUS Faculty Adam Ramcharan for a special course designed to assist empathic and sensitive people to navigate the complicated world of human dynamics with healthy self-entitlement, clear and respectful self-agency and self-care. Email us for more information or to register.