Ripleigh Go Bragh

Ripleigh Go Bragh
Connemara stallion Ripleigh Go Bragh

Monday, September 26, 2011

In Praise of Co-Dependency

This post is for everyone who has ever been told that they are "co-dependent".

There is something about the way people use the word "co-dependent" that I find damaging in its innuendos.  It is as if they are saying, "yes, it is a shame but really she shouldn't have been walking in that neighborhood at that time of night" to someone who is having a hard time in a relationship. 

It has been applied to me recently as I struggle to come to terms with what are the side-effects of a rather difficult transition in my relationship. Things are changing and while we both feel it would be a waste to toss out what is so obviously a perfectly wonderful match, we seem to find it difficult to agree on what a relationship is or should be.  She feels like she needs more freedom and space, I feel I need more intimacy and commitment. My heart is still very into her, and her heart is in need of the self-love that comes with not having to be in relationship with anyone (it's called single). 

But, hell. We both really like each other and we just got ownership of the house and 100 acres.  We are finally in a position to build a life together and ironically, we aren't sure that we are the one's we ought to be building it with.  But we shall try, oh my, how we shall try!  We've agreed to go three weeks at a time and then see.

Anyhow, Co-dependency...

I've always felt that the term has come to be a way to demean and dis-empower people who are givers, feelers, and expressors.   I'd call it "woman style loving" only there are plenty of both genders who struggle with living in a world that honors takers, with-holders, and the numb and dumb.

If your lover has fallen out of love with you and has been behaving poorly (however you want to define it) then it is probable that you are hurt, upset, desperately trying to figure out what to do to change the situation, angry, confused, insecure and maybe a little WHACKED OUT!  They on the other hand are cool, calm and mostly irritated that you just can't get over it and let them move on. I mean really! They are fine, they just want you to be happy, they aren't worried about their future... what the hell is wrong with you? Maybe you are co-dependent!

And everyone will agree with them. There must be something wrong with you, and if that is so- then what the other person is doing is somehow forgiven.  It is your fault, after all, that you can't deal with life.


Here's the truth.  Co-dependency is a sign that you are in the presence of someone who is in denial or who is in an active state of addiction, crappy behavior, poor morals, shitty boundaries or who is a pain in the ass that is trying to get you to take the load off their back so they can carry one being the asshole with equanimity.
In other words, if you are behaving in a co-dependent (whacked out, obsessive, anxious, fearful, angry and crazy) then it is probably because you have been triggered into it.

Now here's the tough love part:  you are 100% responsible for dealing with your own co-dependent behaviors. 

You might have to leave the relationship, pitch a fit, toss the bottles in the garbage, be a damn bitch, or whatever it takes to get you away from the source of your co-dependent trigger.

You will have to rebuild your sanity, find the love within yourself, and most of all- GO BACK TO LIVING YOUR LIFE AS IF IT WERE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD.

It is crazy hard. It is painful hard. It requires a monumental effort of the will and the utmost devotion to your soul.

You need help.  I need help.  So, after years of being a snotty brat about 12 step (even though I use all of their principles in my coaching) I went to a meeting with an wonderful teacher named Julie.  I chose the Debtors Anonymous chapter because I like the idea of becoming solvent on all levels. I love that they have vision meetings and pressure relief groups and action steps. Oh it is just so coachy cool!

So the next time you hear the term co-dependent and someone is pointing at you I want you to say this to them:

"Yes you are right I am in a co-dependent reaction. Because no one knows a messed up person better than the co-dependent they need to take care of them.  And if you think I am co-dependent on you, then that must make you the messed up person I need to get the hell away from!"

And then I want you to run to the person in your life who will let you know the following:
1. Yes, you are crazy, but it is because you were in a crazy situation.
2. Crazy situations are out of control and there is nothing you can do to change it.
3. Repeat after me:
     "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
      Courage to change the things I can,
      And the wisdom to know the difference.
4.  Remember, you don't write the script. You only act in the play.  All you can do is go one second at a time.
5. What can you do to get back into your "I"?

You are worth it. You are beautiful. You are perfect. And the way that you love is glorious.

Be loved my friends... you are not alone.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Unconditional Love addendum

Well, I've had one comment already so I figure why not?   Here's my spleen...

I think unconditional love is what people who are takers ask to receive from people who are givers.  

I feel like it is a personal challenge but not a healthy lifestyle.  I love Hitler for having so horrified the world that people actually changed their worldview to prevent the holocaust from happening again.  But if you put him in front of me on a bad day, I can guarantee you that he wouldn't leave the room on his own two feet. 

Your love for another isn't a personal construct- it isn't you loving you in another. It is you having the courage to love more than yourself.  It is you being willing to be vulnerable.  But loving doesn't mean you have to be stupid or a doormat because the only person you should love unconditionally is yourself. Everyone else has to meet your standards before they get the Halloween candy bag of treats!

Unconditional Love

These words irritate me.  

I’m not going to go into depth on why because I can’t think of a way to do that without dragging all that I am working on in my relationship into this blog.   I’d rather get into a hot tub with a candle lit and just soak into oblivion tonight.

All I have to say about unconditional love is that it is something that you GIVE not something that you demand to receive.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

First Love = The Rest of Your Life

Last month I asked "how do you know when you are loved?"

I thought I knew the answer to this question.  But after six weeks of relationship struggles that threatened not only 15 years of partnership but also my capacity to farm my land and keep my horses, I discovered that I had no clue.

I only knew what I believed I needed to feel loved, cherished, desired, etc.   When those symbols of being loved were absent, I felt unloved.  But does a lack of specific contact, actions, words or gestures mean that I am not loved- or worse, that I am unlovable?

And yet, my partner feels she loves me even though I can feel and see evidence that her love for me is less or different from what I expect and demand from her in order to feel loved.

 Do you remember your first love?  What about the first book or movie that let you know that the feelings you were feeling about another was love?  What else was going on in your life at that time?

I ask these questions because my first love didn't go so well.  In fact, it went so badly that I seem to have committed myself to repeating it over and over in the twisted hope of getting it right.  The interesting thing about the timing of my first love is that I had just discovered a passion for writing, riding and playing sports. Not only did I ride to a Grand Championship at a series of horse shows in Oregon and Washington, but I had the joy of reading Jane Austen for the first time.  I was finally playing team sports (field hockey) and had had an amazing English teacher who encouraged my love for words.  I was 15, I was in love and Jane Austen was showing me how to get "real love" instead of the inconstant and shady kind I was seeing in my peers and with my divorced parents.

I'll save you the angst and simply summarize:  I went away to ride to glory on the circuit, wrote Austen-esque letters, and tasted the potential for a life worth living.  When I came home, the girl was with someone else.

I have a theory that there are key moments in our young lives at which we make rules or decisions about which we arrange our lives.

For example, my 15 year old self (and what 15 year old doesn't know everything?) took this situation and came up with the following rule:  I lost my first love because I went away and rode my horse and because my letters obviously didn't convey my feelings well enough.  Therefore I must never leave my love's side, riding horses led to this pain, and I really have to work harder at communicating.

Thirty years later, I find myself obsessing over my relationship to the detriment of my riding and writing career.  My life has been one long pursuit of studying human behavior, philosophy, spirituality, psychology, coaching, etc. because somewhere in all those fields I believed I would find the answer or a way to have done it differently.  Never mind that what I really wanted to do was to be a wildlife biologist/C.S. Lewis-type writer.   No, I had decided I was willing to do anything and give up everything so as to not feel that pain ever again.  I was going to find, get and keep my soul mate forever- or die trying. 

I actually believed that I lost the girl because I was doing what I loved.  And worse, I believed that doing what I loved would always lead to disappointment and pain.  Ever hear of self-fulfilling prophecies? If you haven't then you will find my picture next to the definition on Wikipedia.

I would like to rephrase my earlier question:

What do you expect being loved to feel and look like?

While you work on that, I am going to go out and do everything that I love.  If I am lucky, and I think I will be, my true love will be there by my side while I do it... or shall I say, because I am doing what I love.

Jane Austen still got it right- it's the girl who stands by her heart's truth that gets the right one.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Holding Hands

Stop a moment and look down at those things attached to the end of your arms and to which your fingers are joined.  Notice how much more attention you give to the pads on your fingers than you do to the palm of your hand.

Now go to something you love and put your whole hand on it.  Better yet, go grab the hand of someone you care about.

Don't talk, don't think... just feel what it feels like to hold hands.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Me and You

Me + You = Us

So simple and elegant an equation as this ought to make everything in relationships as equally elegant and simple.  But nope, what usually happens is something more like this:

F(us)  = Me > < You

As in, Us is a function of more me and less you, or vice versa.

These equations work for all species interactions as well as with our own psychologies (as in all those voices in your head that say "you should ..."  or "I am..." You know- the ones you argue with while driving or eating that cookie instead of working out?)

My life has been largely focused on the Us and the You in my relationships.  I've just assumed that the Me in the equation was a constant given.  There are people who focus on the Me and assume that this means Us because the You is not their concern.   This has caused a lot of problems because really the quality of Us will always be affected by the amount of Me and of You in the relationship.

I have come to the conclusion that my perfect relationship would be something like this:

50Me + 50You = 100Us

Naturally this is not possible at all times, but I figure that this is a reasonable goal.

What would you get if you were take these equations and apply them to whatever is important in your life?

For example, when you ride your horse- do you want it to be 1%Horse + 99%You = 100%Us?  This would make for a horse that fits you perfectly but leaves little room for the horse to express itself.  A good robot ride that is mostly dependent upon you.  Do you want that kind of responsibility (aka control)? Can you be that on and perfect all of the time?

Reverse the equation and you have a runaway horse with an out of control passenger.

I prefer to have a horse that is capable of thinking about itself and me at the same time.  I want to work with one that makes decisions that benefit us both and one which trusts me to take it into consideration as often as possible.

This means that I have to allow my horse to be an independent being with whom I work in equal partnership that works for both our benefits.

Sometimes the equation will skew in favor of one or the other.

For example, when it comes to galloping across country- I expect my horse to carry the bulk of the burden because it is his feet that are on the ground, but at the same time it is my brain that is doing the directing:  75Horse + 25Me = 100 US

But in a parking lot full of other horses and cars, I would want my horse to be mostly about me while at the same time I expect it to keep an eye on the environment (after all they have better hearing, eye sight, intuition etc.): 75Me + 25Horse = 100Us.

The important thing about thinking this way is that it reminds one to think about oneself AND the other person.  It is a great way to check in with oneself to see what needs to change or stay the same in order to get to where you want to go.

The catch is though- that until all parties in the equation are in agreement as to what constitutes 100Us, it will always end up in a squabble of F(us)  = Me > < You.

 Where are you in your life today?

Monday, September 12, 2011

New Life

Times have been hard for everyone. 

Sometimes when we are struggling with a personal conflict we forget that life isn’t just about ourselves.  Remembering that the world is much bigger can help pull one out of a big black funk.   
At the same time, giving yourself permission to work through these times of intense personal difficulties is very important. 

Over the last month or so I finally broke down and let myself fall apart.  I decided to stop being the strong willed, clear-sighted, optimistic, brave and patient Renee.  No this month I wanted to finally pop open all the flood gates and just say what needed to be said.

Things needed to change and for once the thing that was NOT going to change was me.

Things have changed.

And of course, so have I.

Denise and I have found a new way of working together- more separate and more at choice, my mom has moved to her new digs, and I have created what I call the 2-3-2.

Three days a week Denise and I focus on our relationship and on the farm.  She gets two days to be totally at choice, I get two days to be totally at choice.   For the first time in 15 years I know when Denise will be present and into us, she knows she will have time to herself, and most importantly I get 2 days off a week.   

It’s been 13 years since we started farming.  Over those years I was in charge of the farm and Denise was in charge of making money off farm to support it.   Somehow I ended up always holding down the farm no matter what.  Generally I would get maybe a few days off here and there, once every 2 or 3 years I’d get a few days off in a row but for the most part I was on all the time.  I never knew when I would get a break let alone spend time playing with Denise.   You know the story about prisoners of war not leaving their cells when they were finally released because they were too afraid that their freedom would be taken away from them as soon as they stepped out the gate?  That’s been me.

So the idea of having 2 days to build a life while Denise holds down the fort…. Oh manna from heaven!!

All because I decided to be Irene and let it all out. 

The moral of this post is that sometimes you can change your world and the people in it. Sometimes it means being a screaming maniac; sometimes it means being brutally honest; sometimes it means saying “either you change or you leave.”  More often than not it is a combination of all these things working in synchronicity with externals.

So if you are having a personal meltdown and your well-meaning friends or therapist say to you “you can’t make people change”, I want you to think about Hurricane Irene, or Katrina or those amazing thousands in Egypt and Libya.  

Stand your ground, speak your truth, take the risk, dig deep and INSIST!

And then, when you have recovered yourself, get creative. 

Because while it is true you can’t “make” anyone change, you can certainly provide them with the motivation to change.  Personally, I find discomfort much more motivating that any other source of inspiration.  Stick a tack in one shoe and a cushion in the other… which one gets your attention?

Where in your life do you need to take a stand?

And if you want someone to support you or help you come up with some options, give me a call. 


Friday, September 9, 2011


A few weeks ago I was sobbing on a friend’s couch over the difficulties I was having in my relationship.  Fifteen years of stressful circumstances, the consequences of too many bad choices and stupid comments, and the disappointment of hopes had led to the feeling that I was going to have to break up with my love… oh, and the girl upon whom I had placed the burden of being the recipient of my love. 

This is no ordinary love… I mean I LOVE her.  My feelings for her come from as near a place as that heart space as I can possibly imagine.  I am helpless in the face of it.  I feel this way about my horses, the land, a sunset on the ocean, beautiful music, a well written sentences, good chocolate and breathing after holding my breath for too long.

Honestly, stopping loving her just can’t be done.

The problem is that she doesn’t necessarily feel this way about me anymore.  She Loves Me which is better than loving me but this isn’t anywhere near LOVING ME.  Can you say “ouch” my friends?  Been there?

My friend sat patiently as I snottily emoted and eloquently expressed my despair.  Then in her usual quiet and unobtrusive way she cut right to the core of it and said,

“I hear a lot of ‘we’ and ‘her’ when you talk.  I think you need to spend more time in the ‘I’”

I am always amazed at how a well placed cauterizing statement can dry up a really good cry.   

She was right… I was all about her and us.

Flash forward one week to the day of the worst hurricane to hit the East Coast in over a century.  Houses are floating down small roads in the Catskills, over 5 million people are without power, 15 die in Connecticut, small towns in Vermont are left stranded and hundreds of thousands of people are left with destroyed property, no flood insurance and Winter only 3 months away.

And what about Renee?

The odd thing is that the eye of the storm slipped gently over my land.  There was a lot of rain (the storm filled one of our water tanks that holds 40 gallons) and a few hours of wind, but for the most part I spent the day in a world so still that I could hear the chickens clucking down at the farm, a quarter of a mile away. 

I, Renee indeed!

And by the way, thanks go out to super coach Jill Koch for putting me back into my “I”

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Caring is beautiful. 

What more needs to be said about this particular aspect of loving another?

The joy of loving another is that one starts to care deeply about that being.  Caring inspires us to “do right by” them, to protect them, to guide them and to make everything good for them.  To receive this attention is wonderful.  You feel safe, as if you belong, and most of all you feel important.  There is something magical about being loved, and having your loved returned, that can make all of your cells tingle in the most life affirming way.   When we are loved, we feel like we can do anything.

And then suddenly, the honeymoon is over.

Well, if only it were suddenly.

We’ve all been there- the little things that let us know we are special, the small touches and quick but penetrating full eye contacts, that special tone of voice meant just for you- all of those symbols of caring disappear one by one.  If you are very unlucky, you start to see these special symbols of love being given to someone else.  This kills.  Okay, true confessions: this makes me want to take a knife and slice my arms and legs to ease the pain of it.  Or maybe bang my head against the wall until the pain outside overwhelms the hurt in my heart.  It hurts so badly that it can make you wonder if your heart will ever work again.

You are broken forever.  Or so you think…

But deep inside, beneath all that pain and even deeper than the love you felt for that special other person, there is a space.  It is dark as the original void from which the Universe was born.  It is as quiet and the moment between heartbeats and breathing. It is a space so strong and vibrant that nothing… NOTHING… can destroy it.

Eve Ensler in her brilliant lecture for (see attached) would call this place- the Girl Cell.  Others might call it The Source, God or Love itself.

I call it “Me”. 

What do you call it?