"Why you always bringing up old shit?”
It’s the infamous line of every lame ass dude that doesn’t want to discuss his past indiscretions that led to the distrust and betrayal their partner is feeling. I know I’ve heard it quite a few times! In some cases, it could be a legitimate argument. How are we going to move forward if you keep bringing up the past? In some cases, it’s an attempt to avoid the past to keep from addressing it. Whether you bring it up or not, you are moving forward, but that “old shit” could be the determining factor in where you are headed.
I met with a therapist recently that felt like I was just bringing up old shit. I specifically said that I wanted to address the trauma in my past and she suggested I leave it in the past and worry more about the future. I totally disagreed. It’s the avoidance of my past that has had me traveling a path to nowhere pleasant. I need to address it.
However, I’ve heard differing professional opinions on this. Some feel like drudging up the past is an archaic method to healing from trauma, while others believe you must understand where you’ve been to truly understand where you are and where you want to go. Here is why I believe the latter.
My oldest son’s grades started to slip around middle school. I had the typical parent response of talking to him as well as his teachers about how to improve his grades. It didn’t help. By high school his grades were still pretty mediocre although he stood steadfast in his dream of becoming a medical doctor. I could see there was a disconnect but didn’t know how to get through to him. I talked to him repeatedly. I talked to his teacher. I offered to get him a tutor. I took away privileges. Nothing seemed to work.
It wasn’t until the second week of his senior year in high school that I decided to bring up some old shit.
I asked him if he remembered what he wanted to be before deciding to be a doctor. He looked like a deer in headlights. He didn’t even remember wanting to be anything before committing to being a doctor. Having that conversation with him helped him clear the fog and confidently find the path that not only led to success but, more importantly, happiness.
And that could not have been accomplished without bringing up old shit.
There are instances when misdiagnosing the past to understand your present can happen. However, understanding where you’ve been usually helps you understand where you are. It’s the equivalent of showing your work in a complex math equation. Looking back at your steps can often explain how you arrived at the wrong answer.
In grief counseling, my therapist called the final stage of grief the meaning-making stage. It sounded like bullshit until I got there. What does it mean? What does any of it mean? If it has no purpose, then it means you had a shitty life and you will probably continue to have the same. But if it has purpose, then your past will manifest something great. It will be a story of inspiration and not shame. It will be the type of story when people ask, “Why you bringing up old shit?” The reply will be…
“Because my come up is FIRE!!!”
I recently posted in a discussion forum to talk about this decision. I didn’t offer a whole lot of detail. Just that my boyfriend died, I went to counseling, and although I want to start dating again, I still don’t want to start having sex yet. I asked for opinions on the matter.
Boy, did they have opinions! Men and women alike were totally against it. I was told everything from I was acting childish to I was mentally unstable. The sentiments didn’t do anything but confirm that this is exactly the riff raff I’m trying to avoid when I start dating. Quite frankly, I have twin toddlers at home. I’m not trying to waste my time with anything that’s not high quality. Any man that gets the time I could be giving to my kids, has to be worth it!
However, the reason I chose celibacy at age 40 is a little deeper than just waiting for Mr. Right. I uncovered it in counseling and didn’t even discuss it with her. It actually made me feel a little shameful, but this is the real reason.
My first sexual assault/encounter was at age 11. It definitely did some damage to my already fragile self-esteem and the subsequent assaults by several different people didn’t help. It distorted my views on sex tremendously.
By high school, sex and relationships had nothing to do with each other. This belief got worse as I got older. I had numerous partners and didn’t care much. Sometimes, I wished I was deserving of love like normal people but tried to settle in the acceptance that I just wasn’t. I was in relationships where I got cheated on and I was in relationships where I was the cheater. I was in relationships where we both were the cheaters. I understood that cheating was supposed to be bad but deep down I couldn’t relate to why.
I have had my feeling hurt and my heart broken before, but I did my fair share of hurting people I claimed to love and care for. It often baffled me because men weren’t supposed to get hurt the way woman do, but apparently, they did. I watched a man I swore I was in love with cry his eyes out because I’d confessed to cheating…again. I promised I’d stop and once again, I lied.
Right before I met my late boyfriend, I decided that I was turning a new leaf. If I was going to enter into another relationship with anyone, I needed to be the woman we both deserved or not be in the relationship at all.
Meeting him was a love of first sight type thing and it startled me. I think it startled both of us. It took us eight months to get the nerve to speak to each other, and that nerve quickly escalated to sex – THAT SAME NIGHT! I was sure I’d jumped right back into my old ways. I was so disappointed because I felt something special in him from the moment I laid eyes on him. I knew I’d blown it!
Oh well. Whaddaya gonna do?
We did continue to hook up for the next few weeks until one day he called me and said something I found strange. He told me that he wanted to see me the next day as planned. However, he made it clear that we were not having sex. He wanted me to see that he was not just spending time with me for sex. I said alright.
We didn’t stop having sex altogether, just less often. He started to put more emphasis on his displays of affection when I saw him. He would invite me over for a dinner he’d prepared. He’d draw a bubble bath for me to soak in before going to bed at night. He’d pick up little gifts like flowers and teddy bears. He’d set lit candles upon the nightstand and play in my hair until I feel asleep in his arms.
It was all very nice. Most women would have been thrilled, but all I could think about was how extra he was being. All this really wasn’t necessary. We weren’t even a real couple yet. However, I went along with it. It seemed to make him happy and it wasn’t the worse thing he could be doing.
Once the relationship became official, it got worse! The gifts got more expensive and spontaneous. The gestures became more elaborate. He would open my car door for me even when I was the one driving! It felt so unnecessary, but he insisted so I didn’t complain.
Although we had our fair share of problems as a couple, cheating was never one of them and his displays of affection never faltered. He insisted on opening my car door and other acts of adoration until the day he died.
After he was gone, I obviously felt a huge void. However, I missed having sex with him too - him specifically. The thought of anyone else touching me ever again made me feel sick. I missed HIS touch. Somewhere inside, I felt like sex should be the last thing on my mind, but I couldn’t help it. I missed that part of him too.
As I moved through the grieving process with my therapist, I talked about the ups and downs of our relationship. I talked about all the bullshit he’d put me through and all the bullshit gestures he’d try to do to make up for it.
But the more I talked about it, the more I realized that those bullshit gestures was all he knew, so he did what he knew. He was a broken man with abandonment issues. He didn’t understand everything required for a healthy relationship. He wasn’t taught true love, honor, and respect, so he took what little he did understand, and tried his hardest to give it to me. He was building an intimate relationship which is probably why it felt so foreign to me.
And I took it for granted.
Even now, I know I’m willing to move on and date someone new. However, there is nothing in me that says the person I’m dating will get to experience a sexual relationship with me if they are not willing to put in that type of effort towards true intimacy. Sex had finally become an intimate experience for me, whether I relished in it or not. I’m not going back to that bullshit I was living in before. Craig showed me better, and that is now what I want - better.
Sex is the act. The relationship dictates what the act expresses. Sex does not manifest passion, love, or intimacy. It must already exist for sex to be an expression of it. That concept gets lost sometimes. I’m not looking for sex. I’m looking for intimacy – a true connection. I’m looking for someone I can feel just as connected and close to clothes on or off.
I say that I’m waiting for marriage, but I haven’t taken an actual vow of celibacy. Celibacy is just a tangible concept. Saying I’m waiting for “the one” sounds abstract. It gives men a false sense of hope or it can make them believe I’m just leading them on. When I say I’m waiting for marriage, they can make their decision to stay or leave with that information. If I give in early, great for them! But if I don’t, they can’t say they were unaware.
My days of chasing scattered ass are behind me. My partner should be in the same position. He should be in search of the same thing I am. I’m sure I don’t need to fuck everyone I date to find him. In fact, I’m sure that not fucking everyone I date, will be the quickest way to find him.
I was about 10 years old when my mother went into rehab for her alcohol addiction. It was a 30-day in-patient program that my father paid out of pocket for. My mother’s health wasn’t in immediate danger so medical insurance wouldn’t cover it. The experience was extremely shameful. We didn’t talk about it at home with each other, and we dare not talk about it with anyone else. Even after my mother completed the program and we started going to support group meetings I was forbidden to “tell them our business” although I was dying to talk to someone about what I was going through.
The shame was instilled early. It was shameful that my mother was an alcoholic and in rehab. It was even more shameful that rehab didn’t help her at all. I believe that is why everything else in my life felt so shameful. The things that happened to me, the things I did to others, and the way I felt inside was just shameful. I looked around and just couldn’t imagine that anyone else was going through this.
I stayed ashamed of my whole life and just kept adding to the list. I was in relationships I wasn’t happy with and made decisions that I wasn’t proud of. It became a shitstorm of shame, and there was nothing I could do about it.
Realistically, I knew that sometimes people grow up with a parent battling addiction, become victims of sexual assault, or are tormented by their low self-worth. I knew that I wasn’t the only one. However, I learned that wherever they are, they should be just as ashamed of themselves as I was. That meant there was no point in looking for them, meaning there was no where for me to turn.
I know I am so late on this, but I was scrolling through YouTube and came across some Dr. Brene Brown videos. She spoke to my soul! When I realized that she researched shame, fear, and vulnerability, I just needed to know where I signed up. I knew this was what I needed. I needed to hear about how shame has shaped my life and understand it better. I needed to understand the fears and anxiety it’s induced that shows up in my present day and keeps me from showing up in my present day. And most of all, I needed to learn about vulnerability. How can I be more vulnerable? In spite of the shame and the fear – 40 years of it! – how do I open up and become vulnerable?
My shame is deep-rooted, ingrained, and tough as leather. It’s been cultivated and groomed to perfection. It has gotten me into and out of so many life experiences making it a permanent fixture. It feels so unique and one-of-a-kind. I’m understanding now just how common it is, and I’m learning to embrace it as part of the beauty that is…me.
After spending a year in grief counseling, I started to see that my life needed a major overhaul. Yes, my boyfriend died making me the single mom of our infant twins, but I was still grieving my loss of innocence from decades of abuse. I decided to turn my pain into a new purpose and to share this journey with others that may need some motivation.