A reply to: A letter from Newt
Yeah, I’m writing you back.
You’re still Newt. You’re still the guy that recognized I had feelings for Ira before I did. You’re still the same guy that inspired me to get together with her.
You were still this same guy back when you were writing me before.
And you’re still the same guy now. Only now, you’re more honest.
It takes a lot of courage to face up to what you did and share it with someone. You risk everything.
I’m not going to make it easy for you and pretend it doesn’t matter. It matters.
I’m not going to pretend this is easy for me. This is tough. I’ve got all kinds of feelings that I don’t want to have.
But if it’s tough for me, what’s it like for you?
You’re the one sitting in it right now.
I’m not obligated to stop being your friend because you’ve been violent. You’re not evil. You’re human. Now you’ve got a chance to learn self-regulation. That’s what my sister calls it.
Aari has been violent. I guess I mentioned that in my last letter. I know I made light of it. I didn’t face up to it, actually. But it’s an issue that we’re having to deal with. I go with her and her mom to House of Hope once a week. I go for Partners Group. Ira goes to her group in the room across the hall, and Aari goes to Kids Group upstairs and then while we’re at Social, she stays for Individual. All this talking and learning and setting strategies and plans helps us with the fall-out and learn to deal with the times when Ira and Aari feel triggered. I’ve been learning more about trauma and the cycle of power and control than I ever wanted to know.
Most of what we’re going there for is Aari, who doesn’t know what to do with the anger she feels.
When I was a kid, bullies were ostracized and punished. It’s different now. Now, at Aari’s school, she’s comforted. The kids she yells at or punches are comforted, too. But Aari isn’t ignored or shut out.
Her teacher says that Aari suffers, too. So they help her feel safe. And then she has to face consequences for what she did. Sometimes, kids stop being her friends. Those are the toughest consequences, and she always comes home feeling sad on days when that happens. Sometimes, she spends time breathing or running the track or practicing the mindfulness activities her school teaches. Those are consequences, too.
My uncle’s been talking to me about this concept in Buddhist psychotherapy called “Brilliant Sanity.” It goes like this: Inside everybody is this spark of openness, clarity, and compassion. It’s our fundamental nature, and it’s in everybody–every sentient thing.
My uncle then went on to talk about phi and perceptronium and how consciousness is everywhere and in everything. But I stopped paying attention anymore. I was thinking about brilliant sanity.
That’s something hopeful.
I’m not making excuses or trying to make it easy or provide short-cuts for you. From what I’m learning, there are no short-cuts. Just a lot of hard work.
I’m just saying that I realize that I can still be your friend. You probably need friends more now than before. It’s when we’re down that we need friends.
You got a lot to work through. Like decades. But it’s work worth doing.
My uncle says the thing about life is that as long as you’ve got work worth doing, life is OK. Even when it’s tough.
They’ve got a poster in the room where the Partners Group meets, one of those Grand Canyon, mountain-type posters, with this quote on it:
“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”
– Steve Maraboli
I didn’t mean to get preachy. It’s awkward and uncomfortable and hard. But it’s important, too. I’m still your friend. I’m still grateful to you.
Well, I better go check on our plans for our new solar panels. The engineer was supposed to email me the latest schemata. Remember that I said something about Tibetan singing bowls? One word: Resonance. Light is waves, too, bud.
Your pen pal,
Author’s note: If you suspect or know that a friend of yours is abusing his or her partner, you might find this article from Everyday Feminism useful and supportive: 6 Ways to Confront Your Friend Who’s Abusing Their Partner. Some of the ideas and phrases in this post come from there.
If you or someone you know is involved in an abusive relationship, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7, 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).