Day 202 - Tractor Beams
Do you remember the video game Galaga? Remember when you got to just before the bonus round, and the tractor beam would come down and pick up your guy and then you would have double guns for the bonus round? Remember the only way that you could stop yourself from getting pulled up into the tractor beam was to shoot yourself or get blown up by one of the little invader guys?
This was kind of my day yesterday...
For me, tractor beams are old behavior...except that it isn’t old behavior if I am currently doing it. (It was a bad day when I learned this...)
Ok, now that you have recovered from that blow, I will go on. (It took me an entire day to recover from that little nugget).
So yesterday, I was caught up in tractor beams. Old behavior that was running my life, except that it ultimately didn’t.
It started out with one of my son’s friends calling me out of the blue and asking to come live here. Like he just called and said “I got thrown out of my house, my family disowned me and I have nowhere to go. I am 13 and homeless.”
A few years ago, I would have taken him in. I wouldn’t have been able to say no. I know that that will puzzle most of you, but seriously, I would have said yes. He would have moved in. I wouldn't have done it because I wanted to, but because I lacked a sufficient other response than yes.
So that particular tractor beam was operating yesterday. But I was able to side step it and not blow myself up. It took the better part of my day and evening to get some other resolution for this kid, it involved becoming overly involved in the intimate details of another family, the police department and almost a social service call. However, as the day became night, the police department found him and transported him back home where he agreed to remain...at least for last night.
It was painful to see how much this kid’s solution for a disagreement about religious practices was to runaway from home. He chose living on the street over doing something he didn’t want to do. He could not or would not see that his solution for the problem was in fact way worse than the problem. Boy, could I relate to that.
All of that drama was punctuated by phone calls and texts from my ex-husband not happy about the thought of me taking in this kid...in fact, demanding that I not do that. I would have normally been pissed about this but he does know me. He was present when I took in all sorts of strays...so I couldn’t really blame his ire over the possibility that this kid would come to reside here.
But he didn’t know about my newfound ability to avoid a tractor beam of old behavior...
Yesterday I found a way around the beam pulling me into a familiar yet painful path of how I always do things. I stood in my kitchen and felt compelled to do as this kid asked. In the past, I would have not been able to find another way other than to give the person what they requested. They asked, I was compelled to oblige...
However, something new happened yesterday. Some new sense of self that had been missing for all these years appeared and just in time! I was not willing to sacrifice myself, my family and my serenity just because someone asked me to. I know this will seem like a no brainer for most of you but I have not been able to say no to shit like this for years. Not to kids, people, animals...they arrive on my doorstep and that is that. They are home.
Yesterday while the tractor beams of old, ancient behavior pulled hard at me, I reached up and paused the game. I wrote some new code which allowed me to pause until some other thought, other than my first one, appeared. I was able to set a boundary for myself about myself. My life does not have a revolving door in it that I can never lock anymore. I get to decide who comes in and when and if they come in.
It was a big exhausting day for me. But this one experience changed me, it gave me access to a core inside me that I have trouble accessing. This allowed me to say no to a couple of other things and people who were wanting things from me that I really didn’t have to give but was having a very hard time saying no.
But no is what I said.
My history is replete with a lot of people wanting things from me and me feeling like I couldn’t say no. I also, unfortunately, have a history of saying no and having that mean nothing and being ineffective in ceasing another person’s conduct. So it was with a lot of baggage that I was being pulled into yesterday's tractor beam.
But somehow, I was able to get out of the tractor beam. I was able to avoid being pulled up into a world that I didn’t want to go. I was able to say no and have that be a complete sentence. I was able to avoid the pull of my old behavior and avoid having to blow myself up or be shot down by another.
Yesterday, I crossed a threshold to another side. I said no despite being pulled my another’s desires. I changed in the moment into someone who had my own back, regardless of how much another wanted me to pick them. I gave what I could, which was my time and effort to talk a 13 year old off a bad decision. In the end, he didn’t listen and chose his own path which led him to his own tractor beam which operated as the police department.
As I lie in bed last night, I was exhausted from a day of great mental effort. It is not easy to avoid life’s tractor beams when they come. It is hard not to get swept up in all the activity. It is easy to get lost. However, old behavior only becomes old behavior when you stop doing it. Yesterday I stopped doing it.
The payoff for my abrupt departure was that I woke up today relieved that I didn’t have another 13 year old living under my roof. That I didn’t commit to doing something that I really do not have the bandwidth to do. I woke up today proud of picking me when several people yesterday were pushing hard for me to pick them.
Perhaps this will seem pathetic to some. Perhaps you might think that my weakness to hold my own stupid or immature. Internally I waged a war yesterday with demons from the past. And yesterday I won. So it doesn’t matter at all that you see it, appreciate it or even get it. I get it and that is everything.
What I learned yesterday is that we all have our own tractor beams. We all have historic things from unresolved issues from the past that reach down into our current lives and try to pull us back into a habitual pattern. What I learned yesterday was that you can side step that without self destruction or allowing someone else to get what they want at the expense of you. I can still play the game but avoid its pitfalls because I know they are coming. Tractor beams are compelling and if you find yourself in one of yours, you have several options: surrender to being captured, blow up your life to avoid capture, allow yourself to be blown apart by an enemy invader, or and this is just in - quickly write some new code that allows for another option.