In my work I use a lot of analogies. It helps people to visualize. It helps people to understand. It helps people to reach acceptance. Once acceptance is reached. Then and only then will they become able to make new choices for themselves. Only then will they be able to leave things behind that don’t serve them well. Only then can they reach for what they want in their lives.
One of my favorite analogies is about the monkey bars… you know, the ones at the park. Where you climb up on one side.. and one hand at a time, you reach forward. Hand over hand, one rung at a time moving ahead until you reach the other side.
But sometimes as you’re going across one after the other, you lose your grip, or your arms get tired and you can’t reach for the next bar. So you just hang there for a minute trying to figure out what to do. You don’t really want to give up since you’ve come so far already. Then suddenly, as you’re just hanging there, you realize that the longer you hang, the harder it is to get moving forward again. You’ve lost your momentum. You’ve lost your energy. You’ve lost your focus on the goal.
You begin to feel the struggle as you want to move forward. You feel momentary panic as you realize you can’t move or you’ll lose your grip. Your hands are burning, and your arms feel so strained. You just want to give up. You consider going back. But you can’t move your hands.
This is the place that both Goose and I are. On the Monkey Bars. Goose has been in a relationship of sorts with the Minneapolis Girl for over a year. He’s finding it’s not as fulfilling as he’d wanted or hoped it would be. It hasn’t met his needs for companionship. He’s still lonely so he keeps investing, hoping it will help him achieve the outcome he wants. He gives more and more, trying and trying, over and over. He’s given so much, and still very little of his own needs are met. The time she spends with him is merely an illusion. She’s there to take.
Me, I see so many good things in Goose, the kind of man that he is. He has such a good, kind and caring heart. He has similar dreams as mine. His lifestyle is similar to how I’ve lived mine. We have a connection. We have chemistry. So I give and give. But with Goose, I get some of my companionship needs met. So does Goose. And he gives back to me. It feels like a good thing. It has potential to grow up into a relationship.
In order for Goose to move ahead on the Monkey Bars, he has to let go of one hand. He has to let go of the past in order to move ahead into the future. For most people that’s a very difficult thing to do. To let go of something we know, even if it’s not good for us, or it’s not giving us what we desire or deserve to have. We tend to hang onto the things we know. The unknown… has no guarantee.
The unknown is scary because we can’t imagine what’s ahead. Will there be anything ahead? Like Christopher Columbus feared sailing off the edge of the horizon, because no one knew what was beyond it. This fear of the unknown imprisons us. Like this monkey behind bars. It isn’t what we want, but it’s what we know. There’s some safety in what we know. Then along comes an opportunity. Uh-oh. There is potential for change.
But Goose had suddenly lost his wife. One day he went to work just like any other day. He’d done it over and over for years and then one day.. life changed. He didn’t ask it to. I just happened. She was gone.
Inside of each of us, we all have a basic unmet need. A need at the root of all of our insecurities, fears, wants, hopes and dreams. I have it, you have it, Goose has it. He wants someone to be there. Always. No matter what. In his marriage he believed he had that. He knew that no matter what happened in his life. She would be there. Until she wasn’t.
When life happens like that and our belief system is stripped away it can be shocking. Life as we’d known it is completely different. Everything is now unknown. So in order to manage his life, in order to put something/someone there again.. he paid for it. Goose paid in monetary ways, but many of us pay with other things. Doing things for people… until we become ‘needed’ by them.
My need, the one at the root of all of my fears, insecurities, wants hopes and dreams is to be chosen. To be ‘the one.’ Not the other woman, not the last thing on someone’s ‘to do ‘ list. Not one of several. I want to be my partner’s priority, not one of his options. I don’t want to have to find a place to fit into his life. I want to build a life with him.
That’s what I was attempting to do when Goose had shared with me about the Minneapolis Girl. The night of his disclosure to me, I made clear what my boundaries were. I told him that if he continued to have her in his life, that I would not date him. I was clear. I was certain.
Now… now I’ve got time invested. I’ve got feelings invested. My heart has made a place for him. Now he’s On the Monkey Bars. And I climbed up on them too. I was moving forward with Goose. But now he’s stopped. And I’ve stopped too. We’re hanging there. I don’t want to go back. And I can’t go forward until he does. My hands are burning. My arms are getting strained. I’m feeling the panic. Goose has been hanging there a long time. He’s invested a great deal. He’s built up enough strength and stamina that he can continue hanging for a long time.