I have so many things to write about tonight. I hope I can tie them all together into one cohesive post. This is going to be a long one. I'd say sorry... but hey, you get to choose whether you read it or not. Consider yourself warned.
I feel like it's been ages since I posted and I think that is mostly because of the headspace I'm coming from tonight. It's not a brand new headspace, but it is one that I had been drifting away from recently until 38 called me on it on Friday night.
side note: I can't even begin to explain how grateful I am to have people in my life who can (gently so I can hear them) call me on this stuff... without them I think I would just drift away into the mist never to be heard from again. The woman in the TED video tonight talked about the truth that we need our relationships with one another to teach us how to have relationships with ourselves. She nailed it didn't she?
The new head space is a vulnerable one. I think you might be asking yourself... "wait, what? Isn't she always vulnerable? She sure seems like it." Yeah, I'm really good at that (seeming like I'm vulnerable), but sometimes I'm not really... I'd say that I'm "open" about 95% of the time. I am aware of my feelings and willing and able to express them in articulate ways. Even the uncomfortable ones. I know that's fairly unique and I can see how that could be perceived as vulnerability... and I don't mean to deceive anyone by pretending to be vulnerable when I'm not... and I'm definitely not ever pretending. In this most recent case I didn't even realize that I wasn't willing to be vulnerable until someone else pointed it out. I'm actually quite good at being vulnerable (I know that sounds weird). Once I get there I am willing to be there, but yeah, I'm not always willing to get there (not even with myself) and now I'll tell you why.
So I told you that my week last week was full of big feelings but that was okay because I just felt them and they didn't change my reality (the feelings didn't devolve into self loathing or shame or beliefs about my life and my person that were untrue. from now on I will refer to that phenomena as "story") and I was pretty proud of that.
When I woke up on Saturday morning I was heavy with emotion. I still wasn't in any story, I was just in feelings but they weren't just big... they were huge... and I wasn't able to be who I wanted to be with them present (and who I wanted to be, by the way, was an involved mother because it was just me and spiderman this weekend).
At one moment on Saturday morning after he had already watched an hour of television of his alloted two of weekend screen time spiderman asked if he could play on the iPad and I said yes and set a timer for 10 minutes explaining (as he's used to) that when the timer goes off it will be time to put the iPad away and do something else (like dye easter eggs). He was in the bedroom on the iPad and I was in the living room on the computer and my feelings were getting bigger and bigger and bigger and I was feeling heavier and heavier and heavier. I knew it had been close to 10 minutes and I figured I would eventually pick up the sound of the timer going off through the din of the household noise.
We had a great week together as mother and son. We had limited time together each day (maybe two waking hours in total) but we used it in the best ways I can think of (by eating together, talking, playing, and making art)... I didn't want to lose that momentum.
Then two hours passed. And he was still using the iPad and I was still on the computer and the only thing I changed about that situation was to get off the computer. I went into the bedroom with him to start talking to him about changing to something else. Then I fell asleep. So, he sat there (I think it may have been 5 hours in total) playing with the iPad all morning while I got more and more engulfed in my big feelings and completely checked out from the situation. I mean, I'm always a mom... I fed him and wiped his ass when he pooped and even when sleeping I always had one ear open and I woke out of my light sleep when I heard him click on a youtube video that I didn't want him watching and I redirected him back to the kidsafe stuff before I fell back to sleep again... but I don't think that deserves any praise.
And then the tears came. Wombat called me when she heard that I had fallen asleep because she knew that meant I wasn't doing well and as soon as I answered the tears flowed. I know I have mentioned crying several times on the blog in the last several months, but what I haven't done is go into detail into what I mean each time.
I have several different levels of crying:
- watery eyed: I'm emotional (could be a good or bad emotion) and my eyes fill up with tears
- movie star crying: it's when level one progresses to the point where the tears start to spill out of my eyes and roll one at a time in perfect lines down my cheeks. it's quite pretty.
- cry talking: it's where there are active tears falling and some sniffling, but I can still carry on a conversation (this is as far as it has gotten lately) and the tears dry up fairly quickly.
- sobbing: i can probably still talk some, but there's a lot of catching breath and snot involved
- wailing: talking is out of the question. i am choking and gagging and there is snot pouring out of my nose. my nose has turned bright red and tripled in size. my top lip is so swollen that it now touches my nose. it takes hours to fully recovery from the physical changes to my face.
Saturday I finally got to level four. And it happened twice (maybe three times?) in one day. Still, it wasn't until that night that I started to get into my story and started to have conversations with myself that included a lot of shame and blame... it was just a lot of time with a lot of big feelings present. It was also a day where I felt like I couldn't get ahead... I bought myself flowers and then my sunglasses broke. No matter what I did to try and climb out of the self-pity pit, I would get shoved right back down into the pit where the big feelings festered.
Let me tell you, in case you don't already know... that feeling sorry for yourself is a very efficient way of using up all of your capacity for empathy in a day. Parenting without a capacity for empathy--not pleasant--not effective--nope, not good.
Sunday, I woke up and I knew I was in my story. This is still an improvement from the old days because at least I was aware of it, but I was in it and there was no escaping it. I explained to my mom that I was having a rough time emotionally, I didn't think I was going to be able to hide it, I really didn't want an audience and I asked if it would be okay if I just dropped spiderman off at her place for the easter festivities and went back home. She said yes (thank you). Apparently my family is worried that I wasn't there because my hard time had to do with BFO. It doesn't. I promise you. That man did not break my heart. That man didn't have my heart and he hasn't had it for a long, long time. It's a shitty situation and it sometimes gets me down, but he doesn't have the power to hurt me like that anymore... not to worry.
I came home from dropping off spiderman and immediately called 38 because suddenly I was willing to be vulnerable and I wanted to take advantage of that opportunity. After a brief hiccup where I involuntarily responded that I was "good" to the "how are you?" question I went straight into blubbering and crying and it was great. I mean, it sucked. A lot of it was painful and it was definitely scary and I talked about a lot of things I had been afraid to talk about and I asked a lot of questions that I was afraid to ask... and then the conversation was over and I was still alive. Even better, I felt good about doing it.
I think vulnerability is really important. In the times where I choose not to be vulnerable I am doing so because I'm afraid. In the past, even though I would talk about my feelings (openness), I wouldn't share my feelings (vulnerability) because I was told that they were too big and/or because I was afraid that by showing them it would drive people away. Well, neither happened. I didn't just talk about the feelings... I felt them, out in the open in front of another person, and they were first validated (not judged, labeled, or put down), and then the other person stuck around.
Would you look at that? I should do this more often.
Would you look at that? I should do this more often.
The high of the successful vulnerability experiment lasted about an hour... and then faded into complete terror. I had been vulnerable and now I was afraid. I can't even tell you of what... of everything I think. More than anything else I was afraid that being vulnerable meant I was going to have to get used to living in fear. Not appealing. True, to an extent, although I imagine it gets easier... but not appealing. Not an opportunity people line up for. My response to the fear was to try and figure life out and find a way to control the chaos, but my mind was racing and I couldn't even do so much as put pen to paper and form words. Finally through the noise of my ego my intuition spoke up and reminded me that if I was going to be of any use to myself I was going to need to quiet my mind.
And there was the answer suddenly (although I didn't realize it until later). Vulnerability was perfectly safe (certainly as safe, if not safer, than being emotionally unavailable in terms of long term quality of life stuff) as long as it came along with effective self care. I say I didn't realize it until later because the only self care I practiced was to do a guided meditation (I made up my mind to do one, decided I didn't want to, did it anyway, but picked a shitty one with a really abrupt ending that wasn't mind quieting or satisfying in the least) and then watch tv until I fell asleep; and then I wondered why I woke up this morning feeling off.
I figured out the vulnerability+effective self care=willingness to be vulnerable again formula this morning in the car when I reached crying level five. Yep... I was about 20 minutes away from the office (my new job... start of my third week... only my third day in the office because I've been out at trainings and such... my first time working in person with my new boss because she telecommutes from texas most of the time... and the day i'm going to be introduced and have to talk about myself in the all staff meeting) when the face explosion began. I'd say I started at level three and expected it to pretty much stay there but all of a sudden I was in full blown level five crying. I was just so raw... I had opened myself up completely and sat with sheer terror afterward and I didn't do anything to effectively nurture myself afterward. So there I was on the 5 fwy in the middle of Los Angeles looking like I had been assaulted by killer bees and wailing in my car. I cried the rest of the way there and for another 10 minutes in the parking lot. Then I pulled it together and came up with a convincing story about allergies and hoped the 90 minutes I had before the meeting would be enough for the swelling to go down.
It was, and the meeting went well and my introduction was charming and funny and everyone laughed at my opening joke, and all the while inside I felt like I might die. It hurt so badly just to exist for most of the morning. I was still completely raw and exposed and had none of my self love tools within reach. It was awful.
Then things started to happen... I had interactions with friends... I had memories of feelings and experiences... and gratitude just started to arrive. I choose gratitude often, but this time it just showed up which was really nice of it don't you think? and I realized instantly how much better I felt with it hanging around. Shortly after gratitude arrived so did amusement, then consciousness, inspiration, and organization and a few more of my best self qualifiers. It wasn't instant, it wasn't all of a sudden, and it certainly wasn't linear but over the course of the day I went from feeling like I might die from emotional pain to feeling back to my centered self again.
At one point I sent myself a text message that said "i love you." It was the first time I texted myself with something that wasn't a grocery list... and it was really effective. Particularly because the way the messages on an iPhone work, it looks like I sent it and got a response.
|38 deserves all the credit for this idea, by the way. |
if you try it (which I think you should), send her a little heart light when you do,
Anyway, I'm starting to run out of steam and I imagine that if you've gotten this far that you're tired of reading. I'll try to wrap it up.
I learned a lot this weekend.
- My body, mind, and spirit feel like this emotional experience was equivalent to climbing Everest and I am aware of how much self care I need on a daily (hourly?) basis to be able do this work and be my, not only, best self... but my best vulnerable self.
- I learned that being a single parent is completely unnatural and expecting yourself to be able to perform at the same level you do for a two hour window in a twelve hour window is unreasonable (which explains why i gave up before i even tried) and in order to make these future weekends work I need to gather the hilary-clinton-village around me to help me raise this child.
- I learned that allowing other people to see me in weak moments doesn't necessarily drive them away and can even bring them closer.
- I learned (was reminded that) I really don't like going to bars/clubs.
- I learned that I have a lot of old habits that I need to remain aware of consciously work on reprogramming every damn day.
- I learned that "feeling the fear and doing it anyway" is still the way to go
- I learned that if this is ever the question: should i let go? the answer is always yes. (well, not if we're talking about dangling from a cliff...)
- I learned... a lot.