Mother YourselfI have red flags of the soul. Do you? Certain feelings or old thoughts or familiar self-speech or particular actions begin to emerge when I run on adrenaline too long or persist in an ill-suited pace.
Rather unbeknownst to her, a conversation with my friend Kristen today broke loose something glacial inside of me today. I needed to have a come-to-Jesus conversation with myself, which I did at least try to do in the form of a journal. But that wasn't working because I was spiraling, spinning into complaint after complaint (which has its place, believe me). And one of those red flags flew right in front of my pen.
I was tempted to stop the spiral into bad feelings by instead focusing on all that was right with my life. This is highly unlike me and while it works for some, forcing myself into a place of gratitude has only ever shrouded me in shame. That I was tempted to trick myself into feeling better was the first sign.
So I sat down with Kristen instead. I wrote her a long letter fessing up to my own darkness, a darkness I've been avoiding (for many reasons). Because I was able to talk to her, I found a way to talk to me.
Another sign that I'm teetering into an unhealthy soul-state is outward blame. I have a theory that there are two kinds of people. Group A are internalizers. They tend to see every conflict, every road block, every trial as somehow something they are responsible for, something they did to themselves. Group B are externalizers. They see the conflicts as something someone else is is doing to them. Someone else hurt them, someone else is making them feel bad, someone else is being unjust.
Both are not ideal, of course.
(SIDENOTE wherein I preach about conflict:
I fully realize that I there are times to accept that someone has indeed wronged you. Willingly or not, they have crushed you in some way. Ive most likely become an internalizer out of pride, since having to admit that someone hurt you means you are vulnerable. But I also believe there is a way to confront that is best for the relationship, and a way to confront that is only best for you. Ideally, we can recognize and avoid this by hearing ourselves. Are we demanding change from someone without ourselves confessing to how we've contributed to the conflict? Are we reacting out of hurt and think it would be best to tell them so, but instead all we do is just hurt them back? How is this going to help anyone? In true conflict resolution, where a goal really is a relationship afterward, there MUST be confession and humility on both parts, but we cannot demand it from anyone but ourselves.)
I am an internalizer, for better or worse. And I've begun to realize that when I start to blame others for my personal pain, I am in a really bad place. Usually, I can see it more wisely.
But I fully confess that this happens only when I am taking care of myself.
Ah, self-care. You illusive bitch. Why don't you stay around?
Enter the second red flag of the soul. The last few weeks, I've felt like the world has conspired against me. "No one does as much as I do, "No one is as thoughtful as I am," "No one cares enough to meet my needs," "Everyone thinks I'm ridiculous," "Everyone hates how Type A I am."
Immature and ugly, yes.
The truth, no.
(Well, even if it is, it's not based on fact. It's based on assumption. The worst of any basis.)
And today, as I confessed these ugly thoughts to a very safe lady, I realized I had been ignoring this red flag. Furthermore, it had evolved down a familiar path of self-hate where these thoughts become accusations, "Why am I so uptight?" and then into insults, "You are so damn frigid and special-needs." "Everyone is merely tolerating you," "You are so ill-equipped to for life and always have been," "Stop being so damned planned," "You are too difficult to live with" etc, etc.
Truth be told, I hadn't realized it was this bad. And even now it surprises me that I let it go on this long.
The birthing place of self-care, for me, has always been in solitude. The more I avoid myself, the more I experience anxiety. The more anxiety I feel, the more fucked up I assume I am. The more fucked up I assume I am, the more I want to be someone else. The more I wish I were someone else, the more I close off from people who love me. Illusions and lies, all of them.
This pertains to Mother's Day quite pointedly, I think.
I began to think about how many mother's are going to be disappointed tomorrow. Not because they are ungrateful bitches and entirely unable to please, but because no one can know what a mother does as well as she does.
- She knows the inner-conflict of of feeling very angry with a child she would die for.
- She knows the pain of her body enduring pregnancy and labor and nursing and picking up a 30, then 40, then 50 lb sack of flesh and hugging it tight even though her arms are burning and her back is screaming.
- She knows the planning and organization required for family life.
- She knows the tug of inner voice vs child voice, especially when brushing her teeth or trying to put on makeup.
- She knows the shame of resenting people that don't know about all she does, but loves them anyway when they say generically "thanks for all you do."
- She knows she should want to be with her kids on Mother's Day, but would rather spend an entire weekend alone in her home, reading, writing, drinking wine in the morning, crying at independent films, taking uninterrupted showers, calling her friends without having to plan it, cook herself whatever she wanted.
- She knows the inner disappointment at herself for being too tired to fight temptations of having another bowl of ice cream instead of going for a walk.
- She knows the futility of sweeping the floor every damn day, but still does it.
- She knows the unbearable inner pain of leaving her child with someone else so she can do something adult and have her own income.
- She knows the sting of sacrificing herself, her education, her relationships, her body, her sex life, her hobbies, her tastes just for the supposed joy of it.
- She knows the deep-seeded judgments of others when people are nasty to mothers online (or any faceless place where opinions are thrown out as truth and anyone can comment on them to affirm or deny her own fears)
- She knows the desperation of knowing she'd easily give up Mother's Day in a heartbeat for more help and respect during rest of the year.
Ah, but at least there is Mother's Day!
Yay, Mom doesn't have to cook!
Is that all? Is that supposed to be enough to make up for all the thankless tasks I perform every day?
As I begin to spiral into this pitiful realization that Bowie won't be an angel tomorrow and Joel won't be a perfect husband and I will still have to lift fingers and still be patient, I realized I was expecting someone else to love me the way only I knew I needed it.
I need a way back to myself. The only way thus far has been through solitude and more reflection. Frankly, that sounds impossible in this new life of me back at work, but it can't be.
|Mother's Day, 2013. They day Bowie began to crawl.|
I am asking you what you need to be loved. Then asking you if it's possible, one more time, like any real princess would do...
Can you save yourself?
No need to wait. No one can do it like you can.
True courage is birthed in these hopeless feelings, where we decide to press on in our own way, in our own time, with arms wrapped tight around our own selves.