Sometimes I think that I confuse feeling soft with feeling sad. It is a dark and heavy season in the Upper Midwest full of so much dull inertia. Which doesn’t match up to the practical demand of this time of the year at all. Between teaching at home, teaching yoga, various activities and events, we are quite scheduled without much down time. And because I really do love it all, what I let go of is what is truly just for me alone. I’ve given up my time by redirecting it toward other explorations and obligations, forgetting as I go my obligation to myself. And it really isn’t all sad and bad- I have a curious mind. I’ve drawn in more things that stimulate that curiosity, more reading and writing projects, and there has been a lot of recent travel. I’ve slipped away from myself somehow, from my own sense of settled inside. Things are throwing me off, and I’m stumbling a bit in my effort to maintain presence in my responses.
Chris and I returned from a long weekend away last Monday, and while we had a truly lovely time with each other- away, alone, together, for the first time in several years, re-entry was such a bear that it almost negated the time away. We knew going into it that it wasn’t a great time to be away. We had both been gone quite a bit recently and with the upset and grief processing in our family we knew that it might be more difficult than is typical. And it was. My mother was with our kids while we were away and let us know that Eider was crying most every time that he had a moment alone. We face-timed with them both every day we were away, sometimes more than once. And on the first full day home again, I think Eider was a little lost to discover that while our return brought relief, it didn’t do much for the sadness living in him and that upset him even more. Maple, who had been really pushing her feelings down in our absence, to be a comfort to her brother, was finally able to allow herself to unravel. She will be 13 in January, and while I imagine some of her behaviors are becoming more refined as she approaches teen-hood, she still has the same strategies that she always has. When she needs closeness she pushes and jabs and repels.
It is almost like I am living in some shadow dream of my own unworthiness and there is no recourse, I simply have to sit there and take it. Wait for the tirade of insults and weaponized words to pass over (and often through) me. She knows me and she knows my soft places. My fears and my sadnesses. My regrets and my shame. And when she is pissed or upset or scared or hurting in any way, she takes her knowing of me, our shared intimacy, and drags it out into the open to claw it into pieces, rip it to shreds, poke painful holes into it, while holding my face up close to it- peeling my eyelids back to make sure I do not miss a moment of her exploits.
I can generally weather this ok. I am usually quiet and patient waiting for it to pass. It is the most difficult thing that I ever have to do. Especially, because I am pretty sure that underneath the insults she just really wants closeness. A hug. But let me just say that it is almost impossible to open your self and hug the person who has just experimented on your body and your mind to see how much words really do hurt. Sometimes I snap. Yell at her, try to be punitive in some way… take away her phone. She usually just laughs at me when I try. It’s hard to write this down and perhaps it’s hard to imagine how a mother could let her daughter run rough shot over her like this, but, well, parenting is hard. People are complicated. There is no map for any of this shit.
There are highs and lows for all of this. The best gauge I have is my ability to check in with my breath, continue to feel my body, and allow myself to recover with relative quickness once the storm has passed. However, there were recently two instances of these big episodes that left me undone. Stuck in fight or flight with the cortisol pumping through my bloodstream in a way that left me feeling sick and hopeless. With a thought in my mind that I haven’t had in years. One that I ignored in the past, tried to push down into the cave of my unconscious where it only festered and bloomed into a roiling dark shadow that threatened to capsize my entire life. You should know what my thought was. Because it seems simple and common and natural at times. Of course. But I am here to say that this thought is a warning. A message from inside that things are not well and that action is required. Soon. Now.
The thought I have that scares me more than anything else is: I do not want to be this child’s mother any longer.
For me this is a signal. A message from the shadowland. And this time, instead of pushing it away, I grabbed hold and followed it down into the narrow canyons of my self to see if there was another way. Because what this thought really means is that I am overwhelmed. That I need some help. Some support. That now is the time for me to begin vetting a new therapist and get myself back in the chair. Because I need help and support to raise these people up. Parenting them is not synonymous with sacrificing me. That is not the price.
And while I look, I can do a few other things to help myself. Clean up my diet. Watch my consumption of the things that inflame and trigger. Do my me things. But remember to not always be doing. Rest my curious mind and spend more time simply breathing. Being. I’ve got this. And you do too. Life is about forgetting what we need. And then remembering. And then forgetting. And remembering. On repeat. We relearn our lessons as we go. No shame in that. Realistic expectations.