I’ve been having a hard time of it lately.
I’m in the midst of one of those life transitions that requires me to rearrange the way my heart beats in my life. My daughter is going to college. This is a happy thing. She’s going to school at the university where I work. This makes me an extremely lucky mama to have her so close. But, she won’t be living at home anymore. Which will be a big change for all of us. So – I’m having a lot of emotions which seem to be surfacing at odd times. And I’m practicing quite a bit of escapism. Binge-watching Netflix, playing tappy tappy games on my iPad, reading lots of fiction – at least three novels a week – that sort of thing. This is me trying to take care of myself by avoiding taking care of myself. It may work for awhile, but ultimately it isn’t helpful.
Oh, and … I’ve been drinking and binging on chips and dips too. This is very old ingrained self-protective (destructive) behavior. Ugh! I thought I was beyond this, but I’m not. Which means I’m also confronting the truth that addiction is likely to resurface in times of stress. Why is this the first thing I run to?
During times of stress not only do I return to self-destructive behavior, but I also abandon healthy behavior and I abandon my purpose. I think I haven’t properly adjusted the bandwidth settings of my life so I can keep on keeping on in the midst of stressful situations.
So this is an opportunity to practice feeling all the contrasting feelings that are jangling around – feeling them and moving with them through my days to the best of my ability. And I need to know and accept that, for the next few weeks (or however long it takes to adjust) while I’m moving daughter into the dorm and my husband and I are acclimating ourselves to the empty nest (a term which I kind of hate quite a bit right now) – things will be jangly. That’s the only word I can think of to describe it. All my best intentions have been tangled up in the jangly-ness of life.
The good news is, the time I spent in self-protection/destruction mode was shorter than it was during the last stressful event. A few weeks compared to a few months or years.
Transparency & Boundaries
I was wondering how to write about this. Is it too personal? Would it be helpful?
This is a blog about connecting with purpose at mid-life and beyond. And this transition is one of those life events that mid-life flings at us. We’ve all accumulated a collection of these transitions by now. And we all navigate them in different ways. They’re all different and all the same. They are transitions that require us to rearrange our hearts and the configuration of our lives in some way.
Both my daughter and I were having a hard time. I was crying and trying to hide it from her and my husband. She was crying and trying to hide it from both of us. Finally, we cried together and talked and things got better for all of us. We weren’t alone anymore. Not that any of us were ever alone in the first place. But, we were expending a lot of energy trying to protect ourselves and everyone else from our feelings. It wasn’t that helpful. It just led to a lot of silent suffering and stuffing down feelings using any means necessary – food, alcohol and video games for me.
Instead of trying to take care of everyone else by stuffing down my feelings – or not writing this post – I’m learning it’s best to share from my heart. This is what’s happening. This is how I feel. This is how it’s changing the way I’m showing up for myself and others right now. But, what’s the difference between transparency and healthy boundaries?
Since I’ve never been adept at establishing boundaries, I truly don’t know the answer to that question. I think the truth may be that it’s flexible and negotiable (sometimes). Maybe? I have a lot of questions.
Do transitions derail you? Yup.
How do you navigate them? Awkwardly and imperfectly.
How do you stay present? I don’t always. I’m practicing.
What falls away? The things that keep me sane on normal days like meditation and yoga.
What shows up? My addictions. Yikes!
How do you rearrange the pieces of your heart? By hook and crook. With force. With love.
Do you engage in self-sabotage and tell yourself it’s comfort? Oh, hell yeah. I’m a freakin’ contortionist.
Do you try too hard to protect other people from your truth? Yes, and it’s exhausting and it doesn’t really help anyway. I’m not as stealthy as I think I am.
Can you let yourself grieve? Ugh.
Can you let yourself celebrate? Yes. Sometimes. Criminy Crackers! I even need help with this. I need all the help I can get.
I’m learning that it’s better to ask the questions instead of trying to ignore them. I’m trying to ask the questions and answer them with kindness and curiosity instead of judgment, but I’ll be honest, I tend to be aggressive and hard on myself before I remember to take a breath.
Transitions rarely come about without a lot of logistics. Moving, learning new skills, meeting new people, rearranging your finances and your budget. So we’re navigating strange waters both internally and externally.
Life doesn’t demand much of us, does it?
How do you manage the external logistics, to do lists, and communications and tend to the internal landscape? It’s a constant push pull.
Birthing and Letting Go
And the roles in our lives shift or how we show up and play them changes significantly. Not always by choice. This motherhood thing – let me tell you – not for sissies. Protect them with all our heart, but not too much. We have let them breathe and grow and make mistakes.
And we have to do the same for ourselves. Let ourselves breathe and grow and ache and make mistakes.
This isn’t just a motherhood thing. I’m gonna get all woo woo here and say that we’re always birthing in some way. Then learning how to let go – always letting go. We’re always engaged by choice or by default in multiple cycles of evolution.
Sometimes just showing up is the best we can do. There’s a yoga teacher that I follow named Jessamyn Stanley. At the beginning of class she says, “You’ve already done the hardest part. You showed up. You got on the mat.”
I’m writing this post to say, “I’m on the mat.” I’m writing this post to encourage you, my lovely friends, to show up too. Let’s get on our metaphorical mats with all our feelings. Let’s be open to the questions when we don’t have the answers. Let’s be truthful and present with our loving and our letting go.
The other options – tubs of french onion dip and bottles of wine – really aren’t options anymore.
But they aren’t.
I’m in the midst of rearranging my heart. It’s awkward, imperfect, and it hurts. But, here I am. This is me.