It’s spring here. I spend mornings listening to robins and rain. The season has this rumbling, resonant feeling, like I’m a pebble spinning around in a enormous stone bowl. It always feels like the entire world is about to change, not just the temperature and the plants but the whole structure of my life, my beliefs and my body and my breakfast. I associate it strongly with school graduations. A feeling of being very present and grounded as I spill over the edge. I can’t do it justice.
I’ve been busy, not so much with errand-type things but with “emotional work,” as I like to call it. I have been writing a lot but keeping it private, and I haven’t been participating in blog community by reading and commenting on other people’s posts. I will try to ease back into that, because I enjoy it and want to know what you’re up to. I always appreciate when people stop by my blog, and I’d like to be doing the same for others.
I’ve spent a lot of time the past few weeks reading books (of the chronic pain and emotional recovery type) and getting physical exercise. I’ve been pushing myself to break up routines that aren’t making me feel energized, and connecting with good friends more often. I have been meditating almost every day for about 20 minutes in the morning and evening, though sometimes much more, if I am having a really hard day and I’m at home.
I’d like to share an insight I came to this morning as I was doing a guided meditation. (I really liked this one. I found it on my Insight Timer app, but I’ll share a YouTube video of it at the end of this post.)
The meditation guides you through thinking about qualities you appreciate in yourself, and qualities that you don’t like or want to change. It guides you to consider that quality you don’t like from different angles, and to feel where these issues manifest as discomfort in your body.
The quality I settled down to think about was the fact that I can sometimes be really impatient with people. More specifically, I sometimes use a very frustrated tone with my boyfriend, and that stresses us both out. I think this very impatient, angry voice comes out of me when I’m talking to him because I really trust that he will stick with me. We’ve developed strong trust and generally good conflict resolution over the past six years, so I don’t worry that he will stop liking me because I’m unpleasant sometimes. But I feel terrible that as a result of our trust, I feel more free to take anger out on him, as though it has no consequence. That doesn’t feel fair or healthy, and can make me feel truly awful about myself. That is a behavior I regulate with other people, so I should be able to remember to do it with him, right?
A lot of different responses came floating up as the meditation guide asked questions. I realized that in the past I have used an angry tone as a result of feeling powerless and unheard. I’ve had to resort to angry tones to make people hear and respond to me. Usually I didn’t get the results I wanted, but it at least kept people from ignoring me altogether. Being ignored by people who are supposed to take care of you is devastating. I learned early on that people might notice you if you sound angry.
Seeing it in this way has helped me to feel a bit of compassion for myself. I realize that my uncontrolled, impatient voice doesn’t come from a part of me that is “bad”. It comes from a part of me that is desperate to be really listened to. A child trying to get needs met.
That compassion and understanding is really needed if I’m going to practice not snapping at people I trust. Now when I hear myself talking in a tone I would curb for someone else, I can stop and ask myself why. What is really bothering me? What do I want from this situation? How can I resolve this problem without turning my stress into someone else’s burden? And where can I productively vent this anger that obviously needs to be dealt with? Whereas before, all I had was, “I feel terrible about this habit, and I need to just stop doing it.” That would have resulted in pent up frustration just going somewhere else, or maybe getting stored up inside to stoke the chronic-pain wildfire (which, by the way, is way, way better than it was even just a month ago).
I’ve been working part-time for the past year because chronic pain made it physically and emotionally too hard to work 5 days a week. I really needed this time to sort through emotional stresses and take care of my own needs first. It has not remotely felt like a vacation. It felt like a year of sick time that I was often ashamed of explaining, because it was very complicated and very personal.
But timing worked out, because not only am I physically capable of working again, but I was offered the opportunity to turn my part-time job into a full-time job for 2 years. I don’t have paperwork or numbers or a full-time start date yet, so I’m keeping it mostly to myself for now. But I have been assured that it is happening, and I am so, so, so relieved. It has been a hard year, not made any easier by financial worries, so it is an enormous relief to know that I have two years ahead to work at a familiar, comfortable, stable job, and use that time to think about what I really want to happen next.
I’m going to have to adapt my self-care routines, too. I always worked so hard in school–I’m going to have to really work on balance. How do I fit in all the things I really want: meditation, exercise, art, social time, writing, and new experiences? How do I do all this for myself, and figure out my future goals, and start doing more things for others?
Hopefully it’s a project I can undertake with patience, compassion and creativity.
Wishing you well.