Somehow I’ve shifted tracks. Like a train headed in one direction but that somewhere along the way began the subtle veer toward the right until on a different track completely. It’s so easy to do. And when I finally notice, it seems I’ve traveled so far off course that some drastic action is needed to catch up, to jump the tracks and get back on schedule and muscle back through to where I was, to make up for lost time. Like overcompensating with exercise after a weekend binge. Like everything else, the answer is always to do the opposite of trying to compensate or re-prove.
The action is non-action. It is still just to stop. Breathe. Notice where I am.
Sitting with myself gives me the chance to listen to hear out the story.
Much of my time is spent answering other people’s needs, listening to their stories and solving their problems. Sometimes my own gets stifled and it takes awhile to turn up the volume on those subtle messages. Sometimes our own story gets tangled up with the narrative of the people we brush up against or come head to head with. The web gets tangled. Sometimes it takes quite awhile to unknot the emotional threads of who is who.
But sitting with my story gives me the opportunity to observe the things I have been telling myself about what is, to see the course that I’ve been on and redirect if needed. I imagine sometimes that if my brain were an actual person I was having a conversation with I would think,“Woah, this person really needs some help. Yeeesh, this conversation is a real energy drain.”
I think of it as checking my vital signs, especially when I’ve been in overdrive. “Survival mode” is simply encoded into the parent experience. We all know what it feels like to running on fumes, to be hanging on to our wits by a thread for days at a time, being forced to waive our individual needs or comforts on behalf of the whole. Though the most primitive dangers have been eradicated from modern society, we have created some new ones in their place: isolation, impossible expectations, imbalanced workloads, incongruent messages about roles, identity and the value of family. I mean, really — a lot of the time managing myself feels like a full time job, much less anything or anyone else. But most parents are familiar with pressing the “mute” button on our own ongoing drama, needs, concerns for awhile in order for things to keep running. We might disconnect but the storyline, the inward drama, is still playing out while we’re attending everyone else’s.
Meanwhile, the inner child who is whining, what about ME??? is the one that gets shut in the closet for awhile in order for me to just think straight and attend to what taking priority at the moment. What matters I guess is that I don’t shut her up in the dark and silence too often or for too long. And that I bring her dessert later and apologize and tell her I love her and listen to her tell her story. (Actually when I think about it in these terms, this totally would not fly with Child Protection Services so I wonder how we get away with doing it to ourselves??)
The most important thing is that we keep coming back to listen. And that we always try and hear out the inner storyline withholding judgement. Let her whine and tantrum, let her mope, let her be angry, let her be too tired to feel anything, let her feel empty. And then ask her what she needs.
Sitting gives me the chance to listen to my own story. To hear myself out. Be curious. Withhold judgement. Be compassionate with myself while I sit in my own skin, right where I am.
Quietly shift gears.
Remind myself of what I want.
And just be grateful to myself for remembering.
(True shit, man.)