Here is one tidbit readers may not guess about me: I do not "do" strong feelings well. I know...shocking! The lady who bares her soul to the world via the Web does not know how to deal with big feelings. This is actually a relatively new realization for me, but not so much for my friends. If we took a poll right now, I guarantee you that all of my good friends have witnessed me ugly cry like I am a 16 year old having a coming to Jesus with Dr. Phil on at least one occasion. If you haven't beheld the ugly cry, just wait...give me a couple of months; we'll get there.
This realization occurred to me recently, when I was talking to a dear friend on the phone. The conversation went something like this:
Friend: Remember that time when my son was so stressed out that he put a hammer through the drywall?
Me: Oh, yeah! That was awful. I remember how stressful that was.
Friend: It's kind of funny that my son is losing it and I'm trying to hold it together...meanwhile, you are the one hyperventilating into a paper bag in my kitchen! LOL!
Me: Wow! I totally forgot about that...but you are right. I was a mess!
It got me thinking (only occasionally a good thing). What was it that made me so panicked about that situation? Or a million other situations like it when I have had to fight the overwhelming urge to run away before my chest explodes. Even writing about this subject is pretty tough for me because this is me at my most vulnerable. As I'm writing, I feel a bit like that dream where you are walking through the halls of your high school and you realize, "Oops! I'm naked!"
Who knows what makes us lose it during stressful situations? In college, someone told me it was probably due to the fact that I never witnessed my parents argue growing up (no practice at resolving conflict). My mom said, "That's rich! So, now we've screwed you up because we didn't fight enough?"
Mom and Dad, thanks for the traumatic "Leave it to Beaver" upbringing. Please, put away the violins. I will somehow carry on!
I'm just gonna keep it real and lay it all out for you. For many years, my thought process around conflict went something like this. Someone hurts me. Someone is in a crappy mood and gives me some attitude. There is a little file in my brain where that person goes and stays until I deem them fit to reenter my life. I know, messed up, right? They could apologize, make a kind gesture...doesn't matter. In my head, I'm thinking, "Take a hike."
Now, like a good Southern girl, I would never say such a thing. Heavens, no!! I would smile, say the right things, and slip them into the naughty file.
It's a little nuts. I like to think I'm a bit more evolved than that these days. Like a Big Girl, I am slowly learning to use my words and express how I feel. Largely, the change is due to the presence of honest, real friendships in my life. Words cannot describe how much I value the close adult friendships in my life. In these, I find accountability, love, and acceptance. There is no room for gossip, judgement, or resentments.
But, it is still pretty unbearable for me to feel any negative, strong emotions. Be it anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, etc., I choose the "avoid at all costs" approach until inevitably things boil over (at the most inopportune times)! Here is a great example of my avoidance strategy after a super stressful week:
Me: How is your day going?
Hubby: Really busy and stressful. Too much to get done in one day.
Me: So this is probably not the best time for me to tell you what I've been thinking...
Me: Well...wouldn't it be great if you and I got tattoos together?! I mean, there are so many things in our lives right now that are so out of our control and what a great way to feel empowered. It could be like a birthday present to you! Fun, right??
Hubby: Wow. Really? What are you, like twenty? No, babe. And if I have to look at one body for the rest of my life, I'd really prefer that it not be tatted up, please.
Me: Okay. Well, it was just a thought.
Bless my husband's little heart. It's great to have people that know you so well, isn't it? They know all of your dysfunctions and issues and they don't let you get away with stupid stuff. He knows that I look for quick fixes...stuff that will give me a little adrenaline so that I don't have to feel what I am feeling or God forbid, think too much. This morning, before leaving for work, he asked what was next. "So, Babe, you going to ask me to join the military today because you think the uniform is cute?" Ha! No, I'd just make him buy the uniform, silly man.
So, what now? Well, I think I have enough insight to pick up the phone and talk about what is going on in my head before I do something like cut off all my hair, get a tramp stamp, or pierce something. Let's face it. Nobody wants to see that stuff on a thirty four year old stay at home mom...at least not this one. Gross. I might as well start smoking Virginia Slims, wearing toe rings and sporting hoops in my cartilage, right? Been there, done that. Instead, if I feel sad, or mad, stressed, or whatever...I'm going to try to look it square in the eye.
And maybe, one day, I can stop running around and just sit with it. Because it's not the negative feelings that get us in trouble. It's the untruth, the belief, that we'd better just put a lid on those feelings because no one else would understand.