Failing

 

I failed spectacularly in the earlier portion of my life.

In marriage. In Adult-ing. In having two boundaries to rub together.

My kids love me (and forgive me) for which I am grateful, so I don’t feel I failed entirely in Mom-ing. They’ve seen me grow and change and get stronger. They’ve seen me become more honest and less fearful.

FAILING has taught me much: after tripping and launching headfirst into a tightly closed door in the dark of night with nobody else around, I can still take care of myself–or at least call 911 so somebody else can come check to make sure I’m not dead. It has taught me that the Clarity following failure often comes at the cost of comfort. That stability should mean more than owning a three bedroom home in the ‘burbs with someone who challenges my emotional health. That when it’s time to go, it’s time to go, no matter what the well-meaning misinformed may say.

Failure has taught me much: that the Clarity following failure often comes at the cost of comfort Click To Tweet

I’m in this strange new place with new and different challenges, but these challenges are more of the regular variety of life–where will I live, how involved will I be with what and who…it’s the unfolding of a previously unknown world, one not determined by who I am as a mom or a wife or any other role. It’s determined simply by Who I Am.

I LOVED being a step/foster/adoptive/birth mom, more than I ever thought I would. Heck, with what I saw of my own family growing up, I had no plans of even getting married. Somewhere along the line it occurred to me that I could do things differently than my parents. That was my intention when I did fall in love and want to get married, to do things differently (and hopefully better) than the home where I grew up. I did manage to put my own spin on it–instead of my mother’s often cold disregard and her demand for obedience at the price of our individual identities, I instituted a total lack of boundaries, and added way more crying. Not a vast improvement.

FAILING HAS TAUGHT ME ABOUT GETTING BACK UP…whether from the floor where I’ve fainted after bashing my head or from a whole lot of years of marriage with no fairy tale ending. My response to danger has always been more of a crawl-under-your-desk-and-cover-your-head  one. As a child, I’d hide by reading in the closet or by running off to the swings at the park.  As an adult, by losing myself in a movie, an art project, a book, or a nap. But now, in this after 60 part of my life and with the help of my Favorite Mental Health Provider (my therapist) I’m learning how to stand back up, stretch out the pain, and pinpoint what I tripped over so I don’t repeat the same Learning Moment. Now when I cry it isn’t because I keep stubbing the same toe on the same chair leg, I cry because being fully aware is often hard, letting go of old habits can be painful.

Big Realizations that are the impetus for change aren’t always the most pleasant, but they can be necessary to keep us moving forward.

I turned 65 on Sunday–sixty freakin’ five! These numbers always surprise me, because surely my 30 year old son was a toddler only yesterday, and I myself but a young thing. I used to think I would know more about life by this time, but all those years of hiding under my desk from the Truth of things kept me from learning. Now I’m catching up, and I’m okay with that.

I stayed down for years, broken by the trauma of my childhood, and by allowing others to keep the trauma alive. How? By not standing up for myself, by thinking that crouching under a desk with my arms over my head was enough protection from a nuclear event. That move wasn’t  going to protect us from the fallout of bombs, and it certainly did little for me in my adult years against other kinds of fallout. So as I examine the ineffective maneuvers of my past, I’m learning to mourn those mistakes and failings, give them a decent burial, and keep walking forward. The Walking Forward represents two things to me: Self-compassion, by learning kindness and forgiveness for my mistakes and shortcomings, and the Growth that comes each time I manage to get back up from falling.

When I hid, I couldn’t learn. I couldn’t be kind to myself. I was far too busy fixating on how to stay hidden.

How I’m practicing the change to stand back up: Realizing the ways my early trauma affected my parenting, I’ve felt horrified with myself. Being well-trained in the art of Self-Judgment (I have framed certificates for it) the realization can easily turn into panic, anxiety and depression. So I pause for two minutes or twenty minutes, however long it takes, to close my eyes and breathe slow and deep until I’m calmer. I visualize letting the feelings of sadness/regret/etc. wash over me without sticking. At some point I bring up my new insight with my kids and apologize for what I now know impacted them negatively as children…

…and then I keep walking forward.

Big Realizations that are the impetus for change aren't always the most pleasant, but they can be necessary to keep us moving forward. Click To Tweet

The Bring Your Own Beverage Conversation: Have there been places in your life where it seemed safer to hide from what was true than to face it? What plan can you make to practice self-compassion and growth around these?

WE ARE MORE THAN WORTH THE KINDNESS WE GIVE TO OTHERS. You’d help a friend get back up, wouldn’t you?

Trains, pains (but no automobiles)

“Does it hurt there?” my doctor asked as she pressed on the inside of my knee.

“HOly!” I said.

She pressed on my outer knee. “Barely,” I said. She pressed on my inner knee again. “HOly!” I exclaimed, clenching my teeth.

Just as I had been congratulating myself on making it to 63 without the knee problems several friends had already faced a decade ago, I had started having problems. So not cool. 

Diagnosing by poking to find where I have pain is complicated by my fibromyalgia, since it carries some extremely tender points of its own–namely the place on my inner knee the doctor kept pressing. But given the totality of the symptoms involving my kneecaps and the fact they hurt most when using stairs, she thought I likely had “runner’s knee.”

GUFFAW!

One thing I often tell my dog on walks is “Mama don’t run.” He really wants to, even at 14 1/2. Even in my much smaller college days I hated jogging, which I guess is what you call slow running. There was too much jiggle and I felt like I couldn’t breathe and jog simultaneously. It was an annoying gym class. I was not a fan. And now decades later, my opinion hadn’t changed for the better. Running was for those blessed with long and lanky genes and definitely not for short, heavier me…and so went my train of thought–derailing somewhere about the point the train hits the crossing called Everything Is My Fault Because Somehow I’ve Done It Wrong.

Lies derail me. Instead of “okay, what can I do now?” I get hung up in the spider-webbed space of all the words I use to judge myself. Every direction I look I see a negative message and I wind myself more firmly into the web. I get stuck.

I somehow believe I should be able to be Faultless.

I somehow believe I Should Have Known how to avoid whatever problem I’m facing at the moment.

The Truth is, I’ve made each choice, each decision, based on what I knew/didn’t know/payed attention to/didn’t pay attention to IN THAT MOMENT. Given the experiences and circumstances leading up to then I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I would have made the same good/bad/shoot myself in the foot choices, because I was exactly who I was at that time. All the coulda-shoulda-if only thoughts tightly packed into that derailed train simply weigh my thoughts down and waste my energy.

Current example: rather than telling myself I Could Have Avoided having (not really a) Runner’s Knee by listing fifteen things I Should have done differently in the previous 62 years, instead I take a deep breath and do the exercises given me by the physical therapist. Recognizing the muscle fatigue of fibromyalgia may mean I can’t complete all the sets. I think my new math equation looks something like this:

available energy (minus) wasted self-flagellation energy (equals) higher quality energy to discern how I can best move forward. 

Okay, I know it’s silly math, but it’s math I can understand, math I at least know how to use. By lightening the energy load on my train of thought by dumping the thought patterns that overload and derail, I’m left with better, clearer energy to stay on the track of learning and moving ahead.

The Bring Your Own Beverage conversation: Final math equation of this post– Available energy minus (what thinking do you need to unload?) equals higher quality energy to move forward. Solve for (what thinking do you need to unload?)

Class dismissed. Now go be kind to yourself.

When elastic surrenders

Maybe it was simply worn out. It was a fairly old skirt after all. But did it need to give out in public?

I suppose that elastic could have a retirement date, or one of those “best before” dates like food. All I know is that I was happily wandering through a shoe store in Portland with my daughter and son-in-law when I reached back to pull my shirt down, and touched….pants!  Of the under kind. WHAT?

I edged slowly, casually–well, as casually as one can while clutching the waist of their skirt–toward my daughter. “Um,” I said quietly, “my skirt elastic died.” I explained The Discovery.

She laughed. “I didn’t even notice!” And if the salespeople did notice, well, I don’t ever have to see them again. Ever.

This time I was able to laugh about it, even though my first thought was If you weren’t so overweight that wouldn’t have happened. Second thought: Everyone will make fun of you. Followed by a little You should have known–then you could have avoided this.

What if I met myself in these circumstances with a little compassion, and maybe just a pinch of logic?

Truth: Yes, I felt Imperfect. I felt Embarrassed. Those feelings washed over me, and went away when I giggled with my daughter. I realized that my whole importance to the sales clerks was whether or not I bought shoes. My Incident would be no more than an amusing anecdote to them if they even noticed. People don’t spend nearly the time focused on me as I think (which is a good thing in this instance). And not being psychic, as much as I would like to be at times, I couldn’t have known when the elastic would expire.

Today I will do this for me: When I feel that quickened breathing of anxiety as something unexpected happens (and it will), I will feel what I feel, then tell myself some version of Stuff happens (because it does). And I’ll give myself a little virtual hug and have some compassion for myself, since I deserve it just as much as the next guy.

And I’ll put some safety pins in my purse.

The BringYourOwnBeverage Conversation: Clearly for me, my weight is what I see as one of my biggest Flaws. What do you see as your biggest Unacceptable Flaw? What area in your life do you need to work on accepting? Where do you need to show yourself compassion?