Or in which the universe provided the perfect storm. Or at least the perfect conditions to practice my new skills.
Welcome back my beautiful Hobos
I hope you know you’re beautiful inside and out. This week is a week for learning to be compassionate. If you are here I’m sure you are already the type of person who is compassionate and will reach out to a friend or stranger in need. But because you are here I’m wondering if you know how to be compassionate to yourself.
Practice compassion and nurture connections
I’ll be honest with you and tell you straight up that this has been the hardest concept for me to embrace so far. Not necessarily the hardest to put in to practice, but the hardest one to believe for myself. In order for me to be compassionate towards myself as well as others, I need to believe I’m as worthy of my compassion as other people are. I know there are more than a few of my fellow hobos out there that feel the same way. Believing you are worthy of your own love and compassion, that you can stop and be kind to yourself, is a hard idea to settle into your psyche.
All in all it was a good week. The confronting times I had experienced over the past couple of weeks seemed to have paid off, I was offered the training I had been asking for and I felt I was more in the loop for the media side of my job. I was completely psyched when I was asked to consult and help write a script for an online advertising project our company is working on. Good things were happening and the irritating little ones and the day to day stresses weren’t impacting me as much as usual now that I was consistently practicing being mindful in all situations and holding my emotions lightly. <internet fist bumps to me> Even the odious woman who had not wanted to have her son around me in case he caught my GAD germs was put in a position where she had agree to us taking him out to dinner for my daughter’s birthday and he was allowed back to visit at our house.
I’m not saying nothing went wrong or that everything was peachy keen. The mother of all panic attacks I mentioned last week? It lasted 28 hours. I was fucking exhausted by the end of Monday, but as I said, I held the emotions that went with the physical symptoms lightly and breathed my way through it. I’d like to say it didn’t happen again this week, but I am happy to report that the next one to hit on Wednesday was only 6 hours long and it was much easier to hold the emotions outside of myself. I was totally kicking anxiety’s arse with this mindful living thing.
As much as I love and care about people I’m quite crap at nurturing connections. Human contact is simply exhausting – pathetic, right? But I made the effort to at least chat to a few people via messenger, email for reasons other than work, invite people who are not close friends into my world via this website and text some people. This is a thing I’m going to work on. I know it is just me making excuses, but people (no matter how much I adore them or enjoy their company) are simply exhausting. *
By Thursday I had hit an emotional slump – the post long weekend blues took their toll and I was looking for the weekend to come sooner than it was going to. Much caffeine, reflecting on the things that had gone well this week (and a little stealing of some happy vibes from cuddling my children) and I was on my way to feeling like I could take on the world again.
Then Friday arrived. Oh what a Friday I had. I left early to account for the traffic which didn’t eventuate and ended up arriving to work half an hour early. Instead of heading to Eat Street for the atmosphere and banana bread (it’s a guilty pleasure, check out Eat Street Cafe here) I went straight to work wanting to get an early start on an article I was in the middle of writing before the noise and distraction arrived. Before I had even finished bringing everything in from the car a police officer approached me to ask if we had windows that looked out the back of the building. I don’t but I pointed them in the direction of people who might be able to help. Before they left I asked if I should be locking myself inside. Turns out I should be. I locked the doors and reminded myself that I was safe. Figuring the police would have told me to get out of there if I needed to I called my husband to discuss the situation, I didn’t want to overreact, but I also didn’t want to stay somewhere that wasn’t safe just to prove my anxiety doesn’t rule my life. It was good to have a sounding board and within minutes I had heard myself say ‘Fear is there for a reason, it is to keep us safe. Sometimes it is my anxiety prompting a fear response and sometimes I need to listen. That’s just common sense.’ I decided to get leave if I saw or heard anything of concern. I had seen the streets up from us cordoned off and an unusually high police presence on our street, if the police presence increased I was going to leave.
Then the sirens went. I quickly emailed our head office to let them know what was happening and left the office. I wasn’t expecting a client for an hour so it was no big deal if I went to work at Subway with my laptop instead. I knew I had made the right decision when I drove past armoured vehicles coming down our street. The further I drove from the incident, the calmer I felt so I call that a win as the fear was in relation to the proximity to danger and it was not able to continue controlling me after the danger was gone. (Also, thank you Mum and Dad for chatting to me while I drove to keep me focused. Kisses.)
Once the kerfuffle was over I returned to work (turned out an armed burglar had holed up in a house behind our office). I was feeling a bit shaky as the police and ‘ne’er do well’ presence had triggered some not very nice memories and emotions for me. This is where I decided to practice compassion towards myself. I thought about what I would say to anyone else in my position; be they a client from my days working as a Youth Worker, a friend or colleague. I would say “it is okay not to be okay sometimes. You need to take time to look after you. Use your lunch break to find a quite space to experience the emotions you’re holding back right now. The world is not going to fall apart without you for that hour so be kind to yourself, let yourself cry and then come back at the world with renewed strength.” I decided I would use my lunch break to shut the door to my office and cry about the things that had happened in the past and to purge the sadness that was trying to eat its way in to my heart.
But my lunch break didn’t come. I was kept busy all day by the constant stream of problem solving that comes with working with someone that can’t schedule her own appointments properly. And cleaning up after her mess. On the up side it meant I could take my lunch break at the end of the day and go home an hour early. And home was where I really wanted to be.
I got home and before I could find a moment to nurture myself I found myself taking care of everyone else and it was bedtime before I stopped thinking of others first.
Saturday passed much the same as it was my eldest daughter’s birthday (side note, I had the first actually not horrible email conversation with my ex-husband in 8 years – winning again). By Sunday I was at my wits end needing to break down. But with housework and yard work and parenting…. you see where this is going, right? 5:30 pm on Sunday and I decided I needed to prioritise myself before I crashed and burned. I shut myself in my room and cried. Bless my husband, he knew I was planning to and when I disappeared he figured out what was going on and came just to hold me while I sobbed.
It was cathartic.
I didn’t tell the children but I did get my hubby to finish off dinner and get my daughter to do my nails for me – she is much better than me at shellac. We watched nature docos until I had had all the learning I could abide and then it was on to a good BBC drama.
So now it is 11pm on Sunday and I am laying next to what sounds like a cross between a lawnmower and a hibernating bear as I type and I feel rejuvenated. Not holding that in or thinking I was silly to need to cry did wonders for me.
What I Learned
What I learned was not a surprise to me. Friday night as we drove to my in-laws we needed to stop off at the shops and my gorgeous hubby wanted to buy me a bottle of wine as I’d had a long day. Did I mention that my day ended with me mopping wee off the floor and cleaning old man pubes off the toilet seat? My day was essentially Police Siege. Twat. Old Man Pubes.
I was digging in my heels a little bit over buying the wine, I have no idea why. But what I heard come out of my mouth confirmed how I had suspected I felt. I meant to say ‘it’s not worth it.’ What I actually said was ‘I’m not worth it.’ <light bulb moment>
This along with the fact I put off my tears and self-nurturing until I had done everything that needed to be done to look after everyone else proved that I don’t see myself as important as I see everyone else and their needs.
So what am I going to do about it? I am going to approach my own needs as if I am someone else. Someone I care about. And in time I will learn that it is okay to look after myself even when the floors need vacuuming or the cup handles don’t all face the same way (it’s an illness…). In time I will learn to treat myself with care until I care about myself as much as I care about other people. And I will finally learn that it is okay not to be okay sometimes. The idea that “it is okay not to be okay sometimes” is one that my beautiful DV counsellor tried to teach me, and on occasion I have used this advice. But more often I have given it.
Oh, and I’m going to try to be less crap about nurturing my connections with people.
* I know you read this blog my little mermaid, and I know you are insecure. So listen to this right now – DO NOT STOP COMING OVER TO SEE ME OR TEXTING ME OR CONTACTING ME IN ANY WAY. It would make me very sad if you read this and thought I don’t want you here. Yes, people are exhausting to me. But is a good kind of exhausting, I dread it before it happens and enjoy every second of their company while they are here. Then I sink into an introverted coma for an hour and I’m all good. Do. Not.Change.