Me, Myself, and I

Brokenness

I haven’t written much lately. My husband tends to feel like he’s letting himself down when he doesn’t write for a long time, but for me it’s kind of a relief. I have noticed that I tend to write when I’m sad. Or angry. Or when I just need to process things that I can’t wrap my mind around. If I’m not writing a lot, it’s a pretty good indication that I’m doing well. I’m happy. I’ve got stuff figured out. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule…

I had surgery at the end of August and I was pretty dependent on J for most of my daily needs for quite a while. (That was horrible, by the way. I had no idea that I valued my independence so much!). But once I was on my own two feet again (albeit with some pain), I was much better.

And now here I am again, which means I need to figure some stuff out. Counselor says I need to cultivate a relationship with myself. I need to learn to love myself. Forgive myself. I don’t know how to do that. She also recommends I do some kind of art, because it’s a way to be creative and explore myself without the analytical stuff that comes out when I write. I don’t know how to do that either.

But I am learning to sew. And I bought glitter. That’s a start, right?

But what about liking myself and forgiving myself? What do I like about myself?

  • I’m very smart.
  • I’m great at communication.
  • I’m the best (job title) that (company name) has ever had. Their words, not mine.
  • I have moments when I’m really fun to be around.
  • I can make some people laugh.
  • I think I see a beauty in the world that others often miss.
  • I’m generous and kind.
  • I’m a great baker.
  • I’m creative.
  • I’m trustworthy.
  • I’m fiscally responsible.
  • I’m analytical (Yes, I like that about myself, but I certainly do have to keep myself in check in that regard.)
  • And what do I need to forgive myself for?

  • I’m not perfect.
  • I sometimes hurt the people I love.
  • I’m overweight.
  • I’m bad at keeping my home clean.
  • I’m not sure how to forgive God for His silence lately.
  • I’m not sure how to forgive God for allowing my mom to get sick.
  • I’m not beautiful.
  • I’m not as witty as I wish I was (…as I wish I were?)
  • I’m often lazy.
  • I frequently don’t do the things I “should” do.
  • Why does the bad stuff feel more potent than the good stuff? How can I choose to focus on the good things about myself, when they don’t feel as real or as important as the bad things?

    Sticks and stones may break bones, but words can kill.

    Relationships

    I had an epiphany today.  I have my doubts about whether I’ll be able to express my profound thought in a way that sounds profound…but I guess I’m willing to take the risk.  What may be a common sense thought to me may be a ground-breaking realization to you and vice versa.  I know that’s certainly how things tend to be with J and me, anyway.

    So, before I tell you my realization, let me give a bit of background information:  I’m very reactionary, and by that I mean I tend to have big reactions to things.  I won’t go so far as to say I’m bipolar, but I do have high highs and low lows.  I feel a wide spectrum of feelings, and it’s downright impossible for me to hide those feelings.  Even if I don’t blurt them out in a flurry of words as I am apt to do, my face tells all.  J says it’s a good thing to be so transparent, but I find it very vulnerable for everyone to know what I feel about something.  For better or for worse — mostly worse — that’s my personality.

    And then there’s J who is just about the exact opposite.  He is a man of few words.  He thinks about things before he reacts.  He’s calculating, he’s careful, he’s reserved.  He’s steady and strong and all the things I tend to wish I was.

    …but here’s the problem…  In our disagreements, we hurt each other.  A lot.  He takes a risk and expresses a (generally valid) complaint, and I react with my big personality.  My voice gets louder and squeakier with emotion, and he retreats into the safety of his head.  The more I react, the less he communicates, and the less he communicates, the more I try to pull him out…which, of course, causes him to pull back even more.  He hurts me by his failure to engage, and I hurt him by my aggressive approach.

    Our counselor urged me to try to not react when he expresses a complaint, but to try to merely say something like “Thank you for telling me how you feel.”  (SHOOT.  I don’t know if I can do it.  I’m going to try, but it’s going to take every ounce of my willpower.)  After the session, I was mulling over the things we had talked about and I arrived at my epiphany.

    Both J and I need to learn the same important lesson, but we’ll have to apply it VERY differently.  The lesson?  That our words are powerful.  We must be accountable for the weight of our words.  It’s so very simple, and yet so profound.

    I need to recognize how much my reactionary words tear J down on a regular basis.  I need to work on wielding my words with extreme caution so as to not hurt the man I love more than any person on this planet.  And J needs to recognize the power of his words too…  He has the power to encourage and affirm me with his words, but his silence has done tremendous damage to me.  My hope is that he will recognize the weight of his words and use them.  I need to stop speaking death into his life, and my hope is that he will start speaking life into mine.

    Words.  Weighty, powerful words.

    Identity Crisis

    Brokenness

    I finally went to see a counselor yesterday…for just me, not for my marriage.  I’ve been wanting to for, oh, several years.  Now that the first appointment is over, I find myself wondering why it was so hard to just GO.  I told myself that I couldn’t afford it.  Probably true, but at this point I’d rather go into debt than not see someone.  I need it that much.  I told myself that I didn’t know how to find the right person.  Also true, but what’s so inherently terrible about finding a couple of wrong therapists in the pursuit of finding the right one?

    All excuses.  I’m not sure whether my reticence was a result of laziness or fear.  I know that therapy (no matter what kind) is hard work, and maybe I just felt that I simply couldn’t add one more emotionally draining task to my load.  Hogwash, of course.  If my life is really so overwhelming that adding one more thing seems impossible, then that’s all the more reason to go to counseling.

    So, I met my new counselor for the first time yesterday, and I am astounded by how helpful it was.  I know that I have a long and painful road ahead of me, but already I have learned something about myself that explains a lot.  (I know that the left-brain/right-brain theory is very over-generalized and not really truly accurate, but for the purpose of this blog post, let’s just accept the concept to a certain degree, because it has brought such a clarity to what I perceive to be my essential problem.)  I am not whole.  I have become segmented.

    As a child, I used to pick up my pencil with my left hand (which is controlled by the right hemisphere of the brain), but my teachers trained me to be right handed.  I have always felt that I was right-brained, as well, because I am naturally a creative and intuitive sort of person.  I’m very in touch with my emotions.  Art was always my favorite subject in school, and not just because it was easier than, say, math.  I also sang a lot throughout my childhood and high school. Yep, right-brained.

    The problem?  The professional world is more suited to left-brained folks.  I am very adaptable.  In school, where logic and intellect are prized over creativity, I learned to focus on using the left side of my brain.  And since completing my education, in my professional career, I have essentially trained myself to be exclusively left-brained while at work.  …So much so that I effectively become someone entirely different when I’m in the office…  It’s still really me, but it’s a different side of me that is completely disconnected to the other parts of me.  Case in point, someone at work will ask me on a Friday what my plans are for the weekend and my mind goes a complete blank.  It’s like I put on competency like a garment for the 9 hours that I am in the office, and I cannot switch out of that mode even for a moment to remember what fun I might have planned.  I literally have to whip out my phone and look at my calendar to see what the heck I have going on.  Same thing looking back, too.  “What did you do this last weekend?”  Complete blank.

    I’m not a ditzy person.  On the contrary, while at work I am highly competent.  Very efficient.  It’s not rocket science or anything, but take a look at my blog posts and see my analytical tendency.  I don’t wish to seem arrogant, and I certainly don’t think I’m anything close to a genius, but I honestly think I have above-average intellect (and all the tests I’ve taken support that assumption).  That analytical way of thinking that I’m describing, though, is not my normal.  It’s my learned way of thinking.

    So, I come home after work and I am exhausted after spending all day functioning in a mode that is not my natural tendency, and I crash both mentally and emotionally.  Then my depression joins the party and become completely useless.

    Aside: My poor husband.  He catches a brief glimpse of me in my work mode and he almost doesn’t recognize me.  Then by the time I come home, I’ve transitioned out of my left-brained mode, and I’m just a lump of organic matter, not even able to make a decision about what I want for dinner.

    And here’s the point of the whole post: No wonder I feel so broken and disjointed.  No wonder I can’t even take a simple personality test because I can’t decide which “me” I’m evaluating.  No wonder I feel panic when I try to define my identity.

    So…  My homework from my counselor is to sketch.  Or paint.  And throughout the day at work, I’m to ask myself how I feel.  Weirdest homework ever, hey?

    I am excited that I finally have something concrete that I can point to and say, “yes, this is what my problem is…or part of it anyway.”  Granted, I am a different person than I was when I was a child.  Perhaps I have migrated for good over into the left side of my brain…but maybe if I spend some time immersed in those activities from my childhood that I used to love, maybe I’ll feel a little more connected to myself.

    I don’t know if any of this makes sense to anyone other than me, but …well, it doesn’t really matter.  It is enough that I understand.  And I am so thankful – so relieved – for the clarity and freedom I feel.

    If wishes were horses, I’d have a whole herd.

    Relationships

    I’m so tired.

    I feel like most of the time that J and I spend together is strained.  Counselor has been telling us that we need to learn to ask for our wants and needs, and so I have been making an effort to do so rather than resent him when he doesn’t read my mind.  It should be simple, right?  It can’t be that hard, can it?  Yep. Very hard.  If the thing I want is an emotionally charged request (“Will you please hold me? I’m lonely”), it’s hard to be vulnerable enough to ask for it, especially knowing that he is allowed to say no.  Counselor says it’s important to say no sometimes.  When someone says yes to every single request, it begins to feel inauthentic.  (I think, in general, this is a female way of thinking.  “I want him to choose to stay home with me because he WANTS to be with me, not because I TELL him.”  Ladies, does that sound familiar to you?)  Well, if every time I ask J for something he says yes then it doesn’t feel like he’s actually choosing to do whatever it is I am asking for.  It feels like he’s going through the motions but doesn’t actually mean the sentiment behind the request.  Theoretically, if he says no from time to time, then when he does say yes, I can trust that he actually wants it…or means it…or whatever.  (Shoot, I have no idea if this makes sense to anyone other than me.  Okay, back to the topic at hand…)

    It’s hard for me to ask J for what I need from him.  Because it’s a vulnerable place, right?  And what if he does say no?  And, even worse, what if he says no in one of the nasty, sneaky, confusing ways?  What if he says no by getting defensive, simultaneously making me feel like I’m being unreasonable AND distracting me from my original request by raising a new complaint of his own?  Or what if he says no by verbally saying yes, but not following through on whatever he’s agreeing to?  (*Ahem!* Sex.)  Or what if he says no by saying yes and sort of following through, but not being fully present in the gesture.  (Like I’ll ask him for more physical affection and he’ll put his hand on my knee while browsing on his phone with the other hand.)  All of these ways of effectively saying no without actually saying the word “no” are so much harder to take than a real no.  If he said something like “I’m sorry, Sophie, but <insert reason>,” at least then I’d feel like my request hasn’t been belittled.  At least then I would have a chance to offer an alternative that would meet the need behind the requested gesture.  (“You don’t want to kiss me because you don’t feel close to me?  Okay, well, what if we just held hands for now and see if we can start to feel closer?”)

    I’m making J out to be this terrible, villainous character.  He’s not.  He’s a really good man, and I respect him a lot…  He’s not trying to be a jerk.  I don’t think he realizes what he’s doing.

    I wish we could unload all the…  All the BADNESS of the past decade and just start fresh.  There’s so much crap between us that we end up defaulting to bad reactions (both of us).  We hear accusation in a tone of voice, even when it’s not there.  I wish it wasn’t like this.  I wish I could ask for my emotional needs to be met, without shame or guilt or fear.  And I wish that he could do the same.

    I wish a lot for my marriage.

    There has to be away to get past this ugliness in our relationship.  There has to be a future for us.