You Will Want to Walk Away
"I have wanted to close the doors to my professional creative work. I've wanted to leave my marriage. My spouse and I have had periods of separation. I've wanted to leave my life as I know it. I've wanted to entirely leave planet earth. I have found myself stuck in my parked vehicle, sitting in my driveway or in my garage upon arriving to my awaiting chore/task-filled house in the evenings. I have found myself shut inside a dark hall closet, hiding away from my children and all of life for a moment."
Whether it's from the random clutter piles that seem to magically reappear hours or even minutes after you've cleaned and organized; the season of stagnation in business progress; the children's activity schedules and pouty spur-of-the-moment petitions for activities additional; the tantrums; the litany of others' needs that all (seem to) *need* to come before yours; the overrun emails and text messages; the low frequency-living people testing your civility and centeredness or the intimate partner who is currently (operating at whatever is their unique present level of consciousness) calling forth if not bringing out in full bright colors the absolute worst in you and you them; there will, affirmatively, be times... many times... where you will want to, and perhaps even need to, abandon ship in one way or another.
In nearly 11 years of marriage; carrying, birthing and parenting 4 children; running 3 businesses and simply in growing up, I have personally felt a great many strong feelings, entertained surprising thoughts and done a good share of both "leaning in" and retreating in myriad forms. This is the dance of evolving and maturation--in being, in life and in love.
We're All Coming From Different Places
The depth of engagement and amounts of energy investments that relationships and life in general require are immeasurable. Add to that the fact that we are all coming to points of relation (with children, spouses, exes, our work, co-workers, extended family, friends, neighbors and transgressors) at any given time from differing and unique levels of our own personal consciousness--each of us steady learning, developing in our awareness and understanding of things, stumbling and making all kinds of mistakes along the way. It's unimaginably intense; am I right? It's enough to knock even the surest person off their square a time or two ...or three, or four. None of us have arrived at perfection, nor dare I even say plateauing. Not one.
One of my favorite songs these days is Stacey Barthe's "Flawed, Beautiful Creatures." Hear it here. The first two verses are a layering of resounding truths.
Sometimes we're insecure
We're fragile sometimes
We laugh at each other
To make ourselves feel better
Sometimes we lie
Sometimes we say things
That we really don't mean
But in the moment
Seemed like the thing to do
We're all flawed beautiful people
We're all flawed beautiful creatures
We're all flawed beautiful people
We're all flawed beautiful creatures
The Sovereign State of You
I like to think of us "beautiful people" as each our very own micro-monarchies--individual kingdoms, queendoms or theydoms (whichever you prefer to name your body). It's like we're each made up of all kinds of inner parts or "sides," inner rooms and something like inner foot soldiers, loyally carrying out directives. (Have you explored the scholarship behind this?) All of these parts are ideally supposed to be subject to the autonomous direction of our inner Highness, our consciousness or our highest decision-making self. In a perfect world, in a flawless scenario, this sort of system would result in one harmonious territory of being, destined to ever reign inwardly (and outwardly) in victory, composure and triumph; never suffering invasion, never dealing with insurrection, insufficiency, brokenness, treachery or any other discord within or threatening against our sovereign walls. Can you imagine a fully-integrated and well-balanced inner-body monarchy like that? Picture it: pristine sculptures, ornate decorative vessels, breath-taking buildings, immaculate colorful gardens, manicured green pastures, light fresh air ...harps, even--all making up the collective emotional, mental, spiritual and physical body. ...Who'd ever want to leave such an uninterrupted, serene place?
In the course of living this here real life... *wave an amen hand here* ...we encounter events and circumstances, don't we? Events and circumstances that sometimes traumatize, jade or stunt certain of our inner parts, perhaps injuring them in initially unrecognizable ways and/or preventing them from being fully heard, fully realized and fully processed into who we are as would-be grounded, balanced, whole, healthy people. Take, for example, the inner child who was met at the age of 9 with harsh criticism and unappreciative words, and who perhaps never came to know that they were desirable and more than enough. That inner child may be stuck there, trapped in time and in feelings of inadequacy, deep inside the seemingly well-adjusted, "successful" 25 to 35-year-old adult who is secretly struggling to crippling degrees with self-doubt in important areas.
Relating Is Sacred Work
When we enter--consciously or not, with all our flaws and beauty--into relationship with other beings, we are entering into magnificent sacred spaces. One could imagine them (these relationships) as magical, moving, elastic-like capsules or pods--holding mother and child, spouse and spouse, partner and partner(s), friend and friend, person and enemy, and so on. Each grouping is encapsulated separately but also able to overlap with other pods. It gets intense in these spaces because challenges and upsets can rouse up those earlier-mentioned stunted, frozen-in-time, often shorter-sighted, sometimes fearful, mostly protective and definitely attention-needing inner parts of us and/or in the people with whom we are relating. Then these parts can hi-jack the throne or driver's seat that steers the mind and body, causing us to behave in ways that may be seen as "way outside [our] usual character." Sometimes the unprocessed "part" inserts itself as the decision-maker for a longer period of time and becomes the only character that people or the individual their self knows.
I think that often within intimate relational spaces, we feel on some level safest to be the rawest and most unfiltered versions of ourselves. Sometimes this can be an enjoyable and pleasant treat to be on the encountering end of, other times it can be any and everything but enjoyable or pleasant. I believe this feeling of a certain degree of "relational safety," not thinking twice about the things we say and do, is by divine design, for the steady progression of ours and others' soul's maturation through this lifetime. When we tune in to the sacred work of relating and being in relationship, especially in seasons when it's harder than we could have ever imagined, the "parts" come out in us and we encounter difficult "parts" in others. Those parts then have opportunity to be seen, to be addressed and to heal. The intensity of the place of struggle is often the proving, deciding and making ground--for all involved parties.
A small note on self care: When you notice that every even slightly irritating person, place, thing or idea with which you come in contact results in you coming outside of whatever is your most grounded, thoughtful, balanced character, it's time to pay more deliberate attention--to mainly you.
Pause. Take a mindful breath. Go ahead and take another. Tune in. What activities help you restore? Keep a list and do those things. Get help with sitting with all your parts if you don't think you can restore balance and "groundedness" on your own. If necessary, phone a friend. Pull on and rest a bit in the love, care and accountability of your village. Do you have a faith or meditative practice? Contact trained professionals--licensed therapists, medical doctors, if necessary. See these supports as parts of the bridge that is taking you to your next journey-place. Don't be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.
Too Hot in The Relational Kitchen
Relationships of any kind can become so highly-charged when all the parts come out to play--I am a witness with both hands raised--that we are sure to at some point acutely feel as if the walls of the sacred spaces are closing in; the water is rising to an anxiety-inducing level; the air is less and less available or someone has lit a fire behind our ears. Once this begins to happen, we will undoubtedly, even naturally, sense the want to escape.
In response to the intensity of life and the living out of all forms of love, I myself have wanted to close the doors to my professional creative work. I've wanted to leave my marriage. My spouse and I have had periods of separation. I've wanted to leave my life as I know it. I've wanted to entirely leave planet earth. I have found myself stuck in my parked vehicle, sitting in my driveway or in my garage upon arriving to my awaiting chore/task-filled house in the evenings. I have found myself shut inside a dark hall closet, hiding away from my children and all of life for a moment. I have stormed away from my husband during heated discussions in the middle of the night--away from our bed, through the house and out the door, just to feel the cold air jolt me, openness and room to be alone and breathe. I've coolly packed up a small duffle bag and my bicycle, made arrangements for my children same-day and set out on the interstate with no destination in particular in mind aside from "away." I have broken down and stared off in catatonic episodes. In my worst moments to date, in the trauma of learning of betrayals, I recall seeing but not recognizing my own children as mine. I have been clinically depressed--most pronounced postpartum and post-graduate.
Many Ways to Leave; Many Ways to Stay
Though each of these instances were some of my frustrated, exhausted and angry responses to periods of difficulty in relating to people, life stages and things I love and engage with deeply, in each its own way, these often involuntary escaping times offered (or forced) separation and stillness. They created opportunity to rest, recalibrate and re-evaluate. It is important to stop from time to time and think critically and from a grounded place about our relationships to people and things: Why is this important to me? In what ways am I better for it? In what ways am I worse off? How can things be reconfigured to better suit? What important lessons am I learning? Is it better to end this relationship now? Should I just separate myself for an indefinite period of time? Do I need a vacation? Do I just need a nap? A glass of water? Do I feel like it's worth it to stay? Do I think it is worth it to stay? Which part of me is speaking right now? Am I deciding from my most mature, integrated and grounded self?
I am learning to be more proactive, deliberate and constructive with facilitating and protecting time to pause and stand away. I'm learning to take thoughtful time to write out or talk through my feelings and reasonings, to hear and help myself make relationship decisions. I'm also learning to be gentle with myself when I miss the opportunities to do this consciously.
I've learned about mindful breathing--an anytime, anywhere escape that no one has to see or know about but you. I've learned to give myself permission to sleep. I've learned about mindful outer body cleansing--hand washing, bathing, showering or shampooing in a sensory, cathartic and fully-present way. I've learned more about the power of taking walks and jogs, dancing; laughing until my sides are sore and finding a safe place to sad, angry, grieving sob cry, letting myself entirely break down. I've learned more about being destructive in constructive ways. I've learned more about pared down, distraction-less, full and deliberate self-love, self-appreciation and self-pleasuring (in sexual an non-sexual ways). I've sought out and become acquainted with the divinity and timeless wisdom within myself. I've found my inner sanctuary and many sanctuaries outside.
These are just some of my "resetting" activities. When I'm on top of things, they are maintenance. When things get too much on top of me, they are escapes for recovery and restoration. They are a few of the day-to-day retreats that help make it possible for me to lean in to relationship spaces when it really is needful to maybe not entirely bail (follow through with divorce, move residences out-of-state, change work fields, never speak to that co-worker or family member again, etc.) but to instead hold steady, take a breath, and dig in for the gifts and progression that can be found in and on the other side of the storms and violent quaking.
I still want to walk away at times. In fact, as I'm composing this blog entry, I am feeling the urge to "walk away" in a certain aspect of my life. In spending time listening to my agitated, activated parts, asking myself hard questions, I am not yet certain what the move will be--stay where I am or go. But I'm holding the space for myself to make a choice. I'm taking the difficult and most intense moments breath by breath, sleeping when my mind and body are tired and calling on trusted members of my village to help reinforce me with power and love.
What relationships have taught you the most about yourself? How deep did you have to dig for the gifts/lessons? How hard was it?