I am a novice at many things. Lest I have lead anyone to believe that I know exactly what I’m doing, I should make it clear that I am attempting this whole “life” thing as if seeing through new eyes. It takes courage, humility, resilience and resolve. Sometimes I do things poorly and I learn from my mistakes. But the important thing is that I keep going and keep close to God along the way.
In fact, I can’t help but relate to my one year old son as he is learning to walk. Once he got the mechanics down, it was more about faith, confidence, and getting up after falling down than learning perfect technique. That is how I, too, feel while learning the art of tact, self-control and handling emotions.
Yesterday was a difficult day. It didn’t start out that way, but after a perturbing phone call it became difficult.
When you’ve taken medication for 10+ years, you forget how powerful emotions can be, and the effects they can have on your physiology. You have to re-learn how to negotiate the troubled waters without running away from them. What happened was apparently so upsetting to me that (without my permission, I might add) my flight or flight response kicked in. After being hung up on, I broke out in a cold sweat, my breath was shallow, and I felt sick. These are symptoms of a deeper issue, in a response to fear. I knew I needed to get my body back to homeostasis and peace.
When you’re going through a panic attack — I didn’t even realize that’s what it was at first — you have little control over how the physical symptoms manifest. No one wants to allow it to happen. It’s uncomfortable. It’s scary. It’s maybe even embarrassing. An earlier version of me would’ve done anything to escape feeling this way, from numbing the physical discomfort to compartmentalizing, avoiding or repressing the emotions and thoughts that were causing the physical symptoms. But yesterday I faced it head on. And it is understandably the road less traveled, as it took me the better half of my day.
Plus it was simply exhausting. As I was able to control my mind, slowing my heart rate and my breathing, the emotional and mental fallout began. And I still had responsibilities to tend to — remember, I own two businesses and am the mother of a one year old! — so moping around and licking my wounds just wasn’t a possibility. Although I did miss my exit while driving because I was so lost in thought.
I read in a parenting book recently that asking ‘why’ tends to further complicate things for a child when they are experiencing strong emotions because on top of dealing with the emotions, they are now being asked to pinpoint the cause of them — which can be really hard to figure out! I found that to be true. The more I racked my brain for answers, the more I felt confused, unsure of myself and lost.
I wanted to document in this post what I ended up doing to cope with the situation. I didn’t just want to “feel better”. I truly wanted to suss out right from wrong and feel firmly convicted about the decisions I made, and how I could handle these situations going forward. This is also about being a person worthy of imitation: how will I teach my son to interact with less-than-savory people, or how to know when to humbly acknowledge that he is in the wrong or when he should be unshakingly firm in his convictions? By living it. By figuring it out.
- I discussed the situation with three or four people I know and trust– whose logic isn’t faulty, whose faith is firm, who are reasonable and who know me well. I knew I could rely on their advice (and as a sanguine temperament, talking these things out gives me a huge amount of relief. This is also one of the best ways for me to form my thoughts).
- I cried. I experienced the emotions. And it was hard, and they hurt. But reality is what it is. Shying away from them won’t change the reality.
- I consulted my dictionary and a few books to help me better articulate what I was experiencing. I needed to know what exactly triggered this reaction — derision, profanity, inconsideration, disrespect, etc. — to know how to protect myself from it in the future. I love my Merrium-Webster dictionary app because it lets me favorite words (which is fun to look back through in hindsight to see what I was working through as I learned and grew along the journey).
- Prayer. So much prayer. Prayer for humility, prayer for guidance, prayer for clarity. Intercessory prayer from my favorite saints. Intercessory prayer from friends, family and even a local Catholic Women’s Facebook group! I had to give an application to a friend who stopped by the store. She was on a phone all but mouthed “Is everything okay?” When I said “Just pray for me!” she put down her phone, wrapped her arms around me and reminded me that when we are in the darkest valleys, we are only visiting. As she prayed I cried and was so grateful for her love. What courage, what selflessness!
- G.K. Chesterton once said “”The human brain is a machine for coming to conclusions; if it cannot come to conclusions it is rusty.” I must need some WD40 in my noggin because the self-questioning was the most grueling part. What was my responsibility? What was theirs? What is judgement versus knowing by inference? What does forgiveness look like? What do boundaries look like? How do I move forward from here? Exhausting. There is a time to solve problems, but then there is a time to acknowledge that you just don’t have the required tools or resources to understand the complexities of life at the moment. And that’s okay. Learning to submit and sit comfortably amidst the unknown is a new lesson for me. I don’t need to know everything. It was revelatory.
- Oils. A friend of mine and I just happened to cross paths yesterday so I was able to use some of her Feeling Kit oils — Forgiveness, Present Time, Release, Inner Child. Afterward my brain kind of felt funny. All of the questions stopped and I felt wholly submerged in the emotional turmoil but removed from it instead of being controlled by it. Still wasn’t the most comfortable state that I’d prefer to be in.
- Adoration. I had my husband accompany me to adoration at St. John’s Chapel of Peace. More crying.
- I went to a friend’s graduation party and just set it all aside. It was marvelous. This was an Oklahoma-style BBQ gathering where everyone brings a lawn chair and slurps watermelon juice down their shirts. I played t-ball with my son and husband. We all danced. These are people who aren’t contrived, controlled by vanity or pomp. They don’t seek out controversy and they aren’t out to prove anything. It was just freeing and beautiful. Wholly refreshing.
- Good sleep. My husband so lovingly put (more) oils on me and rubbed the tenseness out of my muscles. I woke up without the burdensome rain cloud of yesterday and enjoyed a fantastic local parade where I danced on a float with my son while wearing a rose dress. My soul was jubilant!
- Give the offenders to God, shake the dust and carry on. Squash any remaining negative sentiments with prayer.
Without a firm foothold of knowing who I am, I could believe anything someone might suggest about me. I actually got out a yellow notepad and wrote all of the accusations down, just to make sure if any of it was true that I could look at my vices at face value and work on them. But ultimately there is a loving way to communicate with someone you care about. There is a modicum of respect and tact that convey love. And there is nothing wrong for standing up for your values and setting boundaries for what you will and will not tolerate. Sometimes people will resent those constraints, but that’s not ultimately your problem.
Most people don’t like to be disliked or misunderstood, and therefore we crumble under the pressure of our bullies… which, afterward, makes us feel ashamed for our cowardice and lack of integrity. I am done with that. Sometimes you need to take a stand… to fearlessly and unshakingly seize your voice of authority while defending what is right and decrying what is wrong. What you hold as valuable is worth not only respect, which the people who care about you will give you, but protection.
Unity is indeed beautiful, but not when it’s a foolish, pyrrhic act of ingenuity.
And that’s the lesson I learned from yesterday.