Confessions of an Emotional Junkie

If you are over the age of 25 then you have probably noticed patterns in your life.  We all have them, a way of thinking or doing things that we have just assimilated for some reason.  The details of the pattern are really the only difference.  Where mine might herringbone yours might be chevron, or gingham.  I have found a lot of patterns in my life, some are positive ones that I’m glad I have.  Others are negative and end up taking me down a road I don’t want to be again.  It is a slow and agonizing process every time I discover one too.  I would think that there are probably those of us who wake up one morning with perfectly clarity on their pattern but alas, that has yet to happen to me.  It seems like a never-ending path to find the start of a pattern so that I might choose a different road for myself.

One pattern I am beginning to discover is this emotional addiction I seem to have.  It’s weird to think about actually.  How does one have an addition to emotions, but I can’t find a better word to explain it.  I have a need to feel intensely, good, bad or ugly.  And this is not due to an inability to be emotional.  I am actually very empathetic and emotional.  So much so that for most people I turn the emotion button off and they just don’t see that side of me.  It’s too much to be available emotionally like that to everyone.  But man if you are close to me look out because I feel really deep.  And I think I became so used to those feelings (particularly the negative ones) that I started to create situations where I would keep experiencing them.  Cause you know – that was “who I was” or “what I did” or “what my life was like”.  Do you know what I’m talking about?  Does anyone else out there get this?

I became so accustomed to this emotional roller coaster of a life, from my teens on, that I am finding myself on eggshells without it.  I truly almost don’t know how to react to things right now because they are so different.  And the other thing I have discovered is that with the changes in my life that have removed that emotional high I still find myself missing something.  I’m coasting around wondering what am doing and why am doing it.  I have been in this low-grade depression for a while now and the lack of anything to blame it on is what has caused me to stumble onto this pattern in the first place.

My life – is really great.  I have a great job, fabulous kids, a nice home, enough income to be relatively comfortable, companionship and family.  I’m trying to grow a social circle and am active in my church.  Dude – “It’s a Wonderful Life!”.  So then what is causing this feeling of disconnection?

The only thing I have been able to come up with is that without the drama life is sort of boring.  Stable doesn’t necessarily mean exciting.  So I’m missing the emotional roller coaster.  My relationships without it feel different and so I don’t know how to act.  I’m trying to learn to not be a martyr and so I don’t know how to act.  I’m trying to find real intimacy and love and relationship and it is so different from what I believed it to be…so I don’t know how to act.

I’m struggling.  I will have days when I want to pick up on an old pattern and walk down a familiar road just so I will feel something besides this mild indifference.

But I guess those old patterns are being replaced with new ones.  Like crocheting I just haven’t got the rhythm down for the pattern yet so it feels a little awkward.  But with a stable pattern real beauty is created.  With a slow and steady rhythm fewer mistakes are made.  I’ll keep fiddling with it and know that at some point the new will become more comfortable…and I will know how to act.

Labels And Why I Don’t Like Them

Have you ever sat and thought about the labels you use in your life?  I’ve heard it said that labels don’t matter but I have decided that is an all out lie.  Labels DO matter.  We might not want them to but they do matter.  And I hate them….I hate them all.

My life, like everyone’s is full of labels.  Some of my labels include; mother, Christian, autism, introvert, codependent, people pleaser, kind, shy, funny….etc.  My kids have labels.  Labels are how we communicate ideas to one another.  Language is essentially just a complex series of labels made out of symbols that we use every day to explain, interpret, understand and engage with each other every single day.  The problem of course is how our brain uses labels and the limits generated by that.

When I was in school and studying psychology, I had a professor that discussed how the brain organized information.  You may have heard about it; schema?  Well a scheme is basically the map we use in our brains to short cut thinking.  I think of it like little boxes; you have an experience with a person and you notice or learn things about them.  Each piece of data you learn about them is tucked safely away into a little labeled box in your mind; man, woman, mother, single, daughter, white, black, funny, arrogant, and the list goes on.  Each of those boxes has been conditioned with attachments to previous experiences and feelings, some good, some bad, some completely indifferent, and from those attachments and labels we determine quickly what we know about a person or situation.  It happens so fast we are usually not aware of it.  It is way for our brains to be efficient with the huge amounts of information it comes across every minute.  It’s a huge advantage so we can quickly make decisions about safety and other flight/fight circumstances.

Here’s the thing, we forget that people are more than labels.  Even ourselves.  We have an idea about labels; i.e. she is shy so she doesn’t like going out with people.  But that idea isn’t always right; in fact, I’m finding that it often isn’t.  Take a few minutes right now and think of one person you know kinda well…an acquaintance.  Pick one thing you know about that person, it can be anything; the kinds of clothes they wear, their race, their sex, where they grew up, whatever.  Now say a statement about that person you “know” because of that label.  For example: “She lives in a big house so she has lots of money.”  Now, is that really true about them?

Do this same exercise for someone you know really well.  A close friend, spouse or family member.  State a label, they are kind, funny.  Then create your statement.  Is that true for them?  Was it true when you first met that person?  Pick several labels; positive ones and negative ones.

Someone you don’t like?  Is it true for them?

What happens when you do that exercise for yourself?  I’m an introvert.  Introverts don’t like to go out and have a good time – that is not true for me.  I do enjoy going out and having a good time…but wait, I’m an introvert?

My son has autism.  People with autism don’t like to be touched.  But wait – my son would crawl back into me if he could?

I’m sure each person will have a different experience with this but what I found out about myself is that I try to live by my labels instead of allowing myself to just be who and/or what I want to be.  I found that I was acting in some ways because of what I thought those labels expected of me.  I found I was judging myself by those labels and they were definitive.  They were the be all end all of who I was, and in some cases, the other people (and situations) in my life.  And ironically, or unfortunately, finding out that they weren’t right or that I could change them wasn’t necessarily empowering.  It was terrifying.  Who am I if I’m not this??  Right now I’m just scared that I have to take myself out of the boxes.  Boxes are safe.  Labels are safe.  But when we look at our world and we remove labels we must be more vulnerable to learn anything of Truth.  We have to Love (capital L) enough to open ourselves to the possibility that something or someone isn’t limited to the label we have given it.

I want very much to be able to be the person that bravely meets the world that way but right now I just feel like I’m hiding in a corner.  Right now that just looks like a bunch of pain and disappointment and I’ll be honest – I don’t want to hurt anymore.  I’m closer than I have ever been to just turning myself off emotionally to the whole world because I just don’t want to hurt anymore.  I told someone once I didn’t want to live that way, then I hurt again.  I have faith that since my thoughts and prayers have brought me here I will transcend but well, I’m not over the mountain yet.

I would love to hear what those questions brought up for you if you are willing to share.  Maybe we can get rid of the labels together and it will feel less scary.

 

 

Sunglasses

My daughter can say the most profound things.  I guess children are good at that.  Recently, the last year or so, my vocabulary has started to change.  The way I am defining some words is expanding.  Love for example.  I’m getting to an understanding of love now that when I hear the word I o longer think of the same ideas.  I think of allowing, letting.  Slowly, very slowly, moving closer to what unconditional love might be.  Just as a disclosure that doesn’t mean I am great at expressing that way just that I am getting more comfortable thinking about it that way.

Light is another word that is changing for me.  I mean when I heard the word light before I thought of light, the very simple kind that allows us to see, that removes darkness.  Recently that definition has begun to include words like; understanding, awareness, etc.  Even in my day-to-day conversations with others.  Like, for example, the simple and yet profound question asked by my daughter this morning. While wearing my sunglasses she asked very innocently, “why are these better?”.  I’m still not 100% sure of what she was asking but let me share where my thoughts went.

“Why is what better?”

“The sunglasses.”

“They block the light so we can see better.”

Wait – hold the phone.  What?  Blocking light is what helps us see better?  BLOCKING LIGHT?!?!?

Wow!  My mind went immediately to, we just aren’t ready for all the understanding there is in this universe.  Like we can’t see it yet.  It’s too much for us right now.  There is so much to understand, to know, to be aware of that we have to block some of it out to be able to function.

Holy cow.

It is very possible to think on that and get discouraged I think.  I mean my first thought was, “that sucks”.  I want to see all the Light.  But I believe the Truth is actually more hopeful than that.  I think that it means we don’t need to get so caught up in what is going on because we really can’t See it all anyway.  We just aren’t capable (yet) to be aware of the big picture all of the time.  It will come, in different ways and at different times but for now we aren’t ready.

That is what to put your faith in.  What do you think?

Letting Go – A Child’s Perspective

This morning started like any other and I was driving the kids to school, listening to my daughter happily chat behind me.  We have just returned from vacation and this morning start was a little easier than the day before, we are all in a good mood and on time.  🙂  Good times.  Very randomly my daughter asks, “Mom, do you like those little ring toss games?”

“Which games?”  I was fairly certain she wasn’t talking about the games at the fair.

“You know, where you push the button and try to get those tiny little rings into the bucket or basket?”  Ah!  The little handheld water guys!  I understand now.

“Yum, I guess so.  They can be hard but fun sometimes too.”

“Yeah, I love them.  Madison and Kaden have a bowling ball one at their house and I really love it.  They said they don’t play with it much and I didn’t ask but I thought I would  like to have it, I would play with it all the time.”  I’m pretty sure she didn’t breathe through that.

And as she explained this to me I am thinking in my head, sweetie, you don’t like those little things.  If you had one it would sit buried in the bottom of a basket in the back of your closet and you would forget it was there.  And suddenly I was stuck with how easily children let things slip in and out of their lives.  One minute something is there, it is magnificent and wonderful and the greatest thing ever and in 15 minutes they have completely moved onto something else.  How easily they let go of things.

This becomes less true the older we get right?  My 9-year-old isn’t nearly as good at it now as she was at 5.  But my son is masterful.  I have never known anyone who so completely accepts “right now” for whatever “right now” is.  He moves into each moment and finds the most joy in it he can.  When the next moment comes with something else he is perfectly content moving into that next thing with no attachment to what was before.  How easily he let’s go.

Letting go is big for me right now.  I frequently have an image of just opening my hands with the idea of letting go.  I am in some major transitions in my life and I can’t help but wonder how long they will last simply because it is so hard for me to let go, to open my hands and release.  I pray about letting go.  I meditate on it.  I talk about it with family and friends.  I am almost constantly thinking about it.  And in this brief moment my daughter is able to illustrate for me how very simple it can be.  And every time I look at my son I am blessed with another reminder.  How easily we can let go.

I am coming to believe that the secret is Faith in something better on the other side.  And I don’t mean the “grass is greener” kind of better.  I mean a more complete understanding of what we want better.  I truly believe that we learn more about ourselves and our world each day.  And I also know that change is the only unchangeable thing.  Life is change and evolution in some form or another.  So with each new understanding of ourselves we can move closer to what is our best path.  Provided we have Faith it is there and can let go of what was before.

I will continue to work on this, I am sure, for the rest of my life.  It is part of the process.  But this morning, in her gentle and joyful way, my daughter brought a spotlight to it for me and maybe for today, letting go will be easier.