Numbing ourselves

I have had those times in my life where I knew I was doing too much, and yet I did not know how to step off the fast-moving train. It often runs through my mind that sometimes being on a fast-moving train means that it is easier (or there is no time) to focus on the pain that we might be holding in life. The thought often crosses my mind — do I stay focused in order to ignore what is painful?

In the book, Rising Strong, Brene Brown discusses what we do to numb the pain in our life.

“We do that by numbing the pain with whatever provides the quickest relief. We can take the edge off emotional pain with a whole bunch of stuff, including alcohol, drugs, food, sex, relationships, money, work, caretaking, gambling, affairs, religion, chaos, shopping, planning, perfectionism, constant change, and the Internet.

And just so we don’t miss it in this long list of all the ways we can numb ourselves, there’s always staying busy: living so hard and fast that the truths of our lives can’t catch up with us. We fill every ounce of white space with something so there’s no room or time for emotion to make itself known.” Page 63

This does not mean the pain has to be gut wrenching. It might just be a dull ache, but we all have a past and often we believe we were left short-changed. Even those that might have had the dream family, childhood, and everything they ever wanted had pain in their life.

The idea comes and goes in my life — am I living so hard and fast, that my past cannot catch up to me? I have been an orphan for 15 years, and there are days when I forget what it is like to have parents. What would it be like to have my mom experience me throughout my pregnancy? What would it be like if she could share what I was like in the womb? Did I kick a lot? How big of a baby was I? What was I like when I was born? That is my reality, but there are times when I would rather get on the fast-moving train, stay busy, and not think about the hard stuff.

Wounded Warriors: Hallelujah

Hallelujah. Most renditions of this song give me the chills. I have always loved the Leonard Cohen song done by Jeff Buckley (at any time of year) but there is something around Christmas time that makes the music get under my skin, crawl through my emotions, and often bring tears to my eyes. Last year I came across this version from: Cloverton and this past week I found this one from “Wounded Warriors.”

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There is something even more gut wrenching about watching those that have fought for our freedom, have been wounded, and singing such a beautiful song of praise. It makes me think about all the good I have in my life. So much goodness. Now, savor all the good you have with those you love, those that you fear, and those that you dislike. Take this holiday time to slow down, be more present, laugh, eat, play, and think Hallelujah. (Mental note: take my own advice).

I was just existing

There is always someone else in our life that has it worse off than we do. No matter what the situation, every life is different and has extremes of good and bad. When you are in a funk, or just cannot understand why you are still in the continuously spinning hamster wheel, just remember that there is someone else in the world that is probably struggling worse than you are, or there is someone who could actually use your help.

I think of that often when I have a bad day. I ask myself questions such as: “Will I care about this situation in a day, week, month, year?” If the answer is no, then I should probably let it go. Or, “Is this really so bad?” Whatever the answer we usually have options to change our life. Sometimes we just do not know which direction to walk or which door to open. I just finished a gut-wrenching memoir titled: “Chanel Bonfire” by Wendy Lawless. It takes you through her life and her experiences with her crazy (yes truly crazy) mother. She and her sister handle their situation differently. Her sister, Robin, fights her mom and reacts. Wendy is the caretaker and the smooth-things-over daughter. The result, she loses herself:

“Talking to him made me realize that I couldn’t talk about my plans or dreams because I didn’t have any. I was amorphous. I had no idea who I was, what I liked or disliked. I had spent so much time as Mother’s warden, and Robbie’s bodyguard, that I had subjugated a large part of myself that was, from lack of tending, small and undeveloped. When I walked into a grocery store, I would walk up and down the aisles, like a robot, aimlessly looking at all the boxes and jars wondering what I should buy. Did I like green beans? Cheerios? Cheddar cheese? I didn’t know. Living my little half-life, I was so used to not thinking for or of myself. I was just going along. Just existing.” page 266

While I did not have a crazy mother (far from it) or childhood that was in any way similar to Lawless I still felt I could relate to her. She goes from socializing with the upper class in London and Paris as a kid, going to some of the top schools, to having her mom lock her in closets and threaten to kill them all. I relate to Wendy because I found that after taking care of my mom for so many years (with my sister) I felt I could relate less and less with my peers, and quietly retreated into a quiet place. Since there was no one that knew at all what it was like to be 12, have a mom who was bedridden, where we had to support her every need, what was the point of talking about it at all? In so many ways it was my little half-childhood. I was just existing.

Lawless’ memoir will remind you how vastly different families live. A similar situation could be happening at your neighbor’s house. Be grateful for the good in your life, and help those that you know might be in similar situations.