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.
I have thought a lot about what it may mean to raise a boy. While I was not completely set on having a girl, I knew that if I had one I would make sure she was a badass. Knowing that I am having a boy, I often think — how do I make sure he is strong while also gentle and sensitive? What happens in a boy’s life that makes them want to kill everything they see, or punch everything? Is it nurture or nature? I guess I will find out soon enough.
I grew up with a dad that would remind us that we were to “be seen and not heard.” I have the smallest of bladders and would always have to go to the bathroom (and still do) and my dad always made me feel horrible about it. As though it was my fault that I had to go to the bathroom 30 minutes later. Thank you to my wonderful, patient husband who might sometimes think: “Seriously? You just went.” but still makes sure we can find a bathroom. (That was the case pre-pregnancy too).
In any case, a line from the book “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown reminded me of my childhood:
“In my family, being high maintenance was a huge shame trigger, especially for girls. Be easy, fun, and flexible. Need a bathroom break on a road trip? We’ll pull over when we don’t have to cross the highway to get to the gas station. Don’t like what we’re having for dinner? Don’t eat. Carsick? It’s all in your head. Unfortunately, being low maintenance also meant not asking for what you needed and never inconveniencing anyone.” Page 100
I cannot tell you how many times I was told by my dad that it was all in my head. I remember one summer we were told we needed to shuck about 6 dozen ears of corn. We would buy a large quantity when it was the end of the season, shuck them and then freeze them for the rest of the year. Supposedly it still tasted just the same (but corn was just corn to me). I vividly remember sitting on the front porch step, making a mess of all the remnants when I felt a sharp pain in my thumb. I look down and my thumb is covered in blood. Now, I have a very high pain tolerance, but I have NO tolerance for seeing blood (mine or anyone else’s). I yell for my dad and we go inside. As he is rinsing it off we realize there is a piece of glass in my thumb. It must have been in the soil and grown in with the corn husk. We get it out and I literally pass out from all the blood. When I am back and normal again my dad basically tells me it is all in my head and that I am a wuss. Seriously.
That and many other situations throughout my childhood made me not ask for help, and honestly it is hard for me to do so today. I did what I could to not be high maintenance, to figure it out on my own, and not be in the way. It was easier that way. However, I do not plan to raise my son that way. I want him to use his words, and speak up — whether he is high maintenance or not. I want him to be just who he is without being squashed by the judgements of others. Is that too much to ask for?
There are times when we all get frustrated and act out, not always exhibiting our best selves to the world. Maybe we are having a rough day, are cranky, tired, and in my case potentially hungry. Chris has a joke for when I am cranky and he knows I am probably hungry. He says: “Do you need a Snickers bar?” It is his nicer way of telling me that maybe my grumpy mood is connected to my hunger. Often we also have too high expectations (I know I do) and those lead to disappointment.
“There are too many people today who instead of feeling hurt are acting out their hurt; instead of acknowledging pain, they’re inflicting pain on others. Rather than risking feeling disappointed, they’re choosing to live disappointed. Emotional stoicism is not badassery. Blustery posturing is not badassery. Swagger is not badassery. Perfection is about the furthest thing in the world from badassery.” Page xxvii
So how do we go about focusing more on how we are “feeling” rather than transferring our pain and disappointment to others. First, you might read “Rising Strong.” Another simple way is to talk about it. Chris and I have been talking a lot recently about how we want to raise the son we will meet in just a few months. One of the things that comes to me so strongly is encouraging and creating an environment where he feels comfortable to share his words, emotions, and feelings. I did not grow up in such an environment, and Chris keeps a lot to himself. I want to make sure that we are not doing anything as parents that closes any doors for our son to freely be himself.
A more open and free person feels their hurt and disappointment and acts out less to others. Remember that when you watch someone live their pain, they might just need a bit of help to see what they are doing and how to change gears.