To be honest, blah doesn’t even begin to cover it. Over the winter, most days went by in a haze of boredom and grief as I tried to inspire the kids to do their schoolwork and live through a dreary season in a town that I really didn’t want to live in.
Money has been very tight. husband works too hard. We miss our friends and making new ones takes time. I feel trapped in the house a lot. I have many, many “I’m not good enough” thoughts. I should be happier since so many people have it worse than I do, right?
It’s all felt so heavy.
Yes, the kids and husband are beautiful. Yes, good things came our way and are always happening. But I forgot many of the things I know to be true.
Yesterday was a slip back to one of those days, but I found my way back.
The kids took forever to do schoolwork that should have taken them a couple of hours, which meant that my idyllic vision of soup, tea, and The Sound of Music as an afternoon reward just disappeared. Instead, there was cajoling and convincing and a few tears.
I had to mail off the brutal tax bill. This sent me in to a tailspin of resentment and grief for all the losses we’ve endured over the past year in the name of other people’s greed and pain.
I watched myself stewing, feeding another sad, self-righteous story of hurt. I vented to a friend on the phone and on Facebook. My shoulders tensed. My head hurt. I reached for the bag of chocolate chips and considered another latte.
Instead of stuffing these feelings with sugar or another hour on the computer, I listened another voice.
Step into power. Step into power.
One of the big ah-hahs I’ve had in the past year is this idea of stepping into my own power. Not being powerful, mind you. That implies putting on a cape or a persona, something along the lines of “fake it ’til you make it.” It can be really useful in short-term situations, like dealing with a hostile customer, demanding family member, or self-important bureaucrat.
The problem with being powerful is the underlying assumption that it’s something external to who you are. You’re lacking. You’re trying to be more than you really are. And someone might just find out, if they push the right button. Scary, tightrope-walking sort of stuff.
Stepping into power is a totally different gig. You’re accessing what’s already inside you. The underlying assumption here is that you already have the tools to handle this. There’s a part of you that can totally own the situation and bring it to a beautiful resolution.
You move from “Am I worthy?” To “Hell, yeah!!”
The kicker? Remembering what makes you feel powerful. Remembering it when you’re in that cramped, fearful victim place that wants nothing more than fuzzy jammies and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
There are times when carb therapy is supreme. When naps and chick flicks are holy. Lord knows, I’ve used all of them.
There also comes a time when the cocoon feels stifling and the wings are ready to feel their strength. I have to tell you, after living the pendulum swing from comfort to power many, many times over the long winter, I’m learning to trust and love my power.
This path is not for the faint-hearted. It takes oodles of practice, loads of compassion and a healthy sense of humor. The fuzzy jammies are so damn alluring.
Here’s what I do to remember to switch gears.
* Notice the triggers.
An old pattern is to feel anxiety and try to pacify it with some form of corn syrup. Shadow comforts all the way. Grabbing sugar has been a reflex for years. While I felt a heap of shame over bingeing, I didn’t know how to stop it.
I’m slowly learning to rewire the binge impulse by noticing when it happens and paying attention to how my body feels in that moment. Now, when I get the urge to grab the bag of marshmallows or chocolate chips, I (sorta, kinda, occasionally) get a little ping in my brain that says, “Oh, there’s that panic looking for comfort again. Howz about some real power?”
* Ask myself, every single day, “What do I need right now?”
It’s taken me a long time to trust this question. I figured that my weak-willed self would just say, “Chocolate. Licorice. Wine.” Surprisingly, it says, “Water. Sunshine. A walk. A salad.” And it’s right, which is a huge relief. For years, I’ve been beating myself with the question, “What should I be doing right now?” which just creates a state of anxiety. I’m so grateful for this new question.
* Keep a list, mental and physical, of simple things that help me step into power.
Yes, I actually, truly keep a list in one of my journals and on my iPhone to remind me of ways that I can reach for better-than-shadow-comfort solutions. A bike ride tops the list. A belly laugh with the boys or a good friend is a close second. Cuddling up to husband is one of the best.
Sometimes I can remember these things without prompting, but often I’m too deep in the pain to remember what I know. The list is like a gift from a fairy godmother (that’s actually me!) who’s giving me back the key to myself.
Yesterday, when I was in the thick of anger, disappointment and victimhood, I noticed. I felt the tension and pain and I wanted to feel better. I decided to step into my power.
I enlisted Monkey Boy, who just this week has learned to ride a two-wheeled bike, (woo-HOO!!) and we did three laps around the neighborhood. I noticed the light on the mountains. I saw the intensity in a beginner’s focus as he navigated around the potholes and rocks. I felt the gentle release of the anger that had gripped me.
After a good homemade meal, I was in the backyard with the whole fam, tossing a Frisbee flying disk and laughing so hard I almost peed my pants. After bedtime prayers and kisses, I pulled out my mandolin and played a while.
Love flowing in, love rippling out. My power.