Full Circle

{So this post started one way, and ended another. And the way it ended felt pretty profound. It may seem like I figured all this stuff out already– I’ve written all of these things before–but for some reason they came together with a kind of perfect clarity today, and instead of suspecting these truths, I suddenly knew them, deep in my bones. Like I had been looking at photographs of where I might get to be some day, and for the first time was actually seeing the place with my own eyes.}

It turns out, treating yourself with self-compassion is pretty time consuming. At least in the beginning, when doing so activates deep wells of hurt and you end up ugly crying on your bed, in your classroom, in your car.

It’s exhausting too. Emotional hangover abound.

Things with my husband are not great right now. He leaves for SXSW this coming Tuesday, so we’re just trying to get through the weekend so we can both have a break from each other. I brain farted at some point and thought he was leaving a week later than he was, and my nightmare scenario of having him gone the week grades are due is actually what’s happening. (Maybe the sheer panic of that reality forced me into denial!?) We’re both on autopilot, just trying to get through the days. Our kids need pretty much constant surveillance and micro-managing to avoid massive, screaming, physical altercations, so we’re both keeping our heads down and our mouths shut.

I know I’m the one who has to make the appointment to see a counselor if any appointment is going to be made. My husband just doesn’t do these things. His parents pestered us tirelessly about getting life insurance last year. I’ve had mine for almost 12 months–he still hasn’t taken the first step. I don’t know what kind of external pressure he needs to accomplish these things, but I don’t intend to put it on him about the counseling appointment. He expressed a willingness to participate and that is more than a lot of men would do. So now I need to put on my big girl pants and find a therapist and make the call. Of course, I don’t have the time for this shit either, but I’ll find a way to get it done, because that is what women are expected, and taught, to do.

I’ve been accessing self-compassion a lot these past few days–feeling like a failure in one’s marriage, and as a parent, can trigger some intensely negative emotions–and while I appreciate that it’s a much healthier way of dealing with these things, it can put me out of commission for a significant period, both during (see above: ugly cries) and after (see above: emotional hangovers). There are some days I start to repeat the self-compassion mantras and show myself the love and caring I need, and I have to shut it down because I know I don’t have 15 minutes to cry on the floor of the kitchen, or I don’t want my kids finding me red-eyed, with tears drying on my cheeks.

I’m sure that as I work with self-compassion more the emotions will be more manageable and the recovery time less restrictive, but right now the whole emotional ordeal of treating myself kindly is kind of prohibitive.

I’m also reading yet another book on discipline through connection (I have NOT been happy with how I’m handling my kids’ challenging behaviors and I need some reminders of what to do and why I need to do it) and while I absolutely agree with the premise and believe it’s the right method for me and my family, it requires–must like self-compassion–an abundance of time and emotional fortitude that I just don’t feel I have right now.

I am trying to find ways to carve out more time in our daily routine, so that we’re not so rushed when we get home to start bedtime and so I don’t feel quite so desperate for that last hour of quiet at the end of the night. I know a lot is going on, and tension with my husband (even if we’re successfully not engaging in negative interactions, which we’ve actually been pretty good at), is compounding the stress and emotional exhaustion I’m feeling right now. I know things are going to get better. But I am also recognizing that I need to make a lot of difficult, intentional choices about what our lives look like if I’m going to be able to show myself self-compassion, engage my husband with love and caring, and manage my children’s difficult behaviors with connection.

Looking at life through this lens, I think I would have to have find a dream job to even consider leaving my position next year. What I need to focus on right now is simplifying my life, by having less stuff and fewer commitments. I am already on this path, and even thought I’ve only taken small steps in this direction, I recognize that this is absolutely the path I need to be traveling. I think the desire to find a new job was the vestigial urge of a past self, a need to distract myself from everything I’m unhappy with, a shiny something NEW to focus on. The problem with that route is that eventually the new job won’t be new anymore, or it will be so time consuming as to override the positives of it being new, and I will be left with the same messes in my marriage and with my kids as I’m struggling with now.

I’ve written before about the emptiness I tend to feel in my life now that I’ve accomplished all my milestones. I think looking for a new job was an attempt to create a new milestone moment in my life. To have something to anticipate and look forward to. But I see now that this is not the time. Right now I need to focus my efforts on being the partner, parent and teacher that I want to be.

Have I decided this out of fear? Possibly. Honestly, even if I were, it’s okay. I truly believe staying at my job is the best thing for me right now, despite whatever might have inspired the decision. And I don’t think that is what’s going on. I came to the realization, right now, as I was writing this and lamenting how little time I have to show myself, my husband and my children, the love and care we all deserve, and suddenly it dawned on me that having a new job would mean I’d have even less time. Now I am sure that looking for a new job was not right for me, at least not right now.

And it feels good, actually, like my life has a purpose again. For the first time in a long time (maybe ever?!) I have a general understanding of where I want to go and the basic direction I should travel in to arrive there. I have spent my entire life looking for happiness outside myself, in stuff, in my circumstances. Evidently I needed to attain everything I always wanted to realize that none of it, not even all of it together could make me truly content. How ironic that I actually needed less to feel satisfied, that all that reaching for the things I thought I wanted actually added to the emotional dissonance that has forever hummed in the background.

Now I see the truth, and I know what I need to do. I really and truly know. I’m sure I’ll mess up, and take missteps, but I think it will be much easier to find my way back to the path now. I am finally on my way.

12 Comments

  1. Decreasing stresses and not adding new ones sounds wise right now. Hope the time while your husband is away at the conference gives you both enough change that you both return to a new re-connectedness and new found energy for each other. This has been a very tough school year with lots of challenges and pressures on both of you. Kindness to your selves and each other is hard at such times.

    1. I really do feel good about the choice not to add new stresses to my life right now. I honestly just can’t manage it at this point in my life. My hope is that after a few years of figuring my own shit out, I will be ready for a great opportunity when it presents itself.

  2. I’m glad you find yourself on a clear path. This self-compassion thing seems really fascinating, though I’m not sure I’m in a good place to add more emotional turmoil to my life right now. Good for you for doing that hard work. I hope space/distance helps with your relationship, sometimes we all need some of that, and our daily lives just don’t allow for it.

    1. The clear path is very much appreciated at this point. Not being sure of which way to do was driving me crazy.

      I also hope some space and distance will help my marriage. We definitely need a break from each other. 😉

  3. This post made me think of so many things my therapist has been saying, about self-compassion and about being thankful for shitty stuff in life because it makes you look at things deep down that you might otherwise neglect forever. Cheers to you on this path!

    1. I absolutely believe that growth is the result of overcoming struggle. When things are easy we don’t learn much. 😉

  4. I’m glad you are feeling clear on this. In my current job (7 & 2/3 years) I have gone through periods where I am like “I’ve gotta get out of this place..” I too have to balance personal satisfaction and fulfillment with things like great benefits and pension, location, etc. With my particular field and job though it’s kind of the opposite as far as workload – – right now I am just swamped and I have been for a long time and it seems like it will be for the forseeable future. So when I think about leaving it’s like ahhh, I can start fresh and have less on my plate…well of course I would have assignments as soon as I would start a new job but it wouldn’t be like your situation where you know you’d have less time with the new job.

    1. If I knew I could spend less time working at a new job I would be on it in a second! Having my prep work pretty much done here is one of the main reasons I stay.

  5. I read the first part of this and I thought, “wow, you really don’t do things by haves.” Self-compassion for me was a much gentler process … it was more organic, I guess, and I didn’t really realise what I was doing. Remember to be gentle with yourself – I can’t believe I’m saying this, but don’t torture yourself with self-compassion!

    Also, this? … “nd it feels good, actually, like my life has a purpose again.” Wonderful.

    1. I’m not torturing myself, but there is a lot of hurt I didn’t realize was there and when I work through one scenario, older hurts surface and demand to be felt. I wrote more about it today. I’m not trying to make it a big deal, and sometimes I am able to just say, it’s okay and move on, but most of the time, if I’m really accessing self-compassion, it’s because I’m in an intense situation, and I can’t really help how I react.

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