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Entries in isolation (3)

Friday
Aug222014

Less Alone in a Group of Strangers.

How can someone sit in a group of strangers and feel more calm, connected, heard, loved and seen than they do in their normal every-day life waiting outside the doors? 

The fact is that many people do. The company of strangers becomes a place to heal from "normal" life.

Many people feel alone, isolated, lonely, "different" - particularly when surrounded by friends and family. Even those who have large numbers of familiar people in their lives are more open, calm, comforted and less alone in the company of strangers - sharing their deeply-held and closely-guarded secrets, exploring their most challenging feelings and simply learning to be themselves in the absence of the expectations of others. 

Perhaps, with a group of strangers there is nothing to prove; we are not even sure what we should be hiding from them so we don't bother raising the facade we use with everyone else?

Maybe we recognise that there, we get to test-drive or at least explore a "new" version of us - one that feels better and fits better, one that is less exhausting than the version we currently show?

Could it be a sign that we no longer have the energy to raise that well-worn facade for yet another group of people - leaving us with no place to turn where we can truly be ourselves? 

It is when we choose to be what others expect of us that we are the most disconnected from ourselves. In living up to the expectations of others, we abandon our relationship with, and knowledge of, ourselves.

In the absence of these expectations, we are free to make other choices about how we behave, think, feel.

It's one of the great paradoxes of life that there, in a group of strangers, we are more at "home".

Sarah xx

 

 

 

 

Saturday
May242014

The Loss We've No Time to Grieve.

It was Maya Angelou who said “I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”

The life situation missing from Ms Angelou's short list is the one about "handles parenthood". Perhaps that's why we underestimate the impact that this momentous change in everything about our lives will have on us?!

After all, we spend a good few years working things out: finding our place in school; perhaps studying, getting a job, working out our place in the working world, finding our feet in relationships and getting to a place that society would call 'sorted' or successful or surviving.

Then we think we are ready to have children (or it happens) and so we begin that process. 

If we are lucky enough to have those little people arrive in our world, we are sure we are relatively prepared for what it all means. We can look around and say to ourselves "if they managed it, we will be OK". We buy or collect all the necessary (distracting) items required to help us raise our children the “right” way. The marketing tells us that to be good parents we need this and that. 

What we are not prepared for is the way in which the experience challenges our previously held ideas about ourselves and our place in the world.

Not only that but the experience of parenting and handling the challenges to our self-view are enough to completely knock us sideways – we were so sure of our place before ... and suddenly we are not. Instead we feel unhinged, disconnected, numb, clouded, and fragmented.

Some of us blame the baby: we feel guilty about that because a baby is so small and defenceless – that guilt makes us feel even worse about ourselves.  Some of us turn that blame on our partners: they don't do enough, they don't understand, it's their fault we are swirling around ... if they helped more we wouldn't feel so bad or so out of control or so out of our depth.  Our own parent's skills come into question: they did a bad job of preparing us, weren't there for us in this or that way. We blame the lack of money or the country we live in or the neighbours ... 

... but ultimately we suspect that WE are the problem. WE are somehow not good enough, not well equipped enough to be a parent. Afterall, WE made the choice to have a baby – a choice that, in our darkest moments, we regret because now we have gone and ruined the calm we had worked so hard to create. To add to matters, that choice we made has changed the relationship we have with our partner.

There is no turning back ... and the inevitable forward motion of life can be terrifying.

All of this conspires to rock our world so convincingly that many of us feel we are going mad. Combine that with messages via media that we are supposed to look and feel a certain way, back that up with comments from friends or other parents about how well they are handling it all – we can end up feeling very isolated, incapable and ultimately not up to the task.

It's no wonder we lose our confidence as parents, no wonder we struggle to remember what we wanted out of life before our children came along, no wonder we lose interest in careers or things that captured our attention before parenting. It's not that we don't have those interests, dreams, desires within us anymore. It's that our priorities have changed or we can no longer connect to the Self from before.

What we are never really told about becoming a parent is that not only will life never be the same again, Self will never be the same again. This loss requires a grieving process ... one we have little time, energy or headspace for when we have young children.

Sooner or later, we need to grieve the loss. If we don't, years, decades, lifetimes can pass without us reconnecting with Self. 

Sarah xx

 

Monday
Jul162012

Shut-down vs sharing into the big, loud, silence.

The responses to this recent post have been few and varied: private emails; public posts; one or two phonecalls; and the rest has been about big, loud, silence.  While that silence could be enough to convince many of us that shut-down is preferable, there is a point at which shut-down becomes scarier than sharing. 

Many of us take the plunge and tell someone about the ‘stuff’ inside us… in the hope of being heard.  Many of us take that risk only to find that we are free falling into the big, loud, silence – or the discomfort of others as they change the subject, grapple for words to respond to us, tell us about their experiences instead, avoid us, tell us we are imagining it or that someone else has it worse than us, or that we just need to ‘get over it’. 

Once we have risked it once and found the vulnerability and silence too much to bear – what next? We push it down, we deny it, we take it to mean there is something wrong with us, we resolve to ‘sort it out’, we make a note-to-self not to tell anyone else … we begin the shut-down. 

Gradually we become skilled at the shut-down … until the day when we are not. The day when it starts to leak. The day when we turn to alcohol, drugs, food, work, sex, co-dependent relationships, self-harm in all its forms, anything we can find that stops the leak – even temporarily. 

Even with our new ‘coping skills’ we struggle along, battling the truth at every turn, convincing ourselves that shut-down is the only solution – because telling someone, sharing, sitting in the discomfort of our feelings is waaaaay too scary...

... until shut-down becomes scarier than sharing. Until we cannot stem the leaks anymore. Until we are watching as our life starts morph around us.

Then we realise that that shut-down is no longer a solution.

Change only occurs when the pain of staying the same becomes too great.

Are you there yet? 


Sarahxx