April 8, 2016
In the aftermath of my son's wedding, I found myself feeling lost. But I soon replaced the excitement of preparing for the wedding with worry about the newlyweds. Each day that went by without a word from them, my imagination grew increasingly frantic. I kept telling myself that Max had insisted I not bring my laptop with me on a trip we took a few years ago saying I needed to be unplugged for awhile, so they were probably practicing that same idea - but that only helped a little. When I knew they were home again, and I still didn't hear from them my worry turned into an obsession. I finally woke in the middle of the night with a brand new fear that took over my thinking, that I had really messed up, that I had done something to offend my new daughter-in-law and her family - and I made myself almost sick over it. What was the matter with me?
Then, I guess the spirit couldn't stand it anymore and kind of took me by the shoulders and got very frank with me. All my worries were my way of staying focused on things outside of myself. The wedding preparation kept me riveted for a couple months and once it was over, that energy had no place to go - so it turned into worry about them.
When I realized that was what I was doing, I was stunned. I shouldn't have been. It has happened before. I have taken on projects, sometimes in the form of people, sometimes events, sometimes a creative pursuit for a specific purpose like a wedding gift or a graduation gift that had a deadline, or a show I was in or was designing or directing - and when it was over I felt a horrible sense of emptiness. I sometimes confused it with being exhausted - but that really wasn't it.
When the big projects are over, all that is left is just me. Just the day to day self-care, maintenance, and self-improvement for my body, mind, spirit, and environment - care of my home, finances, health etc. After the excitement of a big event, that prospect seems exceptionally horrid and meaningless, so I hunt for something "more important" to focus on. Anything!
Once I was in a very dangerous relationship that ended suddenly - thank heavens - but I couldn't leave well enough alone. I found myself continuing to be obsessed with this person even from afar. I went through counseling. My therapist told me - "It isn't about him." No matter what I said about it, I got the same response - "it isn't about him." The therapist finally said - "you'll figure it out on your own. You don't need me." And I left his office that day and was soon in a total panic. When a dear friend called me later that day, I poured my heart out to her, and she told me I might benefit from a book she had once read when she was struggling about self-parenting. I went to a local bookstore and went to the self-help section and looked through one book after another - reading the table of contents to see if there was anything about self-parenting. As I sat on the floor in the self-help section, looking through these books, I finally got what my therapist was telling me. It wasn't about him, it was about me. I was trying to rescue him. I was the one who needed rescuing. I was the one who needed to be saved, to be healed. I was the broken one.
I realize that I somehow developed a belief in my earliest years, that I was not important, that I didn't matter. No one else is telling me that, but I believe it at such a foundational level, it is ever-present, kind of like gravity or air - you forget it - you never really think about it - but it impacts everything. I love working on projects, because they give me a sense of purpose - but when I complete a project, you would think I'd be thrilled - yet, as soon as the crowd leaves, I feel utterly empty. My son's wedding luncheon turned out just as I had hoped it would. And it was a lot of work, but I loved every minute of it. My feet hurt like heck afterward, but that wasn't really the problem. It wasn't just that adrenaline had carried me through the final stages, and was now depleted, leaving me exhausted. It was something else altogether. It was the sudden removal of my purpose.
There is plenty to keep busy with, I have dirty dishes to wash, laundry to do, accounting to catch up on, menus to plan, doctor visits to schedule, windows to wash, etc etc etc. But they all seem tortuously boring and pointless to me. Because, after all, they are about just me.
This recognition coincides with another disturbing thing I've been noticing, being critical of others and everything, stupid petty focusing on flaws or imperfections in people and things . . . and now I see that how critical I am of others is a direct reflection of how I am judging myself.
So this is nothing more than an acknowledgement of what is going on with me, no great answer for what to do about it - but, until I saw it, I certainly wasn't going to stop it or mitigate it in any meaningful way. That is yet to develop.
Here is to the hope that I can now more successfully discover how to feel charity for myself and then others and my world.