Day 123 - Tipping Points
I was talking to a girlfriend yesterday who was having a hard time. She feeling like, perhaps, she should be more down the road of mental stability and balance. Her life prone to emotional jags that leave her feeling scared, alone and unhappy. The question kept coming back to “Why can’t I just stop it?”
Now both of us left marriages that we were not totally invested in. It was easy to leave because, a part of us, was never really there in there first place. That is not to say, that we didn’t love our husbands, just that we only brought about 80% of ourselves to that relationship. In part, I believe, because we knew that the 20% we were leaving out would never fit into that relationship. Those parts of us, relegated to some other world, other than where we lived our daily lives. That 20% containing things that our husbands wouldn’t like, understand or accept.
In the end, it was this 20% that caused us to walk away. But it was also the part of us that kind of kept us going for so long. Content for years to ignore this large chunk of ourselves, pretend it didn’t exist. Pretend to be happy being less than authentic. We joking refer to this period of time when we were dead inside. That is not completely true. We were not dead, instead, we were committed to living a life based on 80% of ourselves. Afraid and worried to give voice to that other 20% that felt things very differently than she let on. I think this 20% also contained a lot of feeling; intimate, tender, close feelings. It was the part that kept us from really being injured and wounded by our spouse. We loved them but from the safe, 20% distance away.
For both of us, there came a tipping point where we could not ignore the parts of ourselves we had been denying for so long. What we didn’t know was that if we allowed even 1% of that 20% into our settled lives, it would up end the entire stable ride and throw everything into chaos. We left those marriages with different circumstances, but for the same reason. Turns out that the emotional depth that is contained solely within that 20% is pretty intoxicating. Bringing us back to life in a manner that, while often is far more painful, is largely more rewarding.
What we didn’t know before we accessed the soft underbelly of our own hearts was that once the 20% was in play, we no longer had the ability to keep it out of play. This would have been a good fact to know BEFORE we made the decision to love another with the wholeness of our being...Both of us feeling, many times, that feeling the whole range of our emotional life, not the gift we thought we were getting.
We also discussed how much progress we both had made living in this more complete version of ourselves...a lot. However, she still struggles (as do I, although, perhaps, less acutely) with being able to accept and manage her feelings. Almost like, all the time she held them back, a built up tidal wave of emotion, rolled and boiled, that she has been scrambling to manage ever since.
We talked about tipping points, that place where we are right on the emotional edge, balancing precariously on the verge of an emotional reaction that, while honest, isn’t always the best response. Hovering around our edges where to go one step further, an emotional rabbit hole we are going to spend some time getting out of...
We were discussing how much she felt she lacked the ability to not follow the underlying feelings. How much she had thoughts and then, despite her very real desire to not follow them, she couldn’t help it and ended up on an emotional bender that was unpleasant, painful and exhausting.
I shared with her that in my desire and work to live more authentically, that I stopped censoring myself so much. I also stopped judging. Never one day in my life have I gotten up and said, “you know, fuck everyone today, I am going to be a complete asshole and I don’t give two fucks how that affects you.” Never. Not one time. Instead, my life has been a daily reset of trying to live a life that is meaningful, honest and kind. Every. single. day.
When I realized that my entire life was committed to being the best person I could possibly be, it kind of lessened the heavy mantle of judgment about myself that I carried around all the time. I really was doing my best, failing all the time, but trying and never giving up. Not ever. I just decided to give myself a break. I was doing my best and I could not expect myself to do any better. And if I was doing my best and failing, so maybe, was everyone else.
This became the foundational ground where I was able to change my thoughts about pretty much everything. I stopped caring so much about what you thought and instead was given a place to call my own. I started caring more about what I thought. This allowed me to see, that I frequently choose thoughts, that are inherently painful, despite the fact that I could just as easily choose other, less painful thoughts. And then I just stopped. Let me give you an example...
Yesterday I woke up feeling fine. I felt good about myself. I felt like I was happy with who I was. I felt valued, attractive and like, in general, I am adding to the world more than I take. The morning went on like this, until, while drying my hair (I seriously have a lot of these life altering moments when drying my hair, I have no idea why) the thought occurred to me that perhaps no one would ever love me again. Perhaps I would never love anyone again. And BOOM, suddenly my whole outlook on myself and my life began to change. The positivity leaked out all over the floor, spilling my life force with it. It didn’t feel or look good.
Then in the same sudden manner, I just decided to stop it. I just took all those negative feelings about myself, my ability to love and be loved, to connect with another and I just decided “nope, not right now.” And I stopped. The tipping point come and gone. I walked right up to the edge then found another path to meander instead of falling into my habitual response.
She and I discussed how I was able to get there. It wasn’t that I was so much shutting down my feelings, but rather, that I was relegating them into proper perspective. I avoided the deep well of doubt and insecurity that previously pained me and plagued my life. I just stopped. It wasn’t hard. It was abrupt, sudden and dramatic. But it wasn’t hard or painful. I realized that wherever those feelings were coming from, they did not really relate to who I currently was and I was, in that moment, choosing to feel something different. I was not going to participate in the emotional cascade that left me feeling all too vulnerable and depleted.
She asked, “how the fuck do you do that?” I told her really I didn’t know. It was just a hard stop. However, I thought about it all day. I wondered why I was able to just stop the painful feelings forcing me into action. I was not able to stop the feelings from coming, just able to stop them from forcing me to behave or continue to think them. I pondered this new reality all day with curiosity. Why was I able to pull back from the ledge, not avoiding the feelings, but riding with them, while at the same time being able to think new thoughts that were far less painful and positive?
In all my repose, I came up with this simple fact: I love me. I really do. I am not sure when it happened. I am not even sure how it happened. My life long struggle despising myself seemingly over. In those tipping moments, I chose myself over those feelings of unworthiness and fear. I love myself in the way and manner that I love others: wholly, completely and as unconditionally as possible. And since love is an action, I have learned to behave in a loving way towards myself.
That was it. The person I used to be would walk up to those slippery places, having no choice but to follow the tipping point to a place where I fell into the life long trap of hating myself. Now, I am no longer that person because I choose to be someone else. Content to live life as it comes, no longer struggling so much for outcomes that are beyond my control. Further realizing that my need to control is what usually got me into a jackpot to begin with...
I also believe it is because I have come to view the tipping points as places to move toward, instead of away from. This has given me so much insight and progress. I am not avoiding them anymore, instead, I seem to welcome anything that makes me uncomfortable. Seeing it as an opportunity to practice myself with myself. Loving me and you, and the whole fucked up process because it is here that my life happens. The raw material for living my best life, right in those places that for years I worked so hard to avoid. Tipping points as the pathway to peace rather than the cause of lack of peace. Fucking Fantastic.
It is, after all, just practice. In everything I do, in all that I am, practice. I do not have to do it perfect, and I never will. For all of my days, I can see that my only real purpose, to practice with myself while being patient and kind to all I encounter, including myself.
I think the other ingredient that has made the turn around so dramatic is the lightheartedness I bring the whole fucking show. I laugh kindly at myself and my screw ups. No longer feeling like I am in some indeterminable life long game of Defending Your Life. I don’t need to defend it. It just is. I just am. And sometimes, if I look hard, it is amusing in its daily download. I can laugh at all the things that used to make me crazy and scared and worried. And, for me, the laughing releases the power it has over me. Realizing, finally, that the laughter contains the magic for me...it has the power to find me on the edge of myself and then lightly, gently bring me back from the abyss.