ups and downs

9:53 AM

Sometimes you get a post in your head that no matter how hard you try to dismiss writing it just won't stop tugging at your sleeve. I suppose it's partially because the sadness of this winter and spring hasn't completely evaporated, in fact I think it will be palpable for many years to come. I truly believe in the old adage of "if you learned something it wasn't a waste" and I think that is part of the reason I'm comfortable carrying a little bitterness and sadness around with me. It's a good reminder to never take good times for granted, never give up and to never let my guard down.
So while my feed was inundated with photos of sand, water and sun these past two weeks my mind wasn't always wandering around on some cloud. In the few moments that I got to myself (toddlers make quite the demanding beach buddy) I would lay in the sand or water and allow it to relax my physical body but my mind still has a way to go when it comes to healing.
We were having dinner with my parents this past Saturday night (we have been going to the same place in Florida on vacation with them for years now) and my dad noted how that was the first day he felt I was truly myself again. He was right, because just the night before I was telling papa bear how I finally felt like I could unclench one of my fists for the first time in probably six months. I had gotten so used to the survival mode we had been living in, putting one foot in front of the other (often blindly), that the feeling of relaxing was practically foreign to me at this point. It was jarring.
We've done a lot of thinking and a lot of talking over these two weeks. Where did we go wrong? What would we change? How do we want our future to look? Are we happy with how we handled this difficult time? For the most part I think we were proud of ourselves for how we handled this year, save for a few exhaustion and stress induced fights and probably more hours of tv watching for Birdie than I would have liked. Oh, and I wish I kept the house cleaner and had the energy to cook but alas some things did have to fall by the wayside. I would probably credit it to the fact that one of the first deep conversations I remember us having while dating was about how we were passionate about two things when it came to being under stressful circumstances - not complaining and not taking it out on other people. We had been on the receiving end of peoples' ire that came from stress that had nothing to do with us much too many times to continue perpetrating something like that.
For me, I find that the easiest way to accomplish that is quite simply to shut up. When I am extremely stressed I retreat within myself, limit my social interactions and release the pent up emotion with a good cry or two. Sometimes this crying can last close to an hour but I feel like this way is better because all I end up ruining is my makeup, not relationships with people. I also find that the solitude provides me clarity and focus and helps drive me towards an eventual solution. It's tough sometimes I'll admit. Occasionally it's tempting to think about just lashing out and giving someone a piece of my mind but I try and remind myself that the cleanup of the mess that I would create would not be worth the momentary release I may feel.
But most of all I think the reason I've gotten better at this is because I used to be the opposite. My early twenties were such an emotionally tumultuous time for me and I was quite simply a tornado. I felt everyone owed me something, life was so unfair, this person and that person were so mean, blah, blah, blah... And I have spent the latter half of my twenties mending a lot of broken fences. I realized that by allowing my emotions to run amok in my life I was making my life doubly stressful. In a culture surrounded by things like "be yourself!" "be real!!" "don't hold anything in!" it felt like the only right way to exist was one without any sort of self-filter or self-awarness because anything exiting your mind must be inherently "right" by the sole fact that it was "yours." Self-control was an alien concept to me and one that seemed downright insulting to my very being.
The irony is with self-control came freedom that I had never experienced - the freedom to explore my mind. I now know that hurtful thoughts towards others almost always stem from a place of pain inside myself, inflicting pain on someone else won't make mine feel any better. And digging deeper into these raw places of pain have helped me heal them over the years.
This is all to say that before this year I was feeling quite comfortable with how far I had come in my emotional growth, I thought I had "arrived" so to speak and so when our hardships hit I was a little taken aback by the way that my mind began to react. I found myself feeling jealous, angry, annoyed and insulted by the most inane things. In the same breath that I would experience these feelings I would feel ashamed of them. I thought I was stronger than that. So I did the only thing I knew how, I retreated.
I took a step back from social media because at a time when our life felt like a mess I was not mature enough to handle seeing people's vacation photos or "working on another great opportunity!!" tweets. I took a step back from social engagements because I couldn't be the person I knew I should be when people shared their good news. To put it bluntly you could probably say I was sulking. But I knew from past experience that if I continued engaging it would only cause hurt and embarrassment.
The tides did eventually change and the sun came out again both figuratively and literally speaking and I started to come out of hiding. It felt good to be back but I was also never more aware of just how much more work I have to do emotionally than I have been as of late. I've met people who I look up to and admire, who in moments of hardship are able to genuinely celebrate the joys of those around them, who don't feel that someone else's good is constantly underlining their bad. I know this is possible, I just have to figure out how to do it.
Because though life may have gotten easier again, though it may be good now, it is a roller coaster and I know we will find ourselves in a valley again and when we do I want to be better, stronger than before.

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3 notes

  1. I am so glad you have been able to relax and unwind, and that you are feeling more like yourself. May I just ask what happened? Are you referring to the stress of not knowing where you husband would be working? Just trying to relate to the issues that caused such stress and despair for you this winter! I feel like I missed a post where you were specific about your struggles?

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  2. what a beautifully written post, tanya. I've recently rediscovered you after being a reader of yours waaay back in the day, maybe two or three blogs ago. I'm sure you've heard this before, but I think in these last few years you really came into your own as a very thoughtful and talented writer. If there's any truth to what people say about 'finding your voice,' you definitely found yours. So happy to read what you're writing.

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  3. I am such a follower of the ‘if you learnt something it wasn’t a waste’ mantra. Everyone makes mistakes, be it tiny ones which you just hold a bit of guilt about or huge, monumental errors that you wish you could take back more than anything. But I think that the lessons you learn from them make the pain worth it in the end, however hard it was at the time.

    Self-control is a hard lesson to learn and one that I’m still in the process of doing. I got really good at it for a few years but lately as life has thrown some stressful scenarios my way it has been harder and harder to not lash out at loved ones. It is really an admirable thing to be able to do what you do and I think it must be completely empowering. Emotional growth, gah, such a good thing. It can only be a positive thing for one’s self and for one’s loved-ones. This was a beautiful post. You write with such care but not in a contrived way. It has provided me with much food for thought! Thanks!

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