My most recent blog took me longer to compose, but upon finishing it, I was quite proud. I felt I had succeeded in putting form to the message begging to come forth. Articulation was rough, but I stuck with it because I could feel it pulsing within me, and because while wrestling with my words I experienced flow, absolutely absorbed and 100% engaged. I was pretty giddy about posting, and as I often do, I asked TJ to take a look before I shared with my little world.
He wasn’t comfortable with some of the verbiage about our dating days, so in snippets of time we had together we brainstormed ways to make the post less personal for him. I made a few changes, but with each one I felt greater unease. I had picked those words mindfully, and the alterations were not conveying what I had meant to say. There was a lot of back and forth, and I was getting frustrated. He didn’t understand my sense of urgency (this was about Valentine’s Day and it was nearing a week out), nor could he understand why I was persisting upon doing something that would make him uncomfortable. And I didn’t understand why he was uncomfortable in the first place.
I felt incredibly stuck. This was my story, not his. Yes, he played the role of leading man, but I was the protagonist. I was wrought with conflict. One of my intentions over the last few years has been to find my voice. Feeling incredibly torn, I decided I would post the original version to my website, but I would not share with anyone that it was out there waiting to be read. I considered this a good compromise, and he seemed okay-ish with it, but the next day I woke up feeling deflated. I tried again to convince him to say the words I wanted to hear, but instead, he repeated that though he couldn’t stop me from sharing, he absolutely didn’t like it. Arg. The very thought of upsetting him made me feel sick. I couldn’t stand the thought of him being angry with me, or worse yet, hurt by me. This was absolutely not my intention when writing.
I went to yoga.
I went to the grocery.
I called my sister.
I hemmed some more.
I went to the carwash.
I continued to haw.
And sitting in my soaped up car I shared it on Facebook.
I spent the next hour bumping into things, taking deep breaths, neurotically checking my phone, trying to keep my heart from pounding out of my chest and feeling as though I’d cheated on my husband. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I deleted the post, and experienced a huge wave of relief, which lasted about a second.
Yes, the anxiety in my chest had lessened, but a lump in my throat had formed. I felt like I was sacrificing a part of myself, and it was the very part I was trying to grow. I felt dirty.
I could see a crossroads. I could look one direction and see me continuing to ignore my gut, not stand up for myself, not take up too much space, not make too much noise and continuing to play it safe. Or, I could look the other direction and see myself grow my voice and my roots and my sense strength and courage. But I didn’t want to feel pain. And I didn’t want to cause pain. I didn’t want to cause disconnect in my house.
I had lunch with my mom, and I told her of my dilemma. I described the restricted feeling in my throat and I explained that the decision represented something bigger than a silly post on a little read blog. My mother, recently divorced after over forty years of marriage, suggested I share my post and then deal with the consequences. Wow. This was a novel idea, but a familiar one too. Not only did this advice make sense considering her personal history, but this is also advice I have recently given my own child, who like his mama, has a strong aversion to conflict. Max had recently returned from a father-son trip to Chicago with his homework incomplete. The thought of disappointing his teachers and having to stay after school upset him so much that he played incapacitated and skipped his morning classes to finish it. I told him that it was okay that he chose to enjoy the entire trip and not do his homework, and that it was okay that he was supposed to stay after school to do it. What was not okay was to skip his homework and then skip the natural consequences. The world doesn’t work that way.
But there I was trying to grow my voice and avoid the natural consequences of doing so. Just like Max, I was trying to bypass the laws of Karma. I can’t expect to grow my voice without some pushback, discomfort and fear because growing pains are for real. Nor can I dismiss or belittle the anxiety I feel when I’m not pleasing others, especially when the other is my man. This anxiety is hardwired in the oldest parts of my mammalian brain. I am becoming quite aware of my ancestral fear of being kicked off the island should I displease the members of my tribe. As my mindfulness teacher says, “Our tendencies toward fear and anxiety represent the legacy of evolution”. These physical responses are biological and are what allowed humanity to avoid real dangers and evolve. What I need to practice now is the skill of discerning my dangers and checking my overactive and often subconscious imagination.
Am I really going to be banished from the group? No. Am I really going to be shunned? No. And even if I were, would I be able to survive outside the group? Yes, at least much more easily than my Neanderthal sisters could have.
I ended up telling TJ that I simply had to share my post, and I reassured him that my intentions to write, process and blog came from a loving place. He was upset for all of two minutes. Zero of my perceived fears manifested. And, I learned a lesson that I am sure I will need to relearn handfuls of times in varying scenarios as I continue to step outside my comfort zone and let my voice sound.