I don't like learning new things because the process itself is frightening. You tend to flounder around, out of your depth, wondering if you should just forget it and go back to the way you used to be. I was so afraid of change when I was younger that I tried to avoid it at all costs. I rarely tried anything new because I didn't want to look stupid, but as I slowly increased my confidence in myself I dug deep and accessed the courage to step out and do new things. Without that variety, life becomes dull.
I'm learning a lot about myself right now. It's hard to fully understand what is happening when you are in the middle of it, but I'm still going to try. I know I pushed myself way too hard when Jason was in LA earlier this month for a week, and by the time I got myself and the kids to Canmore for a long weekend away with friends, I was burnt out. Fried. At the end of my rope. Thank God for some friends who were able to help me as I let down my defenses and confessed the fragile space I was in. They both offered me permission to fail, and to change, and helped me connect the dots between my behaviour and the old family chaos it was rooted in.
Something happened for me that weekend. I came to terms with my own inadequacies and fears in a way that I hadn't been able to before. Dismantling our own defense system once in a while is a good exercise. It helps us rebuild it and make it stronger and more capable. I am weary of reacting on an unconscious level to what happens to me. I want to be more aware, and I feel like I am laying the groundwork for that in the future.
I'm being more intentional about my feelings. When I feel sad, I don't blaze through it like I used to, thinking that tears proved I was weak in some way. When I feel anxious, I try to stare out the window and think a little on what might be really bothering me (for those of you with small children, the day will come when you can actually stare out the window and think, for at least a few moments at a time, without being interrupted. I promise you that day is coming). Our emotions are a flag to what is happening in our internal operating system. They are always trying to tell us something, and taking time to listen is a key to mental and emotional health.
In the middle of my National Novel Writing Month challenge, I stopped reaching my word count. I don't think I can adequately describe how great it felt to meet my word count goal for each day, posting it to the website, and feeling a certain warm satisfaction that I was managing my life and still writing 2000 words per day. And they were pretty decent words. But then Jason went away for a week, and I could no longer manage it all, and everything fell apart.
Giving myself permission to abandon that word count goal for my own peace of mind and heart was a wonderful thing, but painful too, because it started me on this path of learning how important leisure is. I now have more energy to give to my kids, and less need for apologies. After a ten day break from working on my novel each day, new ideas are starting to spark in my brain, and I find myself longing to get back into my screenplay and my memoir again as well. There is a huge difference between duty and passion. There is a place to do what we have to do, but when the burn-out begins, stepping back and resting ourselves becomes critical, and much to my joy, I'm finding the slow burn of passion again for what I am doing.
For today, it's enough to take care of myself. To read and unwind, and recognize that when Jason is out of town as much as he's been this month, I am both mother and father to our kids, and they deserve the best of me. When I give more to them, a curious thing happens: they are happier. And so am I. I want to keep listening to myself from this point forward, trusting in my emotions to flag me when there is a problem, and to be brave enough to find a workable solution even if the personal change required terrifies me.