I am reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown and I’m thinking to myself, “Wow. This shame and vulnerability research is amazing. It describes exactly why I react to stress the way I do, and the reasons he responds the way he does. I can work with this.”
If my husband wasn’t doing work-related things today I would make him sit down with me and talk it through, because I’m very excited about the possibilities.
You see, I’ve been sick for about five weeks now. Or maybe this is the fifth week. Either way, I’ve had bacterial bronchitis and it has been absolutely horrible. I’ve been weak to my bones. For those of you who aren’t sure what I mean by that, it’s where you just can’t make yourself do anything. I wonder if it’s the way depression feels. Even when I started to look better on the outside, my insides weren’t catching up.
I felt a lot of shame.
“Other sick mothers keep the house clean.” I told myself
“Other sick mothers don’t forget about Girl Scout meetings.”
“Other sick mothers don’t phone in dinner.”
These are the things I said softly to myself while I sat on the edge of the bed and cried. After I had explained my Girl Scout mistake and put my very-understanding girls to bed.
Then I turned to my husband and said, “You never have my back when I really need it.” I just turned on my husband and blamed him. He was sick, too, but for some reason I was about three times more ill than he was and my illness lasted about three times as long. So he was, in my mind, the “less sick” person in the relationship. He should be the one keeping up with things since I – obviously – could not. If I couldn’t be perfect someone had to do it and by golly it better be him, sick or not.
“Why didn’t you pick up my slack? Can’t you see I’m sick?” (His response was to cough deeply and give me a look of utter shock. He. Was. Blindsided.)
Brené says that research shows, “Blame is an attempt to displace mental suffering from ourselves to others.”
So, if you are where I’m at and you’ve already gone though The Orange Rhino to stop yelling (I’m doing great and the kids are doing pretty good, too. I can’t wait for everyone in the house to not be yelling 99% of the time, but that’s probably not totally realistic with a three year old in the mix – we’ll see!) Why not kick it up a notch and start NOT blaming other people and NOT shaming yourself.
It’s so much harder than it sounds. Also, this is one of those areas where the smarter you are, the more difficult it is. You’re used to convincing other people your logic is sound, now you have to tear apart the fortress you have built in your own mind. The one you use to tell yourself you could have tried a little harder, you could have done a little more.
The voice that lives in my head that says, “You’re not really that sick, you’re just making it worse than it really is to get attention. To be lazy. To sleep in. To not clean. To give in to your anxiety.”
I need to start listening to another voice, because if I cannot be kind to myself I cannot be selflessly kind to others. Kindness will always come with a value attached because I view kindness given to me with a value attached, as well. I thought it was important because I initially used the value-for-kindness to keep track of what to appreciate in others…and for that purpose it works really well and isn’t a horrible thing. But then, when I turn it on myself, it becomes, “Well you could have done more for that person in need. Did you choose your family over that work obligation because you’re just lazy and don’t like your work anymore?”
It’s a never-ending broken record of shame and self-hatred and I’m sloughing it off.
I was kind of hoping that when I typed that it would magically just kind of go away. It didn’t. See, now I’m going to have to work on it. Ick.
I hate working on it. Mostly because I know how to write an article, I know how to sing a song, but I don’t know how to effectively work through emotional struggles. I usually just ignore them and hope they go away or yell at someone. Now the yelling is gone and ignoring is no longer an option, I may have to actually practice loving myself the way I am trying to teach my children to.
I decided that the best way to work on it was to bring it out into the open and talk about it. With you, of course! But also with my husband last night. The look on his face when I told him, “According to this book, women would rather a man die than show actual vulnerability. Isn’t that crazy?” (this is just my half of the conversation, it’s like a Mad Lib…you can fill in his half…)
But I want you to show real vulnerability!
It would make me feel….scared.
So after that uncomfortable conversation I realized I’d taken the first few real steps that went beyond theory and thinking. My husband also told me he wants to read the book when I’m done so we can talk about it.
I’ll keep you updated.