TM and I met today and had a very long, soulful session. Sometimes it seems like we are not talking about anything of any substance, then I walk away and later feel as if some invisible force has come along and sucker punched me in the stomach, leaving me gasping for air and swearing at myself for not doing more of my dreadful core work.
Our 2016 time together and actively engaged in work is indeed drawing to its natural conclusion. TM assures me this is not something to fret, stress, worry, or obsess about; we have been here before and possibly will be again into the future. That said, I am the driver of that particular aspect of our scheduled professional meetings and conversations. When I am ready to let go, my death grip on this lifeline will loosen and my hands open and release. To all things there is a season, and my direct, chafing need for his reassurance that I am going to be okay and training on how to use tools at my disposal to care for myself is apparently drawing to a close once more.
I know sitting there, talking about it, I was both unsettled and comforted that the time to terminate was very much under my control and in my own unstable hands. My knee-jerk reaction is that I am not ready, I will never be completely ready, and that I will just have to take a deep breath and decide to just do it.
But not today.
The first time we terminated I had been seeing him regularly for almost 3 years. I was terrified of going it alone, without my security blanket of propping me up that I am okay and will continue to improve. He had taught me a lot of things to get through the days and the nights, given me a whole big toolbox of ways to keep me functional. My issues were far more urgent and I was a lot more emotionally self-destructive at that time, and it was so hard to know, to be sure I was ready to face the world all on my own.
What I learned from that experience is that I am never, truly, 100% on my own. Help and support and reassurance is there when I need it, and if looking inside myself and utilizing my own inner resolve doesn’t cut it, I have a support system in place. Perhaps they do not tell me precisely what I want to hear, but they do tell me what I need to hear to make it be okay in the moments of uncertainty and doubt.
I really did not understand how to just trust myself and my own best judgment. My crisis then was far more serious than my crazy brain insecurity that drove me back this year.
In hindsight and thinking things over afterwards and through the evening, the surges and influences around me have changed through the last few years. I am older, maybe a little wiser, and accepting that this life is different and it is okay to be a little (or a lot) selfish about what I want and prioritize my desires over what others might want from and for me. Being part of a marriage partnership means some boundaries and limitations, but M is hugely supportive of the me I desire to be and the steps and sacrifices it might take to get me/us there. I started to think about the sacrifices I have made for forward progress and peace of mind. Is it really a sacrifice to let go of something or someone that makes me feel poorly about the new positive triggers and spheres of influence I am embracing? Is that really selfish, or is it merely another form of self preservation?
The kids are grown and leading independent lives. While I have concerns for and reservations about the lives they lead, I have great, unshakeable faith in them as people and trust their intelligence and their character and ability to prioritize and make sound choices. I want so much for them to be happy, to have a smooth and easy pathway to the success they are pursuing, so their disappointments are difficult to not take a bit more personally, just like the impulse to try and “fix” it. Just because I do not act upon those random mom impulses does not make me immune to feeling them.
At this point in my life, I finally have the freedom to pursue my own interests and to really look out for me first and foremost. My little business is booming, my part-time job is challenging and interesting enough to make me feel as if I am thriving and making a difference. M and I are in a good, happy, healthy place together. At some point in the future my focus will likely change, but right now self-improvement is working on my health by cleaning up my diet and ensuring I get plenty of exercise. I know a lot of others who take such very basic life skills completely for granted, but for me, I am realizing that I literally had to start from a place of complete, in-the-dark ignorance when it comes to healthier lifestyle choices.
It is no wonder I had anxiety and fear. Probably no one gets to 54 and realizes they haven’t a clue what “healthy eating” and “regular, consistent exercise” actually look and feel like. Admitting the issue was one thing, asking for help another, accepting that help another still. I believe confessing and being open about how difficult the process and the stark raving terror that consumed me was what initially drove me back to therapy and TM. I have enough experience with addiction to know when I am in over my head and need hand-holding guidance.
This time, though, I was and am much better when we resumed, a lot less destructive than I was at the beginning of other years and other issues. I am far more hopeful about who I am in this moment and the pathway I’m skipping along into the future.
The days, weeks, months have passed, and my thinking and processing of life has altered so subtly I did not detect it at first. I do not perceive myself as a kinder, gentler person when it comes to my interactions with other people. But I know for fact I am far kinder to myself, in thought and in deed. I have an emerging respect and affection for the evolving me, and I am growing cautiously more comfortable in accepting my good, better, and improving qualities, and I am not shredding myself so readily over my more basic human failings. The comparison, the contrast, the imaginary competitions that set me up for failure are not completely in my rearview, but at least I recognize the signs and am not so consistently ensnared by them anymore. It still happens, possibly always will happen. But I am better at avoiding such thinking, because I never prevail in such contests within my own mind.
I’m not the best and brightest in the whole world, nor am I the kindest and among the least selfish and most generous. Those are also aspirations for someone else driven by a different agenda, and I am seeing that more and more clearly each day that passes. Plus I practice. Every single day I practice not allowing negative girl out of her box and reframing the crap she does still project on the walls in my mind. For me, for my life’s pursuits and dreams, I am bright enough, kind enough, altruistic enough. I am enough-enough and not as inadequate as I have always believed or feared.
In the simplest terms, I am good enough now and getting better every day.
Complimenting myself, thinking up my own honest self-affirmations has helped more than I imagined it would or could. Repeat something often enough and apparently I will start to believe it, and while it has been 10,000 times harder to say kinder things to myself and mean them, I make the decision every single day to force myself to do it. TM points out that this is not all that different than getting up at 4 in the morning to go to the gym, a decision and a choice I have made every single day for the last 6 months. Was it easy at first? Oh Hell no! Even after 6 months I would probably prefer to stay home and sleep an extra couple of hours. But it is/was enough of a priority for me to pursue it and make it into a habit, because I prefer the less crowded conditions of early mornings at the gym more than I like the extra sleep and the additional stress of being there in the evenings. Choosing to prioritize my exercise has meant the sacrifice of going to bed earlier, which is not all that bad. If I stay up past 9 p.m. I am either working or dilly-dallying with a book or binge watching Netflix.
Such it is with the exercises TM has taught me to be gentler with myself. I still feel guilty about the weirdest things, but I recognize the behavior and feeling as less productive than addressing the underlying habit that creates the negative void in my head. When I have wronged someone and feel poorly about it, yes, I should and do feel guilty until I rectify the situation if I at all possible. But I do not routinely wrong people so I get to feel badly about myself; most of the time I do not have to do anything at all to feel poorly about myself.
So while I have another appointment with TM in a couple of weeks, there is a clearer roadmap to our next waypoint on this journey. Our process is a more linear one, from point A to point B, and I am really glad to be able to recognize the signs of my final destination for now lies ahead. It’s almost time to fly solo again, and I will be ready … soon. Just not today. I need time for my proper goodbyes and graceful partings.
I titled this post thinking of confidence and self-esteem. I am not sure if I had much of either to lose or if it was lost so much as stolen or never fully developed. The process of finding it or developing it has required a push-pull, start-stop-start again, and again, and again process. Worth it, most definitely. But I suspect the recovery process is personal and unique for each of us, and I suppose no one ever knows going in what it might be like to recover and to grow in the directions and ways we each seek.
TM assured me at the beginning I already had the tools and his role would be to guide, instruct, and reaquaint me in their use. I would become stronger and more resilient than I believed possible, and I did not really believe him at first. But I do now.