Leaning In To More Sensitive Places
Last week had me feeling all the feels. It was a pretty emotional week on many different levels. Strange how seven days can have SO many ups and downs and big emotions packed into them. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how I can reach out further into this internet space. To find the depth and authentic expression of myself to connect with each of you. Every day last week I felt like I had things I wanted to share. Things that made me feel emotionally vulnerable. Sensitive places that I felt could benefit from some connection or solidarity or simply utilizing a creative outlet. And yet I didn’t write or share.
I got to thinking about what is holding me back? My first instinct is to blame my lack of free time. This isn’t far-fetched. I definitely feel like I am going and blowing through every single day. But I am hesitant to place all the blame there. I also really struggle with a stubborn inner critic who is a downright mean girl some days. A lot of the time I worry about how I will be received. Whether what I have to say is anything anybody cares to hear about. If I will misrepresent myself somehow. In a lot of ways I am a perfectionist. This tends to lead to over-editing and procrastination in this process. Or my thoughts run too wild and I feel like a post gets too long, overwhelming, or even boring.
Not to mention the fact that this is a pretty big stage to be emotionally vulnerable on.
So this week I challenged myself to just open up. To spill some of the contents of this emotionally vulnerable jumble in my brain and heart. I decided I was not going to edit (much) or try to structure this into something that might be helpful in a specific way. No overthinking or talking myself out of what comes up here. I have an amazing life and I am so incredibly grateful for all of it. And I am also human. I find that reflection is one of the best ways to really embrace gratitude and pursue a positive perspective. And really leaning in to my feelings when they are raw and fresh feels more genuine and honest.
Paul and I have been struggling a little bit lately to stay connected. This is surely in part a result of the season of life that we are in with two small children. An inconsistent schedule and lack of family routine contributes as well. And it seems like we expend so much energy throughout our days that when we finally have a few moments of down time, we are so exhausted that we retreat to our own corners and decompress independently. On an emotional level, we find ourselves more easily triggered by each other, more irritable, less understanding. We are no strangers to this place. With over a decade being together, luckily, we are able to recognize it pretty quickly.
But disconnect isn’t always easy to mend quickly.
Our communication was off. Our usual ability to stay “in sync” was more hit-and-miss, and instead of standing together, we pushed each other away. This tends to make us both feel even more sensitive (though I’m not sure Paul would describe it that way). Sometimes even recognizing the disconnect is discouraging. I think we want to be on our “A” game at all times. Realizing we are off feels a little like failure. And getting motivated to troubleshoot takes a fair amount of optimistic emotional energy that we already feel depleted of.
We started off last week frustrated with each other. Our annoyances had stretched through the previous weekend. It culminated just before bedtime when we were both at the peak of exhaustion and the shortest on patience. That advice people tend to give newlyweds to “never go to bed angry” is easier said than done. When I woke on Tuesday morning, Paul had already left the house for work.
I’ve brainstormed on many occasions the blogs I will someday write about the diverse challenges of being a medical family. Stick around, I’m sure they will surface as this whole project continues to unfold. I find myself caught in this place where I worry that if I express the more difficult and sensitive parts, it will seem as though I do not have a grand appreciation for this amazing life we live. I assure you, this is the farthest thing from truth. But for all of the incredible advantages of being a medical family, let no one be misled to believe it is free of hardship.
Each of us suffers in our own ways.
On that particular day, the first day of school, I would have written about how hard it is on everyone when the schedule pulls your family in different directions. On a day you could all benefit from being together. You may have read my earlier post about how the first days of school last year proved to be emotionally challenging.
Sometimes I find my independent side overcompensates when I’m feeling emotionally disconnected. I’m sure it is a coping mechanism. My “I’ve totally got this” kicks in and I simply power through. I can truthfully say it wasn’t as stressful as last year. But turning my back and walking away from my crying child as he clung to my leg was pretty damn difficult. Even as a veteran to this whole rodeo, I still needed a solid distraction to release the tugging at my heartstrings.
Awesome coffee date with a new friend to the rescue.
We’ve been causally building a friendship for some time now. But the discovery of a particularly difficult shared experience brought us together over coffee on this specific day. It was so rewarding to spend time growing this connection. I had been feeling like my emotional reserves were pretty low and the energy was so genuine and refreshing. It was definitely one of the positive highlights of my week. It is such an incredible opportunity to find friendships that enhance your life.
Then, Wednesday was 9/11. The magnitude of emotion that day carries is always profound. I couldn’t stop lingering on the memories of that day in our nation’s history. It all still feels so clear and fresh in my mind. It is hard to believe almost two decades have passed. Life changed for all of us that day.
This was the day I first realized that tomorrow is never a guarantee.
That bad things can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. To not take life for granted or lose sight of what is important. The amount of legitimate anxiety over issues of safety and security we carry as a nation today is overwhelming. The past twenty years have taught us that no place is sacred or safe anymore. It is so frightening for me to think of all the ways we are actively reliving the realities of horror from 9/11 every single day.
In the not-so-far future my children will learn about it in their textbooks in history class. But in so many ways they are already exposed to that which I was blissfully naive to for the first two decades of my life. Our preschool even has an active shooter protocol in place. Terrorism is pervasive. It has reached a terrifying height in our country. Thinking about all of this stuff scares the shit out of me.
On the heels of the anniversary of 9/11 came another heavy day. This past Friday marked three years since we learned the devastating news of the death of a dear friend. He played an integral role in the beginning of our relationship. He and his wife facilitated some of our first times hanging out together. We celebrated many holidays together. We endured some of the most challenging times during our medical school journey with their support and encouragement. He was a best friend and mentor to Paul. He had the most infectious laugh, always threw the best parties, and made others feel welcomed and included so effortlessly.
It was a friendship we felt would last a lifetime.
The news of his death was utterly shocking and heartbreaking. I remember we went to bed the night we found out with eyes swollen, tears competing with sleep, talking into the wee hours. In the midst of all the distress, I noticed the tiny kicks of Noah making his presence known in utero. This was the first time Paul was able to feel him, hand pressed firmly to my belly. It was as if this tiny baby wanted to make sure we knew he was there with us. Joining in to reinforce to us of how precious and beautiful this life truly is. We have held tightly to this truth ever since. And our friend is never far from thought.
His memory is a reminder to hold each other closer, stretch these golden moments out, linger a little longer, pause to soak it all up, and love the hell out of this life – the good, the hard, the messy, the beautiful, the light and dark, and everything in between.
Last weekend ended up being kind of magical. Paul had 3 full days off, which is rare for a weekend. Friday we decided to have a family date night together. We went out for pizza and grabbed ice cream afterward. Drinking in the causal shift in temperature, embracing the time together, the joyful laughter of our boys, and the overwhelming gratitude of this amazing life. What a great way to redirect things and guide us back together.
On Saturday we laid low. It was a jammies until after noon kind of day. And then at some point after naps we wandered across the street to visit and play on the neighbors porch. Niko took his first successive steps. We were all there to witness it and we cheered enthusiastically and celebrated together. It was really special. That night Paul and I curled up on the couch together. We watched two whole movies back to back – I honestly can’t remember the last time we did that.
Sunday morning Paul made blueberry pancakes from scratch. The boys watched some cartoons. Then we walked to the pet shop to buy a new cat collar for our little vagabond kitty who lost his on one of his recent escapades. Along the way we spontaneously decided to visit the children’s museum for a bit. That evening we had an impromptu cookout with neighbors. We grilled burgers and ate and chatted together. The kids played until bedtime. Then Paul and I stayed up late talking together about things that really matter.
It was a lot of goodness packed into a small amount of time.
While we were technically pretty busy, we also relaxed into our weekend. We let go of the to-do lists, put projects we’ve been wanting to tackle on the back burner, didn’t over plan our days. A weight that we typically feel attached to our limited time together was lifted. We all leaned in to each other and it was refueling in so many ways.
It is so interesting to me how disconnection can leave me feeling incredibly vulnerable and sensitive. I often find myself disconnected on many levels. With Paul. My friends, my family, my children. The passage of time. With what I know. The intention and meaning of this life.
I’m learning that sometimes simply reaching out can be a total game-changer. After all, we are each only human. And I know my truest intention is to love the hell out of this life – the good, the hard, the messy, the beautiful, the light and dark, and everything in between.
Thank you for joining me here. I look forward to us leaning in to more sensitive spaces together.
*maternity photo by Kati Mallory / mugs photo by Maggie Fortson