Monday, 14 April 2014

Securing the Foundation of Connection

As human beings, we are hardwired for connection.  It is the common thread that connects everything I read these days regardless of the title, theme; whether it is on the bestseller list or notes I have taken while in the hospital programs.  

Last summer I read Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection and I wrote as I read.  It was a bit like shopping for new clothes.  I tried on her words.  What did they look like if I put them on?  Which ones fit me?   

It was harder then.  I had felt like the hospital programs had helped me identify and discard many unhelpful patterns of though and behavior. The problem was, while I was working hard to let them go, I was struggling with who that left behind.  It was an identity void.  The things that had defined me, were also the things that had destroyed me, but they were also the things that had made me successful and carried me far in life.  

I held up "need for connection" and looked at it draped in front of me, frowning.  The color seemed wrong. It looked too small and tight.  Curled up on my back deck, seldom leaving my house, "connection" was tossed in the "no" pile as I reached back to the book --desperate to find something that was "me"--or could be me.

My therapist said it was my choice really.  I could always be the old me.  It would be easy to slip into that outfit, put on that mask, step back into that role.  But, I would end up in the same place as proven by my 12 year gap between breakdowns that practically mirrored each other.

Last night I finished Brown's  "I Thought it was Just Me (But it Isn't): Making
the Journey from 'What Will People Think?' to "I Am Enough'".  It took some time, and I am mid "Daring Greatly" which I have in print and audio book.  

Connection is at the core of all three books.  Brown talks about developing connection networks of people who you can reach out to whenever you are feeling small, put down, shameful; people who have earned the right to hear you, who see you and love you for who you are (which doesn't always mean agreeing with you!).  These are the people who can help you recover when things happen that make you want to withdraw, become small or disconnect from the world, your family, work and friends.

Last week I visited my Sista Perfectionista and I told her my insurance company had called to say my Doctor had approved that I begin to see a rehabilitation specialist to plan out my return to work. I talked about my fears:

  • I will be my own worst enemy and try to prove I am "normal" and work like crazy and then wonder how I was able to manage it all before, but can't keep up now (she reminded me I was NOT able to sustain my work pace before--THAT is what put me in the hospital.  Oh yeah...)
  • I will give up the things I enjoy so much now---yoga, writing, getting up early, meditation, etc. because my entire adult life, work has become my life and everything else gets dropped 
  • People will expect me to be the same person I was when I left.  How do I relate to them now?  I will be so tempted to slip into old habits or I might "over share" in an effort to explain exactly how ok I am....(I call this verbal's not pretty)

  • The Spouse said he would put the Youngest on the bus in the mornings to allow me to focus on getting ready for work.  (Now, I get up early, do some self-love practices, make my Youngest breakfast and then wake him up and get myself ready).  Mornings used to be challenging when I worked so this might be a good thing.  But instead, I spoke my Perfectionista concerns over the Spouse not making a balanced breakfast, forgetting important things like lunch or mittens, or projects.

My Sista Perfectionista listened to my list and then we discussed them all.  We talked about how I was not managing to balance my life before my collapse. Going back to being "that person" will only bring me back to "that place".  

She talked about how in the year that we have been visiting, almost weekly, she has seen such an awakening of self-realization and willingness to be open to ideas, reserve judgement, and help her through some tricky spots herself.  

"When we started hanging out again, after hardly seeing you once a year for YEARS, I knew the work I was doing, and I saw where you were and saw how I could be a good support for where you wanted to go.  But I have watched your progress and now, zoom, you have surpassed me and I strive to be where you are.  I will absolutely not let you live in shame, self-doubt or some crazy flurry of who you used to be without calling you out on it!  I will be there for you and we will work through it together."

We talked about letting stuff go.  I simply cannot continue to do what I do now and go to work full time.  If the Spouse is willing to help out by taking over the morning duties, it means I can go to the gym early, keep my early practices, or even start work earlier so I can leave earlier!  I have to "let go" of the fact that he will NOT do it like I do it.  It might be a horrible disaster, but it won't be MY disaster and if I agree to letting him help, I have to let that go and let them figure it out.  If I can do it at home, I can do it at work.  I do NOT need to be in control of everything.

I left that day knowing, KNOWING in my core that she will be there for me, whatever happens, however I react, and she will tell it like it is even if I don't want to hear it; out of love.

The day after I saw her, I reached out to my two oldest friends and shared with them the fact I will be going back soon.  I expressed some of the similar concerns and asked for their help.  I talked about my concerns that I will abandon all I have learned just to fit in again at work in a way that makes OTHERS feel comfortable, no matter how it makes me feel, because it is easier to do.  Being who I am now, expressing myself and setting boundaries will feel uncomfortable.  People may look at me oddly or say I am being difficult (which is what happened when I tried this right before my collapse).  

They both promised me I could lean on them during this time and they would be there no matter what.  They know all the dark corners of who I am---and their love and support gives me strength.  

So I am developing my connection network--by sharing my stories with those who have earned the right to hear them.  It may be a small group in the inner circle, but it is strong! 

Connection goes two ways, and these women know I will hear them and see them and love them through whatever happens in their lives as well.  

Finally, I have asked for what I need.  That can be the tricky part most times as asking for help can equate to weakness.  However, I now see it as an amazingly strong thing to do.  I have been vulnerable and shared my story, I have been vulnerable, risking rejection or judgement, and have been loved.  I have asked for help and have been assured it will be there whenever I need it, and even when I think I don't.  I have strengthened my connections in my network.  This is an amazing thing!  

Today I feel strong and truly blessed to be in this place right now.  

As always, I am a Work in Progress.

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