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In the first months after J and I separated, life was so screamingly hectic that I waved goodbye to the kids as they left for their dad's place with a sigh of relief. We had been living in chaos for a long time. I treasured my quiet home, peaceful for the first time since we had moved in. Two nights a week - Mondays and Fridays - I was all alone except for the animals, and the silence was...amazing. Shocking. Like the sudden sensation of the snow-fed river on a hot August day when you let go of the rope swing and plunge into the deep part. At first painful, but incredibly uplifting. You emerge from the water shouting joyfully, gasping in simultaneous pain and delight.
Its been a year just this weekend, and over that time, the cold-water shock has worn off. As winter turned into spring turned into early summer, it began to feel more like easing into cool sheets, or that heavy breath of relief when you take your shoes off at the end of the day. Less rush, less noise. Time to breathe and to think, time to organize and construct. Time at least once very week to recharge my batteries by doing what I love. Gradually,though, I started recognizing a sense of emptiness creep in. The quiet became overwhelming.
You don't have to be a good codpendent to be the kind of person who fills emptiness with a flurry of noise and activity, but it sure helps. Its been pointed out to me in both gentle and not-so-gentle ways that I never seem able to sit still with a feeling. (And hey, thanks for taking my inventory!) When considering this, I have little choice other than to acknowledge it as truth. I have always had this conviction that intense feelings were something to be avoided at all cost. Starting to feel lonely? Get up and clean something. Weed. Mow. Wash. Dry. Sweep. Exercise. Drown out with television. Bury it behind internet drama. And the list is endless, the ways in which I have cheated myself out of getting better.
A very good therapist reminded me years ago that feelings are like waves. They come, they peak, they pass. If I remember this and just let them come and go, I will not drown in them.
In recovery, Step 11 encourages us to sit quietly in prayer or meditation. For those who believe in God or in a Higher Power, we use the time to seek God's will. For the secular mindset, we sift through the emotions and the thoughts in the quietness, identify patterns and seek a better path. In any case, the goal is not to escape feelings, but to use the quiet to embrace them and let them lead us to greater wisdom.
I had forgotten this, frankly. I can overthink myself right out of a solution given enough time and opportunity.
This week, my challenge to myself is to use silence constructively. To sit with the feelings that come and do nothing to escape them. Its hard work, but I think I'm up to it.
This post was originally published on August 17, 2010 at Barnmaven's Clean Shavings.