I was having a great conversation with a friend. This particular friend is super sensitive to the feelings of other people around her. She is tremendously affected by everyone else’s stuff. I already knew that, but while we were talking she just blurted out this sentence: “And so I’d overeat just to stop feeling all their feelings. I’d just have to stuff something in my mouth…” It was so plain, so clear, so honest. And I knew right then that she had called me out on a little something I’ve noticed lately…
Being a Mom has many, many joys, but I’d be lying if I said that there is no joy associated with the end of the child day. I saw a meme the other day that implored children to go to sleep at 7:30 for nice Mom because they didn’t want to be around for 8:00 Mom. I laughed heartily. My kids go to bed right around that time and when they re-emerge, it’s possible I’m not as nice a Mom as I was when I kissed them good night. I look forward to the quiet. I wait for it. I dream about it. But you know what I don’t do? I don’t often really sit in it.
What do I do? I usually stuff something in. I eat something I didn’t want to share with the children but am not actually hungry for (yeah, I do, don’t judge). I drink something I didn’t want to drink earlier for fear of falling asleep before the house got quiet. I watch something incredibly stupid on TV. I get the quiet I’ve been seeking for some measure of the day, and then I do everything I can to avoid myself in it. I numb myself. I block out my own feelings, the feelings of others, my fears, and my loneliness. A little chocolate, a little wine, a little reality TV and there, all better. Number. Less in touch. Less sharp. Less connected. Less honest. Less me.
When I began my journey with my own coach, I had some big lessons to learn. Like teaching a child to walk, my fabulous coach helped me learn how to feel. It’s something I still have to practice, and that I still avoid. I still have a voice in there that says that feeling’s going to get too big, or it won’t matter anyway, or will never go away. That voice is quieter but it’s still there. And so I stuff it. I pile things on top of that little voice and all of my feelings to numb them, to dull them, to quiet them; that’s what I do even though I know it would probably only take 90 seconds.
I don’t know where the 90 second number came from, but I remember hearing that if I just felt the feeling, like really felt it, sunk deep in and let it get as big as it needed to, it would probably only last for about 90 seconds. It would flow through. It would pass through. I would experience it and then I would be done, at least for a while. The feeling could just be, could serve its purpose, and then leave on its own. When I numb, I resist the feeling. I force myself to be someone else out of fear of feeling my own very real emotions. The truth is those feelings can’t hurt me and when I really know that and when I am able to go more often without the numbing, more of my experiences will be sharp, full, clear, rich, honest and most definitively mine. Connected. Complete. Whole. Me.