I often frustrate myself (and maybe others ;) by reacting to things in the same way over and over again when every time I vow that next time I will react differently. When I WANT to react differently.
I resolve not to scream at the kids and then I find myself screaming again. And regretting again.
I have done enough therapy and read enough Brene Brown to know how to connect rather than isolate when I am angry with my spouse. And yet we go to bed angry and lonely after a fight.
I vow I will be more organised, start Christmas shopping earlier, be more present with friends.....and weeks pass and I allow myself to be caught up in the busyness over and over again.
The gap between the ideal, mature me I imagine and the regular, fallible, me that most often shows up is often a yawning chasm. Frustratingly so.
This week I was gifted a really messy, nasty situation. A lot of accusations and anger was hurled my way. Delivered with a threatening tone.
I read the email on my phone while I was out of the office. Later listened to the angry voicemail.
The familiar feelings of shock came quickly, the shaky bones feeling, the lagging brain trying to keep up with what I was reading (that blessed fog that gives you a few minutes to gather yourself before the reality sinks in), the pounding of my heartbeat in my ears.
I walked out of the restaurant to my car somewhat numb and something interesting happened.
My usual default reactions are A) Defensive anger leading to impulsive action (possibly vindictive if I am going to be honest) or B) allowing the gremlin voices of shame and doubt and unworthiness take over leading to shutdown and inaction and hit to my self esteem.
But in THIS moment I was able to hold myself from going in either direction.
Three things happened:
1) I prayed for myself and for the attackers - for grace for all involved. 2) I recalled a segment from Elizabeth Gilbert's new book that I am reading (Big Magic) that asserts that my job is to DO the work, whatever it may be, and that I should not base my self worth on the reaction of anyone to that work. That the work is worthy in and of itself and to allow others to determine your worth based on their reaction or perception of your work is, at best, unhelpful and at worst destructive. 3) I held on to the perspective that those who launch such attacks reveal more about themselves than they do about the person they are attacking.
And in those moments I let the anger and the self doubt come in, to visit for a while and then I showed them the door - the door out of my head and my heart - in quite a conscious way. My heart stopped pounding and I felt the dispassionate calmness that allowed me to carry on.
After a brief cry because some things don't change it seems. Tears are tricky things - they sneak over the barriers we erect. Maybe that's ok too. I wiped the tears.
So despite a pretty jagged day I am comforted, if not downright delighted, that I didn't sink into
old patterns. I found a new way to react to a trigger. It felt SO good. I gave myself time to react.
I carefully considered the person/s I was reacting to while checking in with my own values about people and communication and in this case my work - I wasn't about to let them drag me back to old reactions, even towards them. Even if it would have felt justified. Even if I had a LOT I could have said.
So as if often the case when adversity comes, I learned a lot. I learned I can change. I learned I am not hostage to old, unhelpful patterns of behaviour. Maturity is not a mirage, it is attainable .(THANK goodness for that right? Phew!)
And that my friends is BIG Magic!
PS - I also learned that my FB peeps are always there for me - you guys are an army - you make me feel strong and loved!! THANK YOU! xoxo