Cue a slow, deep inhale, and an even slower, delicious exhale.
I am sitting on the deck at my partner’s place on the lake, the sun barely peaking through the forest fire smoke, birds chirping, water looking like glass. I feel grounded, present, at peace.
But I have not felt this way for almost 6 weeks now; rather I have been feeling rushed, stuck in my thoughts, dysregulated, uprooted.
Over the last few months, and especially since starting work with a somatic therapist, I have worked very hard at creating and maintaining a routine that helps me feel calm, clear, regulated and grounded. This entailed permanently dropping to part time at work (which I think I want to write a whole piece about), having a rock solid sleep hygiene and getting 8+ hours of quality sleep per night, getting movement in every day, making and eating wholesome food, and being very intentional in how I spent the rest of my time – namely choosing people and activities that made me feel full and connected rather than drained and alone.
By the end of May, I was in a groove. I felt my awareness rise a notch. It was very easy to return to myself throughout the day and to feel connected to my intuition and my heart. My mind felt clear; I found myself easily making decisions at work, retaining more information and feeling less bothered by daily annoyances and stressors. I felt so clear and connected to who I am as well as my needs and my wants. Life felt easy.
And then I met my partner.
I feel very called to share this because entering this relationship has felt so different than anything else I have experienced in the past. And I think that in our society, and especially in this western culture, our idea of romance and love is centered on admiration, lust, overwhelmingly positive feelings and an effortless quality. Truth be told, that’s how my last two long term relationships began. I had been swept off my feet, fell flat on my face into “love”, and the rush of those relationships was one of the sweetest highs I’d ever felt in my life.
Unfortunately, the reality for me is that those relationships were not grounded in authenticity, at least not for me, not entirely. You see, because of my tendency to perfect, to please and to caregive, I entered those relationships with the unconscious idea that I needed to act a certain way to make it succeed. The success of the relationships were dependent upon my perfection. Alas, maintaining this level of armour and perfection is impossible, and does not lead to true love and connection. My fear of rejection and abandonment led me to leave those relationships rather than risk putting down my armour to show my true self. This realization has honestly been heart breaking.
And yet, this realization is what is fueling my courage to enter this new partnership in an entirely different way. As per one of Brené Brown’s daily practices, every day that I wake up, and especially in regards to this partnership, I tell myself this:
Today, I choose courage over comfort.
I choose to have the courage to ask a question, over the comfort of avoiding a difficult answer.
I choose expressing my feelings and emotions rather than letting fear prevent me from asking for what I need.
I choose showing up as I am, without any guarantee of a positive outcome, rather than perfecting in order to avoid rejection.
This all sounds lovely and inspiring. Yet the reality is that choosing courage over comfort is brutally scary and exhausting. Engaging in this relationship this way has completely thrown me out of balance and into dysregulation. And for the better part of the last 6 weeks, I have felt entirely uprooted.
This week at work, I made a mistake.
Mistakes happen, to err is human. But in my line of work, mistakes can cause bodily harm and death. In this case, the mistake turned out to be benign. I immediately informed the patient and documented my mistake. No harm done (at least, not physically). I did the right thing.
And yet, making this mistake left me in a state of absolute agony. For hours, parts of me were telling me horrific stories of unworthiness, the harsh self criticism was intense beyond tolerability. “You are a horrible person”. “WTF is wrong with you”. “You can’t even handle working part time, loser”. “You are wasting your time doing silly things while you should be spending your time working on taking care of yourself”. “Clearly you can’t handle a relationship, you’ll never be able to handle anything difficult, you better stop trying to go after all these things, you are too weak”.
I want to tell you that I handled it beautifully but the truth is it was a rough few hours.
Eventually, I was able to become curious about this. “Wow”, I thought to myself with kindness, “that was really intense. And this reaction really did not match the event that triggered it. What is coming up for me right now?”.
It has taken me a few days to figure it out, but what I think happened is that an exiled part of me (this references to the Internal Family Systems theory) was triggered and then a protector or firefighter part of me took charge. Perfectionism as a way to avoid rejection. And ultimately, avoidance of any challenges as a means to avoid feelings of failure.
A part of me would rather avoid difficult situations in order to avoid criticism and confrontation. Would rather stay safe, over risking feeling hurt. Would rather play small, over losing something good. Would rather run, over facing a challenge.
Unfortunately, when we run from criticism, confrontation and hurt, we also run from a chance at growth, connection and love.
For the past 6 weeks, as excited and happy as I have felt about getting to know this man and about officially entering into a relationship with him, I have also felt quite terrified. I have worried about saying or doing the wrong thing, and fucking it up. I have worried that I am confusing lust for love. I have worried that my dysregulation is a sign of a bad match. I have honestly desperately tried to predict the outcome, the end game, in order to avoid any hurt – both for me and him.
The reality is that there is never any guarantee. No one can predict the future, no one can know for sure if something is “for life” or if someone is “the one”. The best we can do is have the courage the show up authentically, and to choose compassion and growth over resentment and comfort. We can choose to show up with courage, again and again, every time, growing a little wiser and a little closer to each other.
The other reality is that GROWTH TAKES TIME. We can’t expect to stay entirely grounded as we reach for the sky. The more growing we do, the more risks there are. But it’s important to grow slowly, so that we can adapt, give our roots time to take hold, returning to ourselves again and again, as the challenges increase.
I believe that relationships are bound to be the place where we are most triggered; where we are forced to face our deepest fears and work through our biggest insecurities. Yet it can also be the place, if we so choose, where we heal the most.
So today, I choose courage over comfort. I choose vulnerability over perfection. I understand that feeling uprooted is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of growth.