I’m not good at resting. I’ve mentioned this before and it still hasn’t changed. Time has provided a bit of clarity and I have an inkling of why I don’t rest well. Being busy prevents me from dealing with anything in my head. I didn’t realize I did it until just a couple of months ago after a particularly trying period. I was left unexpectedly alone for a week due to some rather epic misunderstandings and miscommunication between my husband and I. While he and the kids were with his side of our extended family at the beach, I was home with my thoughts. This one week was like a bold, black marker, tracing cracks in our marriage. As the marker highlighted more and more, I was overwhelmed by how we looked, how I looked, what I had done to bring us to this place, what he had done, and how broken I truly felt by all of it. Over the course of that lonely week, I took almost every pet-sitting gig that came my way. I worked so much that I did very little else other than work, sleep and eat in my car on the way too and from my various appointments. I didn’t want to feel any of what I was feeling, so I made sure I didn’t have to; I just wasn’t aware I was doing it. Looking back, I realize that I have done this many, many times throughout my life. I worked nearly every day during the summer before I moved out for college. I did need to work and save money to take with me, but all that work acted as a buffer between me and the fear I felt at this monumental life change approaching. During college, I worked three jobs in addition to classes. Again, my financial situation made this necessary, but I, like before, had all that homework and all those hours to keep my head focused away from any emotional strain I was under. After getting married, I lasted less than six months before I started working again while continuing to finish my degree. I didn’t understand that I had expectations going into marriage, so I absolutely wasn’t prepared for the heartbreak related to those expectations not being met or for the humbling that comes from realizing you weren’t emotionally healthy enough to be married. So it was back to work for me. Work and class, work and class. When there is something else urgent, another socially acceptable priority, there aren’t many questions from others about why you’re not home very much. Teaching was perfect for this unhealthy method of handling my emotional health that I had subconsciously developed. A career in education requires hours of your time to do it well, so it was easy to avoid any problems I had at home. I just channeled them into work, lesson plans, parent conferences, and writing IEPs. After our first baby came, I took an adjunct position at the local university about nine months after his arrival. Between preparing for class, nursing on demand, and making baby food, there was no time to deal with feelings and where they came from. In between jobs, I start random crafts, volunteer, and make plans to redecorate my bathroom, knowing deep down I never will. Everything I busy myself with is good on the outside looking in. It is good to work. It is good to volunteer. It’s good to get an education. Most don’t see my busyness as evidence of depression or anxiety or self-medicating or avoidance because most everything I’m doing is desirable and contributing to society and the greater good. If I were drinking excessively or gambling our money away, some eyebrows might twitch. Since my coping strategy happens to keep me from rarely having the proverbial “idle hands”, I appear successful and fulfilled. I have two kids, a house, a dog and an imaginary white picket fence. Needing money is something everyone understands, so working more hours is easily defendable. We’ve had multiple medical expenses this year plus extensive car repairs and more money is helpful, but I now recognize that money has never been the true, core reason why I work. I’ve always worked to escape. This also explains why problems at work have always been rather devastating to me. When your exit strategy fails and your escape needs an escape itself, where do you go from there? Where do I go now, now that I understand this about myself? It’s as if my whole life has been running, but because I was usually running towards good things, it never really looked like running. I guess it’s a start, knowing this truth. It’s a daunting reality that I already feel myself wanting to avoid with some new project or exploration. Admitting that is all I have in me tonight.
3 thoughts on “Knowing why I don’t know how to be.”
This an incredibly brave thing you’ve done. I am very proud of you!!
Thank you. I don’t feel brave right now, but maybe not feeling brave is when bravery becomes real.