With grown daughters scattered in various directions, I only see them around holidays or other special occasions. The opportunities to have “normal” interactions are far and few between. That’s just the way it is for now.
Currently, my focus is mustering the wherewithal to complete the holiday marathon. Christmas Eve will include over thirty family members and dear friends. Christmas Day over twenty family members, exchange gifts for hours.
Caroline, my ex-wife’s birthday is the next day. I have no idea what’s planned. This is the first time in almost 30 years I’m not organizing the event.
Over this marathon, I must find strength to ignore my daughters’ passive reaffirmations I’m why our family is no more. I must find compassion to remember their pain. I seek endurance to put aside my hunger for approval, an emotion I recognize, yet struggle to understand.
I wrote about my hunger in Validation Issues (catchy title, right?). I am still trying to understand it. I suspect my hunger connects to feeling I’ve let my family and friends down.
Perhaps that influences my interactions with strangers. I say “good morning” to the people I pass on my walk. I regularly engage the crew at my coffee shop in small talk, though I’m careful not to overdo it.
I don’t accost strangers while in line at the supermarket. I never initiate conversations with seatmates on aeroplanes. My point being, I understand appropriate boundaries and respect them.
Is my “reaching out” compensation for feeling I’ve let people down? I am convinced understanding these issues’ roots, is necessary to changing my relationship with them.
Being comfortable enough to talk about this shame is a benchmark on my journey. I hate feeling “needy.” Neediness is a raw, rarely-sated emotion. Its fraternal twin is “disappointment” — feeling I’ve let down those closest to me. Together, they are obese, blood-filled mosquitoes I have yet to vanquish from my screened porch of serenity.
I’ve written on changing my relationship with my emotions. How Buddhism has helps me appreciate happiness is not the absence of sorrow. Knowing I cannot male negative emotions disappear, my goal is changing my relationship with them.
What does that mean? Recognizing and acknowledging their presence. In the moment. And then choosing my response.
I find solace that I’ve gone down this same path with my ever-present feelings of anxiety. For the first time, I don’t let the anxiety control my choices 24-7. While anxiety is still an on-going challenge, I’ve come a long way.
Even with my successes, though, I had a friend recently characterize me as “often preparing for the next thing,” an obvious manifestation of anxiety.
So I’m still a work in progress. At least now I recognize and savor my progress, which may seem tiny to others but is monumental to me.
And like that, the wherewithal I sought reveals itself. I have the strength to get through the holidays, mindfully. I will respond and not react. In short, I will be my self.
Stay in touch. Connect.
P.S. I may need to rewatch this movie. I suspect it holds up.