I remember seeing my therapist last June. I had moved out of my marriage of 28 years in April. I was a mess. I didn’t know which way was up. Then I began stabilizing. At first, a couple days in a row represented an accomplishment. Eventually I had a good couple weeks. Then, without warning I destabilized. Big time.
When I sat down with Allie, my therapist for four plus years, I expressed both the frustration and fear I was experiencing. The frustration was driven by impatience I wasn’t “better” when I felt good for two whole weeks. Patience is a perpetual challenge I am working on, needless to say. The fear was the potential that the destablization, the stumble, would result in a full-fledged tumble down a ravine and into the chasm I spent so much of the last decade as my life crumbled around me.
Allie helped me understand the inevitability of backsliding, that changing requires taking risks. With risks come stumbles. I can’t make progress without taking chances. So I shifted my perspective. I began developing compassion for myself. I dropped the phrase “feeling sorry for myself,” an expression I was quick to use when feeling shame over drinking too much, getting stoned too frequently, or binge eating.
I recognized I am trying to change who I am, how I perceive my world, and most critically, how I connect with people. Modifying fifty years plus of habits is a Herculean challenge and often seems inexorably slow.
I’ve been backsliding for a couple weeks now. There wasn’t a single trigger. Yes, the anniversary of moving out of my home is rapidly approaching, but there are other factors at play. My ex is in London visiting my youngest daughter who is in Rome for the semester. My youngest explicitly asked me not to visit her because it would be too stressful.
My oldest daughter, in business school on the west coast, has repeatedly ignored my overtures to visit, even when I position it as the two of us having one or two meals together maximum.
My middle daughter has made it abundantly clear she’s not interested in engaging.
Allie has helped me appreciate all I can do is let my daughters know I am thinking about them and available. Rationally, I get it. Emotionally, most of the time. Not always.
What I’m trying to say is this is really, really hard. I might gloss over that fact, trying to appear positive and because I feel shame when people tell me how sorry they are for me when I say I’m struggling. I think that may be leftover from feeling like I don’t deserve sympathy. Yay self-esteem.
As hard as changing is, I no longer am engulfed in a miasma of hopelessness. And that makes all the difference. Two steps forward, one step back is still a step in the right direction.
Thanks for listening. Stay in touch. Connect.
P.S. A lovely little clip fro O Brother, Where Art Thou. The clip portrays a road to reinvention I have not taken. For those who care, the title of this movie comes from Sullivan’s Travels, one of my favorite movies made by the brilliant writer slash producer slash director, Preston Sturges. I beseech you to watch the movie if you’re unfamiliar with it.. Enjoy!