Talking about what I can’t discuss

To me, anxiety feels like a fire in my sternum, a round flash of heat that rotates inside me. I experienced that flush this week during a phone call. It reminded me of the time that I raised my hand in my sixth grade homeroom to ask my teacher, “Do we really have to go through every single problem?” She sent me to the principle’s office, or maybe it was the counselor. I can’t remember, but I was in Big Trouble.

I do remember the mortification, though, of being viewed as a rabblerouser, when all I really wanted was to be teacher’s pet and to get a perfect grade. I never once in my whole life wanted to rebel. Ever.

That incident marked the end of my willingness to participate wholeheartedly in a classroom setting. I learned to keep my opinion to myself. I learned to keep my arms and legs tucked inside the ride, no wild flinging of life or limbs.

Except sometimes. Except last week in a vastly different setting, in a situation that I cannot disclose in any detail here. However, as a result of my actions and a misunderstanding, I felt the heavy weight of disapproval. It was just like being sent to the principal’s office and as a result, I melted into a puddle of teenage angst and thought how much better the world would be if I were banished to a deserted island–or, for that matter, to a dessert island where I would drown my sorrows in hot fudge and creamy banana pies, and roll around in beds of marshmallows and creme puffs.

Really, for two days, I thought seriously that staying in bed, under the covers, would be the best possible solution to the conflict I cannot talk about. I stared at my gloomy reflection in the mirror and considered what a great failure I had become at life. But I cannot talk about it.

But it is not my marriage, nor my family, nor anything that happened in my community or my church. It happened in another realm, but an important one–and I hate it, as you do, when bloggers or writers won’t just spit out the details, but I can’t.

I do consider myself to be a decent human being. When others see me as a deficient human being, one prone to errors more than not, a person who needs to be reprimanded for the mistakes she’s made–well, I take that hard. Very hard. Ridiculously hard and I want to run away, far, far away. But I can’t. Because I am a grown-up. The luxury of collapse is not mine to be had.

On that very same day which was crowded with my own self-loathing, my husband visited a widow in our church and brought home an armful of neckties. I contrasted my distress with true heartbreak and loss and still could not snap out of it. I saw news footage of a Chinese mother looking in the rubble of an earthquake for her missing six-year old son and yet the despair of my own little tragedy clung to me like stubborn fog.

I even recognized what I had done–this downward spiraling negative talk, this personal cyclone of disaster that I’d spun out of a mistake and a misjudgment–yet I couldn’t seem to steady myself, to turn my frown upside down.

I’m too old, though, to wallow for long. So I literally told myself, out loud, “Let it go. Just let it go.” I cannot control circumstances beyond me, nor minds independent of my own. I have to just release situations that spin outside of my orbit in the first place. Do my best and trust the rest will sort themselves out.

Save the freaking out for situations which deserve it. Grow up. Get a grip. Move on.

15 thoughts on “Talking about what I can’t discuss

  1. Mel–
    There will be days like this. I had a job “one” last fall and it took me a month to get over it even though I tried hard to let it go from day one. Let yourself feel the pain and plan strategies to avoid the situation next time. Or if unavoidable, how you will respond. There will be days like this. None of us are perfect. None of us are perfect. Mary


  2. I hear you, it’s so much easier to say to oneself “get over it” than it is to truly get over it. Sometimes, being a rational adult and recognizing your behavior for what it is actually makes it worse, not better, at least in my case. I have both the downward spiral of the angst and self-loathing I feel, and the guilt of the recognition of it. I beat myself up over beating myself up often.
    :::hugs::: to you, it’s OK to have bad hours/days/weeks. We’ll be here for you, details or not. πŸ™‚


  3. I understand taking things hard…I go there too often. I know that self loathing is the worst kind of loathing….because you can’t take much of a break from yourself. A little wallowing is not a crime.


  4. “Grow up, Get a Grip, Move On” I have told myself that more than a few times. I hate when conflicts happen that I cannot stop thinking about, and really bother me. I know it will get resolved for you one way or another, but just wanted to say, I know what it feels like.


  5. Mel,

    Great post. Very honest, very transparent… something I’ve found helpful in the midst of my stress is to pause long enough to let the angst rise (no censuring, no church face, no shoving it under a carpet) β€” just laying it out in front of Jesus β€” and then asking him, “Lord, what do you want me to know about this?” or, “What am I not seeing here? What do you want me to see?”

    Thanks for your honesty.


  6. I hope (several days after your original post) that things are looking brighter for you now. If you are still churning inside, do you have a a disinterested party who can listen & lend some perspective? May even help you figure out why that confrontation spun you into darkness? Sometimes the events that suck me into the “vortex” have happened just because I was somebody’s target du jour: another jerk in the universe just needed to shake his finger at someone, & my number came up. But then I internalize that into my being a horrible, undeserving dumber-than-pond scum life form. Sometimes life is random, but (we) sensitive people take it personally. And you seem to be a very sensitive, intuitive, caring person. Please hang in there & treat yourself with the kindness you deserve; peace will find you….


  7. I so hear you on this. I know exactly what you mean about having the best of intentions, but being misinterpreted completely as you illustrated in the classroom example. I have been in that gut-wrenching self-punishing spot so many times. As was said, though, through it all, the Lord is with you, carrying you through the worst of it. May God bless you in this.


  8. Wow. I had a day like that last week too. Mine involved a disagreement with our wonderful nanny over pay (I thought I’d paid her for a sick day, she said I hadn’t). After 30 minutes of heated discussion, I set the money (including the extra) out on the table and told her “take this money or don’t come back.” Isn’t that terrible? I am the one in the position of power and I am a good, reasonable, usually quite calm person. But four years and two kids into working and moming I’m finding that I am making more mistakes, less organized. I have a good heart, I am a kind person. I know that a combination of stress over money and lack of time for reflection caused me to say that awful thing. Like you, I realized though that I couldn’t wallow in my misery and that thinking bad things about myself was self-indulgent. It will go down as one of the top five worst things I’ve ever done, but I just need to tuck it away as a lesson. I baked her a cake last night I wrote “We love you” on it in hopes of starting to make amends. I’m learning that you’re never too old to make mistakes.


  9. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Hope this situation is better now. Hey, I like your dessert island idea. I definitely have days when I could easily go there and wallow in things fattening :o)


  10. Been there myself and I try to remember that there’s usually a lesson there and if I don’t figure out what it is, it will likely spring up again. The world would certainly not be a better place if you were banished to an island. Don’t take the reprimand too hard, a good person without their own agenda can usually deliver criticism with a bit of kindness and empathy, it doesn’t sound like you got much. When I feel the black cloud of self recrimination settling in, I like to visualize myself 10+ years in the future giving the current me a hug and saying, go easy on yourself kid. When all else fails, if you messed up, a heartfelt and genuine mea culpa typically goes over well with anyone humble enough to know we’re all still learning.


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