Yesterday, I tried balance. Balance in thought. Balance in emotion.
There were times when I felt my anxiety rising. The triggers were varied.
Texts from him about things his daughters were wanting him to do.
Learning he’s made several Facebook posts that garnished a lot of attention and that I haven’t seen since I started my social media hiatus.
Hearing that my dinner plans included a repeat of his lunch meal.
His parents’ visit to our home today.
And each time I felt my chest tighten and myself get physically agitated, I paused.
Remembering things said in my CoDA meeting, I asked myself, “What does it matter? How does it affect me?”
I don’t have to step in and fix everything. Sure, remind him that signing his daughter out of school early is something to be cleared with his ex first, but then let it go. He’s going to handle it how he sees best with not a single impact to me.
I never really enjoyed Facebook to begin with. That’s been his thing, and another one of “his” things that I got involved in to keep tabs, to maintain some kind of spotlight in his life.
He happily ate my fajita-leftovers-turned-philly-cheesesteak creation. It was quick–somewhat warm–and satisfying.
I’m not going to be there during his parents’ visit. I’m proud of our home, as is he. I’ll instead be relaxed at work, in a place I love and feel competent and capable.
By the end of the day, I was mentally exhausted. Until I consciously tried to maintain the balance Melody Beattie, CoDA, and my counselor spoke of, I had no idea how much I instinctively live in emotional extreme. It was a monumental effort to be aware of how I was feeling, identify what I was feeling, pinpoint why I was feeling it, and then do something different than what my emotional extremes would have led me to do.
When he told me his daughter kept bugging him about picking her up early and then cancelled on him halfway there, I instinctively wanted to express frustration. Instead, I responded, “Sounds like you have some extra time to spend in town. Looks like taquito weather to me.”
He never hides his Facebook posts from me. In fact, he wanted to show me his pictures and the video he posted of him lighting the attic heater. I looked briefly at the comments on one, but I couldn’t tell you what other comments were made on the others. Usually, I examine everything, visit profiles of those I don’t know, and analyze his interaction with each.
I wanted a Philly Cheesesteak. We had bread in the freezer that needed to be used. Dinner came together perfectly and while the cheese was melted and the fajita mixture didn’t heat all the way through, it’s what I wanted to eat. Cross-legged. In my new favorite reading chair. Next to the Christmas tree. Not working myself up to worry about being a great cook, a creative cook, or keeping his meals interesting and varied–as I usually do–was much more relaxing.
I saw a video his mom posted on Facebook of his dad singing and playing the guitar. “Wonderful night at home,” was the caption. In the foreground, her feet were crossed at the ankles and she rocked them back and forth. And I realized that though this woman does not like me–at all–I understand the love she has for her husband. The way she looks at him is how I look at her son. And while I don’t agree with her viewpoint of me or us or of things she’s done as a parent, he still loves her. She is still his family.
All day was spent in this mental checks-and-balances system. Part of me wrestled with the thought that working on emotional balance felt like I was practicing to be emotionally stunted–closed off and unable to interact with others at a level I had. And today, I realize that emotional balance does mean a closing off, but in such a way that others things are allowed to happen.
I found more time to think about myself and things I wanted to do. I also found more time to listen to those around me.
Living in the emotional extremes is not unlike being a speeding freight train who cannot stop and will not stop to let crossing traffic pass. But those aren’t cars trying to get from one point to another. These are people in my life who want to be present in it but have needs, too. If I stay in the emotional extremes, I’m not allowing other people in my life to express themselves.
It becomes all about me, my agenda, my expertise, my wants and needs.
Ah, there’s the control.
And if you’re constantly giving way to an unstoppable freight train, at some point, everyone is going to find another way to get where they want to go.
I’m not an expert at this after one day of concentrated practice. I will likely struggle to stop that train at some point in the future, and very likely sooner than expected.
But the point is that I recognize the need to stop it. And I also recognize the need to push through when I need to–when there’s a boundary I need set for my emotional wellbeing.
And the point is that even if I fail at this again–and I will–I know I can do it.
I can step back.
I can pause.
I can redirect.
I can control myself.