Note from Jen: Today we have a real treat — a guest post from writer Carol Fant of One Brave Cowgirl, a site dedicated to helping those who care for loved ones with dementia. Carol’s work is all about finding the humor and love in difficulty, which, of course, I completely applaud!
I was really honored that Carol asked to work with me for the launch of her site. Within the first week, her work was featured on MariaShriver.com. I think you’re gonna completely dig her brand of genius!
I’ve spent a good part of the past weekend napping. It’s the kind of thing I rarely do – but when the sh*% hits the fan, I hit the couch.
Napping used to be a defense mechanism, a way to hide completely from the world until I could convince myself that whatever was happening wasn’t real, that I really didn’t need to deal with it, not right then – maybe not ever. Napping as in “sleeping so I don’t have to think.” That sort of complete cop-out slumber.
That sort of hiding made me really sick, made me find all sorts of unhealthy ways to deal (well, really, not deal) with my emotions. Anything that could make me quit thinking and feeling were fair game, whether they came in the form of pills, liquids, herbs or powders – or something shiny and new that I couldn’t afford – or any combination of other people, places or things. I ran. That sort of running is exhausting. So I slept. I slept through, oh, maybe 15 years of my life.
Then I learned to show my ass. Or maybe it’s more honest to say I was forced to show my ass. All that running and hiding and ducking and dodging catches up with you sooner or later. Life tends to pile up. Those emotions you thought you were avoiding have a way of erupting one way or another. Relationships fall apart. Your stomach goes on permanent strike. Your nerves fray to the point of no return. And all those “tools” you used to not think or feel? They quit working. And then it’s up to you to make a decision: learn to live another way, or just give up and let the landslide bury you for good.
I’m happy to say I chose the former, but only after I was literally halfway down the mountain under a ton of emotional snow and debris. Learning to live another way for me meant learning to show my ass. Talk. Feel. Be honest, no matter what. Take risks that the people who love you will still love you after you tell them all the insane thoughts, emotions and horror stories that run around in your brain. Someone told me once that feelings were just feelings, they wouldn’t kill me. And I’m living proof that’s a true statement.
Showing your ass is looking directly into life’s face and screaming “BRING IT.” It’s finding someone you trust, and just letting it all hang out. It’s opening your mouth and letting your heart and soul and brain find a way to deal with a raw emotional state.
And that’s exactly where I’ve been lately – in a raw emotional state. Dealing with THE BIG UGLY of life. I tried my old way first – I clammed up and played super hero. I donned my rose colored mask and my I can handle it all by myself cape. I didn’t talk. I tried not to feel. But my insides told a different story: I had stomach cramps, and headaches, and I ate far too much chocolate. Then my outsides joined in: I had bursts of anger at the strangest times, like anytime the word “forgiveness” was mentioned.
I knew if I was going to survive, I’d have to show my ass. So I did. Just a little at first – – I texted two of my closest friends. Because texting doesn’t involve talking. That went well, so I talked. I started with the easiest person – my partner. Someone I knew loved me no matter what. Someone who already knew about the big ugly, just not how much crazy I’d built up around it. Then I talked to my therapist, also easy because she’s paid to listen to me. Besides, I’ve been talking to her for eons and I trust her.
Then I tried harder people — my mentor, a person who’s new in my life and who I really want to like me. That was tough, because what if she never wanted to talk to me again? I really didn’t want to show my ass to her. But I’m working with her to overcome barriers and become a better, more productive person, so how honest would it be if I didn’t tell her what was completely shutting me down? So I did, and she gave me new tools to use, and she still likes me.
Then I talked to another trusted friend, a sort of spiritual adviser. For some reason, I always want her to think I automatically take the high road, even though I know she knows that’s crap. So I confessed what a complete mess I’d been, and we talked and laughed and drank coffee and I left there feeling real.
I was living that adage: from action I get relief. Each time I felt lighter, cleansed, freer – but completely exhausted.
So I napped the nap of the ass shower: a healthy, I’m only going to rest until I can get up off my ass nap. An emotional and spiritual power nap. Napping as in “sleeping to restore myself.” This new sort of slumber is healing. It’s the very antithesis of a cop-out nap.
Sometimes I don’t actually nap horizontally, but I rest nonetheless. I sit and stare. I watch reruns of The Andy Griffin Show. I watch one of the Twilight movies and confess to no one how much I like it. I give myself permission to do nothing. I eat cereal for dinner. I read fun fiction. I shut off my mind in healthy ways.
It’s all healing. And healing is what I need when life is handing it to me.
Healing is what happens when I open my mouth and let others visit that scary neighborhood that is my brain. It’s not so scary with other people standing by you, cheering you on — telling you you can do it — that you’re beautiful, you’re strong, you’re worthy, you’re brave. I don’t want to cheat myself out of that kind of love and friendship and emotional well-being ever again. I can do anything with my tribe around me. So can you.
After a solid week of ass showing, and resting, I’m starting to be me again. Which means I have energy. I’m happy, at least as happy as I’m going to be with life’s big ugly staring me in the face. I feel hopeful. I can actually say “this too shall pass” without wanting to puke. I don’t feel controlled by my outside circumstances, because I’ve taken control of my insides. And by taking control I mean showing my ass.
Are you holding onto something that’s weighing you down, that’s creating a spiritual and emotional dam? Wouldn’t it be easier just to show your ass, even a little? Don’t be afraid. Start small. Let one trusted friend in. If it makes you feel better, warn them in advance: prepare yourself, I’m about to show my ass. And if this is brand new to you, if it all feels like too much too soon – write it down. Get it out of your head and onto paper at least. From action you get relief. And relief is such a beautiful thing. So is a nap. You deserve both.
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