At some point in the hustle and bustle of life we hit a point where we loose track of what our deepest needs are. Sometimes we can feel it growing, feel part of ourselves slipping away, other times it hits us all at once and we realize we don’t know what we need but we know we need something because we’re drowning in nasty self-pity on a gorgeous day with our gorgeous family. Anyone? Or just me? Yesterday was that day for me, and it was an all at once gut punch.
I don’t think it really matters what stage of life we’re in, it can happen at any time. We get caught up in our jobs, responsibilities, friendships and family and we forget to take 10 minutes in the morning to slow down and center or to read a chapter or two in our favorite book before bed or talk or whatever and instead watch multiple episodes of Grey’s Anatomy to be absorbed into someone else’s problems rather dealing with our own. Ok, maybe that last part is just me but you get what I’m saying.
Yesterday I realized I was sulking as I wrangled my precious babies at an outlet mall while my hubs searched for a new pair of hiking boots. Jack wanted didn’t want to be in the store we were in and threw a fit until I let him wander down the endless walkway of stores. I managed to guide him to H&M where I looked around for a minute and was able to coax him into riding on my back while I carried Eliza. It was really pretty outside, I hadn’t wanted to go to the outlet mall, but had I said so? No. We eventually found Michael again, chased Jack around some more, and headed to get some lunch. I just kept thinking about how I wanted to be outside since it was finally sunny, but did I say that? No. I was expecting my family to suddenly start reading my mind.
Then it really started… I started feeling like I was constantly catering to everyone else’s needs and desires, which, to an extent, I do and have to, because Jack and Eliza are wee babies and they need their mama. They are so in touch with what they need and they don’t hesitate to let me know. Michael needs to be focused on school right now, it’s important, it’s why we’re living where we are, it’s for our future. He is in touch with what he needs and he’s putting his all into it. I realized I didn’t even know what I needed but could tell there was something and instead of finding it and vocalizing it I let myself get frustrated with everyone else around me who had theirs figured out. I was so jealous of their ability to know themselves and what they needed so well. Sounds ridiculous right? It was, but in the moment I hit a wall and let all those feelings turn into self pity.
self-pity: excessive, self-absorbed unhappiness over one’s own troubles
Self-pity is nasty. It isn’t helpful, although it sucks you in and tells you that it is. It’s that nagging little voice that says, “they should know what you need, they should cater to your needs, if you just sulk a little more they’ll figure it out and everything will be ok.” Which obviously does not happen and then you get sucked in even deeper. Granted, this all happened in the matter of a couple of hours, but they were nasty little hours inside my head.
After a while, the kiddos went to bed, Michael lit a fire and sat outside while I watched Grey’s Anatomy (surprise!). As an episode ended I started to try to process why I was feeling the way I was, what had I lost or neglected that was making me feel this way? Michael is attentive and loving, Jack and Eliza are the best things that have ever happened to me, why did I feel so negative and nasty?
Michael and I talked for awhile by the fire and worked through some of what I was feeling. Later in the evening he randomly found a letter his aunt had written to us as we were preparing to move to Kentucky last summer. In it she said,
“I hope you will be challenged enough to let go of expectations and be present in one another’s world.”
That was it. I have been holding on to an expectation that everyone around me should be able to read my mind. And what I really want and expect is for them to figure out what my needs are and to meet them which is beyond crazy. I realized I don’t know exactly what I need which I guess is really a good place to start, a first step. Figure it out, start with some down time in the morning if possible, or during nap time, or after dinner when I can sneak away for a few moments. Dig deep and find out for myself what makes me tick, what keeps me running smooth and then communicate it. When I’m not doing this, I realize I’m not present with the precious people surrounding me, I’m lost in my own little world instead of immersed in theirs. I know I’ve talked about expectations a lot in this Lenten journey but it keeps coming back around- I have to let them go.
Today is beautiful again. Today, I let go of my expectations and enjoyed my family. Everyone is sleeping right now and I’m going to settle down with a good book and a cup of coffee. We don’t have to have it all figured out, but if we let ourselves be complete mysteries to even ourselves, we’ll never be able to let others in and be present in anyone’s world except for our own. That’s a pretty tiny little portion of big, giant, beautiful place. I don’t want to miss what’s around me. I don’t want to ever sink in to the self-pity pit again. It’s time to give myself a good shake, to figure out and communicate my own needs and enjoy finding life in helping to meet the needs of those around me.