Triggers Transformed to Miracles

There was one day that everything seemed to change. I pushed up against a wall in my heart, and found a hidden door. The one I had been searching for, longing for. It had been there, but I didn’t realize I held the key. 

“I deserve to be with someone who wants to support me emotionally.” 

I stood in the kitchen. As the words exited my mouth it felt more like someone was speaking through me than I was speaking for myself. I had never known this kind of bravery. I had never seen myself stand so firm. Who was this person? Who was I becoming? 

This, of course, came out of an unnecessary fight. A fight that had been going on for so long I had just learned to live with the anger and frustration. I had been asking for help over and over. I was losing it. But I knew it was temporary. My shit was all in the fan. I just needed some help. 

I’ve made a lot of choices in my life that contribute to my own personal growth. Basically, I’m a professional student. And no matter how much I long for the quenching of my thirst for knowledge, and no matter how fulfilling these desires are for me; I can admit that it takes its toll on the people with whom we share our lives and our space. 

I was deep in my master’s program. I was preparing my PhD applications. All the stress was drowning me. There were many days I was running on little to no sleep. I was trying to decide on which programs I wanted to apply to. I was trying to figure out how to keep living all of my dreams-finding a balance between work and life. It’s nearly impossible. 

I was teaching two courses, taking two courses, trying to get together a writing sample, working 25-30 hours a week, still doing my best to be available to my partner. Always trying to keep the lines of communication open about which programs I was looking at, the locations our life might be moving toward. 

I cried a lot. 

At one point, she openly admitted to withholding affection from me. I blamed myself for taking on too much. 

She complained a lot. 

“You’re not doing enough,” was a refrain I heard often.

“You’re unbearable to be around.” 

“When you leave the house a mess, this is the shit that makes me want to drink. I told you it was important that my space not be filled with clutter.”

When a recovering alcoholic tells a raging codependent that their lifestyle spiraling out of control is pushing that alcoholic toward that codependent biggest fear-this is crazy making. The three C’s of al-anon (we didn’t cause it; can’t control it; can’t cure it) somehow get lost in the sea of self-loathing and self-blaming buried under the inner critic telling us-“If you can do better-this will be under control. Your life is unmanageable, and it’s affecting the alcoholic. You are bad. You promised her you would do better, and you’re failing to follow through.” 

This preliminary blaming for the addict’s choice to drink which may or may not be coming around the next bend of chaos is stifling. But I was not going to give up on my dreams. I couldn’t. 

This day, I was rushing around to get my stuff together for school, and to follow it up with a restaurant shift. I was frantically searching for my apron-which I realized was in the washer. It was Wednesday. It was her day off. I had put that laundry in the washer on Sunday. This is what grad school looks like. 

As I expressed my frustration for the circumstance, she retorted with this:
“Why is there still laundry in the washer?”

The condescension in her tone was not subtle. 

I said, “Because I FUCKING forgot about it. On my list of priorities, it’s somewhere around number 30. If it is a big deal to you-take care of it. I just can’t right now.”

I hit my breaking point. I reacted to the circumstance. I reacted to the implication that my life choices were interfering with her happiness. I accepted the blame, but tried to push it away by screaming my frustration in an effort to finally be heard. 

“I guess I’ll fix it, just like I fix everything else. Even though it’s my one day off. I’ll take care of the laundry that you never finished.”
TRIGGERED: Suddenly, I’m eight years old. Standing in the kitchen, crying about laundry. Feeling inadequate. Feeling like an inconvenience. Feeling like I can’t hold up my end of the deal. Her tone and words combined, and the comment translated itself in my mind. It became, “You aren’t good enough. Good thing I’m more awesome. You’ve ruined my day. You’re lazy. You can’t do anything right.”

Excessive self-criticism, I know. 

THE MIRACLE: An equally sudden shift occurred. I realized, I was 29. Standing in her kitchen. Listening to her berate me for my inadequacies. But I didn’t feel inadequate-I felt overwhelmed. I recognized overwhelm through a new lens. The inner critic had never seen this lens before, and had no power to usurp my words as I clearly, coherently, and quite powerfully expressed them. 

“I deserve to be with someone who wants to support me emotionally.” 

That was almost a year ago, and I’m still struggling to integrate that from an intellectual knowing and brashly articulated sentiment into a core belief. But I am getting there-one day at a time my self-esteem and self-worth are getting stronger. My ego is getting healthier. That is really all I can ask for. 

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