On Rainbows And Roses After A Breakup

Yesterday was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Well, not all of it. Most of it was calm, peaceful and present time with my daughter, enjoying the local library, friends, sunshine and the nature that surrounds our new home. I received amazing news; that my daughter has been accepted in the most wonderful local play/preschool, which means growth and forward movement for both of us.

But sometimes, one minute part of the day can trigger a deep, dark, haunted place and cast an emotional shadow over the otherwise abundant goodness that surrounds us. At least, for as long as we allow it to. 

Yesterday I was confronted with some annoying news that sadly, was not entirely as shocking as it should have been. But as I sat with the news, despite all of the reasonable facts that should have kept me relatively unaffected by it, tears dropped down my cheeks and I began to sink into my deep, dark, haunted place, wavering between disbelief and disappointment. 

I allowed myself a moment to be there, a moment to acknowledge that I've been emotionally punched in the gut yet again and to feel sad about it, and then I hit the brakes. I scooped up my daughter and we went outside to take a walk.

Since moving back to New Hampshire, I've been reminded of how grounded I am in nature. I often acknowledge, here on the blog and offline, how grounded I feel when I am near the ocean. But I'm almost equally grounded just being surrounded by trees and the sounds of them blowing in the wind, and of birds singing in their branches, happy to bask in the warm sunshine of the first days of spring. I grew up in this environment in Vermont, so nature's energy is comforting and familiar, resonating with the core of who I am.

I tapped into that energy yesterday to hit the brakes on my sadness. With my daughter's hand in mine, we checked out the growth of the budding crocuses outside our front door, observed the lack of leaves yet budding (i.e., my daughter exclaiming, "Mama! All the leaves are gone! ... well, there is one leafie, I see it!") and the bright blue skies peeking out through their bare branches, we touched raindrops that were balanced on blades of grass, and looked for the birds who were singing such happy songs. It was like a bath for my spirit and almost instantly, the deep, dark and haunted place melted away. My mind calmed and slowed down, and my heart was soothed. I became present to my abundance.

Deep, dark, haunted places are remnants of the past. When we're able to put the brakes on the slippery slope of descent into those icky feelings and be present, that is where the real growth lies. And that's where I'm at right now. Wading right through it up to the tops of my Wellies. 

When we came back inside from our nature walk, I was able to enjoy the rest of my day without any shadows overhead.

But unfortunately, the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad conversation had to be revisited again in the evening. Tired from the day, and the struggle of avoiding the deep, dark, haunted slope, I catapulted down into the valley of despair. The deep, dark, haunted place is hardest for me to fight in the evenings on a good day. On a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? Borderline impossible.

In my pain, I resorted to my version of self-harm: stress eating. I dug through the depths of my parents' pantry looking for sugar, and came up with a tub of Duncan Hines frosting that is probably a year old, if not much older. And I ate a quarter of it (I would have kept going but my very sick gut can't handle such things — I might as well have chugged ammonia — and I got instantly sick to my stomach), while my daughter sat unaware next to me, eating her brown rice, broccoli and cottage cheese. I maintained a calmness for her long enough to read night-night stories, sing her to sleep and tuck her into her blankets. But after I closed her bedroom door behind me, I collapsed into my bed and wallowed helplessly in my sadness, self-pity and physical pain. I numbed with the internet until there was nothing else I wanted to look at or read, then I closed the day with a triple header Nurse Jackie viewing and a good cry-to-sleep. Strangely aware of the lack of self-love in that mix, I repeated, "I love you" to myself as I nodded off, desperate to believe my own words.

I've actually been stress eating a bit here and there for just under a week now — I've suspected yesterday's news for as long, but it was only officially confirmed yesterday — and this morning when I woke up, I physically felt absolutely awful. I walked my daughter down to the kitchen and found it a mess (I become domestically handicapped in the deep, dark, haunted place), so I decided to do some reflection and meditative dishes and cleaning, both literal and mental, as she quietly woke up to her own thoughts and ate her breakfast.

"What's going on?" I asked myself. And as I reflected on what has happened over the past week, I observed the ways I've reacted to it all — both positive and negative — what led to what, and when, and why? I arrived at some answers surprisingly quickly.

And despite all of the ugly faces of a break up, the ability to move through my emotions, and then quietly and peacefully reflect and learn from what's going on so that I can change what needs to be changed and embrace what needs to be embraced, is the beauty of my newfound space.  

In the past, the fact that I was upset by yesterday's news would have turned into a fight. Instead of being able to acknowledge, process through and deal with my own feelings, I would have had to divert my energy into addressing the fact that someone else had made their reflection and perception of my emotions into the most important and imminent issue at hand. Always more so than my original feelings, which were never validated or given space to exist and dissolve. By the time we'd fought, I'd end up so exhausted by it all that I never turned any attention back to the emotions I had in the first place. I have three years of unprocessed, unacknowledged and invalidated feelings built up. 

But no longer. 

This morning I was able to stop myself and see that as I am adjusting to single motherhood, and with my daughter not yet in school, I've had absolutely zero time to myself. I don't even go to the bathroom by myself. I adore my daughter and how close we are, but I'm exhausted and a little more easily frustrated by things that don't really matter. 

So I must work on being able to identify when I'm that tired, and seek help and support, so as not to slip further into dangerous self-harm-worthy territory.

I have identified over the past six months that when a relationship makes me feel insecure, unwanted and not good enough, I self-harm through stress eating sugar and junk food, and numb with the internet and social networking to escape my racing mind and aching heart.

I was able to see clearly this morning that the past week has sent me into that space. Even if I was unable to escape it in situ, the ability to acknowledge when it's happening is a step toward curbing the unhealthy behaviors. After all, I first turned to a walk outside yesterday, even if I eventually ended up in the frosting.

So I must find someone who can help me sort through my deep, dark, haunted place and put it to rest, assassinating its ability to affect my present or my future. Finding the right therapist is on my immediate to-do list here in my new home, and some of my new friends have already made wonderful local recommendations. I'm absolutely unashamed to need that help, and excited for the relief it will bring.

So, that's where I'm at, and I'm proud to be here. Life is not all rainbows and roses, ever, but it is during times like this — the most challenging, soul-searching, brutal moments of our lives — that we have a choice. We can choose to plant seeds that will grow into roses, and look for rainbows in the sky after our storms, or not.

I choose now to plant seeds and see rainbows, and that's progress. It may be one step forward, two steps back, or maybe two steps forward and one step back. But it's progress, and I'll take it.