A rich inner life is a gift, if you're not driving I mean.
It's a good place to spend time alone. It's an even better place to go when you don't have the chance to be alone, but feel overwhelmed and need space. I am trying to teach my children this lately. It seems hypocritical since I'm only learning it in my 40s, but maybe we'll learn together.
Two people in our little family are a handful...of delightfulness, that is.
I won't name which two of us, but let's just say that one child and I have a matching brand of angst and malaise. I call it part of our charm. Chris says, "No comment," and also, "Marijuana should be legalized." I'm not sure how these fit together.
At first, I thought it was an introvert issue for my son. However, I've always thought of myself as an extrovert, so maybe that's not the determining factor. I know we are both people who like to know the plan, Stan. We like to know what the day holds, what's on the schedule. We need to know. We need time to dread it. I'm kidding, sort of. But, we need time to mull and make our peace with what's coming.
Maybe we're just homebodies. I know we need to have plenty of downtime or "time no one is bossing us around." "Bossed around time" can be anything from school and work to fun events and Disney World. Basically, if something is on the calendar, even if it's "fun," we need enough downtime to counter it. Otherwise, even the fun feels like being on one of those medieval torture stretching machines.
For example, if we leave for a trip on Thursday, then all day Thursday, we're thinking about what time we'll get home Sunday. Mind you, there is nothing planned for Sunday, but that's irrelevant. In fact, we're concerned about it Friday and Saturday and Sunday, while we are supposed to be enjoying the trip. I'm slightly better about this now, because of age and medicine I guess, but I still fight a constant mental war to stay in the present.
Because we are alike, I understand my son in my deepest marrow when he mentions every 30 minutes during the three day trip that he "won't have enough weekend before he goes back to school Monday," or that "I just need downtime at some point this weekend," or "THIS IS FREAKING HORRIBLE WHY ARE WE EVEN ON THIS TRIP INSTEAD OF AT HOME? I CARRY THE HEAVY HEAVY BURDEN OF BEING 11 AND NEED TO UNWIND!" Yes, he's dramatic, but I don't think he can help it. I think his insides are in a knot that he cannot unravel. I know this, because I too am knotty.
It's hard to help him relax when I feel like I'm learning myself, but I try to give him some tools in case they help.
First, I try to meet his physical needs, just like we do with babies: food and sleep. But beyond that, sometimes we need space we can't have right that minute. In that case, we need an inner peace to tide us over. In the past, when I've needed those things and couldn't get them, eventually I'd just writhe, wail and wreak havoc for everyone around me -- WAIT, I just realized why Chris needed the marijuana!
Now, I have a few tactics I use for myself...
1) One is my Snitch Book.
Okay, it's just a journal, but when I'm in the car (it's often in the car, because we take lots of "fun adventures"), and I start feeling angsty about not knowing what the day holds, I write and write and write. I call it the Snitch Book, because from Chris' perspective, this is what happens:
He says something seemingly innocuous like, "Hey, maybe on the way home from THIS adventure, we can stop somewhere else for ANOTHER adventure, like a hiking trail or a skate park," and instead of responding, I open that journal and start scribbling. It probably appears I am tattling on him to God. And I am. And although this sounds bad, it's better than what I used to do, which was throw myself back dramatically into the car seat saying, "DEAR GOD HOW MANY ADVENTURES DO YOU NEED MAN? IS NOTHING ENOUGH? WHY WOULD WE ADD MORE ACTIVITIES?! ARE YOU NEVER SATISFIED?!" I know this, because it is exactly what my son yells from the backseat while I scribble.
But the journal works for a couple of reasons. First, if you start writing, you calm down some. You remember that you too are a handful. By the time you speak words out loud, instead of yelling and rending garments, maybe you say something like, "Hmmm. We could. I wonder how long it will take?" And sometimes the Tiered-Adventure Seeker realizes maybe we shouldn't add stops after all. Or maybe he doesn't. Either way, we avoid a huge fight. Maybe.
2) My other tool is the Cozy Nook.
My Cozy Nook is a tiny corner of our home with a tiny desk with only my cute shit around it and no one else's shit. It is where I sit and feel calm. However, as tiny as it is, it can't travel with me. But what if we could have a cozy nook in our minds and hearts?
I know. That was profound.
Even though it sounds mature and monkish, I suspect we did it naturally as babies and young children. We just have to relearn it in a new way.
You know how new babies seem to sleep all the time in public? And people say stupid things like, "She's such a good sleeper. You're so lucky!" But when you read the baby books you discover the sleep is their protective mode when they're over-stimulated. So when everything gets to be too much for them, they just check out (and rest so they can scream all night).
Later when kids are toddlers and preschoolers, if situations get too hectic for them, they might, as Walker used to do, walk away from the playgroup and stand by the door and say, "No more. Other places now."
Or like Courtney once did during her OWN birthday party. She walked me upstairs by the hand to her bedroom, locked the door and said, "Let's just listen to a CD and hang out, okay?" Unfortunately, when you get to a certain age, leaving abruptly is considered impolite. Maybe you can't jump out of the car when your dad wants to hit the rad skate park, yo. But if we can get to the Cozy Nook in our minds for a bit, we might survive it without causing a scene.
Hannah Whitall Smith says, "Must we just plod through it all? If only there were an escape." Psalm 55:6 answers, "Oh that I had wings like a dove - then I would fly away and be at rest!" Amen. Did David write that? My life is like a thousand times harder than David's.
But you can't always fly away. Maybe you need to get somewhere quiet for a bit (maybe a bathroom, or walk to another room where there are strangers that don't know you and don't want to talk to you, or maybe 20 minutes of Minecraft with your face down in a screen). The key is somewhere no one expects much from you. During my wedding reception I hid in the bathroom for awhile. There was only one girl in there. She came as someone's date. I said, "God, I'm glad I don't know you. I just can't be out there anymore for now. Weddings suck, am I right?" I'm paraphrasing. She just sort of scuttled away.
|This is my dad not Chris. |
If this were Chris, we'd probably have hocked that Rolex
to buy more skateboards already.
In college, I was known by my closest friends to be at a party one moment, and then just sneak out without saying goodbye. Some nights, I'd not only leave the party, but leave town and impulsively drive home to Columbia in the middle of the night. Once when all the college "everything" felt too much, I went to a hotel for two days.
(Good lord, I hope my kids don't do this. This is NOT safe. Also it costs money. We need different tools, people).
I try to act better than this now.
If I can't get away at all, I say, "Okay God, I can't get any space, but you know I need it badly. I'm going to trust that you will give me what I need before I crack." Sometimes digging deep within yourself isn't enough, and you need another source.
Okay, so in summary, some tools are:
1) Remembering that some of it is just how you were born, and that's OKAY.
2) Your Snitch Book
3) Your Cozy Nook (literally and figuratively)
4) Teaching your spouse/parent/sibling it does NOT help when they say things like, "C'mon, it'll be fun! Roll with it! Get over it already! (Yes, they are right, but it just does not help).
Again, it does not help.