Chaos and Freedom

Photo Credit: Brett Jordan, Unsplash
Outer Chaos
My house needs to be cleaned, laundry needs to be done (sheets, towels, and clothes), bills need to be paid, checkbook needs to be balanced, the menu needs to be made, a grocery store run needs to be done, and animals need to be taken care of. I have three books lying around the house that I desperately want to read. One of those books had two starts, and in three weeks time has only progressed to page 136. The others haven’t been opened for two weeks, at least. There are three incomplete blog posts sitting in my draft box, not including this one.
My Mom fell two weeks ago. It was hard to see her so vulnerable and laying on the floor. It was hard to see how much my Dad does for her. He’s not just cooking, cleaning, mowing the lawn, maintaining the pool, fixing things around the house, preparing for my family to come to visit (making beds, getting extra groceries to make sure we had things that we needed, making brownies that Ian likes, stocking the refrigerator with drinks for card nights; he is finding ways to care for my Mom. I considered staying in Michigan to help my Dad with some changes that needed to be made to the house. I am still considering going back to help with Mom if my Dad needs it. Things are up in the air.
Ian will be starting 4th grade in a couple of weeks, and I need to have him try on clothes so I can get whatever he needs. I am sure I will be going to the store for the list of things his teacher sends as well. His best friend is coming to visit from Washington, and I want to make sure they get as much time as they can to spend together. The Hartford Fair is coming up this week. It is a family favorite and a cap to Ian’s summer vacation. We want to be able to go to Knoebel’s (another summer family tradition) next weekend. I have 12 places to be this week not including work or the fair.
I put all of that aside to do two things:
1. Practice mindfulness meditation with a group of people that I value.
2. Sit down to share some thoughts about that meditation.
Inner Chaos
I’ve been wrestling with the idea of failure again. It started when I had to take a break from EMDR, and I had to because it wasn’t going well, just like CPT didn’t go well. I’ve considered quitting therapy altogether because maybe this is as far as I go. I want to accept defeat so I don’t have to keep fighting so hard.
When EMDR stopped, I tried writing a narrative of what I couldn’t say out loud. I didn’t make it very far, and the reasons why I communicated what I did probably made little sense. It was going to be my way of saying what happened, how I felt, and what I thought. I was and am letting the rest swirl around, unspoken but painfully present.
There has been this dull ache of mourning that I have noticed but not necessarily acknowledged. I don’t know if it is the life I have lived, the life I wanted to live, or the life I am currently living. I have so much more fear, fewer dreams, a master’s degree I can no longer do much with (a fair amount of debt from it too), and a sense that what I do doesn’t matter.
Not that long ago, in one of my therapy sessions, I said, “better is different.” I am figuring out what that means, and while I figure it out, I am experiencing and will continue to experience growing pains. It sucks, and it feels kind of lonely.
A couple of weeks ago, in the middle of a sleepless night, I asked myself a question. It was simple. “What do you need right now?” I didn’t have to think about the answer. I was instantly experiencing what I needed, and I felt comforted by it. Tears streamed down my face, and then I fell asleep for an uninterrupted two hours. When I woke up, I realized I was living in inner and outer chaos.
It is one thing to be oblivious to the chaos I am living in, but it is a completely different thing to be aware of it and resist the pain of experiencing it fully. I know how to do that well, and it never turns out the way I wish it would. That is where the decision to put everything aside that needs to be done to “practice mindfulness meditation with a group of people that I value” came from. Mindfulness meditation creates space, slows things down, and keeps me in the present moment, and I needed that.
I greeted everyone. It had been too long since I had seen some of the faces in that small community. Not that I had specific expectations, but I had a different experience than I would have anticipated (or have ever experienced before). I closed my eyes, focused on my breath, and listened as my friend guided everyone to focus on any tension in the body. My eyes softened, shoulders dropped, breathing slowed, leg muscles relaxed, and I was suddenly aware of a release. There was no longer a physical resistance in my body, and when that happened, the rest of the walls crumbled. Tears were streaming down my face. At first, I tensed and tried to make it stop, but then I let go of the judgment. There had been nothing specific on my mind, nor was there a need for me to figure out why it was happening. I was no longer a human doing but a human being.
A while later, the air conditioner started blowing loudly, and I welcomed it as though it was a log to hang on to in turbulent water. When the sound of the air blowing through the vents subsided, I was aware of my breath and body again; the calm I hadn’t been experiencing or had been avoiding. The bookend to the practice was the reading of a poem. It was a simple yet complex poem, and I heard a message I was in need of hearing at that moment. It was a message I rarely believe, but for some reason, it wrapped its arms around me in a warm embrace and tears spilled out of my closed eyes. It was freedom in the midst of chaos.

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