It was a heavy parenting week.
Two phone calls with two different school psychologists, an email and a phone call with two separate teachers, then countless texts with a few moms over two separate incidents involving two of my kids with some really hard situations. And to top it off on Friday afternoon, a text from a teacher that there may be a sighting of nits on my youngest after two weeks of us diligently cleaning and combing. The accumulation of dealing with many different people about many different subjects and advocating for my kids took a wear on me.
I am a firm believer in posting real life, not just the best of my life on social media. So I listed off my week on Facebook and Instagram, showing a mug of tea that I was using to sit with my feelings, contemplate, and maybe shed a tear or two before dusting myself off to greet my kids as they came home from school that afternoon.
I received a few texts and phone calls, along with encouraging messages on my page soon after. With every comment came the reinforcement that I am not alone in this life and I am SO grateful for my village. But intermingled with words of solidarity and encouragement came another thread that I found most interesting. Quite a few people encouraged me to drink something stronger than the tea at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
Now, there is no judgement from me as I make this observation. It is socially expected, accepted, and encouraged to have a drink when you’ve had a hard day (or in my case, week). And, I have been known to do just that on more than one occasion because I’ve certainly had my share of hard days.
Then there have been the really brutal days.
The day my friend was diagnosed with Stage 4 Glioblastoma, a group of us went to visit her in the hospital and then went to the nearest bar and drowned our sorrows in a few stiff drinks. We had brandy old fashioneds after my father-in-law’s funeral and my husband and I had a drink the day he lost his job for the second time. After spending weeks in the hospital with my youngest, a friend snuck a few beers into the room to help me deal. Sometimes when the pain is too great, alcohol numbs it just enough to get by.
Even in less dramatic moments, reaching for a drink is the easiest solution.
There are times and places for alcohol. And here in Wisconsin, we find plenty of reasons to have some. And while I’m not saying that I have a problem (nor am I passing judgement on those who go this route), I want to stop and re-evaluate what it means that if I’ve had a bad week the first response is to have a drink.
But this isn’t necessarily a post about alcohol, because it isn’t the only way we deal with being uncomfortable. We look at our phones every 3.5 seconds when we are bored, listen to music in our cars and keep the TV on when the house is too quiet. We thrive on distraction. In my observation as a yoga teacher, people are uncomfortable anytime we hold a pose for too long or sit and breathe for a few extra breaths. Because sitting with whatever may bubble up when you stop for a moment and actually feel what you are feeling can be really hard. Especially if you don’t do it very often.
It is hard to sit with our feelings that show up on any given moment.
That day, I knew what I needed: a hot cup of tea and a few deep breaths with a few tears. I knew I would be okay if I acknowledged that it had been a hard week and I could move on. Doing this is painful, but, those painful feelings don’t last forever. And, when you can name and recognize those feelings, you can move on from a situation and open yourself up to what else may be there. The next morning I woke up ready to start my weekend. I was free from the lingering feelings from that week because I addressed them head-on as they happened.
Acknowledging our own feelings can be hard. But maybe if more of us slowed down and got comfortable with being uncomfortable there would be less need for the alcohol, electronics and other forms of distraction and more need for human connection. Maybe if we are more present with ourselves we can notice those around us who are struggling and see them where they are at rather than get nervous about how to fix the situation.
I’m not swearing off alcohol anytime soon because I enjoy the occasional glass. But I also want to be mindful of when and how often that happens. Because if I’m numbing and stuffing, it takes me longer to get to where I need to be: working through the tough feelings and coming out the other side stronger and more present.
Things that help me:
- texting/calling a good friend
- taking the dog for a walk
- making a hot cup of tea or coffee and sitting quietly
- going for a run
- asking myself, “Why am I so angry/sad/antsy/etc?”