Labor Day went something like this: I slept in, let out the neighbor’s dogs out, ate breakfast, wrote 1500 words and hiked part way up Mt. Cardigan. On the surface it looks like a pretty good day, don’t you think?
The trouble with an accounting of events like this is that it doesn’t convey very much. How did I feel about these events? What was the environment like? Was it quiet and happy while I was writing, or was the stereo blasting full volume in the next room?
I was going to post a picture from the top of Mt. Cardigan, but I didn’t make it to the top, and my camera, which did make it, had a dead battery, so here’s a link. I didn’t walk all the way up. The truth is I got part way and quit. I encouraged my family to finish the hike and crept back down the hill, doing my best not to sprain my ankle on a root or rock.
I was feeling pretty bad about myself for not going to the top. Walking down the mountain, I felt like crud while trying not to break my leg because my feet were the size of a clowns. Then a thought crossed my mind. I belong to a group of wonderful-fabulous women (and several men) called the Betties. If I was walking down the mountain with a Betty would I talk to that person the way I was talking to myself? No. Would it even occur to me to be disappointed in another Betty? No.
One of the rules of being a Betty is that you treat yourself as kindly as any other Betty. If you wouldn’t say it to any of the Betties then you don’t say it to yourself. So I had to re-frame my conversation with myself. Because what I would have said to any other Betty was this:
Your feet are not huge or clumsy, you have good strong feet that are in proportion to your body. You do have trouble with depth perception which makes it difficult for you to know where to put your feet down – so rocky, root strewn paths are hard for you to navigate. You were brave to even walk part way up the trail considering the conditions, and you were smart to come down early and not to wait until you were exhausted. Then I’d say I’m sorry you are sad, it there anything I can do to help?
That last sentence startled me. I didn’t even realize I was sad until it popped into my head. And I was so clearly sad how could I not know it?
And that’s the thing – it’s not the difficult path up the mountain but the difficult path through life. I had to put myself in the place of another Betty to realize I wasn’t soldiering through. That underneath the ‘I’ll be fine’ (and I WILL be fine), but underneath that I am affected by the choices I’ve made. And while most of the sacrifice is worth it, there is still loss and sadness and anger. If I don’t let myself feel those emotions I am going to be in a world of hurt. I can’t feel them if I don’t acknowledge I have them.
It’s startling to me, after a lifetime of self-help and therapy that I still fall into this trap. It’s easier to shut down and move through life without feeling than it is to acknowledge when it’s just too much. And sometimes the guilt, responsibility and sacrifice is too much. It just is.