Recently, I taught a class with peaceful eating coach Christie Inge about how to not lose your mind during the holidays. During an interview before the class, we were asked to illustrate what losing it really looked like for us and our relationship with food.
As I started answering, I realized, my tendency is not to lose it with food.
My tendency, when things get really ramped up energetically and there are a lot of heightened expectations, is to lose it with everyone within direct proximity.
Here’s the process: Heightened expectations. Perfection. Fun. Beauty. Working working working to make all of that perfectly fun beauty. Feeling my internal stress barometer rise to the point of bursting through the top of my head. Maniacal laughter I surrender to overwhelm and suddenly my only coping mechanism is projecting all of that stress outward onto anyone within a five mile radius in the the form of crippling micromanaging.
Now this is a bit of an exaggeration. My reach likely only extends several feet from my body, but it is powerful and it is indiscriminate.
Suddenly, my sweetheart doesn’t know how to drive and must be directed.
My sisters are cutting the onions TOO BIG FOR SOUP and doesn’t everyone KNOW how to cut onions?!
My father is washing the dishes and putting the clean ones on a rag, but I am certain he should be using a towel instead. Extra absorbency.
My mother is looking at me, and I am certain that she is thinking mean thoughts about how I’m dressed/what my body looks like/what I do for a living.
Someone needs a couple of dollars to do something, and even though I don’t have the money to loan, I begin the frenzy of moving money around from bank account to bank account trying to fix a problem that isn’t mine to fix.
And, on top of all of that, I am now absolutely convinced that I am horrible, that I am broken, that I don’t know how to have relationships, that I ruin everything, and I see evidence for those thoughts everywhere I look.
For the majority of my life, I took all of that evidence and I tucked it directly in the file cabinet under “you are too much” and “you are not enough.”
I thought to myself, there is really something wrong with me. What kind of person can’t just pull herself together and participate nicely with others? No one will ever love me. No one can stand to be around a person like me for too long, it will never work.
I thought: I am a monster.
I never stopped to think about the multitude of ways that I could begin to understand myself or set the stage in such a way that I didn’t need to lose it in order to protect myself.
I never wondered what my drive to control, micromanage, and protect could teach me about my needs or about how I was overstepping my delicate boundaries.
Part of my work over the last couple of years, in developing my self-love practice, has been in looking at this process under a new, and much kinder lens. Why did I feel like this was my only option? What had I made my tendency to react this way mean about the person that I am?
I wanted to share this with you just in case you might be the kind of person who loses it by grabbing up control of every situation and refusing to let go.
This time of year especially, my needs are:
I need to protect myself energetically, during bright, shiny events that have a tendency to overwhelm me – even when I’m excited about them.
I need to feed myself food that works with my body, and not against my body. This is not deprivation. This is a choice steeped in the utmost love and respect for my body.
I need to make sleep a priority, even if that means I have to say no or I’ll meet you after or I’m too busy to take that on right now.
I need to own what is mine to own, but surrender responsibility for everyone else. It is not my responsibility to take care of tending to everyone else’s feelings, it is my responsibility to care for my own.
I need to create the security that I crave, by doing things the way that they work best for me – planned for, penciled in, and purchased ahead of time – so that there can be ample space for exciting surprises.
I need to stop judging myself for my process, and spend my energy instead on taking care of the person that I am.
I illustrate this process here, not to celebrate my success in lovingly grappling with my overwhelm – though has had a phenomenal impact on my life – but instead to grant you an insider view to the difference between allowing your unacceptable tendencies to define you and to kindly incorporate them into your life.
You deserve to work with yourself, tenderly caring for all aspects of your mind, body, and spirit.
You deserve a relationship with yourself that is steeped deeply in love – including love for your less than favorite parts.
You deserve to stop wishing parts of your being away, and welcome them in instead.
You deserve to unfold where you have been folded, to expand and encompass all that you are.