Reading this is going to require some metaphysical hopscotch. You know me, and if you don’t, well, you’ve been warned.
When things get weird and stay weird, it can be very difficult to discern any additional weirdness. That’s not what I mean by the Uneasy Normal, but it’s definitely a state that a lot of people are living in right now.
I think most of us have had that sensation of dread whiplash. You know, when everything is going remarkably well and you feel satisfaction welling up, and just as you crest into thinking how lucky you are to not only have these circumstances, but you’re also lucky to have the presence of mind to recognize how wonderful it is–the dread whiplash hits and you think, “Sure, for now.” You’re already slipping down the downside of anticipating the next disappointment.
Don’t you hate it?
It’s possible that the Dread Whiplash is someone’s version of the Uneasy Normal. What a bummer.
Somehow, I don’t hate it as much as I did mere weeks ago and now I understand a bit better why that is.
Let me tell you about my childhood.
I will tell you that I have been doing a bit, just a dabbling, in some trauma therapy. It’s the DIY kind, which is a terrible idea, but I can’t afford real therapy right now–only one person in college at a time around here! Eventually, I will go to Emotional College: I can feel it.
In the process of processing my trauma, I get books on the subject and refuse to read them for at least a month before I dip in. I can’t fully endorse the one I’m reading now–the author cuddles up to some daffy stuff that deserves a lot more skepticism. Even though I can’t fully endorse it, she evokes some excellent participation, so maybe it’s just a good book for the jaded.
One exercise, the last one I did in fact, required the reader to sit quietly and meditate on the sensations of their early life. She insists we should really be there without judging any of it, just inhabit our early life for awhile and see what the main emotions were. Did we feel afraid most of the time? Were we groovy with a side of impatience? Was there a dash of panic on top or was it held to the side in a tiny bowl?
I’m wrong to think of it as a plate of food, but there’s no judgement so I can do that if I want with my Emotional Menu.
The kicker is this: it’s presented with the notion that we seek the familiar as we weave together our adult lives. If we’re always on a teeter-totter as children, we seek a life of various balance, an existence of swing, perhaps a preponderance of surprises.
This checks out for me. I’ve certainly seen it with many others over my time on Earth. It’s like being a fish in water. If a baby fish grows up in cloudy water, that fish is going to feel most at home when the water is cloudy. In clear water, that fish might seek out the troublesome fish that kick up a lot of sediment. Even if they are some mean and trashy fish, they are doing the one thing that makes little fish feel at home.
Don’t judge the fish. It’s not that kind of story.
The important thing is seeing. Once we see how we have adapted early on, we can see how it bends our relationship to the world. Like gravity, there’s no need to call it good or evil, it just is, like our fish.
So, for me, the main sensation of my childhood was overwhelm. I was known as a quiet kid, but there was a storm in my brains. I was worried about death before I even knew what it was. When it was explained to me, I am sure I said, “I knew it!” I was perpetually on edge, watchful, and apparently suffering from an undiagnosed thyroid disorder. Everything was too loud, too fast. I hid in bathrooms. I attempted to solve cats. I loved people with an alarming focus. If my parents had been funny looking, I’m pretty sure I would not have made it to adulthood.
This overwhelmed sensation was the water in which I swam, and as my habitat, my comfort, it makes perfect sense that I had too many kids and entangled my life with difficult men who needed one more damned thing all the time.
I am incredibly relieved to have this knowledge. Of course, it would have been nice to have had it a little sooner.
That may sound like a joke, but I am entirely earnest – this is great information! Now, whenever I recognize that I am piling one more thing on the camel, I can pause and say, “I see you there, budding overwhelm.” I might be exaggerating to say this happens on a daily basis, but you know, exaggerating is a thing you can do to death.
Overloading your schedule with bullshirt tasks? Yep!
Overdosing on informative podcasts during your scant quiet time? Yep!
Winning imaginary arguments with people you may never see again? Why not!
Instead of feeling annoyed with myself when I see it, I know what it is: homesickness. In some way, I want to be on the verge of a freak-out. The cusp of calamity is my jamity and now I know it. Sure, I have suspected it from time to time, but now I really know it.
I’m sure there are ever more constructive ways to deconstruct this, but I’m going to try not barreling toward a solution for awhile.
I won’t say “Stay Tuned,” because nobody wants to hear that.
These costumes don’t pay for themselves!!
You know that feeling when you say, “You could give me $99,” and your phone goes DING and there’s a $100 deposit notification? That’s so nice!! You could give me a couple of bucks. It’s just a thing you could do.