My co-parent walks through the door at dinner time, ready to take over on Daddy-duty.
“Uh can you listen to me for 5? I can’t get through to any of my Listening Partners.”
The kids are occupied so he takes me to the back garden and before I can get any words out, I just sob and sob about not keeping it together and not being good enough. “I’m not good, I’m not good” I wail over and over again.
It had been one of those days… where your kid wakes you multiple times in the night because he’s freaking out with anxiety and can’t sleep. You forget to wee your little one and she wets the bed. She spends the morning shrieking about getting dressed and throwing cereal at you because she knows you are not right there with her. Somehow you feed them, clothe them, drive them, offload one at nursery, bring the other home, do just enough Special Time that he feels adequately connected to abstain from trashing the house, then you pass out for half an hour (guiltily abandoning him in Lego isolation). You scrape yourself outta bed in time to feed the big one and fetch the little one, but the nap hasn’t touched the sides. You know those days?
In the midst of separating with the kids’ father, I’ve been in shock and hit by grief, so this additional blow of interrupted sleep tips me over the edge. After nursery pick up, I stagger disheveled into the park, letting the kids loose and (knowing how off track they are), pray they won’t get into scraps.
I see a woman approaching who looks as though she recognises me. I’m thinking uh-oh, how do I know her? And being in a skewy state I opt for a weak “Hey where do I know you from?”
The truth is I don’t recognise her. I never recognise anyone until I know them really well. And I SO don’t want folks to think I’m being aloof or uncaring that I get myself into these ridiculous scrapes where I pretend I know them. Unfortunately people often know who I am. This mama enlightens me that we haven’t met but she is looking for a Doula and had found my site. She introduces me to her sweet boy and husband. I love them. But then my daughter slices open her toe so I run off to find first aid supplies and deal with that.
They keep finding us around the park and each time I try to talk to them I’m thwarted by my highly dysregulated kids who need to wrestle me to the ground and throw themselves at me. And I’m self conscious, knowing what an utter state I’m in when meeting folks that may have some kind of expectation that I should have it together. I’m fielding urgent emails and calls to prepare for my daughter’s birthday and the workshops I’m running the next day. Suddenly I’m totally overwhelmed and feel like I can’t possibly deliver all these things.
And so in the lush, peaceful garden, my ex hubby sits patiently while I howl and shake hysterically about not keeping it together and not being good enough. Being ‘not good’ still feels scary from a time when it equated loss of love. He reminds me that no one expects me to be perfect except myself. And I lose it over how much pressure I put on myself… and how I’m failing my children… how I can’t keep up with my emails… and that although I can just about hold space for others, I’m not accessing the level of insight I’m usually in touch with. I know this perfectionism is an old strategy that once kept me safe and after releasing some emotion, I can let myself off the hook a little and plough on in imperfect perfection. It’s important to me to be authentic when working with clients and feedback has been that when I say stuff like “I’m in a lot of pain, haven’t slept and not feeling grounded” it actually helps folks feel safer with me.
This opportunity to go deep into emotion that gets triggered on a weekly basis, (which we call Listening Partnerships) has held me together throughout this massively disorienting period. Those close to me have been blown away by how emotionally stable I have generally been. I am so grateful to have built this level of support into my life. And you can too. More about this in my next blog…