Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mowing Through The Anger Stage

I volunteered to mow the lawn this morning for several reasons, one: because my therapist had given me an new assignment I wanted to think about, and I do my best thinking while mowing, and two: because my dad was stalking around behind the push mower looking vaguely irritated. Also, because it's a chore I don't mind in the least, in fact, I love mowing, always have...and mowing my parent's lawn is no big deal, the grass can hardly be called grass, it's just sparse blades that poke up through the dusty, gravely, wicked flat lawn. Of course the lawn has some areas that are more lush than others, but for the most part, the mower is probably bored silly. State soil my ass. (Bet you didn't know, along with a State Bird and State Flower and all the jazz, Vermont has a "State Soil". And it's TUNBRIDGE soil. Actually, I wouldn't know it either if my Grampa Sheehan wasn't a soil scientist. Our town's soil is supposed to be the richest, loamiest soil around. But, our yard must not have gotten this particular memo.) OK, point is: I was mowing, or really, simply pushing a bored mower around, skirting a dismantled bulldozer and it's rusting tracks a few feet away, just thinking. Dad had stuck some of those earmuff things on me saying: "Let's save whatever hearing you have left". (I, of course yelled the predictable "What?" and laughed like a dope. I tend to use a lot of second grade humor. It's a gift I have.) I'm glad he did, it's easier to think when you can't hear anything but your own heartbeat, and only the distant hum of the motor. It's interesting, how your brain starts to search itself when you have nothing else to distract you. When I mow, I zone out. Which I need to do sometimes. That's when my true thinking happens - when I get in a safe, monotonous groove. My mind is usually racing every second I'm awake, which is not the same as true thinking. During true, calm, thinking-times, I have ideas and breakthroughs and epiphanies. When RACING, it simply means my brain is on autopilot. Survival mode. Unfortunately, when I zone out, relax, and find my groove, I lose touch with reality ALONG with gaining some profound thoughts...so I'm like Einstein...on crack. For instance, I saw a big, grey toad head for cover under a dead snow-mobile...the toad was WALKING, not hopping, it was raised up high on all it's legs, with it's front toad hands sort of fist-punching the ground as it moved along. (I've never seen a toad do that, maybe it had rabies, I don't know.) Anyhow, something about the way looked while it was doing this, made me recognize it NOT as a toad, but as a very tiny monkey, muscling it's way through a miniature jungle. And I was momentarily thrilled to discover such a small monkey. Like super excited. In the three seconds that this trick-of-the mind lasted, I frantically shouted to the kids, and then had to say "Oh, come see this...ummm...really neat, big toad" as my brain returned to the real world, a world in which I was mowing a boney, scrabbly lawn inhabited by ordinary toads. The therapist has asked me to write down every time I think something bad about myself. And to examine WHY I think it about myself. Following this experience, I immediately called myself an idiot for supposing a toad could possibly be a monkey, even for a moment. I didn't just laugh and say "Wow, creepy...that toad really looked like a little monkey." (Because IT DID, People.) Or I could say "Since Eli's a monkey in the school play, I must have monkeys on the brain!" But no, my thought process told me that I was the stupidest person alive for being fooled, and that's weird, isn't it? You know what? Initially I thought this little therapy task would be a piece of cake..."Hey great, a writing assignment! Easy peasy!" But it's not. I gathered I would just jot down a few things that make me unhappy about myself, like my nose, and the fact that I'm always interrupting people, and I'm lazy about doing dishes, add a humorous twist just for fun, and hand it in next Friday while my therapist chuckled and said "There's nothing wrong with YOU, nothing at all." But now, imagining writing down every time I think I'm at fault, or stupid, or ugly, or worthless, I would have to have a notebook tied around my neck all day long, and I guess I never noticed that everything I do is punctuated with negativity towards myself. Everything. It's for real, it's hard to write down. And it's not funny. I'm afraid to even start, because it would be too much. Why do therapists have to be so damn smart? In the grieving process, you go through an Anger Stage. Divorce combines grieving with EXTRA anger. Like grief with a poison cherry on top, basically. With my issues, the anger tends to be towards myself, because somehow, somewhere along the line, I was taught that it's all my fault. The refrain that I hear inside, no matter what situation I'm in, hissing over and over, is: "It's all your fault, Emily. Your fault. Your fault." It occasionally blows up in fury that I'm NOT GOOD ENOUGH. I just spent the last sixteen years having that drilled into my head, it's time to release the blame and learn to love myself. Lately, I'm constantly needing affirmation that it's NOT my fault, that I AM a good person, that I'm pretty, hardworking, smart, talented, loved, special, worth it, and why? Because I don't think so, that's why. My job now is to embrace my inner monkey. Or...you know what I mean...love myself. Even if I HATE writing that. It feels embarrassing since I always thought loving myself was selfish...vain...that's why you need others to do it for you, right? Wrong. No one can like you, until YOU do. So, here I go, starting over. Again, and again, and again, as many times as I need, until I rise like the cliche'd Phoenix from the ashes and declare victory. And the victory will be an enormous, obnoxious, invisible banner, flying high, saying: "I 'heart' myself!" (Or at least an ultra tacky, invisible, bumper sticker if I can't quite pull off a full scale banner.) I know I'm going to get better. Of course I am, I was not meant for this. But I do have these days... If I was going to take out a personal add right now, it would read something like this: Single mother of two, struggling and desperately needing help. Nothing to offer. Does, in fact, like long walks on the beach and yadda, yadda, yadda, but has no time for such foolishness. Candidate must be willing to take on half the responsibilities of a family he didn't make, and put up with a cranky woman who dislikes herself, but was once, and will perhaps be again, somewhat cool and fun. One plus: she will happily mow your lawn.

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