About this time of year, people get into a cleaning frenzy in the spaces that they occupy. Whether it’s a 3000 sf Victorian with 4 bedrooms, or a 1 bedroom apartment, we throw open the windows, and commence “Spring Cleaning.” Some folks do this twice a year – Spring, and Fall – and, God bless them!
I’m one of those people who will typically overwhelm myself with whatever task I’m facing: taking out the garbage, or dealing with my own emotional healing, I will look at the outrageous pile of whatever it is, determine that it’s too overwhelming, and do nothing.
The emotional work that we choose to do requires only one thing: a commitment to doing it. A lot of us (including me) want to know “why” we have had such a mixed up life, “why” bad people were always so easily able to find us, etc. Well, the unpleasant fact is that it’s not going to matter whether we know “why” in assisting us in our recovery. The search for “why” is the same as looking at the mess within our homes and determining that Spring Cleaning is out of the question, so there’s no point in starting, anywhere. Even if we know “why,” the knowing isn’t the doing, and it’s only a method of avoidance in taking any action, at all.
So, we’ve committed ourselves to our own emotional recovery and healing, and we really intend to become emotionally healthy. Where to start in this mess that took 5 decades to create? It’s just too much to clean away all at one time, and this is where personal anxiety can be easily fueled to spiral us out of control. Where to start? With the simplest of things: self care.
What the heck is “self care?” Self care is, quite simply, caring about ourselves. And, if anyone was raised in a family dysfunction as I was, there was never “Self” anything allowed, with the exception of self-loathing, self-destruction, self-abuse, self-doubt, and self-hatred. I did not learn that I was deserving or worthy of peace, contentment, and inner calm. So, self care was never taught, nor was it allowed – it was “selfish” to care for the self, and my “job” was to care for others and take on the responsibility for everyone else’s happiness, misery, success, or failures upon my own shoulders. Others always came first, and to even entertain that I needed to come first was unthinkable.
One of the most powerful steps into self care is to use strong self talk: “I am okay,” “I am good,” “I am worthy,” and other statements that are facts, not feelings. We – each of us – are okay, good, and very worthy. And, it’s vital that we learn these facts. Meditation using these kinds of affirmative facts can be helpful, but meditation is more important for calming and centering ourselves than sweeping away the cobwebs of negativity and replacing them with clean facts.
Another tool of self care is cleaning behind the proverbial fridge. This is where the evidence lurks that we have an infestation of mice or other vermin, and the same goes with our own emotional health of pulling out the traumas and nurturing ourselves through them, even if those traumas are not deep and big. This means we pull out that emotional fridge from the wall, and see the piles of emotional poo that people have left there to “keep us in our places.” People who intentionally dismiss us, invalidated and/or minimize our feelings, and deliberately instigate shame leave piles of waste in our minds! We are left feeling emotionally and physically drained, we hear their criticisms in the backs of our thoughts, and we experienced the conflict of dreading our interactions with these people while believing that we are required to interact with them, or else we are “bad” people if we don’t.
This aspect of self care is scary because, if we pull out that emotional fridge from the wall, we might find rats, mice, cockroaches, or other vermin that terrify us and cause us to feel utter disgust, fear, and loathing. If we find those things, then we become disgusted with ourselves because it’s our “job” to keep these vermin at bay, and we failed (again) to accomplish this one simple task.
Well…….if we don’t take a look, we’re never going to know what needs to be done, or what we’re even dealing with. Bad people who have intent to harm us are worse than living in a place that is infested with mice or cockroaches. Human beings with intent to harm are predators that are members of our own species, not mindless rodents with the only intent of survival. They are emotional cannibals and consume our strengths and vulnerabilities to feed their envy, hatred, and rage. These “bad people” aren’t in survival mode – they are in the seek-and-destroy mode, and these people need to be swept away with the waste that they created in our emotional spaces.
“But, but, Truthspeak!!! This is my mother that we’re talking about! This is my business partner of 20 years! This is my Pastor! This is my own partner and parent of my children!” And? Is this person telling you that you’re good, but only if you (fill in the blank)? Is this person telling you that you’re unaccomplished? Is this person telling you about your faults, vulnerabilities, or “weaknesses?” Is this person minimizing your traumas and dismissing you, on any level? Is this person abusing you and expecting you to continue taking their abuse for any reason that they can invent?
There is no legitimate writing, philosophy, or religion in the world that suggests or requires that peace, contentment, and Heaven is the reward for being and remaining a victim. There isn’t. There are many, many writings that discuss the importance of suffering and forgiveness, and how these experiences can result in enlightenment, personal dignity, insight, and personal growth. But, it’s important to read the truths in the words, and avoid listening to the interpretations by various groups and/or individuals that twist these very, very simple, hopeful, and beautiful teachings into tools of shame and control.
So, we are not “bad people” if we excise those of evil intent from our personal lives. We don’t do this with rage, anger, hatred, or a sense of punishment or vengeance. The decision to clean house and care for our emotional Selves is made after examining facts and evidence that this person (or, people) are behaving badly, consistently, and with an intent to harm us. And, we need to accept that it’s not only us that these people intend to harm, but everyone that they come into contact with. It’s not only us who experience bad treatment by these individuals – it’s humanity. It doesn’t matter how everyone else might perceive these individuals. “Oh, what are you talking about s/he is always at church and they’re so nice!” Well, educating these fence-sitters about how the bad people actually behave is not going to result in anything positive, so we may have to write these people out of our emotional lives, as well. It’s cleaning house, folks, and that means getting rid of all of the trash.
Self care begins with caring about ourselves. And, I’m not talking about getting to the manicurist, purchasing those Prada shoes that we saw, or anything that tangible (with the exception of nutrition and health care). I’m talking about loving ourselves because we are deserving and worthy of unconditional love. I’m talking about validating our own feelings because those feelings are real. I’m talking about speaking truthfully to ourselves, even if the facts and evidence that supports the truths isn’t pleasant, simple, or agreeable. I’m also talking about taking steps to control and manage our anxiety, and to allow ourselves to grieve over things that we are giving up and letting go of – especially, illusions that people in our lives created that simply are not true.
Self care is the same as Spring Cleaning. It begins with one thing, not getting the whole house done, today. Once that one thing is done (clearing the dishes out of the sink), we can nod our heads and say, “Wow – I never thought I’d get that done. What’s next?” And, we move on to the next task that we have the ability to complete. One thing at a time. For some, Spring Cleaning takes weeks! So, why shouldn’t emotional recovery, healing, and cleansing be allowed time, as well?
Each one of us is worth the time and effort of recovery and healing. And, it’s not always pleasant or comfortable when we pull out some of those really big appliances and find those nasty piles of emotional waste – ew! It’s ugly, but it’s there and it’s not going to disappear by way of wishful thinking! We only get rid of that nasty stuff by getting the broom and dustpan, sweeping it up, and disinfecting the area. Pushing the big appliance back without taking action isn’t going to disappear the fact that our emotional house is infested.
So, happy Springtime, everyone. And, brightest of all blessings as we continue taking back our own lives from those who are dead wrong about whether or not we are worthy of living well.