Monday, September 29, 2014

More than the Mondays

As I poured my coffee in my tumbler this morning and prepared to head out to work, I felt an all too familiar feeling of dread. It was Monday again and I was not ready. I immediately felt guilty. Was I just a discontent person who can’t be happy at any job? Was I an ungrateful person? Then I remembered my weekend and neither of those questions were true at all. I am just tired and didn't have any recovery time. I am simply an introverted soul forced into extroversion for the last seven days. Let me explain.

My weekend started by teaching a Saturday morning Zumba class, something I do on a rotating, semi-regular basis. That’s not the sort of thing you just show up and do. It takes energy and intensity to get people excited about moving. After class, I went to the new Apple store in the mall to get my phone fixed. If you’ve never been to an Apple store, it’s packed. Techies and their children are all packed in there waiting for assistance with their various gadgets. While I do commend the workers for their efficiency, it’s still a long wait at times. So, I had to kill time walking around a crowded mall on a Saturday, something I don’t think I’ve done since I was sixteen. After the Apple store, I went to visit with friends. That was a nice recharge. But after a couple of hours, I was feeling the itch to pull away and get some alone time. I did get the rest of the evening to myself, but only to be followed by a full Sunday. I’m on the worship team at church, which means singing on stage for three services, under lights, for a 1,000 some odd member church. I did get to nap when it was all said and done, but I needed more than that to recover from a busy weekend.

Enter in this morning’s sentinment of dread. If my weekend sounded full, you should hear about my weeks. My weeks are filled with counseling people. That’s not as easy as you might think. It isn’t passive listening. I have to listen to a person’s story actively enough to accurately reflect back what I hear, draw out themes and help them make connections, pick up on what they’re not saying, and ask questions that probe them deeper. After doing that about five or six times a day, I then go and I teach fitness, lead workshops, teach online…I think you’re starting to get the picture.

For some people, they have this and even more on their schedule. This post isn’t about getting sympathy for how busy I am. Everyone is busy in their own way. It’s not about complaining about my work either. I really do enjoy most of what I do. It just requires me to pour out. Every single role in my life right now requires all of me. I am never able to go to work or even church and be on autopilot. I am a leader. I am an example. I am the “expert,” despite how much I run from that label. I am truly honored to do everything I do and I genuinely have a heart for people. It can just be exhausting, especially as an introvert.

What’s a girl to do? What does an introvert by nature do when each and every life role requires her to be extroverted? I say run away. Not really. I’m kidding (kind of). I think there does need to be a continual evaluation of personal needs though. There should be the ongoing assessment of what matters most, what can be let go, and how can I recharge myself on a daily basis. Time alone is important for all of us, but especially important for introverts. It’s not about indulging in oneself and being selfish. It’s quite literally about survival. Without that time away to recharge, we burnout and have nothing to give. Next time you’re inclined to judge yourself for having “A Case of the Mondays,” ask yourself what you need the most. Maybe it’s just another day to yourself to regain strength for what’s required next.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Soul mates

Soul mate is an emotionally provocative term. It's a term that most of us, regardless of relationship status or desire, have wrestled to define. When we hear it most of us immediately conjure images of love’s ideal. A soul mate is a person who knows you completely, accepts your flaws and shortcomings, loves you unconditionally, and is committed to you 100%. Your soul mate completes you. Sure. I suppose there’s that. I used to hold the same idealized views and part of me still does. I just wonder if a soul mate is  that and more. What if a soul mate is a person who serves to help you grow and become who you’re supposed to be? Perhaps that sounds like it goes under the same lovey-dovey umbrella, but I’m not so sure it does. Let me explain.

My philosophy of love is informed by lots of different theories about relationships and attachment. The basic idea I subscribe to is that we subconsciously choose our mates because we believe they can heal and emotionally correct our childhood wounds. I can personally attest to this fact. In the early stages of love, we’re euphoric. We’ve finally found someone who will love us the way we always wanted and needed to be loved. He or she is perfect (although our rational selves would never admit this belief, because ‘no one is perfect’) and life will finally be okay because we’ve found him/her. Here’s the thing though. Along with the subconscious selection of the “perfect” partner to heal us, we also have a subconscious mechanism at work that recreates our original family dynamic. That’s right- the very one that wounded us in the first place.

What does this mean exactly and how does it play out? It might look something like the woman with an absent father choosing an active duty military spouse. While her mate initially serves as the hero and protector she never had, he also triggers her abandonment issues when the call of duty requires him to travel on tours. Maybe for him, he picks a mate with traditional values who enjoys cooking, cleaning and keeping up the house. He feels nurtured and cared for, until her tendency to nag and berate him makes him feel inadequate and not good enough, just like he felt growing up. Now, if you toss in childhood maladaptive ways of coping into the mix (shutting down, getting defensive, stonewalling, lashing out, etc.), then you have a recipe for disaster. Are you starting to get the picture? It doesn’t seem so warm and fuzzy anymore, does it?
This is what I believe to be true of any relationship but especially intimate ones. We all have a dark side and our soul mate serves to illuminate it. To use another analogy, we’re emotional minefields and our soul mates are sent to trigger us in exactly the right way, dare I say perfect way, to bring all our unfinished business to the surface. We are never more naked and vulnerable in life as we are in intimate relationship to someone else. Our natural inclination to exposure, as seen in the Garden of Eden, is to run, hide, and cover up. But what if we didn’t? What if we moved toward the pain so it could be healed once and for all, rather than retreat further into it?
I don’t mean to make relationships sound torturous. They certainly don’t have to be brutal daily battles. But I think that’s the “work” that long term couples speak about. You not only need a mutual commitment to making the relationship last, but also an individual commitment to being whole. What if a soul mate is the person who helps you get there by any means necessary? Kinda changes your view on what soul mates are all about, huh?