Friday, January 20, 2012

balance, schmalance and sheet therapy

I’ve read somewhere that depression is worrying about the past, and anxiety is worrying about the future. I've been doing a lot of both lately. And aside from writing about it here now and then, I haven't done that necessary murking around, as my therapist calls it, not to feel like there's this huge tsunami brewing that will wash over and drown me.

So I went back to therapy this week for a third round of serious murking around. I realized when talking with my therapist that I had somehow fooled myself into thinking that my previous rounds of therapy had, if not fixed me, at least sort of allowed me to take care of business and put it behind me. Not true. The wound inside will always be there. I can distract myself as best as I can, but it won't make it go away. And the more I avoid going there, the more I refuse to let it be part of me, the uglier and more ashamed I feel.

I wish I could be all big about it and say that that's not what I want for me, and it's not. But I know I wouldn't feel the responsibility to take care of myself so pressing if it weren't for Lilly. I have a responsibility to her not to be the basket case my mom was to me.

The nice thing about surrendering to the murkiness is the instant evaporation of the tsunami fear. When you go into it, it can't go after you.

The uncomfortable aspect is feeling the pain and sadness, anger and humiliation.

The thing is, I don't like it when my therapist says that I need to hold the hand of that wounded child inside and help her go through it. I'm angry that that little child has to go through it. That she can never rid herself of all that was done to her. That she's somehow soiled, stained, shamed.

But my therapist encourages me to not only accept but embrace how it defines me. That because of it, I have done all the healing work I have done up until now, and will continue to do more. The lessons I have drawn from it because of it, and those that I will continue to draw. And the many lessons I'm constantly needing to re-learn, over and over again.

Like that balancing act. I left a tenured position as a college professor for many good reasons, one of them being that I no longer wanted to work 70 hours a week and still not be done. Counting child care for the real work that it is, and with never enough time to do all the other work and writing I want to do, I've certainly worked those weekly hours and probably more since leaving academia.

There's never enough time. The stack of books and films to review keep mounting, my ideas for new articles clouding my brain. Half-written posts and articles littering my desktop, unfinished book proposals and unedited books clogging my hard drive. I want to do it all. As a writer and a mama.

But, says life coach Martha Beck who's spent a decade interviewing women seeking balance between professional achievement and family,
having done all that research, I can tell you with absolute assurance that it is impossible for women to achieve the kind of balance recommended by many well-meaning self-help counselors. I didn’t say such balance is difficult to attain. I didn’t say it’s rare. It’s impossible. Our culture’s definition of what women should be is fundamentally, irreconcilably unbalanced. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the very imbalance of our culture is forcing women to find equilibrium in an entirely new way.
"Women of my generation thought we could have everything; experience taught us we could have everything but sleep," concludes Beck. "Early American feminists fought for the right to participate in the workforce by assuring everyone that it was easy to do women’s work—perhaps with one’s toes, while simultaneously performing jobs traditionally reserved for men. I once believed this, and I have the colorful medical history to prove it."

I wouldn't say that I have that colorful of a medical history, but I've definitely had my share of insomnia and constant bouts of the common cold.

Now, for the first time as an adult, I'm taking regular naps and I'm actually able to sleep. During my first round of therapy, I remember being struck by the idea of "sheet therapy," something I read about in psychotherapist Stephen Cole's book on spiritual practice, Yoga and the Quest for the True Self. Learning to trust the wisdom of the body also means learning to respond when the body says "no," explains Cole.
There are times when it may be abusive to keep practicing postures--times when continued practice may move more energy around the system than we can bear. Over the course of my own long-term practice, I have been through periods when I need to not practice postures. In fact, at one point, I needed to make a regular nap be my practice for an entire year. I called it (quoting a former psychotherapy client) "sheet therapy." The posture my body wanted most every day at about two PM was to get between the sheets and go to sleep. At first I resisted. I thought there must be something wrong with napping at my age. But then I began to listen. I discovered that I was deeply tired. I needed to rest. And I needed to do it until my body said that I'd rested enough. It was only through surrendering to the reality of my exhaustion that I was eventually able to go on to the next stage of my practice. As psychologist and poet Tom Yeomans says, "Sometimes, rest is the highest spiritual practice."
These days, I crave sleep like a starving person craves food. I succumb to sleep and find sanctuary between the sheets. Shielded by the sheets, murking around can be done safely. Which I do like I've done before by reading poetry and seeing myself in the words. Such as those by Marion Woodman in Coming Home to Myself:
We are terrified of trust,
terrified of making ourselves vulnerable.
The leap into forgiveness is immense.
And after the leap, again the waiting.
And again another opening into love,
And again the terror.
It's the body that's terrified.
Do not try to transform yourself.
Move into yourself.
Move into your human unsuccess.
Perfection rapes the soul.
I'm known for my perfection; I've held on to it firmly as a crutch all life. That crutch doesn't know how to walk me through murkiness. The crutch must go. I'll crawl if I must.

Balance, schmalance.


  1. Balance is a tricky one. Literally. Funny, I was working on the same idea this week. Your honesty is gift to your readers.

  2. Thanks, Nancy!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...