This is week three of my "An Invitation To. . ." series and I'll admit going into it that I almost changed the invite to something else.
Feeling the truth isn't as simple as telling the truth or being honest or factual about an event.
There are many aspects of truth-telling/feeling and sometimes the hardest person to admit the truth to is yourself.
I'm going share a recent incident in my marriage which affected me deeply and while it may seem small (or not) it's a significant realization for me and one I suspect will help me in more areas than just my marriage.
Before I share, I'd like to offer a disclaimer.
This isn't about whether or not I have a good or bad husband or if chores and household tasks should be shared or divided up by inside/outside or he/she. I won't share my husband's side of this because it isn't mine to share...this isn't about right or wrong, it is about how I felt. I can't control what you think, but I can hope no one makes any assumptions about the quality of our marriage based on this one story.
I live in the mid-west and we've recently been hit with a lot of snow. The large house we rent sits on a corner and believe me, the walks are long.
When the first snowfall came we realized the snow blower provided by our landlord wasn't working. It was unlikely he'd replace it because he isn't very attentive, so I eagerly embraced shoveling.
I felt proud of myself because I'm certainly not in the best shape of my life and yet I was out there working hard. I noticed my husband wasn't overly complimentary and didn't seem appreciative of my hard work the first week of shoveling, but I didn't get stuck on it and instead focused on the positives; exercise, chatting with neighbors outside, being impressed with myself and even finding it rewarding (We're talking about a lot of shoveling here, folks). My neighbor and I discussed about how shoveling is satisfying because it's a task that has an end. You can finish it and move on.
The second week of snowfall I was feeling a little less enthusiastic about shoveling and noticed that because I'd been the one doing it, it had become my job.
One day, during heavy snow, a neighbor asked me why Mark wasn't helping. I didn't have an answer, so I just laughed and said, "Oh, he's a natural born renter and besides, I like to shovel." My neighbor was kind enough to drop it and we continued our work.
Later, I realized her question was nagging me and it even embarrassed me a little. At first I even felt defensive and thought, "Doesn't she realize how hard he works and how I have the luxury of having freedom to make art and have a fairly open schedule? Big deal if I shovel and he doesn't!"
But then, I realized that actually, I do want some help on occasion.
I casually mentioned to my husband that winter was really setting in, I could use his help and with two of us, the chore would be finished a lot faster. He wasn't receptive and brushed me off. I made an excuse to myself about how he was busy and it wasn't a big deal.
A few more days of snow later, I was sick of doing it all myself and sick of pretending to be cheerful when neighbors pitched in.
I worried they didn't want to help, but did because they felt sorry for me out there by myself with more to shovel than any house on the block. I was angry and embarrassed.
I didn't want people to think poorly of my husband because it seemed like a reflection of me. I was also confident that if I clearly said I needed help he would give it. So, one morning I woke up, peeked out of the window and knew it was an eight inch, heavy, wet and icy snow with huge drifts and it was too much for me alone.
I woke my husband and said, "It's deep out there, but we need to get out because they didn't cancel schools today and the kids of the neighborhood are going to trudge through it. It may be slippery under the snow so lets go do it to make sure it's clear and ready quickly."
He turned over and said, "I'm tired and I will shovel, but not until later." I persisted and explained that we needed to do it soon, we are on a busy corner, I didn't want to do it by myself and he could go back to bed when we were done. I now realized that if I was honest with myself I would have acknowledged that I didn't think he'd help later either. He was immovable and said if I wanted it done at that moment, to just do it myself.
I was seething and said a few words I'd rather not put into print, but I got my boots and coat, put on a happy mask and went outside determined to get it done so our sidewalks were safe and also, to be honest, to avoid feeling judged by the neighbors for not getting it done. Everyone here tends to shovel and clear sidewalks early and it makes sense to me.
As soon as I got outside I saw my neighbor had already cleared her sidewalk and was headed over to ours with her shovel. I knew she would help me , but I felt embarrassed because of what was now clear to me.
If my husband wasn't helping to shovel, even now, after a blizzard, then he probably wouldn't ever help and I'm sure she knew it.
I insisted she go inside. I preferred to process my anger alone, but she said it was no big deal to help and dug right in.
I scooped up a few heavy shovelfuls and turned to her to thank her again, but to my surprise the words didn't come out.
Instead, I unexpectedly burst into tears and said, "I so appreciate your help, but I feel embarrassed he isn't helping because if he did, we'd be done so fast you wouldn't feel you had to come over. I feel humiliated." She reached out, gave me a hug and said, "Don't worry about this. It takes too much energy to worry about what people think. I'm happy to be here. Don't think a thing!"
I cried for a minute and we resumed shoveling moving through the snow quickly. I felt a little lighter having shared my true thoughts, but was still angry.
Just before she left, I was preparing to put out salt (I take my salting seriously! We've already gone through 140 pounds of pet safe salt!) and thanked her for her help. I was so grateful.
"Oh Laura, you are such a good person, who wouldn't want to help you?"
The minute she said it, I could tell she regretted her words and I looked at her sadly, but not pathetically and said, "Jeez, I wonder . . . ?"
I salted the walks, went inside, had some tea and processed my feelings. I realized whether my husband's refusal to help was defensible or not, had nothing to do with what I was feeling. The fact was, he didn't help and it made me angry and highlighted the fact that even if it isn't evolved, I care about what people think. I felt ashamed that somehow I might be perceived as a doormat and my own husband a jerk.
At first, I went into "pep talk" mode. "Who cares what people think? She's right, it takes too much energy. " Then, I asked myself what I was really upset about. I discovered I was angry and resentful because not only was I doing hard physical work, but also because I didn't feel appreciated. I was hurt.
Apparently it takes too much energy to pretend I don't care what people think, but more importantly, it takes too much energy to deny what I'm feeling. I was angry at my husband.
The truth is that over the past week I'd had many flashes of thinking my husband was being an ass and feeling angry, but didn't want to go there so I made excuses.
The real deal is that it doesn't matter if he is or isn't an ass, I was angry and this was important. Hiding it was depleting me.
I hesitated to write this because I didn't think it would go over well. I assumed you'd either think I was making a big deal out of nothing or that my husband is a huge jerk. However, I hope you understand. . . the point is . . .I was disappointed by him and wasn't acknowledging the truth of my feelings.
The interesting thing is that after crying in front of my neighbor and saying how I felt. A burden was lifted. I wasn't putting up a fake happy front. I was feeling. It was a relief.
I talked to an insightful friend later and when I told her about the whole thing, also said, "Hey, I'm becoming really efficient at shoveling!" because I haven't really done much shoveling in my life due to apartment or condo living and now I have a new skill.
She reminded me that since symbolically water represents emotion and snow and ice represent frozen emotions and I had cried in front of my neighbor, that perhaps I was becoming more efficient at handling my emotions. Thawing out some frozen feeling I didn't want to deal with. It made sense.
I have an extremely high physical pain threshold and have pushed my body dangerously beyond the pain and right into torn tendons, and it dawned on me that over the years I've done the same thing with my emotions. I've not allowed myself to "feel" for fear the feeling will force me to examine the issue and make choices that upset the equilibrium of my life and this is true for not only for my relationships, but for career choices as well.
Last week I invited you to change your mind, this week I invite you to take a look at a situation in your life and determine if you're being honest in how you really feel about it.
Even if only to yourself.
I thought the illustration above represented this invitation well. We do not know if the bear represents a friend, a totem, a secret or even a reflection of the girl in the boat. We do know she she looks settled in and comfortable as she floats through water (emotion) and isn't afraid to look at whoever is in the boat with her in the eye. I also see that maybe it's the bear who represents where you are and maybe the girl has offered you some tea and invited you to talk about it.
I hope you'll ponder this post and evaluate a situation in your life without judgement to see if there is aspect of it you're avoiding looking at directly. If you'd like to share in the comments, please do.
I expect everyone visiting here to be respectful and while we can offer insights and support a sister if she shares here, let's not offer advice unless she asks for it.
And guess what? There really will be a Tarot Card Tuesday post up tomorrow night!
I wish I could show you...
when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.