I might be a bit of an emotional mess. Last summer was different than most. Last summer, my ex-husband was having some surgery and my son unexpectedly spent almost his whole summer with me. Usually, he’s with his dad for all but a week or so of his summer break. Our schedule has been fairly grueling since February. We haven’t had major disasters, just a lot of intensity for too long. I’m drained. Yesterday I drove 9 hours and dropped my son off for a month with his dad.
Turning my son over to his dad for the summer is usually hard on me because I love having him around. I’m not the parent that can’t wait for school to start or Christmas break to be over. I enjoy his company. A lot. This year it’s especially hard, because we’ve had some concern about whether he’s going into a safe environment. I’m in physically better shape than ever before, but I’m just over jet lag. I’m tired. And all the sudden I find myself alone, with a schedule undefined by school or activities, without parental responsibilities and no control over his well being.
I’m an introvert and that comes out in strange ways sometimes. I’m in my home state this holiday weekend, where I’ve lived for most of my life. Last night as I drove away from the drop off and the emotions hit me, I needed the back roads. The quiet countryside of Amish country with its flat fields, tidy lawns and well tended gardens. I took the long way to my overnight stay. I couldn’t deal with the speed, activity and congestion of the toll road. I needed scenic, quiet. open space. A pastoral landscape.
And it helped. I’m not even sure I can name the emotions that this situation triggers annually. There’s some sadness, which is as much about the guilt of its necessity as for the parting itself. There’s some release I suppose as I tend to feel the responsibility for parenting very deeply. There’s some sense of being out of control, some vague unease that things aren’t how they’re supposed to be. I know this mostly because when he comes back each August there’s a very real sense of rightness and relief that returns. It’s like unconsciously coping with a broken arm and then suddenly you have full use of it back. And I’m aware that this is completely subjective, because his dad may feel that when the roles are reversed. I’m not making a judgement call about where he belongs, but describing how I feel. It mostly shows up as as a very raw, emotional period of time. I waver between feeling emotions deeply and feeling lethargic and confused. I just crash.
I thought I’d share a few thoughts about the process with you today.
Some years the crash lasts longer than others. I remember one year when I was spending the summer house sitting in Bloomington, Indiana, I spent ten days on the couch binge watching the first season or two of Downton Abbey and watching movie after movie. If you know me, that’s really, really out of character. Other than sports, I haven’t watched a TV show in a few years.
Usually it takes a few days to a week for me to find my footing again. I think it has a lot to do with how healthy I am overall. I’ve been intensely busy this year, but I’ve also been very intentional about my health, both mental and physical. I have more mental and emotional reserves than I usually come into this time with. And, while the trip to Greece last week was definitely not a beach vacation, it was emotionally and spiritually fulfilling.
Friends, life has some hard moments. Take care of yourself along the way. You’ll process difficult situations more easily and bounce back faster when you’re healthy inside and out. It might take time to get there, but working on your emotional and physical health will pay big big dividends in the long term.
You might not have to hand over your son for a few months every year, but I’m guessing you’ll come up against a situation you find emotionally difficult every so often. It happens to all of us. Sometimes you know something will be hard and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it takes us by surprise. This year, I’d forgotten about the crash. It’s been two years since I had this situation and I’ve been too busy and distracted to think about the after. So, it took me by surprise. Not so much that it happened, but the intensity.
When that happens to you…when you have an emotional crash find it harder to deal with something than you expect, don’t worry about how you “should” be reacting. Allow yourself the time to work through it. I needed that ten days a few years ago. This year, I feel remarkably good this morning. Last night, I was curled in a fetal position in the dark watching the rain and feeling emotionally raw. This morning the storm has passed (both inside and outside) and after a good night’s rest and breakfast, I think the worst of it is over. I’m less lethargic than I expected. But if I needed several more days to recover, I’d take them and not feel bad about it. If I have another round tomorrow or when I get home to a very, very quiet house. I’ll allow myself the time to recover, process and heal what I’m experiencing.
Allow yourself to adjust your expectations. I’ve mentioned that I’m a perfectionist. I’m hopefully going to be a recovering perfectionist in the next year. I’m practicing this week. I’d intended to share with you about my trip this week on this episode, but that’s not where my heart is today. My heart is in recovery mode. So, that’s what I’m sharing. I still have some things to work through that happened on the trip that I don’t quite know how to talk about. And, even if that wasn’t the case, this emotional mess I experience every year has taken over for a few days. So, I’m going to allow myself to sit with the thoughts about the trip for a few more days and share this process instead. And I’m sure that I’m not doing it as well as I’d like to. And I’m ok with that.
Also, in the interest of recovery this weekend I’m also going to take the week off from the coffee talk worksheet and emails. So, if you’re following along with me in those ways, be aware, they won’t be in your inbox this week. Instead, I’ll give you a few things to think about right now. If you’re in an emotionally messy or difficult situation, here are the three things I’ve mentioned today.
- Make healthy choices on an ongoing basis.
- Don’t worry about how you “should” be reacting. Allow yourself time and space you need to recover.
- Adjust your expectations as you work through it.
Here a few applications that go along with those ideas.
- What do you need to do on an ongoing basis to be healthy both physically and emotionally? What one small thing can you do today to start?
- Do you allow yourself to process and adjust to emotionally difficult things or do you bury yourself in a favorite coping mechanism and ignore it?
- Do you allow yourself to adjust your expectations in a difficult time?
Today’s image is simply a picture of my recovery morning. today. Breakfast looking out over the quiet countryside of my youth.
May you find peace in your journey today, my friends.