Growing up in a dysfunctional alcoholic family, you learn quick that your emotions are BAD. Don’t be upset, don’t be mad, don’t be scared, are all things I heard. I wasn’t allowed to have emotions, to respect my own feelings as it was always about the addicted person who was my father. Everything in the family dynamic becomes about placating this person and hiding the craziness from the world. The problem is, I have difficulty sorting out what emotions really are even though my father has been dead since 2002 and I’m 48 years of age.
Case in point, my husband and I work opposing shifts some weeks and on top of that my nest has pretty much emptied leaving only my youngest daughter at home. My older two daughters live in our town but they work second shift while I work first so I pretty much only see them on the weekend. I realize I am lucky they live close as many people’s adult kids scatter to the winds after school. My extended family is small, my choice of close friends even smaller as I have become very picky about who I spend my time with since my mom died in 2014. I think once you reach mid-life, you realize your time on this earth is more limited than you ever imagined so frivolous interactions are no longer your cup of tea. Also, evenings alone have been more difficult for me than days alone. I’m guessing this is because for most of my life, there’s always someone home with me at night.
To clarify, I am not afraid to be alone, I’m an introvert and I enjoy my own company. Which when I started to feel very anxious, sad, and what I thought to be lonely, I started to get frustrated. Last week, my husband left for work at 430 p.m. I knew my youngest daughter would be home in 3-4 hours from her job. I literally had people around me all day, I am not isolated. Between work, my family, pets, friends, and activities I enjoy, I really don’t spend a whole lot of time completely alone. I had even talked to my therapist about why do I feel so lonely? And then when I tried to do things to get me more out of the house and among people such as a writer’s club, I resisted fiercely. No, I’m not a socially awkward person. The writer’s club looked like a nice group of people on social media and I have 0 issues interacting with strangers. I simply did not want to go and ended up in my fave coffee shop writing in my journal while watching big snow flakes hit the sidewalk from their big plate glass windows. I was contented alone but I couldn’t shake the feeling of loneliness.
Then finally last week, it dawned on me as I watched my pets stare at me sadly as I was putting on my shoes to go pick up some dinner. I’m like them – Don’t leave, I’ll miss you! I’m not lonely, I’m missing my hoomans. I’ve been telling myself I’m lonely because it sounds better than I miss my grown daughters and my husband when he goes to work. I simply miss the people I love most in this world when they are not around me. That is a lot different than being lonely especially since I was frustrated because I’ve been trying to fix lonely and getting upset with myself when I don’t want to take the ‘cure’. Rather than listening to my internal cues, accepting the fact that I miss my fave people, I just kept fighting the truth. I can join 100 things and still have that same feeling because it’s not loneliness.
I can tell myself things like The kids are grown and this is normal. Stop being a woos. Or You’ll see your husband tomorrow, think about those spouses of deployed military personnel, stop being a big baby. But by berating myself for my feelings, I am invalidating myself which is exactly what I experienced growing up. I should honor my feelings no matter how ‘babyish’ they seem. It doesn’t mean I wallow around in them, but I need to acknowledge that I’m sad and missing my family and then do things to make myself feel comforted. The next night I was supposed to be home between 430-1030 p.m. alone. Everyone was working but me. Since I now knew my feelings weren’t loneliness but missing my family, I didn’t feel all out of sorts. I did things to comfort myself like snuggle up on the couch in a blanket watching movies no one wants to watch with me (OMG not that!). And the funny thing is, my daughter got home early so I wasn’t even alone very long. But the weird empty, unsettled feeling wasn’t there. Just like magic, after several years of fighting it, the feeling dissipated as if it had never been there. It may come back but I will know how to deal with it.
Every time I have ignored my gut feelings or my emotions in general, I have paid. When you meet that person and all the red flags are flying, big ones, like the US flags over dealerships but I covered my eyes to pretend I didn’t see the signs. You knew in your heart that person wasn’t good for you but yet you let them berate you, put you down, and just take out their insecurities on you even when you didn’t do a damned thing to deserve it. You thought you loved that person so much but really when you peel back those dysfunctional layers, it wasn’t love but the familiar pattern of abuse and dysfunction. If they truly loved you, they wouldn’t have been so narcissistic and brutal. This doesn’t even have to be a romantic relationship, I’ve had friendships like that in the past. You get all caught up in their drama that they want you to believe is your fault. But you’re scratching your head like WTF? Then you start thinking you can change them or they will change, so on and so forth the cycle of crap continues.
That first feeling, the gut feeling was the one telling you the truth. It was screaming RUN! Run you idiot! But nope you slogged around in the foggy woods while the murderer snuck up on your dumb ass. We have the choice to honor our feelings and our emotions even if we may not like them. And if you feel like you are beating your head agains the wall over the same issue, step back and make sure you’re really seeing the whole picture. Are you denying the real problem? Maybe. I sure was.
So hint to myself – when I get stuck, step back and look at it different ways. Stop assuming. Maybe all I need is just a hug and a comfy blanket.