Back to Business As Usual

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My wife went back to work today. This is the first day in a week that I haven’t spent at least a good portion of the day with her, half the day on Thursday because of the strep diagnosis, and Friday through Tuesday because of already planned vacation time.

I have to admit that I’d grown accustomed to her being here, and having the place to myself for hours at a time was a bit of a challenge today. It’s always just a little bit harder on Mondays because of the weekend, but six days in a row of having her at home was a bit of a luxury that I’d gotten used to.

I didn’t do much of anything today. I spent the morning going through stuff on the computer, the afternoon watching a movie, and the evening watching another movie (actually, the same one twice in a row). I cooked dinner tonight instead of cleaning up afterwards. I largely goofed off to while the day away.

This is starting to concern me. For the last several days, I’ve been essentially phoning in my blog posts, because there really hasn’t been that much to report on. I’m currently giving The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook a once-through reading before coming back through it to really start in on the exercises, so there’s not that much to report on that front. I’m not going anywhere or doing anything exciting. I’ve been putting off my daily blog post until the end of the day just to see if there will be anything worthwhile to write about, and most of the time there’s not really anything noteworthy about my days. Hopefully that pattern will lift soon. In the meantime, I’m keeping up with full marks on my daily checklist.

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The Shame Web

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In her book I Thought It Was Just Me, Brené Brown outlines something called the shame web. It’s something that’s very easy to get caught up in, and it’s kind of relevant to how I’m feeling today.

(I think it’s important to note, before I continue on to the contents of today’s reading, that there is a strong sense within the book that it’s written predominantly for women. Brown speaks often of the women that she interviewed for her research, with precious few mentions about how it’s applicable to men, but this book isn’t just for women. It’s for anyone that experiences shame and self-doubt, regardless of gender identity.)

Not too long ago, I sent our overnight visitor out the door to kick ass on a professional development exam, which I’m confident that she’ll do. The radio show for later this evening is in the can; all I need to do is switch over to the live stream and I’m on the air. I’ve completed my reading for the day, which led me to immediately write (I try to squeeze my learning – my brain games and my Spanish studies – in between reading and writing, but today I wanted to write while it was fresh on my mind). But once I’m done with all that, I basically have nothing to do between now and 6:00 when I go on the air. And the feeling of being alone at home is already starting to get to me. I get lonely very easily, and generally equate loneliness with being alone. Like most people, it’s possible for me to feel lonely in a crowd from time to time, but I’m almost always lonely when I’m alone.

So what’s this got to do with shame? Well, the feeling of loneliness is triggered by feeling disconnected from others, and in her book Brown states that “shame is about the fear of disconnection.” I can easily see this being true – to use the example that I’ve used in the past, when I gave the book report in fourth grade and so very obviously showed I didn’t read the book, and I was told what I had done and why it was wrong, I immediately felt like I was the only one that didn’t know what I was talking about, and that brought feelings of disconnection from the rest of the class.

The shame web is a somewhat complex construct. Fear, blame, and disconnection are in the center, and your self, your partners, your family, and your friends are in a ring of the web closest to the center. This symbolizes that shame is the most powerful when it’s enforced by one’s self or those closest to one’s self. In a ring further out from the center are your educators, teachers, membership groups, mentors, health professionals, community members, faith community, and colleagues – in other words, the rest of your sphere of influence. Influence goes both ways, and this group is the next most powerful in causing shame. Finally, in the outside ring, there’s our sphere of knowledge – film, marketing, books, music, television, advertising, media, and magazines – that together with the inner two rings dictate who we should be, what we should be, and how we should be. It’s an oversimplification, but shame can be said to originate when there’s a disconnect between what the shame web dictates we should be and what we are.

Does that mean that disconnection from others is like that disconnect in the shame web? Well, yes and no. Being cut off from others that dictate those “should be’s” to you when you’re uncertain of who and what you are, you can start to lose your sense of self and feel shame within that sensation. On the other hand, remember that your self is part of that inner ring that has the most influence over you in these matters. If you’re not who or what or how your self perceives it should be, that shame is a self-created state.

So what is the solution to this? Put simply, the solution is likely discovered further into the book – this is still chapter one I’m on here. But at least I’m starting to understand a little bit more about where my feelings of shame come from. The next step is figuring out what to do with them.

 

Thus Falls the Night

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I’m at that critical part of my evening where my mood is darkening. It comes with fatigue, the sense that I should have accomplished more with my day, and the feeling of disconnection as people I know are retiring for the night. My mind races, trying to find anything to do to keep me alert and awake and aware. There must be something to do in this apartment.

Dishes are done. The dishwasher just needs detergent and a turn of the dial to do its duty this evening. The counters are cleaned, the coffee is made for the morning and the timer is set.

The house is, for the most part, clean. I could, in theory, dust and vacuum, but it’s late at night and I don’t want to disturb the adjoining neighbors.

My checklist is designed, in part, to give me that permission to go to bed. As of right now, I’m missing yoga, a quick brush of the teeth, and my list of good things that happened today and I’m done. There’s no more list, there’s nothing else left to do today. I can sleep.

And yet I can’t turn my mind off.

Tonight may need to be spent with the relaxation app running. It’s a programmable sound machine that can add as many sounds as I like to create a safe space for my mind to focus on as I drift off to sleep. I can have a babbling brook amidst crickets and frogs, or I can create a loop of Chinese music with the wind blowing through the trees. I always forget that I sleep better with the machine on, but tonight, I might need to create that sanctuary for me to ease off to dreamland.

I wish my mind came with a switch. Hopefully yoga will help. I might surrender to a long, hot shower before bed.

Please, let me get some sleep tonight. It already feels like a rough, lonely night going in.