One thing I know for sure, it is not possible to keep such conflicting personalities under one tent, without total mayhem breaking out (i.e. meltdown). My main persona, I call her Sparky, is an optimistic cheerleader type, fearless, kind, and loyal like a dog. She is the one you call when you’re down, want to go sky diving, or need a pedicure pal. The other ones that stay pretty close are party girl (she is completely unreliable but lots of fun) and then there’s the nun (super reliable but not so much fun). But life happens and I find myself rising to the occasion with multiple castings of my old self.
I notice when there is deep hurt a part of me might never return or when the grief is so powerful I feel like I no longer exist. I have considered the possibility that this is an evolutionary mechanism that has something to do with my survival but nevertheless I’m suspicious. It seems incongruent to bring them all together and regardless I don’t function well in a crowded room. It’s like trying to keep order at a Scoutorama. It just isn’t possible.
I have to put sadness and grief aside when I’m working with my students because they aren’t my therapist, I have to send party girl to her room when grading papers or everyone gets an A, when the nun insists on wondering the halls of my brain repenting for party girl it just gets annoying, and I send her kicking and screaming back to the abbey. I can’t show too much compassion at work or they’ll be a hostile student take over and I can’t be the drama queen all the time or no one will take me seriously.
I fight off my depressed self with everything in the arsenal because when she takes over it’s like George Clooney in Gravity who asks us the ultimate question, “What’s the point of living?” I lament to my empty room, “does anyone else feel this way?” I can almost hear you laughing and I worry that you are on the phone selling the rights to CBS.
The older I get the more fragmented I’ve become as I’m forced to deal with a myriad of unexpected situations. I use the honor system with myself and allow frequent sabbaticals. I can’t live without compassion, love, and integrity but like firemen (I mean this inclusively) they need to rest between fires. At roll call this morning I noticed a few missing parts but we live in uneasy times and I excused all absences today.
Be gentle with thy self. So of course the universe steps in and I’m presented with all sorts of information on the pitfalls of fragmentation. I did a little jig when Brene Brown’s new book arrived, Rising Strong, giving me courage to recognize my basic need for connection instead of fragmentation. She says, “Love and belonging are irreducible needs of all men, women, and children. We’re hardwired for connection – it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The absence of love, belonging, and connection always leads to suffering.” I love this woman and her work.
I also fell upon a helpful quote by Anne Lamott who said, “I felt like my heart had been so thoroughly and irreparably broken that there could be no real joy again, that at best there might eventually be a little contentment. Everyone wanted me to get help and rejoin life, pick up the pieces and move on, and I tried to, I wanted to, but I just had to lie in the mud with my arms wrapped around myself, eyes closed, grieving, until I didn’t have to anymore.” Did she read my mind? This is exactly how I feel at least once a year. I read an Anne Lamott book whenever I can because she frickin rocks.
All this information is too timely to be a coincidence and I marvel that God always has my back. Then just yesterday, The Bloggess, her real name is Jenny Lawson, but her blog is so well known it’s become a proper noun. She bravely launches a dialogue about depression and suicide. Lawson explains, “You might not be able to feel us here because your brain has robbed you of the ability to feel (or to not feel) but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. You are here. You are needed.” Write on…Jenny Lawson (BTW check out her new book – Furiously Happy)
Then Krista Tippett (my new BFF) does an interview with Ellen Langer and I learn about mindfulness without meditation (sorry Oprah). Langer says, “We go through our lives looking at things from a single or mindless perspective.” Langer explains living mindlessly has a derogatory effect on our well-being and general happiness. We need to pay attention to our lives, stop labeling things as good or bad, and just be present to the moment. Our thoughts are running the show and they program the thermostat on our joy or sorrow. (Like worrying about losing a job and then it doesn’t happen and we’ve wasted two weeks of our life.)
This is what my blog Living in the Gap is all about! Hot damn, I am riding the wave of a new social order, who knew? If you’re like me you’ll want concrete steps to achieve mindfulness immediately. This exercise came from Ellen Langer, tonight (no time like the present) notice a couple new things about your spouse/partner/sibling/child/friend, and just tell them what you notice, (I don’t mean things like weight gain, wrinkles, or a nasty attitude), stick with the positives, and watch your relationship come alive. This is mindfulness. Oh, and please do not tweet your observations to your significant other, tell them in person, with a smile on your face. This little exercise will change your life.
So call in the troops, enjoy your camouflage duct tape by making a wallet instead of a tourniquet, and remember the scouts honor “to be courageous and strong.” Warmly, a fragmented believer of life.