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Disengagement & Staples

After a post on my recent struggles, someone posted in the comments, “time to break out the Brene Brown reading.” I took that to heart and started reading Daring Greatly again.  Awhile back, I wrote a post about how awesome Brene Brown is here.

Last night as I was reading, I was really taken by this part of the book:

“…When the people we love or with whom we have a deep connection stop caring, stop paying attention, stop investing and stop fighting for the relationship, trust begins to slip away and hurt starts seeping in. Disengagement triggers shame and our greatest fears–the fears of being abandoned, unworthy, and unloveable… we can’t point to the source of our pain–there’s no event, no obvious evidence of brokenness. It can feel crazy-making…
With children, actions speak louder than words. When we stop requesting invitations into their lives by asking about their day, asking them to tell us about their favorite songs, wondering how their friends are doing, then children feel pain and fear (and not relief, despite how teenagers may act).  Because they can’t articulate how they feel abour our disengagement when we stop making an effort with them, they show us by acting out…”

Disengagement. 

I realized that I have been doing my fair share of disengaging from my life in recent times.  That, in an effort to protect myself from hurt in relationships or inevitable loss (friends, family, death), I have created fine, exceptional work of wall-building, keeping people out, and not “over” caring.  One of my deepest fears is losing people close to me.  Having regrets of things never said, gifts never given, hugs never squeezed. To the point where sometimes I  just push people away–so I don’t have to think about losing them.

Doesn’t make sense. At all. If you love someone, you want them close to you.  That makes more sense.  [For the record, I never said I made sense.]

In a similar way, I have also been awesome at disengaging from myself.  If I don’t care about myself, then I don’t have to think about all the issues and internal struggles I am facing. If I pretend that I don’t exist–and I just plod through life, eating whatever, doing whatever destructive behavior is next in line–then I don’t have to be present, pay attention or care about–me.  If I disengage from how I am really feeling, then I won’t have to hurt.  I won’t hurt myself, and no one can hurt me.

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Or my Christmas tree.

Disengagement.

Only, over the last month or so, I have been experiencing some of the biggest internal aches and pains of my life.  And for no “real” reason.  On paper, everything is super.  But inside my thoughts and heart, it’s been a bloody war zone riddled with screaming, crying and Metallica as the soundtrack. (Metallica being the best part of the nightmare, really.)

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I realized that these aches and pains were not disengagement… but rather me coming back to life.  The pains were from engagement.  Like re-entry into life.  Here I am, flying from outer space and hitting the atmosphere and I am crying like a baby because… well, it hurts.  Feeling life and engaging and being real can hurt.  Being vulnerable and crying in my kitchen and letting my husband hold me takes courage.  And it effing hurts.

Historically, I’m not a kitchen crier. In fact, I’m not much of a crybaby at all.  The Expert would prefer that I wasn’t doing this sort of thing at present, I’m sure, but he’s done nothing but hug and pat and say, “it’s okay, you’re okay” and “dinner was great” and “I’ve got the puking kid.”

Really, I thought this struggle would never end.  That the re-entry into life–would never stop feeling like I was rubbing catci all over my body and that I was supposed to say “thank you” and like it.

But today, it did.  It finally stopped aching.

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Oh… the puking kid.  The boy child has the flu, and he’s home sick with me today.  He came downstairs with a “book” that he wrote and he needed to staple all the pages together to complete his masterpiece.  I was in the middle of working and I so didn’t have the time to go hunt down the missing staples.  The staples that have been missing forever. The thing that never quite makes it on the priority-to-find or shopping list.  The final step to complete his book.

He looked at me, “My book will be complete once it is stapled.”  He’s seven.  And he did a little jump for joy at the mere thought of completing his book.

I had a choice to make.  Find the missing staples… engage… or not.  He’s also the most understanding kid in the universe. I could have easily said, “Little dude, the staples are missing and I am working, so we’ll finish the book later, okay?”  He would have said, “Okay” and that would have been it.  Doesn’t mean it would have felt great to him.  But he would have understood. That’s just the way he is.

Instead, I hit my pause button, and I grabbed him, the masterpiece book and we went staple hunting.  And wouldn’t you know… I found them in all of three seconds.  The search for staples which had evaded me for decades… and there they were. Right where staples should be.

We stapled the book.  We completed the masterpiece together, and he exclaimed, “I will read this to you, Daddy and Stella tonight!” And he went off with a skip in his step.

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It wasn’t hard to engage… just for a moment, even in the middle of a busy moment I had.  And it felt amazing.  Almost addicting.  Like, man… I feel like I have been missing too much.  [Caveat: I am also a professional at beating myself up… so I have to be careful to focus on the good and not dwell on the things I did incorrectly.]

I thought about Brene Brown’s writing, “With children, actions speak louder than words.”

It would have been far convenient for me to say, “I love you, buddy, but no to the staples right now.”  But instead, he can remember that the book he wrote—was complete.

I don’t have it all figured out… but when I figure some things out, I like to share even the smallest.  Today’s lesson… find the staples. 🙂

Happy Wednesday from the Swim Bike Band…

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9 Comments

  • Meg

    December 10, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    I catch myself in these moments with my kids all the time. I blow them off half the time with a “Sweetie, I will have to do that later, I am busy.” Like your son, they are very understanding, but who knows how they feel inside?
    I remember taking a minute one time to look at what my 4-year-old son had written (he’s just learning to write). I was so proud of him, and told him so. He spent the rest of the day (and week, for that matter) writing things and showing them to me. It meant so much to him to have just that one moment of attention.
    Thanks for the reminder that taking 2 minutes out of our busy lives to make our children feel good is so worth it.

    Reply
  • Laura

    December 10, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Great lesson Meredith, thank you! Those simple things are so important to our children, and as they get older you will realize how important those moments meant to you also ~

    Reply
  • Crystal B

    December 10, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    I so needed to read this today. I have been so busy with “making memories”, that I haven’t really been present with my kiddo. I really need to stop and play with him. Thanks for the reminder.

    Reply
  • Heather

    December 11, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    Really can relate to this. I have completely irrational fears about cancer. I once had a student with cancer, two acquaintances’ children (one passed away) and have battled with it myself a bit (borderline in both cases – skin and cervix), but it’s left me so fearful and helpless. That’s why I decided to become a bone marrow donor. I prayed for guidance on how to tackle these fears and accept that many things, most things – well, all things – really are in God’s hands. But, *I* had the power to put myself on that list and be willing to help someone else, if need be. It’s offered me a bit of comfort, but that fear still grasps my heart with all its might from time to time. Definitely encourages me to remember how precious life is and to enjoy each embrace, each “MOOooOOOmmmm….” (what happened to mommy, darn it?), each meal I burn, each moment – and subsequently each memory.

    Reply
  • cheryl

    December 12, 2014 at 11:24 am

    yes! Children just want to you be THERE and truly PRESENT! I work with children with RAD (reactive attachment disorder) who engage in violent and sometime self-destructive behaviors because they have been so abused and neglected. They become loud, and attention seeking and when approached only know how to be abusive to those who eventually come to care for them. It’s a life-long battle for these kids, as it’s the only way they have learned to cope. They don’t know how to love or be loved.

    Reply

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