It was a normal morning. He even made them pancakes and for a school day, this is a treat. He hadn’t complained of any discomfort, there were no symptoms of what was to come.
Over these past couple weeks, I’ve become painfully aware of how much practice it takes to experience joy and gratitude in the presence of challenge. In Brené Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection, she describes numbing as “taking the edge off of pain or stress” and when we try and numb the bad stuff we inherently numb the good stuff too. This discovery has been life changing for me as I realize I do numbing really well, it’s my safe place.
I think we all have a numbing toolbox of some sort and for me it often comes in some form of overconsumption. Sometimes its wine, Facebook/getting lost online, an over committed schedule (being too busy), shopping, sugar, and/or exercise. Even in the places where it appears I am making good choices (like being busy or exercising) I am still avoiding what is challenging me most.
I got “that” call last week. You know, the one you dread, the one you hope to only hear about but never experience. One week ago, my Wednesday morning began with a phone call from the hospital. At about 10:45 am, Matt suffered a mini-stroke and I am deeply thankful it has left no permanent damage. As we continue with testing, looking to learn why, I find the greatest trial for me is staying awake through it all. Leaning in--to the fear. Leaning in--to the sacrifice and adjustment our lifestyle may need as a result. Leaning in--to the difficult conversation around what could have been a warning sign, a wake up call; a look at learning how to live with less stress. I can’t help but wonder, were there signs or things we should have noticed in the space between the numb places, maybe we could have prevented it from happening or saw it coming?
Recognizing what triggers numbing for me makes me more conscious. It can be the stress of these unplanned life events, the discovery of bad news. Or, the more common emotion of feeling overwhelmed, afraid, anxious, exhausted, pressured, uncertain and guilty, this is when I want to turn it off and go to sleep; when I want to numb, when I don’t want to feel.
I’m still navigating through the discovery of what I need for comfort when I feel like I’d rather numb instead. Thinking of when I’ve felt comforted the most and when I didn’t feel alone, it has been the quiet time with coffee and a good book, church and fellowship, lighting candles, writing, sleeping in or taking a nap, alone time with Matt, alone time with friends and/or an easy walk or run. These are the times I’ve felt the most renewed, the most cared for.
There is opposition between numbing and gratitude and I’m learning that practicing gratitude and experiencing joy can only happen in place of numbing. I am grateful for what I am learning about myself in this process. While we cannot always control the outcome, we can influence our reaction to the experience.
They do what we do, not what we say—this keeps running over and over in my mind. What are we teaching them about priorities? What are they learning from us based on how we care for ourselves? They are watching us. They are learning from us. We teach them how to respond.