You know those knots that form in your back and your shoulders and your neck when you’re tensing too tight, and the knots cause you to bend funny, or walk with your weight on one foot, or avoid looking over your right shoulder? We call that compensating. We strain and then we get out of alignment or injured and we compensate to favour the injury which throws out something else, and the next thing we know the old lady has swallowed the hippopotamus to catch the bat and we’re all getting Covid. Well that happens to us emotionally all of the freaking time. Something hurts and instead of leaning into it, instead of understanding our ouchie, putting down the heavy bag, cutting off the tag that is jabbing into our back, we tense up. We do the flight thing. Up up away in my beautiful balloon. La la la. We are eagles, or dodo birds that think we are eagles but the point is nothing can touch us up here. Not rain or snow or the neighbour’s dysregulated dog, and not uncomfortable feelings to be sure.
Or we fight. We transform into ninjas, or pandas (bear with me) and next thing everybody really is Kung Fu fighting, each other, the bartenders, the other movie extras listed way down at the bottom of the credits. No one knows the real enemy anymore. That isn’t the point. The point is that we are going to fix the problem with ferocity, even if the real problem has nothing to do with the enemy we are fighting and everything to do with the sore spot that was just crying out for much smaller attention, needing us to try a little tenderness. We aren’t even in the right music genre let alone lyric.
And that, my friend is how we give birth to problems.
As I explain the emotional birds and bees to my ten year old clients,scary feelings plus scary thoughts equals scarier feelings, equals Bill and Karen sitting in a tree, K I S S I N G. And then there’s a baby carriage some therapy and a divorce lawyer circling the wagon!!!
But surely Erin that does not apply to big global pandemic sized problems which have nothing to do with something I am feeling and everything to do with big worldly events. And to that I say but yes, grasshopper, even those galactic problems have a root. Not a cause, like eating germy bats, but a way in which they are pinching, poking, stabbing or injuring YOU; a way in which they are causing you pain that you may or may not know how to answer right now, and that is undoubtedly breeding other problems.
Now my super power is unwinding all of those knots and helping you remove the thorn in your paw that is seriously throwing your world off kilter. Or thorn-suh (plural). You know the tale about the Lion and the Mouse, well I am the Hamster in that story.
Sometimes the ways in which we hurt are so confusing that we just don’t know how to try anymore. Our PROBLEMS have this circuitry for all the above reasons and we get so very tired of running the same circuit. Each time we run the circuit and arrive at the same place our fear ramps up and charges the circuit. And our brain says, oh, I have to fly farther and fight harder to break this circuit.
So, today I am going to reach into my medicine bag and teach you how to perform a tracheotomy. JK. I am going to teach you how to remove one thorn from your own paw that may be causing you enormous grief in places that are so far removed from your feet, and sucking much of your well being and capacity for resilience and joy. And I am going to throw myself under the microscope and therefore the bus, to do it. You are welcome already.
Let me introduce you to my broken toilet. My toilet has been a lesser version of an energy saving toilet since the beginning of ever. But about a year ago, it really started to circle the drain. So Saturday morning, the glorious beginning to my day off, I re-attach chains, maneuver pumps with my hands immersed in icy cold tank water, and flush down a very modest amount of toilet paper with a bucket of water, then clean up my floor with old towels creating a load of laundry, and my brain says, no Erin, you can’t replace that toilet unless everyone moves out and you replace the carpets and paint, which means that you have to have the children safely away at school which you can’t do in a pandemic and have made solid plans as to where and how you are going to live out the rest of your life, which you can’t do in a pandemic. And then the next day off I DO IT ALL AGAIN.
Yes, this is a leak. This is faulty plumbing, in the toilet of my emotional psyche.
Friends this toilet snuck up on me. It became a Covid toilet.
And here is how it happened.
When I moved into the house which has been my family home as long as my nineteen year old can remember, I left behind a 1949 bungalow which was falling apart. The bathroom floor was sinking. We kept fixing it up but we couldn’t fix as fast as it could deteriorate. At least that is how it felt. And this house was shiny and new. It represented things to me. A belief that I could be worthy of shiny new things *cue haunting Cello music. I grew up not caring about materiality. In fact I didn’t trust it. My mom, who was sweet and gentle and smart and brave raised my sister and I in subsidized housing, and there were certain things that were just normal, but not bad or wrong. Like one of us had to stand and hold the tv antennae so we could get enough reception for a cartoon because we couldn’t afford cable. We had to pace ourselves when it came to eating fruit, because fruit was pricey. When I wanted my own room I set up in the storage space in the corner of the unfinished basement and used a pipe as my clothing rack.
So believing in shiny new things was a big leap for me and a big deal. I had plans to create order. To live like they do in the home décor magazines. NOT because it makes you a better human, but because I value visual beauty in my environment. And at last I would be creating beauty in an environment that was not an actual basement or sinking into one.
Instead shit happened. Not again. Time for a new plot already right?! Kids and expensive problems with their expensive problem babies. Floods and cancer and surgeries and blah blah blah. I finally had the canvas and it sat in the corner gathering dust and decompensating.
The house aged, carpets wore out and it didn’t make sense to dress up an old paint job.
I never decorated.
I just kept having the same old conversation with myself.
And the two sides of all or nothing were separated by a growing line.
Now, when I think of calling up a plumber, I think of the sunk cost of my sunken dreams. I experience the pain of the 9000 reasons I did not every buy a new sofa, and upon that pain I hammer down the following judgment: I am a low rent messy bitch. I am someone who cannot create beauty and order. I simply fail at it. Because a thorn got left in my paw.
And to give myself that thing that I needed that I never knew how to give myself I need to stop calling myself names and buy a new toilet. And maybe a new sofa. Even if I don’t know where my sofa will live post pandemic. Even if I RISK not doing it perfectly, AGAIN.
Because the problem is not the toilet or the sofa. It’s the idea that my pain is my fault. A broken thing in me. A failure or a less than. And a mansion with a team of house keepers and a robot that keeps painting is never going to solve that for me.
And you know what? Even if leave here next week and can’t take the toilet with me, that is one beautiful week I will have freed up so much emotional space for so much joy and creativity I may be one fluid flush away from world peace!
If someone could tell you with great authority that you can take your toilet with you, that your sofa will match the new place perfectly, in other words that YOU CAN’T SCREW IT UP, how much better could your problem get right now, today?
Judgment creates perception.
And twenty years ago I felt a pang of loss that was never answered.
And so the cement basement became the jail cell.
I am not going to tell you that life is messy and we should embrace the mess.
But I am going to say that this painful IDEA you believe about yourself will not answer your hurt. It will colour what you see. And you will never climb a mountain high enough to overcome it.
The distance between the little girl who has created her own palace and a dingy jail cell is the space of a hug, some gentleness. It’s the sign that you need to give to yourself, a toilet, or some love. Give the very thing you think you need to overcome. Do the opposite of what your fear is screaming in your ear. Tell yourself it’s okay that you don’t have new carpets. That you are beautiful anyhow.
When we surrender perfection we allow ourselves to make now so much better.
Because perfection, the all mighty mountain that screams and taunts is just a voice saying I am so scared that I am not enough that I am never going to let myself be enough. Judgment is issued by the Department of Lies and Statistics, which I will say more about on another Monday. It’s not truth. I know it’s not true, because I have been away for months at a time recently helping family with medical interventions. And each time I come home I walk in and think what a beautiful place. For at least a day.
So let’s be imperfect together. Especially now when it all feels pointless. Let’s go for a walk even if we won’t lose twenty pounds doing it. Let’s buy a new toilet. Write a page or paint a picture or sing a song. Let’s sign up for online dating during the middle of a pandemic.
Let’s forgive ourselves for those 9000 things we didn’t overcome and take just one thorn out of one paw.
Let’s ask what areas of our life and our world, even ONE LITTLE AREA, like the bathroom, could be a lot better if they didn’t have to be perfect?
A cement room can truly feel like a palace when your head is not stuck in the shitter.
— Love Erin
P.S. 2021 I am bringing on the love. I’ll be featured in a podcast all about better loving, from healing your broken heart to intentional dating to creating a relationship that thrives, and I’ll be launching a sister site for all of you relationship and love enthusiasts, with all kinds of insights and offerings. Stay tuned!
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