Monday, December 16, 2013

Harmony-seeking idealist overwhelmed by an abundance of thoughts and feelings

So, I've been meaning to force some thoughts into words by writing them out, but I keep avoiding them by surfing Facebook links and watching the Tudors. All more enjoyable (as in less threatening) than looking in the dark corners of my soul. Tonight's discovery… According to yet another personality inventory, this one, I'm a "Harmony-seeking Idealist... characterized by a complex personality and an abundance of thoughts and feelings." No kidding. That's an overwhelmingly accurate description lately. My beloved fatherly rabbi said to me last week when I was in his office, that I am "all heart," and I responded, "Well, yes and no. I'm a high feeler, but I'm also overly analytical and can't turn off my thoughts about my feelings." Discussing this with my sister, who has been close with me for 35 years, she admitted that only in the last few months has she come to understand that about me.
He also said something else that has been piled on to this heap of connected thoughts that have been pulsating under my surface.  He said I'm a giver.  I'll get back to that in a minute.  Why does that make me uncomfortable to write that?

My wonderful and dear grandfather passed away on November 30th.  Five hours after he awoke when I came to the side of his bed and 15 minutes before I would have been back at his bedside.  I feel so profoundly blessed to have had such an incredible relationship with him for 40 years of my life.  At 97 years old, the grief of his passing is significantly tempered by gratitude for a life so well and fully lived in every respect.  Nonetheless, there is grief.  The burial and service were last weekend.  There was a lot of emotion about getting up there for the service in a snowstorm, with my boys, etc.  I was perceiving that it would feel good to be there with my family, but I also wanted to have closure in a Jewish way and for my boys too.  So, a minyan was planned at my house after my return, for this past Monday night.  That was before the biggest snowstorm/cold snap of the last 40 years in our area.  Though I managed to get home safe and sound with my boys, our town was largely shut down for several days, and the shiva minyan was canceled/postponed.  I talked to my friend who was organizing the gathering and said that it was ok, I didn't feel like I really needed it as much anymore, that I got more comfort and closure from the time with my (Christian) extended family than I anticipated, and I was ok letting it go.  Certainly, if it wasn't for the snow, I was looking forward to the gathering, but given the snow, it's ok.  Not a big deal.  Not necessary.  I didn't officially cancel it, but indefinitely postponed it.  The next day I got an email from a friend.  A thoughtful, caring, bossy, know-it-all of a woman whom at different times can be either completely exasperating and absolutely wonderful.  (She's also the one who gave me that Divorce is a Mitzvah book that I struggle with.)  Her email:
From: J-----
Date: December 10, 2013, 1:53:54 PM PST
To: ----
Subject: Shiva or not?

Hi, -----,
I just wanted to let you know how I feel about shiva. I know one can feel very filled up from the family experience. The value of having a shiva - or a non-service gathering - for your support group and friends lies in your experience. It allows your friends an opportunity to give you their full attention, and hear your stories. And it allows you to know that there is a palpable circle of love and support around you, that people will gladly give you an evening, and that your feelings matter.
Mourning is not linear. Because you feel okay one day is not to say that will be the new normal. Of course you know much of this from mourning your marriage.
This is just to say that you matter enough for folks to join you for a conversation and a hug, even though it is now well into the week of shiva and this was a grandfather. No reason trumps your need or desire.
Forgive the intrusion -
Makes me nearly cry all over again just reading the part about the new normal and mourning my marriage and that I matter to folks.  I don't understand why the part about mattering to folks makes me want to cry.  I KNOW that I matter to folks.  I have many people who care about me.  I believe that I have a strong sense of self-worth.  So why does that make me feel choked up?

Then I had therapy last week and Dr. P encouraged me to still have the minyan.  She pointed out that I don't need to be paralyzed or in desperate need to let people help me.  They can help me even if I'm not in crisis.  That comment has stayed with me.   I get that intellectually.  We talked (maybe last week, maybe the week before) about putting myself first.  I was a little disappointed and frustrated with the fact that I had to deal remotely while at the service for my grandfather with the snowstorm at home and closing our school for Sunday morning.  I didn't mind that so much however, but then my executive director got irritated with me for dealing with the situation without talking to her (even though my supervisor, the rabbi who is head of school, had texted me saying we needed to cancel it).  She texted me to call her which I did between the reception at the church and the family gathering at my aunt's house.  I was relaying these and other details with Dr. P and she seemed genuinely more disturbed than I was about it.  I was ready to let it go and she wanted me to bring it up at the staff meeting.  End of that story is that I did bring it up in a one-on-one conversation with the ED a couple of hours later.  It was VERY difficult to not just let it go, but I brought it up, and we had a good conversation and everything is fine.  Of course.  Not a surprise.
But Dr. P's insistence (or as close to it as a therapist comes perhaps), made me think of the idea of putting myself first that I've been wrestling with so much.  Going back to the conversation with my sister two months ago about how I always feel like I have to take care of myself and she pointed out that I'm not actually.  I'm too busy taking care of anyone else to put myself first.  And I'm very uncomfortable with that very idea in general.
This morning the question that kept skipping like a record in my head was: Is refusing to be needy but meanwhile desperately wanting to be taken care of perhaps the neediest kind of person of all?  
Since being with my sister and her partner for Thanksgiving, I have been thinking (again) about how it is that she attracts people who are givers and do everything for her.  And she commented on how I'm a giver, like her partner and her ex-husband.  And that givers don't necessarily attract other givers. Or something like that.  The idea being that I have to be more needy in order to attract a giver.  I don't mean that in a juvenile sort of way.  I've been thinking of all the people in my life who I feel like have givers as partners, and they ask a lot of the people in their lives.  It's not an accident.  They ask, and they get.  Of course, I'm sure that there are others who ask and don't get.  I think of one of my dearest friends from college.  She asks for a lot from relationships, is willing to give a tremendous amount in return, but doesn't have a giver who is willing to do so for her.  So, I guess it doesn't always work, but rather than focusing on examples where it doesn't work, I am seeing that there's a pattern among the people that do have giver partners.  They all ask for what they need from life.  They're all very different in some ways.  Some are givers themselves, some are more self-absorbed, they expect very different things from their partners, but none of them hesitate to demand enough for themselves.  So in other words the reason they are "getting" care and love and so much support and help from partners is because they expect it.  (The words "ask for" or "demand" seem easily misconstrued here, because it's not even necessarily a verbal or certainly not a manipulative or powerful demand, just an understanding perhaps.)  Which brings me back to the needy thing.  They are taking care of themselves by expecting loved ones to be supportive, whether emotionally, through gifts of personal space and time, or assistance with the mundane like doing the laundry.  So, is wanting that kind of support, but not demanding it (so to speak), even more needy than those who appear to have so much support readily available?
Hmm…   I think I'm understanding things here, but I don't want to.  I'm so resistant to change.  So much for being an iridescent grateful butterfly.  Being in this cocoon is the hardest thing I have ever had to do.  
Brings me back to Rabbi Y's comment.  He called me a giver.  Now, that shouldn't be a revelation, just about anyone but my STBEX (or a few former students who were unwilling to do their work) would say the same thing.  But I would never say that about myself.  Indeed, it's even hard to write it about myself in this secret anonymous blog.  Why?  I guess because I don't feel like it's entirely true, and so it feels boastful and horribly un-humble.  I'll be the first to admit that I'm a "giver" in some ways, but I do so much less than others in other ways.  I feel like accepting that description overlooks all the ways I fall short in other ways.  I haven't made a meal for my friends with a new baby, I keep saying no to the blood bank and to the many many other phone calls for various causes.  Sure I always give some money to someone at my door  for a cause (or to an organization) I believe in, but I don't give 10% of my income (as my grandpa believed in so strongly).  I didn't have a present for my friend and nanny's going away dinner that I attended last night even though she requested things for her new house, if people were interested in doing that.  I haven't been volunteering at my son's school, I didn't help with the recent coffee and chocolate fundraising venture for the school despite that I believe in it very much.  The list of areas I haven't been giving or doing is long.  Yet somehow others have this image of me as being a giver.  I feel like I fall short of what I want to be all the time.  
What does that have to do with being able to take/receive more?  I don't know yet.  I need to be able to do that more.  I'm starting to understand it, but it makes me uncomfortable to say it, even in this private context.  Even to myself.  I worry that if I was to say that to someone real, she would think privately to herself, "whatever, oh like that's so hard to learn to take?  And as if she's such a giver in the first place, she hasn't done, X, Y, or Z., she is so full of herself." 

Falling asleep at my laptop as is so often the case.  Won't solve this conundrum tonight anyhow.  

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