It happened again last night. I knew better than to read that article before bed! *Face-palm.* The snarly sadistic voices went into a rage, this time lambasting me for throwing my kids into the lions-den of public schoolery only to have them brainwashed by our government into narcissistic, co-dependent little communist trolls. WHAT HAVE I DONE, what am I doing??!!
Then I caught myself.
Lisa, BE NICE! Stop talking like that. Wait for the morning, it'll be OK. It took about an hour of convincing myself to step away from the ledge before I fell asleep, concluding yet another episode of what I call the "Night Dreads."
You see, during the day, I'm a pretty optimistic and reasonable person. I usually make informed, prayerful decisions concerning my personal life and family. Though I tend to fly by the seat of my pants, I trust my gut, lean towards logic, follow the golden rule and try not to sweat the small stuff. I think I have pretty great coping skills and I'm generally even-tempered. But at night, when the gremlins creep in, I transform into a confused, irrational, self-loathing crybaby.
When I start to hear their sneering accusations, I become instantly rigid. My gut balls up, a slight sweat breaks out and my heart begins to race. My mind starts flashing scenes from everything I'd screwed up in the last 24 hours. In those moments, anything can be challenged-- my beliefs, my convictions, I become utterly hornswoggled that all my major life decisions were wrong-Wrong-WRONG!
The gremlins stand over my bed tormenting me, whispering that all my kids are going to rebel and reject everything we ever taught them. They predict that one day our house will burn down and that I'll probably get murdered in my sleep. I start believing no one will ever buy or sell another house through me, that ship has sailed, sister! I need to start applying for a REAL job...but nobody's gonna hire me. And by-the-way, my silly dreams and trifle hobbies are pointless, I'm wasting my life. The gremlins remind me how unorganized, inconsistent, uncultured, uneducated, mediocre, not-enough and emotionally incapable I am of sharing my deepest, truest self with anyone, it's no wonder I have no friends. I don't even have my own 401K and Oh my Gawd, I haven't hugged my middle child in over a week! And guess what else, Lisa, YOU forgot to pay the sewer bill and we're probably not going to have running water in the morning. Not to mention, Armageddon is upon us and we are SO. Unprepared.
Every single one of these thoughts has sent me hurling off an emotional cliff one night or another. I know it's a combination of stress, hormones, sleep deprivation, legitimate and nonsensical reasoning. It's fear. Faith in Evidence Appearing Real. They're lies with a teaspoon of truth. But it's as if the quiet, stillness of the evening gives my nightmares and insecurities arms and legs and a free pass to flog me while I lay in bed.
This dread and shame that washes over me is incapacitating. Despite that I'm aware when it's happening, the feelings are so real, so sincere, I don't know how to rationalize them away. The gremlins make such a convincing argument. Sometimes I just have to get out of bed and pray it off.
And then I wake up.
I'll pour myself a cup of coffee, have a little sesh with God and cannot recall why the heck I was so freaked out the night before.
Or maybe I do know why. Researcher, Brene Brown, put her finger right on what might be spooking me at night, perfectionism. "Where perfectionism exists, shame is always lurking. In fact, shame is the birthplace of perfectionism...Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not self improvement. Perfectionism is, at it's core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance."
Besides the spiritual aspect, that I believe we have a very real adversary who aims to steal, kill and destroy us; on a practical level, I think Brene Brown nails it. Except I'm not your typical nit-picky kind of perfectionist, I'm sort of a pleaser-perfectionist. It's like the same thing but bar is way lower. I don't just want to satisfy my own version of what is acceptable or appropriate, I mainly want the world to affirm me for being outstandingly average. 'Cause, I really just want to fit in and not be awkward, you know. And, I don't want to disappoint anyone or be embarrassed, either. I also want to please God. I want to accomplish whatever purposes He put me here for.
Though I'm finding that I spend copious amounts of energy trying to live my life dodging bullets instead of aiming my gun at any particular goal. I don't want to compete in this dog-eat-dog world and lose, but in doing so I also forfeit what if feels like to win. I don't want to risk feeling the highs of success because somewhere down deep I believe they would make the blows of failing that much more painful. I like things safe, middle of the road. I just want to belong and I want to be certain of my outcomes in life and relationships. This all makes for a very guarded and mindful person who doesn't leave a lot of space for giant things like vulnerability, empathy or passion in relationships. And that gets kind of tricky since I'm married and actually do have friends.
I feel the pressure and inadequacy to be all things to everyone and somehow stay true to myself, express my emotions, generate and income, make healthy choices, morally raise and responsibly educate my children, all living by my made-up standard of perfection, and realizing my 'perfect' is so often, well, unremarkable. I think all the expectations sometimes cause me to lose sight of who I am, what I live for, what I'm capable of and my default, knee-jerk response to the pressure is to retreat and hide out inside my head. I have a false sense of security there. When I've spent too long away from talking to real people, that's when the Gremlins know I'm at my weakest. They see me laying there all lonely, wrestling with my secret fears, feelin' all sorry for myself, and then they pounce.
I'm not quite sure what my motive was for writing this post. I think I'm trying to live more outside of my head these days. Who knows, maybe the gremlins will quit attacking me if I steal their thunder and start allowing those in my world watch me peel away and examine all these different layers of Lisa before the gremlins can get close enough to rip me to shreds? It's anybody's guess what I'll uncover tomorrow, I may just let you know.
**I would love to hear feedback from anyone else that experiences these night dreads, what's your take on them? How do you deal with them?