fightin' words

Updated: Jan 23


Hi there.

Nice to see you again.

Last week, I wrote about warm fuzzies. After hearing a precious one-liner from a six-year-old at the beach – to his dad: “Let’s get super close to the waves and hug each other!” – I was tempted to let that be the springboard for a post about how small things we see or overhear can completely pull us out of ourselves in the most beautiful of ways.

However, I’m not going to do that.

Nope, today is all about fightin’ words. No, really. It is.

Part of this is inspired by finally getting around to reading Girl, Wash Your Face, a motivating self-help journey book by Rachel Hollis. Each chapter is dedicated to a lie that she believed and how it held her back (from being who she was meant to be – because this is, after all, a motivating self-help journey book).

I started the book a few days after my first return-to-therapy session, in which I played out the stereotypical role of Woman Crying in a Fancy Manhattan Therapy Office. Shit got real, real fast, and it was, hands down, the best therapy session of my life about seven minutes in. She was exactly what I’ve been looking for, maybe forever, in a therapist: nurturing, but blunt. Holistic, but cognitive-behavioral.

She said, “I want to give you tangible tools in each session.”

I said, “THANK YOU.”

She said, “We’re going to go deep, and it might be tough.”

I said, “Amazing.”

She said, “I don’t want you to leave here too raw, so I like to end each session with a grounding exercise using lavender.”

I said, “Lavender is my jam.” (*Actual words)

As per usual, I dove into the session head-first and word-vomited a long string of semi-connected and/or tangential reasons why I was there. Like a good therapist, she listened attentively. Though she would have denied it, I’m quite certain words like “high strung”, “scatterbrained”, and “speaks every single thought as it crosses her mind, God help me” probably flitted across her mind. Then again, as she said, it was my time.

At one point, I shared a story about berating myself over dropping and breaking a bracelet I made years ago. I explained how it happened the morning after I somehow managed to tear my Italian shoe by opening a glass door over my foot, hence my frustration with myself. I talked about how I’m my own worst critic, and how it’s kind of a joke (but not really) between me and D. He hates it when I get down on myself for stupid shit, as I’m wont to do.

“WHY AM I ALWAYS A CRAZY PERSON RUNNING OUT THE DOOR IN THE MORNING?! UGHHHHH!!!! WHY CAN’T I GET MY SHIT TOGETHER?!”

“HOW DID I FORGET THE ONE THING I WENT TO THE STORE FOR?! SO STUPID! UGHHHHH! I HATE WHEN I DO THAT!”

You get the idea. It’s like Jekyll and Hyde – a rapid shift from top hats and coattails (obviously my usual garb) to greasy, mangled hair and foaming at the mouth.

She listened, mirrored, and summed it up in three words: “That sounds harsh.”

The sting of those words surprised me, as did the sudden tears forming behind my eyes. I sat silently for several minutes, before mustering, “It is harsh.”

I’m harsh with myself. I can’t even blame it on my childhood, or anyone else in my life. It’s 100% me, and I’m still trying to figure out why. I mean, I’m a fan of self-deprecation because it helps me take myself lightly, but directing fightin’ words toward myself is, well, darker.

Now, three days after my session, I’m reading Hollis’s motivating self-help journey book: “You are in control of your own life.” And, as always happens when I read such lines in such books, I think, “WOAH. Mind. Blown. I am in control of my own life!” like I’m some alien creature learning about the idea of self-efficacy for the first time.

I know I’m in control of my own life. Both intuitively and because I’ve read about 27 million other self-help journey books that reminded me of that. But, you know, so much of life is about timing. I believe that people and things often come into our lives when we need them most. So, here I am, and here Hollis is, and I’m constantly reminding myself that I’m in control of my own life. That means honoring who I am and how I hold myself back not only from the person I’m meant to be, but from a person who experiences less chronic neck pain and chest tightness (and anxiety).

We talked about all of that in my first session. I talked about stuttering and even threw in the third chakra connection, which she appreciated, as she just so happens to be a Reiki Master as well. (I mean...pretty sure this woman was made for me.) After opening the conversation to these ideas and moving through the harsh word tears, she said, “Take a minute to check in with your body. How does it feel?”

I closed my eyes, put one hand on my chest, and breathed. Deeply.

“Relieved.”

“And why do you feel relieved? How else do you feel?”

Cue a few more tears…”Heard.”

“Being heard is very important to you. Your voice, expression, is very important to you.”

Then I leapt into her arms, sobbing and laughing with joy, asking where she had been my whole life.

Not really. But I was close.

Actually, I don’t know if I would have felt that way at any time other than now. Again: people and things often come into our lives when we need them most. It’s a helpful perspective, I think. One might construe it is, “So, you don’t have to do anything, because things just come to you!” Really, it’s not that. It’s about continuing to move, tuning in and taking care of yourself enough to be open to trying new things and meeting new people. Putting yourself out there in the name of you.

I could go on and on, but I’ll leave those nuggets out there as is for now and sum up by borrowing the Hollis’s technique.

Things that helped me:

  1. Reminding myself that I’m in control of my own life.

  2. Putting myself out there.

  3. Recognizing when someone or something resonates deeply and exploring why.

  4. Calling out my own fightin’ words, because self-criticism is a bitch. Except when it’s done in a loving way, so as to inspire and motivate yourself to move toward what you want. But most of the time it’s just harsh – and it holds you back in ways large and small.

In short, I'm slowly retiring my boxing gloves.

Thanks for stopping by. And keep sharing your stories, because someone wants to hear them.

#selfcriticism #selfhelpbooks #rachelhollis #girlwashyourface #therapy

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