Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Suit Up and Show Up

Yesterday in a texting chat with my dear friend in another state I found myself referencing the common phrase “suit up and show up”. Suiting up can take various forms and although I haven't put oodles of thought into this, ir is worth some reflection.  Sometimes I show up in my business suit: prepared, confident, content. It’s really great to be able to show up feeling and looking great (metaphorically at least,). I"m saying to myself and others that I’ve done the work to be confident, prepared, and content. There is  still work to be done, but I draw on the many resources available to me much as a professional does at work. I wear my business suit far less often than my other suits; it is really nice to see that suit in my closet and to know I do wear it. 

Most often, I show up in my sweatsuit -- not to be in contrast to the business suit, as in lazy. Rather, this is my active, knowing-that-I-have-quite-a-lot-of-work-to-do outfit: my workout gear. There might be some real grit required – blood, sweat, and tears kind of stuff.  I wear this suit most often because I am such a fighter. I strive to get to the heart of the matter and to do the things I need to do to get through whatever is holding me back. I have come to accept what has been told to me about me: I"m a bit of an "all in" kind of person. (I hear the theme to “Rocky” playing.) There is something empowering about the sweatsuit that speaks to recovery.  And just because it is a sweatsuit doesn't mean it isn't stylish or that I don't have on some complimentary jewelry. 

The third is the birthday suit. In this case, the suiting up is actually taking off the pretension, the blinders, and/or the masks. It is getting real. Dreams of me at school or work naked come to mind. This is my vulnerability suit. The one that requires me to risk and to dare greatly. Much like the sweatsuit, birthday suit wearing requires a different mindset.  I'm stretched to the nines because I’m exposed to the world and everyone can see my flaws. It asks for a bit of tenacity and courage as well. I'm thinking that the sweatsuit helps get me to be able to risk taking off my masks. Recovery has required a great deal of vulnerability that is for sure. I’m getting more and more accepting of this truth, and in it, the exposure while wearing this suit.

As I write this, I’m recalling the innocence of an infant and hence the connection to the birthday suit. Debra has been referring to the ego-centric nature of a child. Every need has to be met by the child’s caregiver. Needs that go unmet during childhood I’ve recently learned are “narcissistic wounds”. I haven't cared for that term as it stirs feelings of discomfort around being selfish, self-centered, and needy. Many of us learned at an early age that those are not traits to have. I know that by age four that this belief was well ingrained in me: do not be selfish. This is an interesting topic for me of late because I’m pretty certain that my parents’ intention was to instill a sense of “otherness” in me. Indeed, I learned that sharing was a necessary social rule, as well as consideration of others in general. It is a great trait and I believe in fact that I am a generous, compassionate, and empathetic person. Yet, here I am dealing with issues around this topic and the mere thought of being called "selfish" is gut-wrenching.

What I’m learning, however, is that selfishness as I perceived it also included “neediness” which translated as wanting attention, or perhaps, just to be noticed and cared for more directly and with affection. Neediness therefore in my young mind  (and I'm thinking in my adult mind, too) was "appearing to have a need but really just wanting attention". Neediness is one of the worst traits one can have: a core belief that has perhaps driven much of my actions without my awareness. Needing and wanting attention were simply the needs of a child who wanted to be heard and seen. She wanted to feel important. Pretty standard stuff.

My needs were met, certainly. That is, what I perceived as real needs: food, shelter, clothing, tending to broken bones. There were others, such as those my brothers each had at this time in my life. One was nearly failing school and the other was being bullied. I certainly understood my parents' tending to those issues. I perhaps needed a hug; along with the knowledge of how to ask for it. Seems simple. Why the hell does it take my getting back into my birthday suit to get it figured out? Not sure…but I’m willing to do what it takes to figure it out (sweatsuit?). I am learning how to identify my feelings and the needs associated with those feelings, and then tend to them. As I do, or when that need is met perhaps by another, those narcissistic wounds get healed. That is my understanding anyway, and I’ve been experiencing a bit of that recently. The term is also sounding less bothersome. I'm grasping with greater understanding that children - including me as a child - are by nature needy. It isn't about blame or my folks' parenting even. It is about a need that is still showing up today that once identified, I can tend to as a healthy adult. 

I remain on my Healing Lane, continuing on this path of recovery and learning life’s lessons along the way. I do love this life of discovery and learning to make choices that produce greater happiness.  I’ve come to see the gifts with each step and to recognize that I am growing and changing. That I do suit up, which sometimes involves a bit of just taking it all in. It feels like that today. 

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