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it’s all in the cards.

January 26, 2012

Today I hang my head in shame in confessing to having had a complete meltdown in the public eye not once, but twice, over a span of no more than an hour.

[Insert embarrassed emoticon here.]

Let’s recap:

Last night denoted the death of one of the most significant relationships of my life. Though I’ve excelled in the art of creating distance from my ex and our relationship, mostly in an effort to stay focused on the present, I’ve yet to have a day since leaving Panama where I haven’t feet nostalgic for the love and happiness we shared this summer. I think instinctively I knew the ending to this story was inevitable, but that didn’t assuage the emptiness and numbness I felt upon being explained to the impossibility of being friends. I went to sleep feeling more lonely than I had in weeks.

Then I woke up this morning [January 9th] feeling calm. Sleep had brought me a sense of inner peace, and though I was not quite “okay”, I also wasn’t wallowing in melancholy, lamenting in bed to Bon Iver and Taylor Swift. In an effort to divert my lingering attentions, I figured I’d spend the first part of my day investigating a seemingly solvable problem, namely figuring out why my Spanish bank card was consistently failing to function—in stores, online and at the ATM. Having spent October, November and December acting more like an intern than a paid employee of the Murcian community, I was eager to get my hands on some cash, which would be promptly followed by the spending of it on a winter jacket and hairdryer [and maybe a weekend getaway to Paris to mollify any remaining bits of feeling sorry for myself].

However, in my efforts to detangle the mess, the web only became more complicated and my emotional state more on edge. Upon arriving at Santander, I was informed that my failing card was the result of a lack of funds: I had exactly 15€ in my account. After a somewhat confused argument as to where the other 1400€ were, I exchanged my composure at the counter window for wet, messy tears and a bad temper before storming out of the bank [only briefly disrupted by the security doors] to the Office of Education.

As expected, our program head was not at her desk. [She keeps odd hours, that woman.] Fortunately, as more tears started to build other initially resistent department members recognized the presence of a bomb in the building and eventually took action.

Due to an inexplicable error, I soon learned that the account number on my bank certificate, which was required by my program for payment and obtained directly from the bank when my account was opened, did not match any of my other bank documents. So, while I wasn’t actually jipped pay, those hard earned October and November dollars never reached their final destination—quite similar to how packages shipped from the United States to Spain also never reach their final destinations. Hearing that payment would be delayed at least another week [we’re now at seventeen days and counting] I lost every ounce of maturity and professionalism and Tazmanian Devil-style erupted into anger, frustration and—yes! you guessed it!—more tears. It is truly a curse on my dignity that being in the public presence does nothing for my control.

But then—enlightenment! Beauty in the breakdown!

While ostensibly it appeared that my tantrum was precipitated by these two occurrences [neither of which are entirely negligible occasions], after quiet contemplation it seems that these issues merely catalyzed collapse. I have come to understand that today [and past tantrums] illustrates something [much] bigger: I’m suffocating. And it’s not from lack of funds or winter weather or commitment to and feeling trapped in one location. It’s because I deny myself the human condition of honesty with, acceptance of and verbal expression of my own emotions. [Ooof. So deep, right?]

But seriously, I have struggled for much of my life wrestling with emotions; like ants in the kitchen, I have always found them to be a nuisance. I started believing at a young age that expression of certain sentiments didn’t make you a more honest or beautiful or whole person, but exemplified your weaknesses. I sometimes like to claim that I wear an external armor of tin, which holds a lot of the “mushy gushy” in.

This isn’t necessarily to say I’m cold or that I lack a heart. I am compassionate, thoughtful and I love, if anything too often and too deeply. I’m not a robot, quite the contrary—I’m a twenty-four year old female! I let hormones get the best of me. I unabashedly cry during movies and on more than one occasion commercials have brought me to tears. I love, laugh and hurt. I experience guilt, irritation and disappointment just like everyone else.

However, for fear of embarrassment, rejection or judgment, I rarely let people in beyond my front gate, instead amassing a collection of over-syrupy sentiments, doubts and frustrations in my emotional file cabinet where I persistently ignore them and hope that eventually they will all just go away. As an “emotional cockroach of complete and utter devastation” I have a knack for survival, but haven’t had much practice with verbal self-expression. Instead, when the overfilled file cabinet bursts open, I often act out visually—intense, raw emotion occasionally dished in the form of unpredictable and misdirected anger or immature behavior [i.e. public breakdowns].

I hold my “breath” and shut people out in times of mental stress or confusion, just as I do during physical activity during moments when surrendering to breath is critical. I ignore the quintessential “find your center, find your breath” mantra of yoga and in the weight room as my muscles threaten to give out on me, I counteract with furrowed eyebrows, flushed cheeks and a facial expression that screams constipation.

Though these inner and outer asphyxiations occur unconsciously, they have tremendous effects. They create an impenetrable barrier between my mind, my body, my spirit and the oxygenation of these vital elements of my being. I constantly fight the natural ebb and flow of life, and unfortunately for me it’s a losing battle.

On the eve of my departure from Virginia my friend and mentor Jocelyn suggested I do an oracle reading before heading to Panama. Always eager for meditative guidance, I pulled three cards, one to represent each part of my then intended journey: Virginia, and the life I was leaving behind; Panama, my immediate future of summertime sunshine, hula hoops and cocktails; and Spain, my not so far-future of teaching, learning and gallivanting through Europe. For Virginia I drew “Courage”, for Panama, “Beloved One” and for Spain, “Breathe”. In “Courage” and “Beloved One” I felt a surge of inspiration and excitement—they were cards of strength and discovery. But “Breathe” drew concern. Lost in my glorified image of the tropical paradise lifestyle I was headed toward, the card turned me off—it seemed boring. Not to mention caused momentary panic—quite literally, I read: “Spain will only bring frustration!” It felt like someone had just dumped the Queen of Spades on my perfect game—that murdering vixen of any chance at victory.

But having been given time to consider this card, I’m realizing the impact that the presence “Breathe” can have in my life. It’s a reminder to inhale and exhale slowly, deeply and consistently [sounds like scuba, no?] giving way to life’s natural rhythms. It helps me to recognize that having feelings and vocalizing them is not a vulnerability or crack in my armor, that these mini-meltdowns and barriers I’ve put up are actually some of my greatest weaknesses; and, that in order to grow during my journey as I hope to, I must acknowledge and accept my sensitivities even if they make me uncomfortable [which, at this point in time, they make me feel as though I’ve just stepped barefoot in gooey grape jelly on a hot summer day]. It prompts me to be a good host—opening my doors and inviting friends in for tea instead of making them climb through windows. And encourages me to let go of all-consuming, smothering logic and allow my heart’s voice be heard as well.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 26, 2012 5:23 pm

    I truly understand what you mean about pushing down emotional reactions. I too often feel the rising well of tears when I become frustrated or touched (by some heart-retching film or, yes, even a commercial!), and I think it occurs because I have always tried to hide that “weak” part of me. This past year I have tried to own it a little more bravely, stating I am an artist, and therefore, I feel my emotions. Enlightenment is an attractive state of mind, and it is my life goal to be at peace with whichever way the world turns.

  2. Jim permalink
    January 27, 2012 9:14 pm

    Maddy,
    You write like a pro. Write a novel about a recruit for the International Corruption United Service (INCORPUS). You be the heroine, but stop crying, it wastes energy.
    Truly, you can write.
    UnkJim

  3. February 2, 2012 4:05 am

    Ooof… that was a lot of steam let off! I feel like I relate to wayyyy too much of that (2 week+late paychecks, recent crying fits, emotional detachment, etc etc) but it sounds like you’ve got a good grip on things now. I wonder if it’s possible to get oneself an Oracle reading in Thailand…

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