I’m Allowing Myself to Be Unreasonable

Hello, dear WP friends! I have been MIA in our little online community for a good three weeks, and I have missed you! It’s good to get back and start to reconnect.

Where have I been? To keep it short, I guess I could say I spent about a week feeling quite depressed and discouraged, about a week sick as a dog with the flu, and about a week traveling to California to spend Christmas with the family.

Now I’m back home again, still coughing but generally feeling healthy, and in better emotional shape than I’ve been for several months now. It’s not a bad way to finish up the year.

But that’s not what I planned to write about tonight. Instead, I wanted to try to put into words a subtle emotional shift that I’ve been undergoing, one that I think is good for me. It grew out of that week of feeling depressed, leading into getting the flu.

Let me back up a bit and remind you that I have an issue with my birthday, to put it mildly. It falls on December 14, and it’s just not a good day for a birthday. Even when I was a kid and didn’t hate it, I knew it wasn’t a good time because everyone was busy with the holidays, so it was hard to have a party or any sort of celebration separate from Christmas (I was always envious of my sister with a birthday in late May). The weather is lousy this time of year too. Then I had some rough birthdays in my teens, then a marriage with a man who acted like my birthday was a burden to him and also berated me for selfishly having any expectations at all about my birthday–how childish I was!

In recent years, I’ve felt like my birthday actually had some kind of bad luck curse on it. One year I lost like $1200–long story, never mind the details. One year a car crashed into our house, yes, really. Several years I have been sick. The worst was five years ago, of course, the slaughter at Sandy Hook elementary school. I will never manage to separate that from my birthday, and in fact now I always spend a part of the day remembering and mourning those first grade students who were murdered, those little six-year-olds.

Anyway, I know it doesn’t make any sense, but I’ve developed a bit of a complex about the day and wish there was a way to just skip it. Since that isn’t possible, I decided that this year I would plan something pleasant ahead of time, and I invited some friends to go out to dinner with us at a restaurant I’ve been wanting to try. However, my husband came home from work early the day before and crawled into bed with a fever. It was very clear by the morning of my birthday that we weren’t going anywhere.

I told myself, It’s fine. I’m a grown-up; I can cope. I love my husband and want him to be well. I cancelled the dinner and settled in to do little things at home. But I had a bit of a panic attack that morning, all connected to a combination of my birthday, bad luck, my teen memories, and essentially feeling that I didn’t matter, that no one really cared about me. It’s not true, I know, but my emotions didn’t care about the truth. They just needed to have a little temper tantrum.

I was calmer the next day, relieved a little that it would be a full year until I had to think about my birthday again. But that relief was quickly followed by my own sore throat and a fever that then sent me to bed for days. (See? Birthday curse again!)

During this time, I texted a couple of times with E, but she took much longer to respond than usual. I started to suspect that something was going on with her, because one time it took her about 14 hours to respond, and one night she didn’t respond at all, which is quite unlike her. Maybe something was up with her family, or perhaps she was extra busy with the holidays.

When I texted that I was upset about my birthday, she absolutely did not get it. Okay, maybe I understated how upset I was. Or maybe she wasn’t paying very close attention; I’m not sure.

On Sunday I texted her to say I was much too sick to make our Monday appointment. I hated to cancel, because we were already going to have a long therapy break again, between my California trip and her own holiday travel. I so rarely cancel appointments, so this was a big deal for me. Of course she was nice and hoped I felt better. In a way she said all the right things, but I didn’t feel like she saw any of it–not the birthday despair, not how sick I was, not how much it bothered me to extend the time without sessions.

A day or two later, I realized I was mad. I felt unseen, invisible, unattended to. E wasn’t noticing anything about what was going on for me!

Almost as soon as I thought this, I could see how unreasonable it was. We hadn’t spoken. I had only sent short texts. It was a busy time of year. She had responded most of the time, and always in a kind and friendly way. She hadn’t done anything wrong.

But here’s what was different for me this time: I could see that there was no reasonable factual basis for being angry with her, and yet, I decided to allow myself to feel angry anyway.

Oh little one, I said to that raging girl in me, you feel forgotten, don’t you? You are hurt and disappointed that E doesn’t understand what you are feeling. You are sick and miserable and tired and lonely. You feel afraid that no one really cares for you. No wonder you are upset! It’s okay to feel upset about that.

Growing up in my family, as in so many families, it wasn’t acceptable to be angry with my parents. I never got to learn that you could be angry and love someone, both things at the same time. But my wise woman self was able to do this, to allow my little girl self to pout and feel mad, knowing that my other selves continued to love E the same as ever.

This seems like growth to me.

I told myself, go ahead and feel mad, if you want to. It’s okay if you need to be unreasonable. E is an important person in your life, and it’s okay if you want to be angry that she’s not seeing your pain right now. 

And you know what happened? I felt mad for a bit, and then it faded. A couple of days later, I thought of texting to wish her a good holiday, and I stopped myself, asking, Are you sure you want to do this? Are you done being mad? Because you can go ahead and be mad as long as you like. You can also text her if you want, but do it for the reason you are texting about. Do it to wish her a good Christmas, if that is what you are feeling. Don’t do it to try to run away from feeling angry.

I let that sit that for another day or so. By Christmas, I knew I wasn’t angry at all anymore, so then I did wish her a merry Christmas. And she texted back, just short, but kindly, like always.

I don’t know, something feels different. I mean, I feel distant from her, and disappointed that I still won’t see her for another week. I am frustrated that we haven’t had much momentum in therapy since my vacation started in October. I am a little at loose ends after an intense session we had on December 13 with no chance to follow up. I do feel she’s been distracted, a bit less present. But I’m not mad, and I’m not freaked out, and I’m confident that once therapy starts up again, we’ll be okay. This all seems rather healthy, especially for someone who has a horror of her own birthday and gets angry when her therapist can’t read her mind. Perhaps indulging my unreasonableness is good for me?

28 thoughts on “I’m Allowing Myself to Be Unreasonable

  1. Hi! Nice to see you blogging again. A belated Happy Birthday to you. I am sorry your birthday’s have always felt painful and you feel unseen. I don’t know if this helps, but I felt similarly about Christmas, most felt crappy and always bad things happened. But my husband was determined to make it good and so over the years we’ve started our own traditions, and actively find things to do and now i can say I look forward to Christmas. I don’t love it but I like it and enjoy it. So maybe that’s what you need to do now… start making little traditions or plans to make it good? You deserve to have nice birthdays x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sirena! I think you are right about making alternative traditions. I’ve just had a hard time coming up with what they should be. It’s often very hard to plan things with friends because this time of year, people are already too busy. My husband is not one to plan social events (he likes them, but just goes along with what others plan, never sets them up himself), so it is up to me, and that’s hard, too, when I am carrying so much anticipatory negativity. Maybe I should consider about Twinketoes’ suggestion (below) and pick a midsummer day to celebrate my life instead. I’ll think about it… The other thing I have considered is to try to be out of town in a new place. I love traveling anyway, and if I’m not in my own environment, I won’t have confusing emotions about what I “should” be experiencing with friends or something.

      Anyway, I’m really glad to hear that you and your husband have found new Christmas traditions that feel good to you. Christmas is such a huge deal in our culture that it’s hard to ignore, so it’s good if you can find some way, whatever it might be, to make it an enjoyable day for you. Just because we’ve had bad days in the past doesn’t mean we should have to relive them every year, right?

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  2. I’ve found that learning how to feel and express anger in a way which is nuanced and proportionate really does defuse a lot of it. It goes from seeming like this unstoppable force which is capable of destroying everything in its path – people, relationships – or an unspoken resentment which goes on and on and on and can never be addressed because it’s supposedly “not there”, to being something which you can see is not solely related to what the other person is doing in the here and now, and which you can work through. I don’t think there is much value in blindly venting rage just for the sake of it, but allowing yourself to be what you might call “mindfully angry” – at the right person, for the right thing, and genuinely feeling it – does seem to allow the anger to spend its fury and then pass.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I so agree. Through my meditation and yoga training, I’m coming to understand in a much deeper way that allowing emotions (reasonable or not) to be there and be acknowledged is the best way, maybe the only way, to keep them from taking over or crushing me with depression. You are right, if I act like they are not there, if I pretend I don’t feel them because I don’t want to feel them, they just stay there and slowly turn toxic. Kind of like that chicken carcass that’s been in the fridge too long!

      But I’m learning that if I not only let the emotion be there, but furthermore even befriend it a bit (“hello, unreasonable anger, wow are you mad today; what can I do for you?), it will make its noise and then move on. Then there is space for the next emotion, which–just imagine–might even be a positive one.

      I feel so grateful to have learned this, not just intellectually but deeply, to the point where I’m able to integrate it into my life, at least some of the time.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Hey Q! Good to see you back here. Happy belated birthday. Firstly I know this sounds a bit odd… but what about picking a date somewhere in the year, say May or June or July or whenever, where you decide you will celebrate your birthday? So it isn’t technically the day but perhaps a day when the weather is nicer when you and your husband and friends could do something nice and try to make some nice memories and new traditions? I totally get that having a birthday on top of Xmas and on a day with such awful memories would put a real dampener on things.. so although it isn’t the same as your actual birthday, it could still be a way for you to have a nice day and be a day to celebrate you – a day where you get made to feel special somehow?

    Moving on, I just wanted to say that reading your blog was really insightful and impressive to me. I can relate to what you say about never being taught as a child that you could be angry with your parents and also what you say about being able to love someone AND be angry with them!!! I’m going through a rupture right now with my own T and some of our feelings are similar – feeling unseen and forgotten or unimportant so I totally get what you are saying and I relate to the fact that you can feel unreasonable. I think the way you spoke to your child self was amazing and you have really reminded me that I need to do the same thing because I constantly punish myself for being unreasonably angry.

    You did so good allowing yourself to feel the anger and clearly it dissipated rather quickly doing that, I wonder what would have happened had you not done that?

    I think its really impressive that you felt the anger and held it, felt it, AND moved on from it all without even telling E, I don’t think I am “there” yet.

    I hope the rest of the break passes quickly for you and that you will soon be back with her and feel more reconnected and your worries pass.

    Good to see you back. TT xx

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    • The idea that you could choose another date to celebrate occurred to me too. I remember from my time in Sweden that many people celebrated their “name day” rather than their birthday.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi TT, thank you for this comment!

      I have thought of that too, of picking a day in the summer to be a replacement birthday. I’ve considered June 14, since it’s my half-birthday. But it’s also just a couple of days from my wedding anniversary, so that might now work either. Perhaps as you say, just pick any day that seems good and decide it’s going to be Q-Day. I’ll think about that. It feels a little embarrassing to me to admit to my friends that even though I’m a mature grown-up, I really want a fun birthday where I feel special, so will you please celebrate me on day that I pick? But maybe I could make myself get over that.

      Ruptures with our therapists are SO painful. For me, I have felt I return to my three- or four-year-old self, longing for a parent’s love and agonizing because she just doesn’t see what I need!

      I think this recent experience doesn’t count as a rupture (E doesn’t even know I was upset at all), but it was a chance to feel some of those emotions and process and react to them differently. I wanted to tell you though, it wasn’t that I chose to “move on” from feeling angry, but rather that when I didn’t try to ignore or deny the anger, it moved on from me. I don’t know if the distinction makes sense to you, but for me it feels important. I just allowed myself to feel it for however long it wanted to stay there. Even when it was going away, I gave it extra time if it needed it. And then, poof, gone. Maybe if you don’t punish yourself for feeling angry and don’t judge yourself for the unreasonableness (after all, emotions don’t have to be logical or rational), you’ll also find that it will pass. But don’t worry if you aren’t “there” yet. It has taken me a long, long time to get to this point. And for all I know, next week I’ll find once again that I can’t do it. It’s a learning process.

      Sending you many wishes for a happy new year–and a sweet reconnection with your therapist. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy belated birthday! I like that you allowed yourself to feel angry even without having facts behind it, and I’m glad that was helpful for you.
    Regarding your birthday, I can see why it’s difficult for you. That’s a lot of unfortunate things to happen on that day. The 9/11 WTC attack happened on my birthday, when I was a kid, just old enough to understand how big of a deal it was, so I understand exactly what you said about not being able to separate your birthday from Sandy Hook. It took me all the way until my birthday last year to even build a separation between 9/11 and my birthday, and it was 15 years later. It took me those 15 years to finally not feel guilty about celebrating my birthday rather than mourning like the rest of the country does. I’m definitely not saying that mourning is wrong, but it was important for me to reclaim my birthday as something separate. What I’m trying to say is that it is possible to separate it, but it does take time. I hope that makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, a 9/11 birthday would be hard, I can see that. Our next door neighbor had her baby on September 11, 2001. I remember telling her at the time, “well, thank goodness something happy also happened on that day.” That boy is of course now 16, and I’ve wondered how he feels about his birthday.

      I’m really glad you have come to the point where you can celebrate without guilt. Because of course, you should celebrate your existence on this planet! And as I write that, I think, hm, I guess that means I can also celebrate mine. I just haven’t figured out how to do it, and doing it on December 14 hasn’t been working very well for me.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with me. It’s an excellent example of recognizing that a day can have a tragedy attached to it, but that doesn’t have to be the only meaning of the day.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Right, exactly! That little girl didn’t learn what she needed to know about communicating a lot of things. I see now how much we have to help children express (in a non-destructive way, of course) their disappointment, anger, frustration, or dislike of something.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know as a child I learned expressing myself did not lead anywhere good. We express ourselves a lot of the time to learn what to do. My parents did not know what to do. They had very, very few strategies. It is was more effective to leave them out of the loop.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I was thinking that too–I didn’t learn this from my mom because she never learned it, either. She still doesn’t know it. I feel so lucky that therapy and yoga and meditation have given me the chance to start to learn a little about emotions.

          Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Laura, thanks and happy new year! I feel good right now, and even though part of December was hard, I am moving into 2018 in a good space. I can see the progress I’ve made (finally! after trying for such a long time!), and it gives me hope. I wish that same hope for you.

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    • Thanks Faith! It’s a gift when we’re able to see what we need and offer it to ourselves, isn’t it? I’ve often complained that “it’s so lonely to have to heal myself!” but in fact in times like this, when I’ve been nice to myself and just allowed myself to feel whatever it was I felt at the time, it didn’t feel lonely at all. Which is not to say I don’t need and appreciate the care and love of people around me; I do! Including my WP circle and people I’ve come to care about. You’re in the circle, for sure. Sending you love and good wishes for the new year.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: An Experience of Deep Trust | la quemada

  6. I tried to boycott my birthday this year myself!
    I decided I wanted for my husband to get take out and for us to just be home together. He bought me two of my favorite flowers, gardenias, and planted them. And that was that.
    I have always found my birthday hard. A hard day. I like the day after much better. It feels there is so much expected and i have anticipatory stress about it and christmas too.
    I am just so sorry that you got the flu and had such a hard time with so much happening at once.
    I am glad you are back and that your strong spirit took you through all of that

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