Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Falling Apart Is The First Step

She was touching her hair and straightening out strands of hair that did not need to be straightened and feeling the back of her ears to make sure that they were tucked in properly. When she wasn’t doing that, she was nervously recounting the details of some non-event that she thought I needed to know. She was skin and bones and looked like a teenager, but not in a healthy way. I don’t think she stopped long enough to notice that it was lunch time or to notice that she was hungry and maybe should eat something. Her nervous laugh made me uncomfortable, I didn’t know whether I should laugh along or just hope that it would end. She clearly was not interested in reading or in allowing me to read my book. I don’t think she could focus long enough to be able to read. I put my book aside and decided to engage in this one-way conversation at the pool, one mom talking to another. She was going through a terrible divorce and the situation at home was unbearable. Yet, she was holding it all together. I felt that she might burst into tears at any moment, but she didn’t. She had no idea that I was a coach, and I would have said something if the right opportunity came along. It just never did. She was proud of the fact that she was holding it all together, this was her strength. Something was telling me that she needed to fall apart, but this just wasn’t the time or the place. In fact, I don’t think that it was ever the right time or the place for that sort of sordid and out of control behavior. So, I listened reminding myself that true compassion is not imposing my ways on anyone else. She needed to be “strong” just a bit longer.

Too many are afraid of falling apart, even in the privacy of their own bedrooms or bathrooms that they will do anything to avoid it. They keep on going, they keep themselves super busy, they talk and talk rationalizing away, and then something will happen, or someone will say something, and they will melt down. For me when I was in that stage of existence, it was anything that reminded me of my recently passed away dad. Now days when I look back, I like to think that it was his way of facilitating my melt down so that I could start again fresh, and with a brand new sense of being. When we allow ourselves to fall apart, we surrender to what is and from that cleared space, brand new life can sprout if you are willing to look at things differently. This is one of the many reasons I love being a coach, I get to be there when things fall apart and then witness the new beginnings and the fresh starts. It is lovely to be witness to such growth. But the growth comes after the destruction and that is what I have learned to appreciate. The closer you are to falling apart, the closer you are to rebuilding your life. If we all knew this to be true, we might actually look forward to the next melt down and all the wisdom and opportunities it brings with it.


Gabriela Abalo said...

From our childhood we are continuously reminded to keep strong, to hold it and to stop crying. So we grow up with the conviction that falling apart and to show it is a sign of weakness, therefore we do the impossible to avoid falling.
For sure the lady at the pool has fallen apart deep inside, and did not want to admit it to anyone, even herself. Maybe she is afraid of showing she cannot keep it together, that she is “weak” after all, which for many is not acceptable.
Hope she finds the strength to break down and then (as you said) rebuild her life.

As our dear Coelho said the other day: Storms bring rain, rain fertilizes the soil. Therefore, accept your tempests with joy.


Sherry Bakhtian said...

Dear Gabi,

You are so right, I didn't think about how early the conditioning starts. We are told and expected to pull it together from childhood. Thanks for the reminder.


Anonymous said...

I think that's what I did: In my first years I fallen apart and crying, then I found more clarity. However, when I was at the age of teenager and I could not fall apart and cry, to be more clearly. Because I had to be like adult.

Love and gratitud,
Maria Isabel

Sherry Bakhtian said...

Thank you Maria! Yes, as Gabi pointed out, we are so often told not to cry, which is indirectly telling us, "do not feel". As children we listen and we practice and then one day as an adult, we break all of those rules and decide to feel again! It is in a sense, reclaiming who we are.

Thank you and love,