Friday, February 19, 2010

Holy Jumping Up and Down Martha!

Anyone who knows me is fully aware that I am a person whose emotions run high. I have a tendency to jump up and down, yelling and waving my arms for attention whenever I feel stressed or threatened. This behavior goes back to my earliest days when I felt as though I had to make a scene in order to get a response from the adults in my life. Mine was not a family that discussed anything. We maintained appearances. We pushed through life with smiles we pasted on at the front door and ignored conflict in an effort to make it disappear.

Even as a child, my exaggerations and histrionics rarely elicited anything but anger from my parents. They weren't ready to handle a child who so desperately wanted everything out in the open. They didn't want to acknowledge problems and, initially, I was pushed off as a worrier, an over-reactor. My stress was minimized and even laughed at.

"Get over it."
"This is not a big deal."
"Honestly? Give me a break!"

For a time, my Chicken Little behavior increased, but all the while I began wondering whether my view of reality truly was skewed. Was I really making something out of nothing? Did everyone else simply not feel as though these things were important? My parents switched from minimizing to punishing to simply ignoring my anxiety.

In Bubba, I found a guy who simply doesn't worry. A spouse who has an uncanny ability to temporarily separate emotional reactions from the equation until he has a handle on the facts. I have, for nearly 20 years now, revered him for that, counted on him to do that for our family, wished I could be more like that. But from time to time an issue comes up that places me squarely back in 1978; the little girl terrified out of her wits who feels like she needs to find an ally and quick. Bubba's reaction to my heightened anxiety is to race as far as he can for the opposite end of the spectrum. I suppose that, for him, it seems as though I'm stuck on one end of a see-saw and in order to balance things out, he has to get on at the other end.

This dynamic has helped us to function for many years, but we've hit a critical point of late. I am that little girl, jumping up and down, waving my arms and yelling for help all over again and instead of shutting down, I need him to inch closer to my position. It took a stranger to convince me that I am not over-reacting and to tell Bubba that he needs to start reacting. He has become so inured to my emotions that it is hard for him to know when to come running. I have become so tired of being ignored that I'm beginning to question myself again. I need to stop jumping up and down and head for him. He needs to take his hands off of his ears and creep toward me.

Seems we have some coming together to do. The first step is to get off of this damn see-saw.


Deb Shucka said...

What an amazing insight to come to. This is one of my favorite posts - I love the metaphor, your honesty and the clarity of your writing. If you both move toward the middle and each other slowly balance can be maintained and no one will fall off. Love.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Ditto, Deb. Much as I love Bubba, he is not perfect, and the stranger's observation feels right on to me.

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