“Knowledge is only a rumor until it lives in the bones.”
-Asaro Tribe (Papua, New Guinea)
Something you must know about me: I love sleep. I joke and say I love sleep more than people. I truly believe the key to my greatness and my happiness lies in getting a full, restful night of sleep. So imagine my despair in having sleep deprivation issues for about a month and a half. I knew I was having anxiety but I could not figure out the root of the problem.
I really was doing okay. Great, in fact. I was eating well, exercising, my daily schedule was structured, including time to rest on the days I work as well as days off on the weekend. I did not deserve insomnia.
Just before I was about to see a doctor about my sleep issues, I decided to dig and do a personal inventory. Was I really doing great? Was I over-functioning, under-functioning, or sustaining an inauthenticity in any way? Was I still in survival mode? Was shame still running things?
It was and there were signs.
This is embarrassing to share but it is important. I ended up crushing on a guy right around the time that I started losing sleep. This kind, charming, good looking man isn’t to blame but he is a key player in the inventory. Why? It made absolutely no sense that I should like him.
If I ran my family and friends through an intimacy filter, I would find happy moments, conversations, conflicts, all of the things. I would find connection. If I ran this crush through an intimacy filter, there would be nothing other than a few kind gestures and chit chat, no different from the average acquaintance. We have never had any deep conversations, not too many moments, nothing really. He’s just kind and good looking. With my being sapio to a fault, I had no real reason to like this guy.
Hating my Body
Strange (but not too strange) occurrence #2:
I had been eating well and exercising. I ended up with shin splints in mid September from trying to run too much too soon and neglecting to stretch after. That didn’t stop me, I took six weeks off walking/running and focused on stationary bike, stair climber, and rower. I ended up losing weight and trimming down faster. I lost all of the weight that I gained from stress eating during my job search earlier this year.
Did the weight loss matter to me? Logically no, but somewhere deep down, yes.
I have found ways to be more body positive, to look at myself with more love and respect, but I couldn’t get past how nice it was to be slimming down. Like, “validation as a drug” nice. Apparently I was running away from my heavier body and loading up on validation with every workout. I couldn’t identify this as a bad thing until I went out with friends a few weeks ago. Pictures were taken and I couldn’t get over being the “biggest” girl in the picture. I swiped over several pictures until I found the one where I was posed just right to not look so big and that’s when I felt the face slap of wisdom. What was going on here? I couldn’t remember the last time I was so self-loathing. Had I not unpacked this shame already?
The Ghost of Financial Negligence
On to #3.
Over the last few years I have noticed that every time I was able to make a huge purchase for myself or able to handle an emergency, I would feel empowered, I would laugh and think “Oh, this is what being an adult feels like”. Ever since I started my new job things got even better. It’s nice to have a salary, a steady influx of income. It’s nice to be able to buy things I need for myself, but now I want more. I want to level up.
I want six months of income saved up. I want to participate in my company’s 401(k). I actually want my school loans paid off. I want a house, a new car, and the ability to travel often. I already have a plan for where I want to go from here, career-wise, so for right now I am in limbo until I gain a few more years of experience. All these dreams are attainable…but not without being real about the ways in which I am financially negligent.
I pulled out a notepad and began writing down all of my habits that result in loss (Redbox rentals I don’t turn in, subscriptions/gym membership I don’t use, etc). Then I wrote down all of the bills I’m still paying off. Can I do more, can I pay these off faster? Double up the payments?
I made a list of actions to chip away at all of these things, to my own discomfort. I looked at this monster list of actions and it appeared that I have a ways to go, that this will take a while. My sleep never improved even as I paid off more. There is a reason.
I don’t think I have ever finished processing my shame around money.
Over the last year and a half I have had a shift in my priorities and it turns out that having a place to live is a huge deal for me. Taking care of my dogs is a huge deal. Being able to buy myself food and pay my bills is a huge deal. My basic needs are a huge deal. I began to make sure I allocate and draw boundaries around funds for those things. I don’t even go out as much anymore unless I am spending time with people I love and care about.
The ugly thing I am staring in the face right now is all of the bills that I ignored and neglected to pay for years, the fees that piled on and the interest that compounded, the ways in which I was and I currently am wasteful with money. How much money did I lose to all of that negligence? I will never get that time or money back. My story surrounding money? It hurts.
Growing up I witnessed my parents being incredible with their money. They budgeted, saved, drew boundaries with, owned, and invested their money. They were always able to handle disasters, they had insurance and retirement products…and they tried, they really tried to communicate how I could get these things too, but they did so poorly (part cultural gap, part my not currently participating in marriage). I was too busy trying to survive trauma to hear anything helpful anyway.
For most of my adult life, I put far more energy in presenting the façade that I had my shit together financially. Shopping sprees and expensive nights out with friends running a huge bar tab? That was my modus operandi. Anytime my bank account sank to dangerously low levels, my parents (enablers) would rescue me. For two seconds I would feel guilt and maybe even think about being better with money, but then all of my old habits would seep in again. I put all of my energy in pretending I was a financially responsible adult, instead of creating a system for myself that would allow me the same things without putting a dent in my bank account. I am convinced that is because my intention was not to be financially responsible, it was to be enough.
I took a moment to sit with these truths. To be self-compassionate, my spending habits were all a part of my survival pattern. I realized even though I am way more financially responsible than I used to be, I am still running away from my financially irresponsible former self. I have always seen financial responsibility as a sign of adulthood, and apparently I am deathly afraid of not being a “real adult”. Shame. I was losing sleep because I felt isolated and lonely from shame.
Shame in Stealth Mode
No wonder I ended up attracted to someone I wouldn’t normally be attracted to. No wonder I couldn’t stop beating myself up for how I look. No wonder I was even willing to bill pay this feeling away, jonesing for validation. Shame was stealth, and I was in culturally normalized survival mode.
I took a moment to breathe. I picked up my phone to contact a few friends for empathy. That weekend, I met up with a friend for coffee and I shared with her what I finally understand, and this is something I have read over and over and over and over again for years and it hasn’t sunk in until now.
“No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.”
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our sense of self acceptance.”
Can I own my past, plan for my future, and at the same time be okay with where I am in the present, flaws and all?
I could shrink and do nothing, I could blow up and do everything I can to out run my shame (only to quit relatively soon out of futility), or I can accept where I am. I can accept and own my mistakes, I can accept and own the consequences of my trying to survive trauma. I can take a breath, a real breath, and know that whatever I do or don’t do, it isn’t attached to who I am.
I have slept deeply everyday since accepting myself. The crush faded away, and I have gone back to loving my body. I stopped working out like a maniac (which is a good thing because I can build a detached discipline from here).
I’m stupefied and humbled by the lengths the brain and body will go to in order to survive a sense of isolation. All the more reason to accept myself. I have found that I have to accept myself every day, that it is a routine, that I must reach out to friends from time to time and voice my self-acceptance. I’m not doing this for the sleep but I must say it is a nice perk.