Curling in around this ache
I will lay my heart wide open
Like the surface of a lake
Wide open like a lake.”
I have learned over the last few years that if I want to keep tabs on how I really am overall, I should keep an eye on my shoulders.
At the times I feel strong and confident, I square them. I stand up straight.
But other times, I find them curling. I usually don’t notice for a while. It’s often my lower back that tells me about it. Then I realize that I’ve curled myself in again.
I’ve learned to ask a question when that happens: What am I protecting myself from?
I was thinking about this this week. Thinking about how I seem to have a cycle of curling in for a while, then finding myself in a more solid space and squaring myself back up, then curling in again. I felt frustrated with myself, when I thought about that. I started in with yelling at myself about it. Why Val, Why can you not keep yourself standing tall and open to what is coming to you? After all, don’t you want to live your life with openness? Don’t you want to “Live out loud?”
But then… I thought about the value of protection, of taking time and space to sort things out. I thought about how doing so actually serves me. Especially when I take notice, and take the time to care for myself well.
I thought of the shape of opening and closing and opening and closing.
And I realized it looked a lot like breathing. It was the shape of filling my lungs wide with life-giving air, and expelling that air.
Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
Right now we are in that always-too-short time between the “aways.” He hasn’t been home all that long, but already he is gearing up for a new Work-up Cycle before a deployment.
The out and back out and back out and back nature of what he does is a bit like breathing itself, I guess.
But it can lead to collective hyperventilation for us in the meantime. I find myself forgetting that he will go again… getting used to him being here. Used to his help, used to him fixing what breaks, whether it’s the car or our furniture, getting used to him being here for birthdays and the kid’s events.
But just as soon as I realize that I am used to that again, I curl up. I protect because I remember it won’t be long until he is gone again…
Until we’re on our own, and until I am trying to grapple with how to conduct a two-dimensional marriage through email and a computer screen.
When I step back from that, I can’t blame myself for curling in, for protecting my heart—because that is what I tend to curl around the most.
And I can’t help but celebrate the moments when I am standing tall and taking things head on with a spring in my step.
It’s two sides of the same coin. I need both. I need the time of curling in to steady myself to face whatever comes. And I need the times of charging forward because those are the times I *feel* my strength. Maybe each time I curl in, I am only preparing myself for the next round of openness, of courage and fearlessness. And each time I square my shoulders and take things head on, I know that there will be a moment of regrouping coming to restore my equilibrium.
I want to be a person who is open and ready, and confident… But I can’t do that without taking space. I can’t do that without curling around my heart to give it time to process what is, or what is coming.
So maybe it’s not something to judge myself for. Maybe instead it’s something as reasonable and necessary as breathing
And breath will keep me going.