In the last few months there has been a common thread weaving its way into my mind. Which got me thinking about how I can’t be alone in this and maybe talking about it would help not only me, but maybe someone else too.
Pressure. A funny story about pressure. My husband had one of those home colonoscopy kits where you send your sample off in a sealed package, which went via UPS. He would like to note that once again I violated his privacy, but agreed it is funny to share. We were laughing that it went via UPS with their slogan, “what can brown do for you?” My daughter responded without missing a beat, “it can relieve a little pressure!”
If only the pressure I am talking about could be relieved with a little toot, or obnoxiously loud one! The pressure I am talking about is the influence, persuasion, intimidation to make someone do something. The pressure we put on ourselves. The influence of our past. The persuasion of our insecurities. The intimidation to allow the negative self-talk take control and shut down the positive.
There are songs written about it, which I am sure to age myself (51 years old in a week). Classic one is by Billy Joel, “Pressure”. Lines that jump out to me, “You have to learn to pace yourself…you’re just like everybody else…you’ve only had to run so far…so good…but you will come to a place where the only thing you will feel is pressure….” Another one by David Bowie/Queen is “Under Pressure”, “Pressure pushing down on me, pressing down on you, no man asks for….it’s the terror of knowing what this world is about, watching some good friends screaming, “let me out”, pray tomorrow gets me higher, pressure on people, pressure on the streets.” I apologize if these songs are locked into your head right now. They have been theme songs rolling around in my head for the last couple of months.
Pressure. I have been struggling with it and realizing that it is all self imposed. I went and got my hair done a couple weeks ago and I always take a picture when I get done. Because she does such a great job blending my gray in with shades of blonde and light brown and it makes me feel pretty. I took at least ten pictures and I couldn’t look past the wrinkles and crevices on my face. The hair was gorgeous, the face it framed, I struggled and felt the pressure to look pretty. I even took a picture with sunglasses on to hide the wrinkles. I did several different angles. I couldn’t come to grips with it. I started to have tears trickling down my face. You are probably reading this and thinking how vain. That is exactly what I was thinking. Why am I being so vain? I looked at those pictures again. I saw the lines that grew from the laughter in memories. I saw the lines that creased from worry for people I love. I saw the lines that grew when I cried tears of happiness. When I cried tears of growth. I saw lines that creased my face when my breath was short and I was straining and pushing myself on endless miles of runs. I saw the lines of sorrow from caring for my patients when their time was short. I saw lines of joy from sharing in my amazing autistic patients’ achievements and connections. I saw the lines of strength, courage, hope, resolve, peace, love and finally, I saw the lines of acceptance. Why do we do this to ourselves? I can’t answer that. I can answer that it all starts and ends with you.
We all experience the pressure of trying to be a certain size, a certain image, a certain person. I recently had a night of full blown ugly crying from all this pressure I am putting on myself. I can’t say what was the final straw, but this played a part. We have all had race pictures that seem to either capture the best moment or the wow I didn’t know I looked like that moment. I had a picture where I looked dumpy, lumpy and my menopausal waistline was on show. I had other better pictures which I shared, but was embarrassed to share that one. I am getting older and the weight isn’t shifting like it used to and seems to be hanging on like we are going into a famine. Again I know this is self imposed. I looked again at that image and reminded myself that the woman in that picture is an athlete, a mother, a daughter, a wife, a friend, a sister, a therapist, a neighbor. I have endurance. I am having fun. I have confidence. I am driven. I have patience. I have courage to do hard things. I can do amazing things. I can help others achieve amazing things. Underneath the unpleasant areas visible to my eyes, there are all the pieces that make me who I am. I am learning to accept this changing version of myself. It is not a sprint or easy fix. It is a journey of acceptance. We are together on this journey. You are not alone in feeling this way.
The other pressure that has been building up and led to the night of tears; is the pressure to be emotionally centered. Whoa! This one is the biggest struggle. I feel inadequate with relationships with people. I will often avoid a phone call and make excuses why I can’t make that call. Because I simply can’t trust I have the right words to say and anything I say will be not the right thing or inadequate. So, it is easier to say nothing at all and not make that call. Which then leads to intense guilt. Which builds on itself. I put pressure on myself for the perfect home, perfectly clean and organized. I went a little crazy in my laundry room completely cleaning everything and reorganized every single item. I was ashamed how bad it got. Ashamed because life happened and the laundry room was gross? Which is ridiculous to put that pressure on myself. But, what I felt when I finished cleaning; it was like a veil of shame was lifted and that pressure was relieved.
All these things we experience day to day. They all spin up and make a perfect storm for a breakdown. That level of breakdown is unknown and that is scary. My inability to stop crying the other night was indicative of why I need to learn to be more accepting of the pressure and make it a priority to release it. I am so thankful I had my husband to be so kind and patient with me. Release that pressure before it is a storm. Find ways to manage it as you go through it. I downloaded a couple of motivational apps that send me uplifting quotes. Some are very cliche but, I read them and for that moment it helps relieve the pressure a little. I recently listened to a book written by Sally McRae, “Choose Strong”. She talks about having the courage to stand up and be strong in the face of adversity-whatever is your adversity, stand tall and strong. Choosing to be strong and what that can do to change your life. That had an impact on me with climbing out of the pressure depression. I haven’t been out on the trail as much because it has just been so hot here in Arizona that it is miserable. I know that is an excuse that I allowed to consume me. I am making a better effort to go out and accept that I need this time out there. I need this time to release that pressure. I need to learn to not torture myself with the pressures I put on myself.
If you read this and are feeling the pressures that you can relate to here, you are not alone. I can promise you that your friend, family member, the perfectly put together person you see in social media, even your enemies are all feeling the same things. It is okay. Be accepting of the flaws you perceive when you look in the mirror. Be accepting of the body your body is changing into. Be accepting of the things that pull on your emotions when you are in the quiet that make you feel inadequate. Be greedy with love for yourself. Be all consuming of positive energy from any source you can find; books, apps, shows, friends, family. You are beautifully imperfect the way you are. A line from our wedding song, “All of Me” by John Legend, “… love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections…all of me loves all of you.” Now go let out a big old stinker and relieve some pressure; happily on the trail.