(Note: Week 3 of a 10-week series on self-soothing. The first week you found space for yourself. The second week you began to take inventory of your ability to sense, think, feel, and do and to shift between any one of those. This week you will integrate some of what you’ve learned. Do only as much as you can and luxuriate in taking your time with the material.)
Jane blindly headed out the door, only vaguely aware that although it wasn’t raining she might need a coat. She moved quickly, desperate to shake off the hurt and anger from the last few days. Her whole body ached and she felt as if she’d explode.
The first 10 blocks went by in a blur. Jane walked purposefully, her feet leading the way, heels stomping with each step, as if to shout out her indignation and upset to the ground. Her thoughts came in a tumble, each new one as hot as the one before. Jane made no effort to control her thoughts. She had learned that if she just let them go for this early part of the walk then the latter part of the walk would be much more peaceful. She kept one eye on the movie of her thoughts and another on the sidewalk in front of her.
The sounds of the last argument rang in her ears. Her stepdaughter had moved home and taken over the upstairs and the other kids were off their schedule and chaos reigned. Despite the efforts of Jane and her husband, things were not going well. Everyone was upset, but her stepdaughter would not sit down and talk. And even though she said she was looking for a job, it was clear she was not putting much effort into it.
Just thinking about the situation caused Jane to feel trapped and she noticed a constriction around her heart. Along with the thoughts came the feelings, and then the labels for the feelings she felt toward Anna. Jane felt strongly that she needed to wait and not judge Anna and not tell her what to do. But she also knew she wanted to shift away from using negative labels which had never worked for easing her own discomfort.
Finally, she could feel the softening of her heels on the ground and her pace smoothing out. She sensed the warming up of her muscles and the loosening of her entire body, enough that her neck turned easily and her shoulders settled where they belonged.
Jane hesitantly thought back to a positive interaction with Anna. Not that long ago, when her youngest was sick, Anna had offered to drive the other kids to school so Jane could stay home. That had felt like support. Support. Support was a good word. It would work.
Jane kept walking and noticing her posture and her heels touching the ground softly. She kept track of the feeling around her heart and whenever it became tighter, she silently chanted support, support, support. When she noticed her heels hitting the ground instead of just touching, she silently intoned support . . . support. She thought of the fact that the support could go both ways, from Anna to her and from her to Anna.
Jane walked on.
The support could go from Jane to Jane. Support. And, from Anna to Anna.
By that point in the walk, Jane had turned back toward home. The rhythmic motion had helped her calm and the repetitive nature of step after step had soothed her aches and pains. Not only that, she could sense that her heart rate and blood pressure and pulse had leveled out and that her breath came in long gradual cycles.
Support wasn’t just for one person. Support wasn’t just for children. Support came in many forms, not always obvious and not always seen in the moment.
Support, support, support.
Jane practiced thinking that thought . . . support . . . for the rest of her walk home. Every time she felt her thoughts getting rushed or the tightness in her chest or the jumble of her feelings, she said support. Sometimes she aimed support at herself. Sometimes she aimed for Anna. Other times she aimed for the whole family. She could honestly say she wanted all of them to feel and have support.
She smiled fleetingly that her repetition of support while she walked might change the situation. But even if her actions didn’t change the situation for others, it made all the difference for her. She returned home calm enough to decide what her next step would be. She had soothed her own feelings and felt satisfied for having done so.
She walked back into the house and resumed her place there.
P.S. Jane maintained a practice of walking and soothing and when I spoke to her a year later, she told me she was quicker to head out the door for a walk and quicker to sort through her confusion when family issues got too much. Instead of caving in to the overwhelm, she had found a way to regain a solid sense of herself amidst the chaos and noise.