This quote, often repeated by Oprah, “you are responsible for the energy you bring into the room”, has been replaying in my mind lately.
On top of not being a morning person, I am also virulently anti-new age-y, huggy-kissy kumbaya, positive thinking will bring you riches, ‘The Secret’ worshiping cult. If we can all positive think and manifest our way to riches, we’d all be rich. Self-help books such as ‘The Secret’ and anything written by Tony Robbins are anathema to me. I liken these people to selling you a false hope of becoming rich if you just follow their methods and they charge you money for it. They also charge exorbitant fees for their ‘weekend seminars’ where everyone stands up in the room and clap. You feel a rush and a high for the weekend and on Monday you are back at your old grind and $300 poorer.
Though I am now attempting to become a morning person, I am still anti-new agey, huggy-kissy, kumbaya, positive thinking will bring you riches, ‘The Secret’ worshiping cult. But this quote: “Please take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space” has been set on replay in my mind and consciousness. We’ve all known toxic people in our lives, where every time they walk into a room, they suck the energy and life out of it. They don’t even have to speak. Their mere presence makes you want to cringe. That look of bitterness combined with anger and resentment on their face makes you want to leave the room.
Though I can’t be described as a ray of sunshine or a bundle of warmth when I enter a space, I’ve always tried to be very cognizant of my attitude a try not to contribute to or create toxicity. Even if I am having a foul day and in a horrible rancid mood, I pull it together in front of others so I don’t infect them with my foulness. I try not to project my problems onto other people and make it their burden.
Lately I’ve gotten lazy. The huge and sudden changes and upheaval of the last few years have made me lazy and less cognizant of the energy I bring into a room. I’ve not always taken responsibility for the energy I bring into a room. Though I don’t think I am at the ‘toxic’ level, I have definitely dampen the mood when it wasn’t necessary to do so.
Like many women, I suffer from intermittent bouts of depression. Last year the intervals got longer and more difficult to manage and recover from. I decided to examine the reason. Suffering black clouds is a time consuming and tedious process. And I have a short supply of time. I do not take medications for depression nor do I see a therapist but I do have my own methods which are a combination of exercise, meditation, modifications in diet and increased doses of my fish oil supplement and St. John’s Wort (both have been clinically proven to reduce depression for mild to medium sufferers).
The last few years were years of great change and upheaval for me and I didn’t take the time to properly mourn the losses, celebrate the gains and all the emotions in between. When I had my daughter four years ago, I was on an incredible high. I had job security and a job to return to after I had my baby. I anticipated everything would change, I’d be more tired and my nerves would be more frayed. I got in robot mode buckled down and soldiered through, telling myself it was only a phase. Putting myself second, third, fourth or fifth was just a phase because I have a baby and I have responsibilities. One day, when she is older, she’ll be in school and I’ll have my time back again. So, I put my nose to the ground and that’s how I got through my 18 hour days, existing on 5 hours of sleep or less.
Sleep deprivation can cause depression, or in my case, reignite my depression and it did, over and over again. I felt I had some sort of postpartum anxiety, but it was never diagnosed. I had no time to go get it diagnosed, but I felt something. My exhaustion combined with not enough hands pitching in, unbeknownst to me made me angry and bitter. But the joyous moments of motherhood sustained me and I thought this was my new normal. People I trusted to step up disappointed me. Though I had child care arranged for the 8-10 hours I had at work, everything outside of that was my responsibility. Bottle sterilizing, feeding my baby, bathing her, soothing her when she was crying, the second I step through my front door, I was expected to take over. Outside of work, I had no leisure time. I felt I didn’t deserve any, in fact, I was told by the inaction of others, I didn’t deserve any. Perhaps this wasn’t true, since I never talked to anyone about it, I internalized all of it.
Between the births of my first and second child we hit a financial road bump, which if the kind people didn’t step forward to help us, we’d have been in serious trouble. I was pregnant with my son and the being pregnant and experiencing financial distress nearly put me under physically and emotionally. Again, I reached for inner reserves and delivered a healthy baby. After the birth of my son, I became a full time work-at-home mother, which initially was a relief but a new set of emotional challenges revealed itself and I failed to deal with that either.
I never dealt with the pain of being let down by people I trusted and counted on. I never confided in anyone about this, least of the all the people I felt should hear it. In my ignorance or perhaps arrogance, I felt these people should know the situation they put me in. After all, I drag my body around everyday like a zombie, I shouldn’t have to say anything.
I was in new mother mode and I decided to focus all of my attention on my children. The physical act of caring for them became the distraction to my other problems. Caring for them gave my life purpose and for now, that was good enough. It was all I could have hoped for. I will deal with the other stuff, grownup people stuff later, when I can find the right words to say.
Little by little, I changed. I brought my malaise everywhere with me. I noticed my then three year old daughter give me random, purposeful hugs and kisses during the day, she didn’t have the vocabulary yet but she knew her mommy was in distress. I could barely carry on a conversation with another adult, least of all my husband. In fact, some days, it would have been easier if we just quietly existed without speaking. It would make my life easier. I don’t have to explain myself, since it’s pointless (I am just exhausted, exhausted from life, don’t you get it?).
During this time my mother also got seriously ill but she was overseas. She had to have major surgery in hospital and I couldn’t be there. It was a surgery that she may not wake up from and I couldn’t be there. Me, her only child, could not be there. What use am I? Financially it wasn’t possible and logistically, with a toddler and a nursing infant, bringing a 10 month old baby on an 18 hour flight, it just wasn’t happening. I kicked myself so hard for it. Though no longer in financial distress, I blamed that time for putting me in this situation now, the inability to just get up and tend to emergency matters such as these. I felt as I’ve failed in my most basic duty as a daughter, to be there for my mother when she needed me. She wasn’t alone, she had scores of friends with her and I am forever grateful to them, but I should be there. When her surgeon had to make an overseas call to me to ask me what I wanted to do should her surgery not be successful, I could have just crawled into a hole and not come out. My mother made it through the surgery and is back at full health.
No one who lived under the same roof as me knew about any of this, I didn’t tell them. Perhaps it’s unfair, but I blamed them. Slowly, bitterness and resentment took over me and I am generally not a bitter and resentful person under any situation. I have always been quite optimistic and when something doesn’t go my way, I figure a way out and move on. But after so many things happening in such a short amount of time, my optimism and pragmatism was on short supply.
I had two small children permanently attached to me. While it’s reasonable to put myself aside, I didn’t come to terms or mourn the loss of my old identity either. I didn’t mourn the loss of my pre-mommy days. I didn’t want them back, but I didn’t properly say goodbye. Suddenly the things I was prevented from doing because no one wanted to pick up the slack for a few hours begun to bother me, or if they did, the amount of baby preparation I had to do before I could step out of my house (food, bottles, clothes – all of which are right there to access), it was too much work. I felt so alone. I had many eager friends to help, but because of the situation at home and a permanently unkept house, I appreciated their help but ultimately couldn’t take it.
During this time I also forgot to be grateful for the little things in life which go a long way when you are distressed. My days felt like one long unending list of things to do. Two little amazing people who need me so much, all the time. My daughter’s bright gapped teeth smiles got me through the day. When she was able to speak in sentences, we had the funniest of conversations. “Mommy, I can’t sleep”, “Why?”, “It’s too dark.”
This cloud of unresolved conflicts, emotions, hurt, anger and deep resentment followed me everywhere. I was no longer mindful or responsible for the energy I brought into a space. I no longer cared. I became defiant. You are having a bad day? You want to hear about my bad year? You are pissed off? Oh really? You want to know what being pissed off really looks like?
So, when I casually saw this quote again while internet surfing, something clicked in my consciousness. I have not been mindful nor responsible for the energy I brought into spaces. I’ve been careless and infecting people with my dark clouds. This has hurt myself more than it has hurt others. I was not punishing others, I was just punishing myself, living under this cloud of malaise. I can choose to be happy, even for the small things. I needed to take responsible for my own emotional well being. I cannot wait for other people to shape up and step up emotionally before I forgive them. I will choose to forgive them even if they didn’t know they did anything wrong, even if they think they did nothing wrong. I will live my best life everyday and be the best person I can be everyday. I learned what others say about me mean nothing, it’s only a reflection of themselves. If people are nasty to me, I should feel sad for them and not anger, because it just means they think badly of themselves.
And one day I burst out laughing over some stupid joke my husband said, whereas most days I would just roll my eyes (I know, it’s juvenile). And I felt as I was getting back to my old self, slowly. Before we married, my favorite thing was his stupid corny jokes, and now I learned to love them again. I became accountable for my own happiness through small moments of the day.
When I take responsibility for the energy I bring to a space, I am also responsible for nurturing my wellbeing. I also learned to draw new boundaries. I no longer gave into my tendency to agree to something just for the sake of not rocking the boat, while ignoring my wishes. I no longer dishonor myself and my feelings. My feelings are valid, my feelings matter and I matter.