This is the summer of Queer Eye, in the sense that I’ve been privileged (thank you, library!) to get my hands on all the books Queer Eye members have written. So far, that’s just the book from the show, Tan’s and now Karamo’s. Jonathan and Antoni both have stuff coming out soon too. It has been so much fun to spend hours on end outdoors with my boys (oh yeah, and my kids are swimming while I read too).
One of the lines from the first few pages of Karamo’s book jumped out at me. On page 4, he says, “Emotions do not happen in response to events, they happen in response to our thoughts around that event. Having the vocabulary to name your emotions helps you to see ho the way you’re thinking is creating them.” (emphasis his). Tim and I had recently gotten into an argument and I was having a hard time shaking the isolation and resentment I felt in the aftermath of what was a pretty normal-beginning tiff.
When you’ve been partnered with someone for 16 years and you really care about being happy and connected (versus just trying to hang on for your whole life), you really can’t avoid working on your shit. And sometimes your person has reasonable needs but somehow your brain changes lanes into trauma/trigger territory. I realized, thanks to Karamo, Tim and my best friend Robin, that the minor issue with Tim became a trigger for a very real shame spiral that I have within me. Brene Brown, in her recent Netflix special, described it with the language of, “the story I’m telling myself is…” Recognizing the tapes that are playing in your mind, or the story you’re telling yourself, allows you to get underneath what is triggering the response and examine the response itself. If anything, normal conflict can give you a glimpse into what is still very tender within you.
It’s not super hard for me to figure out what or why I’m triggered by something. I’m pretty clear on my stuff, not that I don’t have any blind spots, but I’ve been doing this self-work for years and I have a partner who also has done a lot of work on himself and with me in our relationship. The thing I’m getting into now is, how do I re-write the tapes? How do I take a shitty, harmful narrative and turn it on its head? I’m working on creating a few mantras that I can post around the house to affirm what the shame spiral is trying to deny me. In this case, my brain wants me to continue the narrative that my needs aren’t as important as the needs of my family. It’s easy to trace that hang-up back to how our culture socializes girls, how fundamentalism elevated service over self and how having a family of entrepreneurs emphasized performance. Throw in perfectionism and it’s so clear and reasonable why rest and happiness are something I have to work hard to pursue. So the mantra is “I deserve to be happy and rested.” As simple as that mantra appears, it’s hard for me to hold it, especially if that means I am equating my happiness as being AS IMPORTANT as the happiness of my partner and children. But if I can make that concept the lens through which I negotiate my responsibilities to my family, I don’t have to revert to the well-worn path of the mother/wife martyr. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. That is what the black and white brain wants to tell me. That I’m selfish or holy. When really, am I either? I am just a person who loves and who deserves love.