Tuesday, September 20, 2011

On The Inside

As the sky begins to lighten - the first wisps of light poking through a grey sky - I lie in bed, staring at the ceiling.

A glance at the clock tells me it's 5:30am.

I've been lying awake here for a while now, my mind a racing stream of thoughts.  Yesterday was not a good day, and I went to bed early last night, just to have the day over with, with hope in my heart that the dawn would bring fresh perspective, and perhaps a few answers.

It didn't.

The stampede pounds rudely through my mind, thoughts pinging effortlessly from the profound to the ridiculous: Finn needs to take money to school to buy lunch I don't know how to deal with the hurt I feel Greta has to wear a raincoat today I think maybe I'm overreacting where did I leave that permission slip.

The hyperactive squirrel in my brain is on full tilt, burrowing madly for little acorns of anger, hurt and fear.

I try to bring in the voice of reason, my Gentle Observer, the one who pulls me up and out of these hateful little ruts.   But, as usual, she cannot be summoned at will, so I lie there blinking at the ceiling in frozen frustration.

Is back-to-school night Wednesday or Thursday I can't believe they said that about me did Greta do her homework last night am I making a mountain out of a molehill the septic inspector is coming at 9am God I'm angry the kids need to wear raincoats today WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?

This last thought causes my teeth to clench, every muscle to tighten.  It's been awhile since I've gone there, to that self-deprecating space, the one that makes me want to curl up in a ball and sleep for days.

Finally, she shows up, my Gentle Observer, and she whispers softly to me:  Breathe.

I breathe deeply: in. out. In. Out. IN. OUT.  Gradually, my body unclenches and my mind clears. 

Stop thinking, Ellie. Find your center. Are you there?  Good. Now lean into it, my friend. Lean into the discomfort, anger and pain.

But their words hurt me, the squirrel butts in, madly waving a nasty little thought acorn.

Get back to center. Breathe.  Listen to your heartbeat.  Thump.  Thump.  Thump.

You don't get to control people's reaction to you, to what you say, what you do.  The squirrel pauses, ears pricked up and alert, but remains blissfully silent.

Let it go. Drop the anger and hurt, and listen to your heart.  It won't lead you astray. Find the message in the hurt; what is it trying to tell you?  Don't think. Just listen.

I close my eyes and listen to my steady, strong heartbeat, feel the rise and fall of my breaths. 

Some time later I'm jarred awake by a little voice. "Mom?  Can I have breakfast?"


Just Write

This post is part of Heather of the Extraordinary Ordinary's free-writing exercise Just Write, where we, well, just WRITE.  Come join us.  Click here.


  1. you just took my brain and wrote it's dealings out on paper. this is awesome. and i'm sure the mom they got at breakfast was a much more serene version of the one at 5:30am.

  2. You slept! Sounds like your Gentle Observer is doing her job quite well, despite efforts to derail her.

  3. I have no kids, but my squirrel is the same. I have learned to tell myself "nothing your brain says about you at 3am is the truth. nothing your brain tells you to do at 3am is the truth."

  4. Ellie, I read your post today and I could feel your hurt. Please, don't judge yourself through others eyes. Anyone who comes here can attest to the fact that you have done nothing but GOOD in your life, and you have helped so many people. Anyone who would try to make you feel bad just feels bad about their own situation. You are a rock star - without you, I would most likely not be standing here typing this - I would be in a hospital. You have saved lives - I think this answers the question "who do you think you are?".

  5. This is practice, Ellie, and this is life - so beautifully put.

    Thank you for these wonderful words.


  6. I loved this post.

    ~ Hope

  7. Your brutal honesty is a salve. I often lie awake with bitter thoughts, runaway thoughts, and my center never comes.

    Yours did. Be thankful! And don't let anyone get you down. You are so better than that.

  8. Oh honey... the hurt and anger... and the leaving what people think behind... I hear you. And miss you.

  9. I love the back and forth of this. How you're trying to distract yourself from the hurt and the thing your brain and heart most want to concentrate on. I've been there. Probably why I can relate so well...

    hugs, girl.

  10. I have the same manic squirrels rooting around in my brain . . . they prefer 1 am to 5:30, but they're still there. It's so hard to be true, to be genuine, to put yourself out there and then be hurt or rejected. So hard. Hang in there. (And thanks for the visit to my humble little corner of the interwebs.)

  11. Thank you so much! I am going through something similar in terms of trying to be helpful and being on the receptive end of something hurtful. Thank you for reminding me to breathe and listen to what the hurt has to teach me.

  12. Lovely. The writing not the squirrel-y brain. I have been there many times. I have actually perfected the act of negative self talk. I'm just now digging my way out of that bad habit. Most the time we don't even know we're doing it to ourselves. But when we become aware. When we can sense that we're being to hard on ourselves, that's where the anger ends and the healing can begin.

    Peace to you, my friend.

  13. Thank-you. My heart and monkey mind needed this today.

  14. Beautiful. Oh, that squirrel. I know it well. Here's hoping yours takes a vacation for a bit and leaves you with more time alone with your Gentle Observer!

  15. Oh my Ellie- I have chills. I know the squirrel and the soft landing space, I know them both well.

    I hope that your mind rests tonight. Please know that you were read and heard and loved- from way out here.

  16. I don't know about #Justwrite , but these posts being tweeted out with this hashtag..everyone..so perfect.

    Really: perfection.

    I don't thin I dare click over.

    But I love reading these.

  17. I think, judging from teh comments, that we have all been there and go through it often. It is us. It is being 800 things to a million people. It is us, loaded w/ responsibilites. Thank you for relating.