It’s seems true that when I become complacent I put myself at risk of failure, mostly by decreasing my moment-to-moment awareness of all the other sorts of risk. If I stop paying attention, I am more likely to misjudge distance, make a mistake, or make a choice that seems useful in that moment, unaware what a poor fit it will be for the next. Things get broken.

I don’t break very much stuff, generally, but I also live the self-perception that I ‘am clumsy’ and am (or if not now, once was) inclined to break things ‘by accident’ through careless handling. I got yelled at a lot for it (and worse). Over time, I developed careful habits and as an adult in her 50s (and as far back as my late 20s), I rarely break things. I do now and then; I am human. For so many years, breaking or losing something would just devastate me – it felt like a portion of my memory and experience were being ripped from my grasp, each possession being a sort of totem or artifact of some particular experience or memory. I learned, over time, to cling to possessions – not because having  material goods is a big deal, but each precious thing holds the power to bring my memory to life, and I don’t want to forget.

Someone else breaking something of mine has been easily able to wound me on a deeply emotional level – particularly if the damage is willfully wrought by angry hands. It has been traumatizing. Damaging. Part of that pain likely comes from the incorrect assumption that someone else has any real capacity to understand how much pain such things can cause me, and that they know how they are hurting me – it’s doubtful they do; it’s not rational-reasonable-appropriate. That thinking is part of the chaos and damage. To be so easily hurt by something being broken has long been part of who I am. The willful breaking of a lovely stemless wine glass by someone in a fit of rage permanently changed a promising long-term relationship, for example; that person never looked the same in my eyes, and I lost all ability to feel comfortable or secure around that individual, compounded by their lack of concern, lack of caring or awareness, and the lack of even a pro forma apology, the experience said things to me I could not ignore. But…

We've all got baggage.

We’ve all got baggage.

The baggage is my own, and it’s been heavy to lug around so much attachment to so many things. Like Jacob Marley’s chains. Oh, shit – is that the point of that? I just got that.


Hand-crafted luggage.

Last night as I moved through the small hallway of my apartment, I noticed… my foot. I have two of them, they are right there at the bottom of my legs, and I’m often standing on them. I generally have no real awareness of the compression of feet to floor and body above, but for a moment my left foot felt strange – like I had trod across scotch tape, or gum, or… like something was sticking to the bottom of my foot. I stopped where I was and reached out for balance, standing on one foot. I grabbed the top of my desk (meaning, I think, to put my hand on the wall), forgetting that the hutch has remained free-standing all this time – because when I moved in, I was not sure this would be the permanent placement for the desk. (You know where this is going, right?) I jostled that hutch, and it wobbled a bit – and everything on top came crashing down, bouncing off the desk, off the keyboard, off the chair, spilling memories and small bits of things all over the floor. As I exclaimed, I grabbed the edge of the hutch firmly and steadied it; it didn’t fall.

Memories everywhere. Broken small breakables…everywhere. Well, not everywhere – just all over the carpet in a blast pattern from the desk to the kitchen. Something important didn’t break – and this is the point of this entire bit of writing this morning; the one thing that didn’t break, the most important thing, is my heart. No tears. No freak out. No despair or devastation. No feeling that these memories were now ‘gone forever’. No sense that I had ‘lost everything’. No fear that I would not be able to ‘fix it before anyone notices’. No terror. I wasn’t even mad. It was an ‘oh, damn, well let’s get that cleaned up’ sort of moment, and nothing more. This stopped me in my tracks, briefly . I sat down, took stock of the chaos, and then got to work picking it up, filled with a feeling of love and compassion for the years that I carried so much pain over such tiny things, and finally understanding how connected the experience was to the domestic violence in my first marriage, as much as to my injury; although I noticed the lack of sorrow and tears, what stood out most last night was the lack of fear.

There were some casualties, but it is the memories that are precious, more than the things.

There were some casualties, but it is the memories that are precious, more than the things.

I spent the remainder of the evening in a celebratory mood. It’s worth celebrating incremental change, and growth and healing over time. I savored the experience of feeling calm in the face of the sudden disarray of precious things, and I enjoyed handling each broken item with joy and contemplation of its significance and appeal. I sorted things as I went… this one can be fixed… this one turns out not to matter much… this one isn’t damaged… this one is beyond repair… this one might become something new… No tears. I wondered, at the time, if I would at some point suddenly find myself weeping with some small object clutched in my hands, hysterical with sorrow, as has happened so many times. It hasn’t happened yet. I am not that woman, now.

I think it is worth observing that while I find this a profoundly positive bit of growth, I didn’t chase it down aggressively and practice practices targeting the experience of despair and grief over the loss of small things. The improvement was a ‘freebie’ – a byproduct of practicing practices, general good self-care, improving my relationship with myself, learning to treat myself as well as I also want to treat others, and improving on my sense of perspective in life. Incremental change over time being what it is, once I had changed enough, I noticed it. Last night was like an unexpected gift from a loved one – only this one is from me, to myself (and still manages to be a surprise).

Learning to treat myself well, and take care of me with skill feels like a homecoming.

Learning to treat myself well, and take care of me with skill feels like a homecoming.

Today is a good day to take care of me. As it turns out, practicing good self-care can change the way the world feels. 🙂