The sweet spot. We are all looking for it. Be it in relationships, the perfect at bat, the ideal buzz, the desired spiritual high. We are searchers by creation. But, I’m tired. This exhausting effort to find the perfect feeling has left me hurt and untrusting of all the people and things. As a control freak, it is even more problematic because my search usually ends in one of two things: judgment of others or shaming of myself. Today, I surrender.
I have recently gone back to therapy. I could make a list of all the reasons that this was the right thing to do, but here is the truth. This ain’t my first rodeo. The topics and lessons and pain and tears have been rooted in the same issues that landed me on my first squishy piece of furniture in 2002. For decades, I have searched for ways to avoid pain. In some seasons, this has manifested itself in taking up new practices. In others, change has required putting down old habits. As someone that has seen the benefits of good mental health work, I should willingly walk into the rooms of professionals with excitement and honor for the transformation that is sure to come.
This time, however, it was not the case. I wanted to avoid this work. There is no better example of the journey of self-discovery and growth than an onion. Seriously, I’m using a Shrek reference for my hardest work. Because in my world, I need Eddie Murphy’s voice to remind me that I stink and that I make people cry. The bottom line is I AM NOT LIKE CAKE. I am a freaking ogre and my layers are many and deep. The only way to deal with the central challenges that I am sitting with for the um-teenth time is to peel back the next freaking layer.
The world that I live in tells me that I have the ability to do it all. I watch so many people in so many arenas of my life living gloriously “successful” lives. I would bet that many reading this think the same of me. “What do you need to work on?” “You have two great kids and a stellar husband.” “Team Hilbrich is a solid fighting machine.” “What could be wrong?” These things are true. And even with the truth of all the great things that life has given me, I have layers upon layers that are very far from the view of the masses. If there is one thing that I have mastered in this life, it is the art of the presentation. Sure, I come off a little mouthy and I have always been bossy and controlling, but in many circles those things have served me (and those that I have advocated for) quite well. I’m so perfected in this area, that my entire interior can be burning to the ground and I can still convince those observing from the periphery that the smoke is just part of the designed decorative accessories.
Want in on a secret? My chase has always been for the perfect combination of success and escape. That’s my sweet spot. The moment that the world believes that I have all the things together and I can simultaneously find the private and perfect ways to have the things that are “mine” out of your view of consumption. That’s how we avoid peeling the next layer. We don’t have to look deeper if we can live in that sweet spot. The one where we can come into our house or car or closet or porch and believe that we are alone and safe. Sure, we are safe from some things in these spaces. There are certainly ways that we can further that belief or prolong seeing the truth of the onion middle by avoiding the inner work but it is still there. And if you are anything like me, avoidance is only temporary. Because one day, you will be sitting in your safe spot and you finally admit that you can never escape your own soul. That’s the lie of the sweet spot. It’s a big fat liar.
For the record, there is nothing like a global pandemic and a major life shift to jerk off multiple layers at one time. This season has been fucking painful. It still is. Because when the layer is pulled off, we can’t put it back on. There is no amount of hot glue that can slap that sucker back on in a way that allows me to sell a together exterior once I have a half peeled layer flapping in the wind. This is the moment that I have a choice. I can live the lie that everything is fine (seriously, people, this is like my least favorite and most overused coverup) or I can face the reality that none of us are fine and instead embrace that the work of wholeness is just that – work. There is no shortcut. There is no easy way. There is no numbing or drinking or relationship or food or self sabotage that will make this magically disappear.
One of the first things that I have been asked to do as I begin this work is to pay attention to my body. Have I mentioned that I do not enjoy slowing down? That is the heart of paying attention. My body is speaking in loud and painful ways to me these days. It is tired. It is in protect mode. It shouts pain and fatigue and irritation and grief from every direction. There is a reason that my therapist asked me to pay attention to my body…bodies do not lie. I lie. My words do not match what I know to be true about my insides when it comes to my “fine-ness,” but my body does not lie. I woke up this morning after 10 hours of sleep (see, bodies don’t lie) and my shoulders were curled in on them selves. My gut was pained. My neck felt weighty. Even in my sleep, my body was screaming for me to listen.
So today, I just need to ask the Universe, am I the only one that is really ready to quit? Quit fighting the lie that there is a sweet spot? Quit believing that avoidance is the goal? Quit looking for ways to keep the exterior tougher so that the layer can withstand all that I throw at it? I hate being a quitter. Being is quitter is something that I fight with all of my everything. But my body and mind and soul and spirit and anxious heart and pounding head all tell me that it is time. So for today, I quit.