Posted December 6, 2010on:
Remember playing this game as a kid? I never liked it. I didn’t see the point, and it always seemed I got rope burn trying to pull so hard. And as the game goes, the harder you pull, the more effort the other side expends so they can win.
Speaking of rope burn, I also remember as a kid sliding down some huge slide sitting on a burlap sack. I can’t remember where , but the memory just came roaring back. That experience was like a tug-of-war too. I remember feeling gloriously free careening down the slide, caressed and stung by the wind and having no worries during that fast and furious moment.
And then the moment at the bottom when I realized the ride was over and my butt had slid off the burlap sack and I had rope burn all up and down my legs. The price I paid for that exhilarating run. I wish someone had told me to wear pants!
I have discovered that you can also play tug-of-war with feelings. Someone reminded me that if I expect those close to me to know what I want and need without telling them directly, I will be disappointed. This is akin to mind-reading, which most of us don’t do very well.
I know this intellectually, but emotionally it is still often hard for me to be direct about my feelings and even identify what it is that I am feeling. There must be a way to strike a balance between the desire to show my feelings and pressing my autopilot button to conceal my truest self, which I did for a long time. It was my survival tactic.
Simply put, as I was gently reminded, I am not used to anyone showing care and tenderness toward me. I don’t know how to react, or how to let it in. I want to, but the feelings that rush up overwhelm me. They are a bittersweet mix of joy and sadness. Mourning, if you will, for not having felt genuine tenderness enough to know how to deal with it.
Feeling for real, and expressing how I feel, is still so foreign that I don’t trust it. I grew up thinking that if I let people know my true self, somehow they would get the upper hand, which everyone already seemed to have anyway. I have been told that this is common for children of alcoholics. There were no emotions expressed – everything real was repressed and avoided. That’s how I got so good at covering up my stuttering.
So this tug-of-war with feelings is vexing me now. It is not as easy to hide anymore. As I heal and continue uncovering and exposing my true self, people are coming in. I have been so used to holding people and feelings at arm’s length, that usually I don’t even notice I am doing it.
Maybe I can have that glorious feeling of careening freedom again, right smack into life instead of down a slide on my butt on a burlap sack . Maybe I will figure out how to avoid the rope burns. Or maybe I’ll just figure out how to stop pulling so hard.