The Battle Within
Sometimes (often) I don’t trust myself.
I don’t trust my resolve.
Because when I soften
and open my heart,
open the door and let you in,
even a crack,
it’s more than I can bear.
I see your pain.
I see you lost when I look in your eyes.
I hear the fear and despair in your voice.
I see the wounds and scars on your skin.
And I feel it all…
and when I feel it all,
it threatens to swallow me whole.
I don’t trust myself
to not abandon myself
and it becomes too painful for both of us.
So, I must hold you at arm’s length
I must armor up my heart a bit (or a lot).
I don’t trust myself to hold my boundaries.
I need time and space
to find my own ground within.
It is within me, but I need to be alone to find it.
You confuse me
with the mixed-up feelings you stir—
love, pain, fear, grief, hope…
Maybe my heart is not big enough
or strong enough to hold them all.
Until I can trust myself
to be here for myself,
I cannot let you in again.
Every time I do, it hurts.
It threatens to break me.
It disturbs my peace.
It disrupts my strength.
You disrupt my strength—
for I fear I will love you more than I love myself.
It is too easy to lose myself in you again
(and again, and again).
It is not healthy for either of us, for any of us,
when I lose myself.
And so, my son, I must step away
and let each one of us find our way today.
I wrap you in love
and I pray that God envelops us both
and keeps us safe and warm,
one moment at a time.
This is how I begin to trust myself again.
With a pause.
With a breath.
With allowing myself not to have to respond.
“The Battle Within” © Barb Klein, 2020
I wrote this poem on a cold wintry morning, after working myself into a state simply from receiving a voice mail from my son. I was inconsolable even before I had all the facts. My mind automatically jumped to all of my assumptions: Now I’m going to have to be the one who figures everything out. He’s going to expect me to…. My mind flew through all the times in the past when this has been the case. I desperately wanted my husband to save me and be the one to call him back and take care of things. Wisely, he didn’t offer to do that.
I wrote this poem after curling up in a ball and sobbing, after talking to my husband until there was nothing more to say; after talking to a friend, who simply listened and let me get it all out; and after meditating and doing what I could to calm myself down. I wrote this poem to get to the core of what was going on for me. What I found surprised me.
How often I have felt this way, caught in the frenzy of the moment? I’ve been conditioned to go into panic mode, remembering all the things that have happened in the past, imagining the worst in the future….
It is only when I remember that I can hit “pause” that I can find some grounding. When I remember that his urgency does not have to become mine. I find my breath, slow everything down, and then respond.
It’s been interesting for me to note that my distress isn’t entirely because of what my son is doing or not doing. He gets to do what he does—he can call, he can text, he can ask. He can be using or sober. I get to choose how I respond. And my choices get to be different depending on a number of circumstances, including my own bandwidth, my strength, my state of mind, and my needs and desires. Those count too.
My distress comes when I forget that I have a choice or when I don’t like the choices that I see. My distress amplifies when I jump into the old pattern—when I get on the roller coaster instead of remembering that I hate roller coasters!
It frees us both when I remember that my response is within my control. Sometimes I don’t even need to act at all. Sometimes he’s taken care of things or found someone else to help him out.
On the day of this poem, in an attempt to stop an onslaught of texts and calls, I did text him to say, “I am not available to talk, but I love you and trust that you know who to call and what to do to get the help you need” (because he does), and then I gave myself the time I needed to be in a place where I felt ready to pick up the phone and call him. It took about five hours. Five hours that included silence and deep self-care. By the time I did call him, he had already taken care of the critical issues and had even set himself up with admission and transportation to a program. The demands that would have fallen on me in the morning were no longer there. Time had served us both. I was reminded of what is possible when I empower and require him to take responsibility.
Remembering not to abandon myself keeps me out of the familiar trap that has caught me far too many times. When I am grounded within myself, I can respond from a place of love and compassion. When I am grounded within myself, I do not become a victim to the circumstances. When I take the time to become grounded, I am giving myself the loving care that I need.
From this space, I trust myself and build my reserves for next time. For, most likely, there will be a next time.
I wish you peace and grounding as you walk through this day. Remember to pause. Remember to allow yourself permission to not respond immediately. Give yourself that grace. I offer this to you as an invitation to a new way of reacting the next time you get that call or text that throws you into a frenzy. And I write this to help me remember as well.
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