So of course, everything I did for two days somehow involved my thumb.
I banged it on the faucet in the bath.
I cut it on an eggshell while trying to ram them down the disposal. It bled.
I got lemon in it.
Finally, I slathered it with Bacitracin and wrapped it in a Toy Story Band-Aid (Woody!), giving the poor little fella some much-needed rest.
You know when you stub your toe, how then everyone and their mother seems to accidentally step on your toe? Well, that’s kind of how my poor little thumb must have felt.
But were I to hold an objective lens up to my thumb-angsty days, chances are I actually didn’t suffer any greater frequency of injury as compared with a regular day. It just felt like I did. And, it also hurt worse when I suffered the thumb insults.
After I poked the silly thing with the eggshell, I rinsed the blood from my hand under my kitchen faucet, and reflected on how many damn times I had hurt my damn thumb. (There may or may not have been additional curse words involved.)
And then it dawned on me that this whole thumb situation was a really great metaphor for a lot of the emotional work I’ve been trying to do.
In her book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, Dr. Laura Markham talks a great deal about “parenting” ourselves:
The secret work of adulthood is that we are still growing up, and parenting forces us to learn to parent ourselves as well as our child.
Reading that book started me on a long and sometimes painful journey of really observing my negative reactions in life. When I am triggered by something, whether it’s from my child, my spouse, or a total stranger, I work really hard to nail down just what it was about the incident that provoked me.
Mind you, sometimes this just isn’t possible. Sometimes the reaction is too overwhelming. I try to revisit it later to dig a little deeper, but I don’t always have the emotional energy for that. (Yeah, I’m looking at you lady in the store who was really mean to me when I was trying on sunglasses.)
I’ve come to realize that almost everything I perceive as a hurt, a slight, an injustice or an insult is an indication to me of some wound that I already have. I’m busy cursing the lemon juice on my wound – because WOW it hurts – and just letting the infected, nasty hangnail fester away.
I’m working harder, now, post-hangnail, to wrap a little metaphorical antibiotic cream and bandages around my emotional hangnails. The hope is that I can bring them to a place of sufficient healing so as to guard against future insults.
It’s not easy work, by any means, but I think it’ll be worth the effort.