Yeah, I said "tits" on social media, Mom... AND I am still a good Southern woman. I am absolutely not sorry.
Self-regulation is similar to self-care. To truly understand it, you must understand emotional dysregulation. For a crash course in emotional dysregulation, here is a video I made for my buddy Emilie Maynor of The Fearless Om and Emilie Maynor Living (http://www.emiliemaynor.com). Bottom line: dysregulation feels scary and out of control. Self-regulation is the ability to self-soothe, retain control, and cope in a healthy manner.
Here is a small, but profound example from my life: A couple of months ago, a dear friend and her daughter came to stay at my house for five days. I know, guests stink after three days, or something like that. Not these guests. These guests were GOLD! In addition to being a friend, Joy is also a fellow therapist. Upon meeting, there was instant connection; labelling our relationship, "PLU" status. PLU = People Like Us. You probably have a PLU or two yourself, right? A PLU provides a space of ease and laughter, without anxiety or fear. It is someone that just gets it, and gets you. PLU guests do not stink after three days.
Joy and Betsy flew from Corvallis, Oregon to Atlanta; and from Atlanta, drove to Birmingham. That is a long way for anyone to travel, particularly a mom flying solo with her 7-year-old daughter. I wanted everything to be PERFECT. I needed my house tidy, the right snacks in the fridge, clean sheets, and my children to be f*ing angels... I ran around like a maniac that day, whirling a vacuum around like it was part of my body, ordering (a disturbing amount of) groceries from Costco, and infusing my kids with complete nonsense: "we must be polite to our guests...blah, blah, blah." But dammit, I am a single working mom and cannot keep up.
As it turns out, children really don't care if your house is perfect or not. Although they are, in fact, little angels, they create really gross messes, and make a ton of noise. After spending hours prepping, I looked around my house, and discovered that it looked like we had just been raided by an angry toddler mob. I walked into my room and cried. I was tired. I was pissed. I was disappointed.
I sent Joy the following text:
"Hey, my house is a disaster. I am freaking out. I am so sorry."
And, she responded:
"Calm your tits. See you tonight."
That was it! Genius! Simply, "calm my tits." I honestly have no idea if that is a real phrase or an exclusive Joy special, it doesn't really matter, because holy moly did it soothe me. I laughed, and then paused (if you are not a newbie to my blog you might remember that the "magic is in the pause," from my first post, "a letter to my fellow mamas" ). Joy was right - I had to find calm. I realized I was prepping for their arrival from a space of shame, "I must appear good enough, even though I am a disaster!" The beauty of PLU's is, they love you in your disaster, because it's your disaster, and they love YOU!
Joy and Betsy arrived to find me, my children, and my house in all of our messy glory. We had a BLAST. The kids played, the mamas chatted, we had taco night, we went on a drive-thru safari (yes it's real; and no, it is not recommended...here is the video to prove it), and most importantly we were just human-beings, rather than human-doings.
On her last day, Joy looked at me and said, "You know, your parenting is like a triple salchow in ice skating. Regular parenting is like, say, a double-lutz. The double-lutz, it's hard, but you should be able to land it. The triple salchow, if you land it, is like, wow...she landed the triple salchow. You are doing an amazing job, mama." If you don't watch Olympic ice-skating, what Joy basically told me is, my gig as a single working mom is freaking hard, and I am landing it. I am not landing it in my perfection, but in my willingness to be imperfect.
The wisdom in self-regulation is this: when you are acting wacky, find a place to pause, and find a PLU. Joy, if you read this, you saved me that day. I adore you. Thanks for being my PLU, and sharing with me the essential, and sacred method of tit calming.
Want to dive in? Here is a journal prompt:
Consider taking some time to explore, and journal about what causes you emotional dysregulation. What does it feel like? What are some of the behaviors or actions that you’d like to change? What would it look like to nourish and nurture yourself in those moments? Could you commit to trying something new? If you are open, please share those with me via email; I would love to see! email@example.com