What if every human had the superpower to release a warning flare for when the ego was in overdrive? I really wonder how many flares I would fire off...per day?
My main man, Chris and I were flying back from a trip a couple of weeks ago. Occupying the middle seat, I won't sugar coat this for you all, I was absolutely miserable.
The woman next to me had made it clear when I entered our row that she was less than impressed. Southwest seating can be tricky. She sat there fuming in her Harley Davidson leather jacket and velour type blanket. Three quarters of the way through the flight, my lower back starts to seize up. And by seize up, I mean pull from my lower back all the up to my neck. Too much running, too little yoga mixed with alcohol the past week's vacay and I was not in the best shape on a five-hour plane ride home. As I looked over, Chris was fast asleep in his sleep mask and window seat.
I was jealous, to say the least.
So finally, the captain came over the microphone and announces our initial descent, which I always get way too excited for, it is absolutely another 20 - 30 minutes before landing time, at least. Chris stirred and woke up from his deep slumber. I told him about my back issues and that I had been trying seated yoga moves and felt really awful. I complained about the mean lady with silent gestures and I had to pee. He consoled me for a moment and then fell back asleep.
He wake up again smiling as the plane descends, he smiles at me and tries to snuggle his head on my shoulder. In this moment, I shrug him off and probably with the most gnarly attitude I can muster, I say, "no way, don't touch me. What are you thinking?".
Send up the ego flare number one.
He looks at me with the most sad Eeyore eyes I have ever felt and then looks out the window. I immediately know I was out of line. But then, I convince myself that I was actually right because he knew I was in pain, didn't' he? I ask him, "what's wrong? What?". And he shrugs and tell me that I am over dramatic and well, sometimes mean.
Ego flare number two, launch now.
I respond in the most UN-calm nature that one can have in the middle seat of a late night plane, "dude, my back hurts, I told you. I am (kind of) sorry, but my back is in pain and you want to add pressure with a snuggle? And I have to pee, what the F?".
He shakes his head. That disappointing dad-like-head-shake-shake and I sink deeper.
Then, I don't sink.
Ego flare number three.
I begin to anger further. Does this man have no respect, I ask silently in my mind? Does he not listen at all? I am trying to get through this flight while he sleeps and dreams in his seat, no compassion. Rude.
And then he turns to me and says that I do this a lot, actually. I pull away and close off from him often. Especially when I am deep in my work and it is not the best, it does not feel great on the receiving end.
As I breathe fire out of my nose, ears and eyes, I say to myself that he does not choose the best times to talk things out. While I am stuck in the middle seat on this plane, while I want to raise my voice and can't, while I want to stand up and huff and puff and pace around, all I can do is send up ego flare number four. I say nothing.
Now it is my turn to shake my head, take that. I begin to brew and think about all the times he has annoyed me or hurt my feelings or not been awesome. Glaring at him, I am working on comebacks in my head.Two can play at this feedback game, I think to myself.
Writer's Note: So much me, me, me. I am annoyed with myself writing this!
Yet in that moment, I hold my tongue and I choose to not speak. Don't make it worse, I say to myself. I can feel the disconnection within myself, I can feel the ego flare and fire up, the heat in my body and see my reactionary self. It doesn't even feel like me.
Thus, silence wins right now.
And the plane lands.
Writer's Note: Silent treatment on the plane might be the most annoying silent treatment ever.
As I stand up silently to depart, I walk it off a bit. I walk off the lower back pain, I walk off the ego. We pass through the terminal and I realize I was out of line, overdramatic and mean. I had spiraled into a version of myself that I don't really like, this prove it, I do no wrong and I know everything, anger-monster. Yikes. I (finally) realize that he was only trying to lay his head down on my shoulder in a gesture of love, not anything else.
I put down the ego flares.
I turn to him and sincerely apologize as we approach the baggage claim area and wait for a taxi. I admit to him that I was being uber aggressive, ready to fight and in a shit storm in my body and in my mind. I tell him that I had heard what he said and that I understood. I do actually pull away when in the work zone and stress is a common pattern, one I almost escape into.
I commit to him. I commit to being more affectionate, communicative and being more aware when I am putting up walls to shut him down. I grant him permission to call me out with a request that it is once we are off a plane ride, whenever possible. And he forgives me and we both breathe.
And so we do have superpowers, we do send up ego flares. The warning signs way before the angry tone, the F bombs and the glares. Mine come in body heat, aggressive reaction and disconnection where I do not even recognize or even have an awareness of my tone, my thoughts and my (closed off) body language.
Truthfully, more for me, than anyone else, I wish the flares were fires shot in the air, loud and visible. So I can look up, check in, check up and get real...so much faster.
What are your ego flares, the noticeable tendencies or patterns you turn to when disconnected and in reaction?
Get in relationship with your body and give yourself permission when you need to walk it off.