(credit :: Miranda Lambert - The House that Built Me)
As you read this I will be at my parents' home. It is these walls that inspire this post.
When we are exposed to an environment we often leave our mark. Be it with the paint we put on the walls, the floors we lay down, the carpet we choose (or perhaps the stain we will later imprint upon it when we knock over a bottle of nail polish). However, the environment also makes a mark on us... in the memories we associate with that space... the secrets those walls hold... the moments that have somehow become ingrained in both our foundation and in the house's. It's why certain scents can transport you back to that place and space in time and why sometimes just opening a door can take down a barrier you hadn't fully realized was present.
From my 5th grade year until I was in the military my parents lived in a house on the water. A modest 1800 square foot home that for a long duration of their stay there was shared by my parents, my sister and I, and our two cats. When I left for college in Fall 2006, I pretty much never came back except as a visitor. My sister came back home the summer of 2007 and stayed for nearly two years, but not me. When I left I had no plans of returning... except for the occasional visit. I drifted away from that home... hoping even the memories would not follow me. While they did become less prominent in my everyday life, every time I would come back home again and walk through those doors a wave would come over me. Leaving me feeling consumed. It felt nearly impossible to not fall into the role that I had always held within those walls. Roles I had been assigned and roles I had assigned myself. Roles that seemed to demand certain behaviors and that left me emotionally drained... watching myself like an actor on the stage.
As I said earlier, my parents left that home. At the time my mother was upset with me, so I cannot tell you exactly when they moved as I don't know... I didn't know until a relative mentioned it to me. Despite downsizing themselves - going from two children, two pets, and themselves to merely themselves - they wound up moving into a larger 3200 square foot home within the confines of a subdivision in a neighboring town. When I walk into their home now while the people themselves sometimes bring me back to feeling like the little girl of my past, it's not a role that I feel forced into. I now recognize the potential choice of whether or not I will embody the past.
Was that choice always there (as an adult)? Yes. However, it wasn't as easy or clear to see in their former home. Those choices were still definitely there though, just masked by the intense emotions that seeped out of the space and into the core of my being.
This past week in DBT, the talk of coaching calls came up as none of us seem to be too keen on them. Coaching calls essentially exist upon the belief that you can know better, have discussed what things would be good to calm you down or center yourself - to stop or prevent engaging in eating disorder behaviors, but in a moment of intense emotion you can need help. While the thought of coaching calls still freaks me out - and makes me really uncomfortable - I do now better understand their purpose.
In our lives we have these spaces, such as my parents' old home, that are negative for us. These spaces can be anywhere. They can be a space in the physical sense, in the sense of time, or even just mental head space. Sometimes you need a reminder that there are choices in front of you. That just because you've always done X, Y, or Z in this situation doesn't mean that those are the only options out there. Coaching calls in DBT are those reminders... and sometimes just calling someone is one of those choices.