Life at home during most of my youth was spent walking on eggshells.
My mother and stepfather were what I call functional alcoholics. Work during the day, get drunk every night.
Whenever my stepfather came home from work, my mood radar would turn into high gear. Was it a good day? A bad day? What were frustration levels like?
My mom was usually on glass of wine number two by that time and my stepfather went straight to the freezer to start mixing his martinis. He would go through several shakers a night and she would finish at least a bottle.
I would be attuned to their every move. How much he spoke, or not. How aggressively he used his utensils. What was that evenings’ level of condescension? How jarringly would he correct our speech?
What were the odds that things were going to blow…which was a common occurrence at our place.
My sister and I would go to our rooms once we were allowed to leave the table. I would keep one ear dialed into the kitchen waiting for the decibels to spike.
This heightening of the senses stayed with me always. It was my secret defensive weapon to avoid direct hits and know when to retreat to avoid collateral damage.
Just writing this has opened the floodgates of the stress hormone cortisol. Boy, am I glad to be out of there.
That said, the eggshells on which I walked for all those years are perhaps my greatest source of strength.
When fully present, I am able to read a room, read body language, interpret tone, tune into the unsaid. This is not to say that I don’t miss the mark and fall short at many a turn. I have plenty of examples.
But I am able to take that deep attunement and create lasting relationships built on a strong foundation of trust. To cultivate a safe space to move beyond the superficialities of life, dig into the unmet need and carve out deep human connection.
I would even go as far as to say that is my superpower.
How about you?
- What coping mechanisms do you put in place to protect yourself in your most vulnerable moments?
- Is it possible they are a wellspring of strength to overcome your greatest obstacles?
Who knows: eggshells may be stronger than we thought.