Toddling Towards Peace (or How I Broke My Face)

In late January/early February, I was in a lot of pain. Radiating from my face into my temples, through my neck, and into my shoulders, the pain would not go away. I had difficulty sleeping, eating, thinking, and making it through the day without crying from the discomfort. When I finally went to a professional to figure out what the heck was going on, I discovered that my pain was caused by a TMJ flare-up. My TMJ flared due to a frequently-clenched jaw, nighttime teeth grinding, and extreme rigidity in my neck and facial muscles caused by extreme stress and tension. My face was miserable. I was miserable.

My recourse when I have something to figure out and ponder at length is to write it out. In doing so, I realized that, while I’d made great strides in not acting or reacting from a place of anger, stress, frustration, and irritation when life and relationships got a bit hairy, I was still holding the anger, stress, frustration, and irritation inside me. Since I was no longer yelling, lashing out, and generally behaving rudely to those around me when things were tumultuous, I thought I was living at peace. But all those negative, volatile emotions were just building up inside me without any relief valve to ease the pressure and my body started paying the price. The pain I was in belied the idea that I had peaceful living all figured out. I had do change something. So I did.

One of the greatest sources of stress at that time was a strained relationship with someone whose turmoil and chaos had blown over into my life and I was reaping a harvest of dread, exasperation, and bewilderment. For the sake of my own health, I had to distance myself from that person. Another source of my own angst was a burden of regret I’d carried around for over a year. I discovered this wonderful article about releasing regret and followed (most of) the steps detailed within it. I wrote an apology letter to someone. I wrote an apology letter to myself. I started letting myself cry sometimes when I was hurt instead of trying to put on a brave face and telling myself not to be such a baby. I tried to stop apologizing for not being able to bear the emotional burdens of others when I was already exhausted from my own. I tried to stop feeling guilty for not being perfect. I made an effort to extend to myself the grace to make mistakes that I give to others. I reached out to those wiser than myself and asked for help. I stopped trying to be a savior all the time. And I renewed my resolve to accept situations and people as they are rather than expecting what is to be different.

I am still a toddler when it comes to walking the path of  inner and outer peace. I stumble. I scrape my knees. I sit down for awhile, refusing to get up until I’ve had a good sob. And sometimes, in my flawed pursuit of serenity, my body has no recourse but to turn on itself, using pain as a cry for help. But I’m listening and I’m learning. I’ll get this peace thing down yet.

4 responses to “Toddling Towards Peace (or How I Broke My Face)

  1. Hurray Leah! Let it out. I too had TMJ once from holding frustrations in at a bad job. This is no good.

    Lately, when things are out of control emotionally, I have been banging on the horn of my car as I go down a country road.
    Sometimes I throw litter too. I don’t think either is socially acceptable but it feels good to push back on the society that does not accept me and punishes me in their own way.

    I appreciate you sharing your journey.

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