The Sum of our Parts
By Jill Rosenthal
Unless you’ve been very, very lucky, chances are your life has been affected by some tragic event. A childhood friend of mine lost her mom at 13 and the emotional seismic waves of a loss so profound can still be felt, even now, 30ish years later. Another friend who has been very close since we were tweens (though my battle with acne always trumped hers—why???) looks in the mirror at her gorgeous, strong, post-child-bearing yet slim body and feels self-loathing. There are no words that help, no love strong enough from the outside, so she continues to work on her inner “stuff.” Others have gone through employment problems, kid issues, divorce, and the list is endless.
I have a handful of friends with whom our issues are a big part of the conversation. My inner circle, if you will. Not just because we love each other to death, but because for those deeply rooted, stuck in your DNA issues, they never really go away. I mean the pain and “bigness” of the feelings ebb and flows, but certain things are part of who we are.
I’m far from immune. I’ve had my share of life experiences; some more enduring than others but you know, the thing of it is that the one thing I’ve learned along the way is that no event, large or well, less large, leaves us unscathed in some way.
For those of us who have layers beneath our skin, and this includes almost all of us—we are nothing but the sum of our parts.
If you’ve ever done internal family systems (IFS) therapy then you know what I know: there is no feeling or emotion, no matter how strong or overwhelming, that is representative of our whole selves—we literally are made up of parts and IFS therapists help people understand that their parts are just that—parts—and they are a direct result of previous, usually childhood, experiences that were left unattended.
Sometimes, oftentimes, trauma rears its head when we are not children. But even those events that occur during our adulthood; our reactions—whatever they may be—can be traced mostly back to something that happened to us as children. I mean, it makes sense. At the very core, we are who we are. But you don’t see people walking around with their triggered parts hanging out everyday.
And trust me, mostly we all have triggered parts hanging out everyday. The rest of us are just blind to them because well, our colleagues are just that, our friends have their own lives, and our therapist appointments are only once (or less) a week. You know that thing about “be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” — not just a saying.
You might be thinking, talk to friends! That’s what family is for! Well you know, here’s the thing about that: when you have an unpleasant life event occur as an adult, friends tend to fall away. Especially certain ones. You’re no longer part of a couple so you don’t quite “fit” as well on Saturday night. Husbands may lose interest in previously traditional Sunday night cookouts if they have no dude to shoot the sports shit with. Also, people are busy with their own families, their own stuff.
I can count on one hand the number of friends I feel comfortable reaching out to when my parts are up. As for family, well there must be a statute of limitations on having the same parts to salve after a while. They’re there, always, but not all of us are great at reaching out. Again.
So what do we do. I have parts that hang out. Sometimes more than other times. Lately, my parts (old ones) have been re-awoken by unfortunate events over which I have zero control. They’re with me all day every day and while I have many responsibilities—kids, work, life—things that just have to happen in order to maintain order around me, my parts are itching at me, looking for attention when I don’t have time to give it. And energy. These parts beg for energy.
On Saturday morning of this past Memorial Day weekend, I told my kids to toss a toothbrush and a change of underwear in a bag (maybe I grabbed a few other essentials) and we drove to my favorite New England beach town. We grabbed an overpriced, undercleaned hotel room steps from the sand, spent the day under the sun, played in the pool and ate lobster by the sea. We breathed together. We took a minute. My parts were calm, cool and collected. For a minute, they were quieted. It was nice, it was really nice.
Now it’s back to the grind. And the parts. And they’re loud, I won’t lie. It’s a new week, new challenges, but also new opportunities. I’m going to try, just try to put my head down, enjoy my family and the other people I’m lucky enough to love, and remind myself: it’s just my parts acting up. And I’ll also give a little respect to the other parts—the ones that say, hey, it’s sushi time or go for a spin dammit or pick up that book—and maybe, just maybe that will help quiet the rest.
Even if for just a minute.
Jill has spent more than a decade in public relations, social media, and marketing, She spends her days keeping up with the latest industry trends, executing PR strategies and generating strategic coverage for market-leading and emerging growth companies. Having graduated from Journalism school in Montreal, Canada, she is also a proficient writer and a skilled social media specialist. Follow here on Twitter for shards of brilliance and wit: https://twitter.com/JillRosenthal.
During a break from the frenetic pace from the corporate world (ie. having children), Jill joined the blogosphere in 2007 (before it was trendy) to amplify her ecommerce site. Jill closed up shop when life became too insane but has recently found space for her thoughts on Medium.