- Mattie Jo Cowsert
Prolonged Shit Sitting (and other lessons)
Updated: Jun 15, 2020
So I’m about to leave on this musical theatre tour I’ve just booked right after I decided I didn’t want to do musical theatre anymore. I’ve just found out my ex boyfriend (Zorro) whom I’m still totally in love with has a new girlfriend. Oh and then there was that Hot Yoga Teacher I missed out on...Despite not wanting my mood to be determined by men because how lame, there I was. Being very lame.
Anyway, I left on tour being pretty sad, but optimistic. In my musical theatre days, I was no stranger to uprooting my life for months at a time to play Summer Camp the Musical with strangers. Sometimes these experiences are the best of your life and sometimes they totally blow. But either way, I always try to remain grateful for the experience and hopeful that my cast won’t be a bunch of assholes.
This tour made it very hard to remain optimistic. And not just because the conditions of the tour reallllllly sucked. I wasn’t surprised to be on the road for hours at a time, landing at random Super 8s on freeways in Florida. I was not surprised at the early morning performances or the clashing of theatrical personalities. I was not even surprised at the lack of healthy food options on a $15/day per diem (I ate a fuckload of french fries on that tour. Oh happy day).
What did surprise me was how deeply sad and overwhelmingly alone I felt during those months. And there was absolutely NOTHING I could do about it.
I started that tour thinking Wow! God really answered my prayers in such an unexpected way! I’m right where I’m supposed to be! Me and God, we are total pals! By two weeks into the tour I was like, This is terrible. I hate everyone. You’re an awful pal, God.
I wasn’t in New York, so I couldn't do the normal I-feel-like-shit-so-I'm-gunna-make-myself-feel-better stuff like go see a Broadway show, or blast my favorite songs while pretending to be in a music video set in the streets of Manhattan. I couldn’t go to the gym to release endorphins to deal with my stress. I couldn’t even, God forbid, get wine drunk alone to drown my bad feels because I had to be up at the ass crack of dawn to hit actually super high notes and dance in a heavy chicken costume (#Equity).
Nope. Couldn’t avoid my sadness and pain. Just had to sit in my metaphorical shit pile of emotions and get super comfortable with my discomfort. Which, ya know, is not easy or even a little bit fun.
I mean, I started that tour thinking Wow! God really answered my prayers in such an unexpected way! I’m right where I’m supposed to be! Me and God, we are total pals! By two weeks into the tour I was like, This is terrible. I hate everyone. You’re an awful pal, God.
So I talked to my therapist (Side note: Phone therapy is a thing so no excuses, people! Just ask Michael Phelps):
“What if instead of wishing away your loneliness, sadness, and pain you allow it to tell you something about yourself? Use this opportunity of ‘prolonged shit sitting’ as a way to let your feelings tell you something?” He suggested.
You mean get curious about my emotions and healthily process them? Pffffft. No thanks! Just gunna wallow and binge watch another 5 episodes of Game of Thrones. Thanks but no thanks, THERAPIST.
“Umm, I’m sad because my ex-boyfriend has a new girlfriend and I hate this tour. Oh and #missedconnections with Hot Yoga Teacher, obviously.” I answered.
“Why does it make you sad that your ex has a new girlfriend?”
“Wouldn’t that make you sad?”
“This isn’t my therapy session.”
LOL. Shots fired.
“Fine! I promise I’ll stop watching Game of Thrones long enough to journal about this and get back to you.”
“Wait. You started watching Game of Thrones?”
And we know how the rest of the therapy session went.
So I took his advice (cuz I think that's the point of having a therapist) and started to get really curious about my sadness. Why did I feel so alone? Was I jealous? I was the one who ended things, so what was my deal? Why was I being such a baby about him moving on? WTF MJ???
Well, since I am an expert at my own feelings (#Enneagram4), I actually did know the answer to all of this before my therapist even asked. But it wasn’t an answer I was proud to admit. And I knew answering that question honestly was gunna mean I had to do some work I did not want to do.
The truth was, while of course I did truly love Zorro, I loved the security and escapism of him more.
Zorro and I originally broke up when he moved back to Romania. Our parting was sad but amicable. We were grateful to have experienced each other’s love but knew it was time to move on and go back to our separate lives.
Unfortunately, upon my first date back in the City, I was raped. So many-a-thing came to a screeching halt for me (you can read more about that here, here, and here. It’s not all depressing, I promise). Including, of course, dating. And/or the hope of ever finding love, trust, and companionship in a new man.
After the incident, Zorro was the first person I called. He quickly became my go-to for support/distracting myself from my terrible reality. Before I knew it, I was going to spend a month with him in Europe and we were basically back in a relationship. I felt a litany of emotions I'm not even sure the English language can adequately describe. But because of Zorro, I didn’t feel alone. I am one strong, independent mother fucker, but I really could not have made it through those months without his support and love.
I spent months in and out of an HIV clinic and had to do follow-up reports with a social worker. I hated going to those appointments because that meant my sexual assault was real and for a long time I just wanted it to not be. I confided in some people, only to be met with their rape stories, which made me even more angry. I still had all these mixed up feelings about even calling it rape. I so badly did not want this thing that happened to me without my consent to control my life but somehow, it was.
I was doing my best to work through the post-rape yuck; make “beauty from ashes” or whatever we're supposed to do but damnit, this shit was/is still hard. It’s not like there’s a guidebook on “How to Fully Recover From Getting Raped in One Year.” For so long it felt like I was just taking shots in the very foggy, fucked up dark.
As much as I didn’t want to be a victim, that is how I felt: angry and helpless
But then I had Zorro. My little glimpse of good in the world. A man I trusted. Who I knew saw and loved me. And that meant I never had to face the scary world of strange men ever again. He was a little relief amidst of the emotional and physical shitstorm listed above.
Up until things were totally over with Zorro, many of my therapy sessions were me sobbing, being very angry at men, and totally confused on how to interact with such evil creatures. There was a ton of (VERY JUSTIFIED) blame going on, and as much as I didn’t want to be a victim, that is how I felt: angry and helpless. The good news, of course, was that I had Zorro so there was no need to ever resolve that anger or helplessness. I could continue relying on him to band-aid my shittiness! Very convenient and so much less work.
So, therapist. I’ll tell you why I was so sad. Not because I was like “Merrp merrp my ex moved on, I was supposed to move on first not fair!” No. It’s because I knew my little avoidant fantasy love crutch was finally gone. I was going to have to face the shittiness of my reality and either succumb to victimhood, or powerfully claim how I show up within the shit.
My friend Madison (a fellow Recovering Evangelical) has this incredibly empowering statement I now live by: I am my own responsibility. I like to believe that God was all MJ, you had your time to work through some things while completely avoiding others. Now Imma just pluck this little avoidant crutch right the hell out ya life because you can't not learn the lesson of being your own responsibility. It’s gunna suck, I’m sorry. But like only a little sorry cuz I know you'll thank me publicly in a blog someday.
You right, God. I do thank you for that 4 month shit-sitting tour. For it was the catalyst of a whole new way of life in committing to be my own responsibility. And I learned that healing my relationship with men, was really about healing my relationship with me. Oh and I got to marathon seasons 1-6 of Game of Thrones. You really do always know what’s best for your children.