I’ve been writing this blog for eleven years and every post represents a small step on my journey of emotional maturity.
I started blogging here at 40 as I confronted the reality of being a single, childless woman whose career – the career she’d given her twenties and thirties to in an all-consuming way – had gone awry.
I had a reasonable idea back then about some of the things that were blocking me from true emotional maturity. By the time I started this blog, I’d already been recovering from an eating disorder and codependency for some years. I’d already lost my dad. And I’d already burnt out in my job.
So I’d done a fair bit of emotional processing.
But I didn’t know the true scale of what I was dealing with, nor did I know that it would take me many more years of consistent personal development work and healing to be able to have a healthy relationship with myself and a loving, long-lasting partnership with another.
Nor did I quite realise that growing emotionally and becoming more available to my feelings would be a lifelong journey, something I’d need to keep working on for many more years to come.
So it is that I write to you having just turned 51.
I am in a very different place to when I turned 41, which was, I recall, a difficult day.
My 40th had been a breeze. I held a big party with my friends and bought a new frock (don’t you love that word, frock?). I felt young, healthy and upbeat about the future. I didn’t dwell on my single and childless status. I was enjoying my single London life. I’d also just started this blog and was loving writing it and connecting with my lovely readers.
Turning 41 was a different kettle of fish.
How on earth had I ended up here? I asked as I cried onto my pyjamas (this scene will be familiar if you’ve read my book, How to Fall in Love). The silence in my North London attic flat was deafening. No partner to bring me breakfast in bed. No patter of tiny feet on my wooden floors. A cavernous emptiness inside.
Fast forward ten years to the morning of my 51st. I woke up in a beautiful wooden cabin in Devon with my husband of nearly three years and our gorgeous cocker spaniel, Layla. We walked the dog in the dunes of Saunton Sands, went body boarding and soaked in a hot tub on the decking, before going out for a meal.
A very different picture. A joyous picture.
Yet I’m the same woman.
Despite the wonderful company I now have, the old coping mechanisms I developed in childhood are never very far away and I have to be constantly vigilant, lest I fall back into a dark place.
I have to practice my morning meditation, keep up my beach walks and sea swims and remind myself to be grateful for what I have, rather than always hankering after the things I don’t have.
I have to be wary of the compulsive wanting, the dissatisfaction, the soul sickness.
I also have to keep working on my recovery, my healing and my emotional maturity. I have to stay connected to my feelings.
I may have fallen in love, but without emotional maturity and a connection to my feelings, I can easily sabotage the beautiful relationship I have built.
I came close to doing this on the eve of our birthday weekend in Devon. I lashed out in anger and frustration at my wonderfully patient husband and my gorgeous golden puppy.
My blood boiled, steam came out of my ears and I raised my voice.
The surface reason is because both he and she did something that I found annoying.
But the deeper reason is that I was feeling stressed and scared, which I realise now happens to me every time I take time off work and go away (holidays are a trigger from my childhood – I feel much safer glued to my desk). And instead of feeling my feelings and processing them, I chose to act out on them in my closest relationships.
In that heated moment, I chose to blame others rather than look at myself.
This is an example of emotional unavailability. I wasn’t available to my own feelings. I didn’t make space for my emotions. I didn’t take the time to realise I was feeling scared and anxious and to soothe my frightened inner child. I just stayed busy and kept working, piling one task on top of another until the accumulated steam blew the lid off my internal pressure cooker and my emotions came out sideways, at sharp angles, like daggers or arrows, directed at those I love.
Thankfully, I’ve been on my personal development journey long enough to realise quickly that I am acting out on uncomfortable feelings.
Within minutes, I apologised to my husband and to the pup. Within minutes, I understood that I needed to process my own feelings rather than hurl them around the room.
Thank goodness for my self-awareness.
Emotional availability is a journey, not a destination, and it’s progress not perfection.
As many of you know, I spent almost two decades completely detached from my emotions, binge eating, binge drinking, smoking, over-exercising, over-working, courting danger and drama, getting into relationship scrapes.
There was no way I could have sustained a healthy relationship during those years. I was completely disconnected from myself.
So much has changed.
Yet I am still capable of shutting down my emotions.
I am still capable of lashing out at others, of blaming others, rather than taking responsibility for my own feelings and my own healing.
Without this awareness, I wouldn’t know to apologise. I would push my husband away and my marriage would come crashing down.
I’m only one step away from major self-sabotage.
Thank goodness I don’t take my recovery and healing for granted.
It’s one thing to build sufficient emotional availability to fall in love, but staying in love is a whole other ball game. I’ll get round to writing ‘How to Stay in Love’ eventually – I’m still gathering information!
Now, over to you.
How is your emotional availability, dear reader?
Are you present to your feelings? Are you aware of what’s going on inside? Do you process your feelings and allow them to heal, or do they come out sideways, in judgement, criticism or attack (attacking yourself or attacking others), or do they stay stuck inside, stuffed down, smothered with excess food, alcohol, TV, work or something else?
Remember, we are always growing and learning. Every day, we can start afresh.
Emotional availability is on my heart right now, and not just because of these recent experiences. I’m preparing to host a workshop on the topic of How to Find an Emotionally Available Partner. If this topic resonates with you, it would be lovely to see you on the workshop. You can find the details below.
Thanks, as always, for reading. I hope this blog has helped you to grow.
Events & Resources
How to Find an Emotionally Available Partner is a live, interactive workshop for women that happens on Friday March 25th at 12 noon GMT (8 am EST) and is repeated on Tuesday March 29th at 5 pm BST (UK time) and 12 noon EST. Limited places. Save your seat here.
For coaching, courses and retreats, including a wonderful retreat in Turkey in October, go to www.katherinebaldwin.com
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