By now everyone knows I throw a pretty damned good pity party. (I also throw really good real parties too, so check back with me another time.) It didn’t start off as a pity party, but you know what happens when After Hours gets out of hand. It started off with the appropriate notion to properly grieve the loss of someone important in my life. And I did. And I am. And I wanted to walk a delicate balance of fully feeling the emotions and hurts but not wallowing in it, and of not being too busy with distractions or dismissing the emotions in furtive denial. Mostly I wanted the sadness to go away, and I know you can’t put something down until you fully process it.
A friend pointed out that sadness doesn’t go away. It changes. But see, I hate bad feelings. Because they feel bad (Please note: Nothing gets by me). So really, my expectation was for the sadness to completely go away–that I could put it down and walk away from it. I’m practicing how to cope with negative feelings in more effective ways these days. I am so fortunate to have so many loving friends reaching out, offering their shoulders to cry on, ears to hear my woes, arms to cradle me, bar stools to drink on, cases of beer to fill the fridge. In the past, one of my Super Powers was Stoicism, so I used to say, “Thank you, but I’m OK.” And I would grin and bear it (and die a little bit inside), because that’s what I thought Strength looked like. Now, I understand Strength is reaching out to loved ones and saying, “Help.” Sometimes I also say, “More beer, please.” There’s no shame in either.
So now I reach out and make things super awkward with friends. The super part is I’ve learned to reach out for help in my most vulnerable times. Here’s the awkward part though–I say, “I need help. But I don’t want to talk about it.” Thank God my friends already know I’m a bit um, quirky and not entirely appropriate. Because they patiently humor me and say “OK, I’m here when you’re ready.” I tell them it hurts too much for me to talk about right now. I will. But not today. Today is not the day. Just come and babysit me today please.
So each day that has passed, I have said “Today is not the day.” One day I will be able to remember all the fun times we had together. But today is not the day. One day I will tell you about the argument we had that night. But today is not the day. One day I will tell you how I’m feeling about this. But today is not the day. One day I will tell you how confused, blindsided, and surprised I was. But today is not the day. I wanted the sadness to abate a bit. I wanted the sharp pain throbbing in my chest to dull a bit. I wanted to be able to process this and pack it away. I wanted to get through a sentence without crying. Today is not the day.
Then a friend reminded me that I am fierce and I don’t flinch:
Joy is the place we stumble upon when we look our deepest pain and greatest fear directly in the eyes, and we refuse to flinch. It’s the place we discover when we decide pain and fear aren’t going to be the final word. It’s the place where we anchor ourselves in something more than the vicissitudes of our material existence. It’s the place of freedom inside every situation, where we realize the things that are happening to us are losing their power to control us and define us.
~Dr. Kelley Flanagan Blog: Untangled
I realized I am tired of playing the role of The Girl With the Broken Heart. I realized sadness doesn’t get packed away in a suitcase and placed in the attic. Losses don’t just go away. They change–they change meaning, intensity, frequency. But it’s like love, once you feel it, it’s there. It’s real and becomes part of you and the fabric of your being. It will always be there. So I decided even though I still can’t make it through an hour without crying, Today would be the Day. I would share my vulnerabilities with my loved ones, because I do not flinch and I will not allow pain to be the final word. I can’t wait for and look for a Tomorrow on the horizon. If I don’t make Today the Day, I relinquish control over my life and allow life events to define me. That’s not who I want to be.
So the funny thing is, when I decided Today would be the Day, and I opened up to friends and reached out to him to make peace, I expected to feel better. I don’t. Sadness, Grief, Loss, it never really goes away. But I know it will eventually move from one place in my heart and life to occupy another space. Today is the Day to start moving him into another chamber of my heart. Today is the Day I remember who I am and who I want to be.