Maybe I’m just running from what’s always with me, regardless of where I go or what I do. Yet there’s nowhere to hide, is there?
When this mood is coming, it won’t be turned away or denied. It must make its claim on my days, have its time in my head and heart.
At the moment, it’s here. Waiting for me when I come home. This big empty house. This silence. This loneliness.
Even with a schedule that includes work, community service, commitments to different organizations and committees, and time with friends … it’s suddenly very empty this week. Chris and Sarah are gone with the youth group. Jessie is a name on a stone.
Can this be real? Is this what there is?
Until noon yesterday, I was looking forward to solitude. To freedom and self-indulgence. A stay-cation instead of a vacation, as they call it. Painting my nails. Sleeping a little late. Watching chick-flicks. Reading a book. Girls’ night out, every night if I want.
Instead, I found myself suddenly very sad. Finding three reasons to come home instead of driving further away. Finding three reasons to climb out of bed this morning. Another three reasons to get dressed. Another three reasons to get busy. I didn’t actually do all those things or win all those arguments. Only some of them.
I didn’t want friends. Or companionship. I wanted to be alone with my loneliness. And then I didn’t want it. Instead I wanted not to be inside my own head or inside my own skin. I wanted to hide. To disappear. To escape and forget. To be numb and distracted until it’s over.
I have been wrestling with myself for the past 24 hours, just to take the necessary steps to be responsible and take better care of myself. Because right now, I don’t want to. I want permission to fall apart. To lose myself for a while.
My head knows what I should do. On the one hand, it’s giving me to-do lists and instructions. All this time that I have available to finish projects this week. To clear out old stuff. To establish order. To accomplish incomplete goals. To feel like I’m in control … of something.
Or to just manage the basics. Brush my teeth. Eat something healthy. Have a cup of tea. Shower. Go outside for a walk. Write this journal.
My heart is saying something else. It’s tired and sorrowful just now, and wants to stay curled up under the covers in a quiet dark room, and try to sleep through the pain it feels.
It’s familiar to me, this internal struggle. A companion I don’t want, who walks alongside and sits with me anyway.
Maybe it was always part of my life, and is simply exaggerated since Jessie died. We must all experience grief and melancholy in different ways, because we are all creatures who are coming and going, welcoming new experiences while also dealing with loss. Connection and loss are different for each of us, but these characteristics are part of who we are.
Sometimes you can know, intellectually, what’s ahead of you. Or even what you’re in the middle of experiencing. You may have learned the terminology and language to describe it.
That’s helpful. Powerful. Naming and identifying what you’re feeling.
But guess what? You can’t talk your way out of an emotion or an experience. You still need to feel it. Go through it. Live with it.
You have to feel and live through all the ranges of being human: the good and the bad, the easy and the tough, the soft and the gritty, the angry and the loving. You don’t get to choose. If you want one part, you must take the whole experience.
If you don’t want any part of the human experience, ever, at all … you’re probably in a very vulnerable and dangerous place indeed. On the other hand, it’s normal, I think, for most of us to want a retreat from our own selves, a break from our own humanity, every once in a while.
So I’m admitting that I’m in the downward spiral, bad part today. Missing my family. Feeling disconnected. Realizing I’m anxious about my direction in life and the changes that are coming. Grieving Jessie palpably right now.
And the most important thing to know? This is part of being human. This vulnerability and pain.
It’s the flip side of the joy we experienced on Saturday during the bike ride, or even the more constant, low-key love and companionship that is part of family reality, when three people’s different lives rub up against each other day in and day out. The absence of that friction and contact seems extreme right now.
It’s okay. It doesn’t need to be fixed. It just is. And I must live inside this moment, not outside it or beyond it. It’s part of what makes me alive.
The poet Mary Oliver thought about this, lived with it, and made it beautiful. Here is an excerpt from her work, The Leaf and the Cloud: A Poem –
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.
and the responsibilities of your life.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.