Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Dancing with a Limp

I was looking for something on Pinterest, and this quote stopped me in my tracks. In fact, it made me forget what I was looking for. 
Lifes A Quote ~ Widow in the City

When people ask me how I'm doing, I often say that I'm doing fine, because I don't expect they want to know the truth. The truth after three years of grief feels stale to me. By that I mean that while it is still fresh in many ways, so much of life has happened that I don't always feel comfortable acknowledging that I still hurt on a daily basis. The sad thing is that no one is doing anything to make me feel this way. I do it to myself. 

Every time I cry out of the blue, or whenever I am overcome with the loneliness that comes with losing my best friend, I berate myself. I try to stop crying as quickly as I can and I am overcome with disappointment in myself. Even in my own house I find secret places to cry where no one can see because I don't want anyone to know that I still grieve so deeply. 

As I've mentioned before, I have phenomenal friends and family. I know I can cry in front of them, and I do. They tell me all the time that it is OK for me to cry, that it is understandable and that in the scheme of things, three years is nothing, and to take my time grieving. Yet, to me, it feels as though I should be feeling grateful for the life I've lived in the last three years, and not so stuck on what hasn't been, and what won't be. I feel like I should be at the point where I focus more on what I've accomplished, and all that I have to look forward to. 

Since that horrid day I have been recognized and won multiple awards. I have made beautiful friends and Allies. I have written a novel. I have started on the path to a career as a writer. I have traveled. I have launched a non-profit. I have organized Christmas Eve meals for nearly 500 people. I have raised a daughter who is lovely and sassy, just like she should be. I have been part of honoring Warren's legacy through his posthumous awards and memorials. I got a Masters degree. I got a job at a university. I lost 30 pounds. When I list it like this, it sounds like I've done a lot in three years. But it took me a LONG time to come up with this list. Why? Because they feel insignificant in comparison to the potent sadness that is still so alive with vigor inside me. I want desperately for all these things to feel like enough to move me past the sadness, but it's not, and that makes me feel like there is something wrong with me.

Silent tears until my son returns to me, the man I know God made him to be...prayers every night for you son, I continue to miss you while you'e "gone"...Love ~ MomEvery day I feel more deeply than I ever have, and it freaks me out. I am not used to being tugged emotionally so many times per day. That's not how I was pre-February 15th. 

As an adult I have always hated crying. I have never been able to let tears fall as needed and accept them as part of life. Perhaps it was the shame I felt crying as a child when I was told I was crying "for no reason". Whatever the cause, crying feels like the ultimate weakness to me. People say it is healthy, necessary, normal, blah, blah, blah. That doesn't register to me. It doesn't feel like any of those things when I do it. Most times it makes me feel worse because on top of the feelings that elicited the tears, I feel indignant that I was not strong enough to suppress them and keep up appearances.

So many people tell me how strong they think I am. It astonishes me. I don't feel strong in the sense they mean. My body feels strong, thanks to hours with weights and punching bags, but internally, I feel as fragile as a feather.

According to Carole Brody Fleet, author of Widows Wear Stilettos, these feelings are a normal part of the grief journey. She says:

Your Healing Journey will take many twists and turns. You will have days that are not so bad and you will have days that are challenging.
Very challenging.
When you have those challenging days or sad moments or sad periods (and they will happen), please do not think of them in terms of having a "setback" or "backsliding".
Instead, embrace those days.
Give in to those times.
If you are having a day when you are feeling quiet or introspective, follow your heart, embrace your feelings and stay quiet and introspective. If you are having a sad day, the exact same thing applies.
If you have done even one positive thing to help yourself heal and move forward, it is to be applauded. To do otherwise by using words like “setback” or “backsliding” is negating the steps forward that you have made and you deserve more credit for survival than that.
In other matter how much or how little time has passed since the loss of your spouse, you HAVE progressed.
I want to believe her, but nothing about these feelings feels normal, or like progress. I am not stronger than anyone else. I am not doing anything out of the ordinary given the circumstances I've been dealt. I am doing the best I can to meet expectations. I expect a lot from myself. Warren expected a lot from me. My daughter expects me to be a mother and a father. My mother expects me to support her in her time of transition. My siblings expect me to help them when needed. My father expects me to follow his example of stoic persistence. My friends expect me to be as awesome to them as they are to me. My co-workers expect me to pull my weight in the office. My colleagues at the nonprofit expect me to reflect their passion for the mission of the organization. My agent expects me to put in the time and energy to write a good story she can sell. Above all, I expect to meet, and exceed all these expectations without hesitation. When that lump forms in my throat and my eyes start to sting when I'm supposed to be doing something else, it slows me down. It means that I'm not doing what I set out to do at that moment, and I am wasting valuable time. I have a lot of expectations to fulfill in a 24 hour period. 

. Love the collage & mixed media going on on the cover of this journal! I feel an inspired painting coming on!
I don't write this as a way to fish for compliments or seeking pity. I write it because I feel like the above quote says, that I am dancing with a limp. I am trying to live life as if I'm not grieving, as if I don't hurt as badly as I do. I am not contending with the limp of my true feelings. I try way too hard to hide the limp. It takes a lot of energy to act like the limp isn't there. It's exhausting work, and futile because no matter what dance moves I bust out, the limp isn't going anywhere. Everyone can see it. Perhaps it's time I stop trying to pretend it doesn't exist and learn some dance moves that incorporate the limp. Maybe the next time someone asks me how I'm doing, I'll say, "Limping along, hurt but not immobile," and allow myself the freedom of acknowledging truth.

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