Do you ever think you worked through an issue and laid it to rest for the final time? The problem could be a year-long work project or a home remodeling project. Maybe you have experienced typing the last word of a research paper only to discover a glaring error in your introduction, thereby requiring an extensive re-working of the entire document.
I am positive I am not the only one who has cried when making such discoveries. It’s a little like miscalculating how many miles you have left in a marathon; you don’t think you can take another step, but somehow, you must run another mile. During such times, my inner toddler takes over. I have a desperate urge to collapse on the ground and feign paralysis until someone lovingly scoops me up, gives me a snack, and puts me to bed.
The Resurrection of an Issue
This past couple of weeks, such an issue came up for me. I would have preferred a miscalculated marathon in the heat of the summer with the body salt build up around my hairline, jarring musculoskeletal pain with every foot strike, and desperation for lemonade (at no other time do I want lemonade), and the loss of clear cognitive function.
Unfortunately, I got a proverbial 2 x 4 to the face. So forceful was the impact I couldn’t see the usual safety railings. Straight against the rocks I went, all energy and will power hovering above me until they floated away.
One crashing wave after another came. Anguish and rage mixed in some strange sedating cocktail. I lay in pieces while looking at my weaknesses through a pair of “Your Best Is Not Good Enough” glasses. Each wave blurred my vision until all I could see was an amorphous blotch of hopelessness.
The Inner Dialogue Went Something Like This;
“When will you learn to stop caring so much?” I began berating myself, “Every time you do, this is the result. Since you cannot seem to stop, this is your life. You care. They don’t. You try to help; they think you’re too emotional. You do realize the people you love think you’re so driven by feelings that you are unable to understand the logic, right? They think you’re stupid. No one says it, but you know it’s true. Why else do people stop talking and roll their eyes? Why don’t they believe you or take your opinion seriously? If they thought you were smart enough to listen to, they would consider what you say.”
“But I’m educated!” I cry out. “I have a degree! I’ve been a massage therapist for ten years! I read a lot!“
“Yeah, no one cares. You could earn three doctorates and become proficient in six different trades, and you’d still be nothing but a blubbering idiot to them. Full disclosure, probably everyone else too.”
“I know how to. . . “ my resistance faded, my voice merely an inaudible whisper.
“IDIOT. IDIOT. IDOT.” The chanting turned to a victorious uproar. Another wave smacked me against the rocks, this time harder than the last.
Then Came the Despair
As darkness always does, my lifelong nemesis capitalized on a vulnerable moment, whispering in the shadows,
“You would be better off DEAD.”
Memories of past depressive episodes began to flicker across my mind. I saw my husband’s face when I could only muster a glance when he came home from work. I saw my blue-eyed, freckle-faced son looking at me in fear after accidentally breaking something worthless.
“No,” I mumbled, “Yo. .. you. . . you are wrong.” Never again would I see those looks on their faces.
“You would be bet . . .” The whisper escalated to a scream.
The scream brought a vivid thought of my six-month-old baby (six months old at the time, now four), all pudgy and rosy-cheeked, sitting in her bouncer chair, waiting for me to pick her up. I had walked right past her many times, stuffing my face with chocolate until I felt sick. Then, I stood in front of the mirror, wishing I could cut off my fat-suit. I missed the first year of her life in ways I cannot articulate.
“NO!” Saying the word through gritted teeth woke up every neuron, synapse, and muscle fiber. “You are wrong. Get. Out.”
What followed was more personal than I care to write.
Staring the Issue in the Eye
Nonetheless, through divine intervention, I got off the rocks and away from the violent surges of brackish water. Though the bulk of recovery took a matter of days rather than weeks or months like it used to, I wonder how many undetectable layers of grief, ego, and unhealthy thinking patterns are left before I stop falling apart.
On the coattails of such introspection, I have an alternative perception worth considering.
It is this:
To quell an empathic nature and cauterize the ability to experience the raw and uncontrollable parts of life down to the bone would be to deny the gift. What would be lost if those of us who, as my daughter puts it, have feelings bigger than our bodies?
Think about the question in personally applicable terms. What would be lost if you denied who you are because you think the people you love think less of you for it? A liberating question to be sure.
Now, let’s go back to the idea of dealing with what you thought was sufficiently dealt with. Frequently, as my good friend reminds me, the issue is not the issue. Yes, the experience was unpleasant and unanticipated, but what kept the waves coming was the ingrained fear that the people I love the most do not value my opinion because they view me as an emotionally reactive simpleton, liable to explode at any moment.
According to my knowledge, not many people view me this way, but I fear they do, and fear produces misery.
What I Hope for You
I do not share this struggle for pity or sympathy. Instead, I hope my recounting will help you consider your fears. Acknowledge them. Give them a name. Look for the damage they do. Once you’ve done that, prove them wrong.
I’m working on proving my fear wrong by writing the memoir I have long dreamed of writing. If my words can help someone else feel validated or comforted, then what else matters?
At the beginning of the year, I said the memoir would be finished by Christmas and written by Christmas it shall be. I am honoring my goal as I would honor an obligation to an employer.
Undoubtedly, at some point, you have also disregarded a dream because you believe yourself incapable or unworthy. You are neither.
Tell the lies to leave. Give them no more of your time. You can do what you think impossible.