You Can’t Go Around It – You Must Go Through It…

"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love." ~Washington Irving~

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”
~Washington Irving~

There are very few people in this world whom I consider true kindred spirits; the ones who live and die by the Mark McGuinn Lyrics,

I don’t believe you can get too much love, but you can get too much advice.

You can get too much advice. Sometimes any advice is just too much. It’s irritating and hurtful, and painful to hear.

Often it’s not advice that we need. No darling, we already know where the chinks in our personal armor are. We were there when it happened after all. We felt the flesh wound and saw the blood. It’s just that sometimes, as unpleasant as it is,  we must return to the scene of the crime to continue to make sense of it all.

Instead of advice, we need a hug, a snuggle, a hot cup of tea, and a long hot bath by candlelight where we can weep in private and our mascara won’t run. We need to let it all out where no one can see or hear or reach out. Because, the rationale goes, if they know how to comfort, they will know how to wound.

I’m almost a little too aware of what a roller coaster grief is, how it can grab hold, and throw you in the middle of the ring without you even knowing you’re a contender. It’s a fickle bastard with a wry smile and salivating lips. It has the patience of a saint, and the stealth of a lightening bolt. No matter how fast you run, or where you hide, it will find you.

Like most fabulous ladies, I’m a big fan of avoiding emotional discussions until I’m tucked safely away with a stiff drink, some Leonard Cohen, and no place to go until the swelling under my tired eyes goes down. Better yet, I like to avoid emotional discussions in which my emotions are the ones under scrutiny. In other words, I foolishly avoid my own sadness until it overwhelms me, but offer a shoulder when a friend is in need.

It becomes a matter of timing. I hear myself rationalizing, ” I can’t do it now, my kiddo will see me. I can’t do it now, I have to get some sleep. Maybe tomorrow right after work, that way I can pat my eyes in the car. I can’t possibly bother them with this stuff because it’s way too depressing.”

Maybe I’m such a hard ass because I’m not a big lover of well-meaning-platitude-spewing-amateur-therapists. Maybe it’s because when I cry I feel vulnerable and foolish, and the thought of someone minimizing it makes me feel weak. After all, I know what’s happening, so why feel it so deeply?

Maybe it’s because I’m trying to rationalize something that can’t possibly be coaxed into the tidy identity of the woman-who-has-it-all-together, which I’ve worked so hard to create and maintain.

Or maybe, maybe it’s just  hard to talk about things that cause me emotional pain because I’m human too.

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The Magic of Christmas Appeared in the Form of Ambrosia

"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" ~Charlie Brown~

“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
~Charlie Brown~

The magic finally happened for me this year.

I had just put the tacky Christmas goldfish ‘sunshine-Jello-salad’, into the fridge and was stirring together the tacky ambrosia, when I felt the first sparkly jolt.

Christmas?! Yes!

Perhaps it was going through the motions of tradition that brought it about for me this year. On the eve before Christmas Eve, I found some magic. It started with a kind message from one of my oldest friends who helped  me realize that I don’t have to constantly be strong for everyone else.

Just in time for Christmas Eve: my favourite part of Christmas.

To say that it’s been an anti-climactic lead-up to Christmas is an understatement. In fact it’s been a Christmas time to remember. Often these are the years that build character and help us empathize with others who struggle through the holidays.

One well-meaning soul typed a comment about having expectations too high at Christmas time.  This Christmas has not been Christmasy, and it’s not because of any expectation, it’s because of loss. Expectation is an interesting concept, and one worthy of discussion.

We live in a hurried world where sadness and empathy take time none of us want to take. I believe that encourages platitudes about ‘no expectation’ and ‘not being attached to outcome’. Hogwash and pith my darlings.

It’s right up there with; having a stiff upper lip, not crying in front of the children, and keeping yourself busy. I’m a ‘loss’ professional, and I firmly believe in having to fall apart sometimes in order to pull your refined-by-trial soul back together. Sometimes things suck, and it’s ok to say so.

If you think that having rainbows and lollipops poof out of your arse all day long is normal, please send your unicorn to fetch me for your next seminar.

Certain expectations are healthy; to be treated fairly, to be compensated fairly for work, to be able to live freely without discrimination and most importantly, to feel validated when you feel every emotion, including the ugly ones like fear, anger and sadness that make most folks uncomfortable. These are healthy, and necessary expectations.

For anyone who has experienced loss, Christmas can be a really tough slog, regardless of expectation.

As we near the midnight hour, and our corner of the world slows down, I think I will take some time to stop and consider what expectations are helping me move forward or holding me back. Discerning between the two is where the magic happens, because as much as our human brains would like the world to be black and white, it isn’t.

Christmas magic appeared unexpectedly as I went through the motions of making the traditional food that goes on our Christmas table, and I am grateful. Happy even. I’m looking forward to tonight and tomorrow, and am thankful for having people to share the day with.

Wishing you joy this Christmas. Wishing you a soft landing if  you are among those who have experienced loss at this time of year.  Wishing you the wisdom to discern between healthy expectation, and hokey platitudes. If you’re having none of that, I’ll send over a dish of ambrosia for your narwhal.

 

Suck it Up – Sadness is For Sissies

sadnessOr maybe not.

After all, we live in a culture of perpetual youth and denial of our own mortality.

Forty is the new thirty, celebrations of life rather than funerals, weekend warriors, and ultimate sports – life is not for the faint of heart.

It seems as though sadness is a marginalized emotion. It is the most discriminated emotion of our emotional spectrum. Being sad, like being overweight, is something that we tend to look down our noses at.

Our culture is so fast paced, that after three days we’re expected to suck it up and get back to work following the loss of a loved one. Sadness is not ok. That’s the message.

Not only that, funerals have turned into grand celebrations where smiling and laughter are the ultimate  tribute to those who have shed their mortal coils. Sadness is something we do behind closed doors. There is shame associated with it and we tend to express sadness in private – kind of like smoking.

Deaths and funerals offer us a variety of rituals that embrace sadness, acknowledge the loss to our communities, and create space for sadness.

Parents are famous for saying, ” I don’t want to cry in front of the children”. Why? Don’t worry about answering sweeties, it was a rhetorical question. Trust me, I’ve heard it all.

If you can’t show your children how to cope with real, gut-wrenching sadness (an emotion that none of us are immune to), how will they learn to cope?  Seriously.

The answer is that they won’t learn, and they will likely perpetuate this appalling  harder, stronger, faster culture of robotic functioning, falling victim to their emotions through addictions, unhealthy relationships or an eventual complete emotional breakdown.

Every single one of us will have to say good-bye to a loved one at least once during our lifetime. That’s even more certain than having to have ‘the talk’ with your kids. We’re all guaranteed death, but not so much good lovin’,  if you know what I mean.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not denying that laughter and smiles have their place during the grieving process, but I am saying tears, sadness and all of the not-so-pretty emotions (anger, self-doubt, fear) have an important role to play during healthy and whole grieving.

The next time you feel like crying, like pulling the covers over your head and never getting out of bed, think about how you’re coping, and how the people around you cope.

I’m sure you’ll agree, we can do much better.

As it turns out, sadness is not for the faint of heart. Sadness is not for sissies. To be strong enough to allow yourself to be vulnerable takes incredible strength.