|That Looks Hard|
I've gone back to see my counsellor. The other day we were discussing Were It's All Gone Wrong : Lately and I'd come to the conclusion that I'd run into a pain wall. I kept telling myself that I was fine and that things weren't bothering me. Things in particular being the pregnancies of two of my colleagues, and closer to home, my sister-in-law. I also haves stuff I need to sort out in the house, and there are issues at work. I was over being upset by these things so I carried on, using my self-help tools, telling no-one I was upset because I wasn't. It was all fine, until it wasn't, and now it's too late to reverse decisions I made in a state of wondering "Where's the nearest rock?"
The counsellor asked me if I felt sad. I hadn't thought about it that way before: sadness. I'd have said I felt resentment, like it wasn't fair. But who was I resenting? Life is an unsupervised playground; no-one's going around enforcing the rules and making sure everyone gets her turn. As soon as she named it, I became aware that that might be the name for the heavy mass that sucks the battery-life from my brain: sadness/sorrow.
I came across this piece by Martha Beck via www.gateway-women.com She writes about regret and getting over it. http://marthabeck.com/2013/07/stop-regretting-decisions/
Of the four basic emotions—sad, mad, glad, and scared—regret is a mixture of the first two...Whatever the proportions, some regretters feel sadness but resist feeling anger; others acknowledge outrage but not sorrow. Denying either component will get you stuck in bitter, unproductive regret.
Self-recrimination is only one half of regret. The other half is sadness. Sadness is the uncoolest emotion of all. Even "sad" itself, as an adjective, means more than just unhappy. It means lame, uncool, pathetic. It's staying in when the world is going out. It's living with your parents. You might want to be cool, but you don't want to be sad. Sadness is sometimes described as a negative emotion, even though there's really no such thing. We are exhorted "Stop being a victim", "get over yourself", "be positive", "choose happiness". While I've come around to the idea of choosing to cultivate happiness, I don't think we can do this by rejecting sadness.
Inside I'm Screaming
So why is everything so hard? Because half my brain-cells are being used as guards around the prison where I keep my unhappiness, my jealousy and grief. I go around. I visit people. I go to work. I meet people. I sleep with men. Even when I'm doing nothing, I'm busy. I look fine on the outside; well-adjusted, grateful for what I have, Going Great, but inside I'm screaming, or sobbing.
It's not enough to free the prisoners. they have to be welcomed and reintegrated into society. Dressed, fed, employed and sat at the same table as joy and love and gratitude.
You Are Here
One of my pastimes is to apply my new knowledge to my old self; you know like those letters to me at 16? I've written bullet-pointed lists advice to me at sixteen, at twenty, at twenty-four, at thirty. They're good for filling the morning pages. I need to write one for me at thirty-eight.
If I had to give myself advice, and I do, I'd probably sum it up in two words: slow down. The people who are doing better than you did so because they carped their diems. They made the most of their time in education, they went out and worked instead of pursuing careers in patienthood, they had relationships. They didn't put off living until they got to New York and took over from Tina Brown.
Slow down and look around you. Don't think about all the things you were surrounded by that you didn't see at the time. You couldn't see anything because of the pain cloud. Look around and see what's there now. Look at yourself and think this is what I have to work with. Maybe my brain half-cooked. My suspicions that teenage malnutrition means I haven't reached my skeletal potential may be right. All of these things may be right but I can't change them.
What happens when I do slow down? The first thing that happens is I get uncomfortable. I notice the pain. The pain could be there from years ago, but it has an indefinite life. It scurries out of hiding. I read an awful lot of Sylvia Plath back in the day( really, could this get more clichéd?) and the line that resonated the most with me was from "Elm"
I am inhabited by a cry.
Nightly, it flaps out
I like that sense of pain being a creature, an animal, an imp, or in her case a bird. A creature with a mind and a sense of direction, a predator that stalks and attacks its victims. That clings and won't leave go, because you are its only source of love. It offers companionship and reading Plath also offered a source of companionship. Some-one who died before I was born. Who never knew me, who'd never lived my life or met my friends. Plath and Theodore Roethke were my friends. At least they were real people, unlike my other chums such as Holden Caulfield and Lucy Snow.
The drama, and later the effort of avoiding all forms of drama, kept me busy. Even during my years of doing nothing, I was keeping busy. Keeping the pain at bay. Going around and around in my head. Creating drama, catastrophe, tragedy where there was none. Then creating as conventional a life as I could.
This month is the month of health and calm. I've never done this before. I've never consciously emptied my life. I always thought it was empty and needed filling. There were all those boxes unfilled; the man, the babies. the place to live, the job, the social life, the evenings.
Slow down and pick up your life in your arms. It'll slow you down. You won't reach the flights of fantasy while carrying your own real self. You won't go as far, but you'll really go there. Because if you try to leave it behind, to walk on and deafen yourself to its cries as you leave it to starve, then it'll find wings and will hide behind every misshapen tree, inside every cupboard, under every bed you sleep in, and in the space between you and others.
That screaming I can hear is my heart. It's me that it's screaming for. I'm going to pick it up and carry it.