by Laura A. Garren
Sometimes I think of life as a walk along the beach. On a good day, the sun is shining, a cool wind kisses my cheeks, and the waves sigh upon the sand. However, occasionally a squall develops; the sun disappears behind clouds, rain lashes my face, and the wind whips the waves into an angry froth. Unlike the weather, however, which I cannot control, my state of mind is something I can. Most of the time.
Today I was struggling along the seashore, buffeted by the elements. I woke up, fed everyone (cat, dogs, husband), then went back to bed for a while. I hoped I would sleep a bit more and wake up feeling better. But no. I got up anyway and decided to be proactive: quick, do something to avoid the storm! I dithered around trying to decide: take the dogs to the lake for a swim? Rain nixed that idea. Go to a movie? Okay, we have a plan; but the movie didn’t start for two more hours, so I lay down again to read. Big mistake. I was engulfed by a giant wave of self-pity, and when it was time to get up and get ready to go, I just couldn’t. I was totally enervated. I felt I should fight, but I just didn’t. In the end, I went back to sleep.
So, what is my point? Well, after another couple of hours, I did get up, and I felt better. Not wonderful, but improved. I think I needed not to fight this time. I needed to let the feelings wash over me and then away. Not rush headlong into activity or other manner of avoidance, but just be.
What triggered this emotional storm? I spent part of the day before with the aged parents of a recently deceased friend. While they are delightful people, and making a heroic effort to manage their grief, the fact is that their son is dead. I can feel their pain even when they aren’t speaking of it, and it brings up my own. When I woke up the next (this) morning, I was dreaming of my friend, and I was crying. What to do? I can’t talk myself out of the fact that someone I love is dead. I had to feel it and move through it. Running from it doesn’t work, because it can run faster than I can.
I’m not suggesting that one should succumb to the pain of loss. People do it; I’ve done it, and it’s not healthy to stay stuck. I’m saying that there is a time to fight and a time to lay down arms and just feel. I don’t always know when I should do one or the other. It’s hard to face intense, unpleasant feelings because humans have an innate desire to avoid pain, including the emotional kind. Today I figured it out. Actually, I should say that my body showed me the way: I was so tired I could get out of bed. I had no choice but to be still and let the feelings come. Like a storm, they moved on. The sky is not completely free of clouds, but the sun is peaking through. Life’s a beach.