Embracing the Suck...
This title was given to me by a friend who is going through a lot. Her life was upended a few years ago when her husband fell ill. Since then she has been trying to juggle life, work, caring for him and caring for herself. It is a lot...all the time. And she feels defeated a lot because there doesn’t ever seem to be a clear path forward. She meets a great number of stumbling blocks, dead ends and weird jags that seem to go nowhere. She is tired, drained and I am sure there are days when she just doesn’t want to get out of bed...maybe, all of the days she feels this way.
We have all been there. Periods of time in our lives where they just suck. It isn’t a mass conspiracy against us, but it fucking feels like it...for way longer than we would like.
I have another good friend whose marriage blew up, his mother got Alzheimers and had to be placed in a care facility in short order, his father got cancer, beat cancer, then suddenly died anyway, he lost his mom and then his marriage really went nuclear. It was a very hard seven years.
I guess what I see is that embracing the suck is just another manner of grieving...I mean, what do you do when you have to continue to place one foot in front of the other, but you really, really don’t want to.
Life is funny. Some days you can’t believe that you ever tried to drink yourself to death and cheat yourself out of a life this good, then on the very next day, or perhaps even the same day in the afternoon, life begins to suck so much that you just wish you could be done with it all. It all just seems too hard, too much and way too much to ask of any one person.
I am not sure why some people seem to have more than their share. I do know that it matters not a great deal to spend anytime worrying about that...because it changes nothing. Sometimes you are sailing through life and it is awesome, and other times, you are circling the drain and can’t get a break, and you desperately need one. The only true thing is that things will change, not always for the better...
My friend said this about embracing the suck, “When things are going in a direction that feels so hard and impossible and that you just can't get a break, embrace how sucky it all feels and keep going anyway. You know there is a lesson but you can't see it and you embrace the suck in order to get to the other side.”
What I know for sure is that we all have these times when life, living, breathing, just doing the day feels like it is impossibly hard. That our lives really just suck. And despite all of the hard work and best efforts, it still just sucks. And the more you do, the more defeated you feel.
I felt this way a lot about the situation with my son. I took him to everyone I could think of, twice, and nothing really helped. We might have a little progress, only to suffer another set back that felt like it was the thing that was going to drown me for sure.
We went on like this for a decade. Things were bad, things were promised to improve, well meaning professionals claimed to have answers and ideas, and all of them didn’t work. Nothing produced a lasting change, a change that would allow for a peaceful existence that wasn’t filled with daily dread, drama and exhaustion. With each new promise of a solution, came the bitter realization that we were living with an intractable problem that seemed to have no solution...ever.
As the mother, and the primary caretaker, I felt so fucking defeated. I was supposed to know what to do, how to fix it but I didn’t. All of my best efforts led to dead ends, fruitless exercises in futility and complete and utter exhaustion...for all of us. There were many times that I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel and my home life was fucking horrific.
I embraced the suck a lot in those years. I cried myself to sleep praying to God that I would be given something to live for the next day, because right there and then, I just didn’t know if I had another day in me. I really hated my life and its trajectory...I had done everything I could think of or was suggested but I could not produce any lasting change. Each new step seemed to lead only to a blacker and blacker darkness that I was fairly sure would consume me. If I am honest, some days I just prayed to die just so that I wouldn’t have to deal with it anymore. Let it be someone else’s problem. But then I thought of the people who would have to step into my place, and I wouldn’t wish that on any of them.
So I embraced the suck. I got up every day and tried really fucking hard to be positive and cheerful and kind. I tried not to go on and on about how hard my life was, worried that my silence might make my suffering invisible. Terrified that if I really gave my inner most thoughts and feelings and fear voice, that someone would for sure lock me up.
I hid in the cheerfulness a lot, embracing the suck. It was my cover, my beard. And it helped to a degree. I mean if I would have been totally honest most days, I likely would have been committed. I tried my best to show up for the life that sucked so much, some days wanting to kick it in the face, other days I just wanted it all to end, regardless of my internal directionality, I just tried to do the next fucking indicated thing: wash the clothes, go to the office, feed the dogs, attempt to parent, go to fucking bed...embrace the fucking sucky life that was happening to me.
Sometimes in life, we have no other options than to embrace the shitty circumstances of our lives. We do our best to remain positive and upbeat because if we really shared how we really felt, gave voice to all our head and heart really held, then people would think us awful, awful people. And they would be right and wrong...
So much of my life I have held back the feeling and tried to replace it with a more socially acceptable one. And what has happened to me is that I end up surrounded by a whole bunch of other people who are fucking just paying lip service. And then I am trapped. I cannot be real, they cannot be real and so it went for decades.
Embracing the suck for me gave me a path to finally get out of a long standing pattern and find some freedom. I began to just say what I thought, what I felt. I stopped holding back and saying what was politically correct and I started sharing how I really felt, even if how I felt was so awful that I was sure that no one would get it or ever love me or even like me again.
Embracing the suck is only a temporary solution. You can suck it up and hold it dear to you for only so long before your willingness to swallow the hard truths that you really feel threaten to gut you from the inside out.
For me, I had to give voice to the fact that I could no longer embrace the suck. That I had to end the sucking. I could not and would not manage to live within the confines of the sucky circumstances of my life. I just couldn’t do it anymore. And I had to begin, with a tiny, strangled voice, to say, “enough, I can’t handle anymore...”
For me, embracing the suck, was a form of grieving for a life that I could not live in my current condition. And for me, it became a way of existence. A way so large and vacuous, that it almost swallowed me whole. Embracing the suck worked until it didn’t. I could no longer hold close to me that which threatened to kill me. I had to find the courage, and it took a lot of fucking courage, to say, clearly, loudly and defeatedly,
I CAN’T DO THIS ONE MORE FUCKING SECOND!
And, as terrifying as it was, I stopped embracing the suck. I said, “no more” to just handling the shit and allowing it all to continue to happen. I became more afraid to go on as I had been than I was to make some drastic changes. For me, it was sending my son away long term, first to Alaska and then to boarding school in Montana. I thought it would kill me to let him go, but in reality, it set me free.
My trajectory was never going to be pain free, but I finally took the action that helped me to stop embracing the suck and send it packing instead. And today, life does not suck, for either my son or I. I am sure that he might think that his life was better before, but I can assure you that no one else does. It was a hard choice and road. It has been lonely. Caused a great amount of financial stress and chaos but in the end, it is the best thing I ever did for myself and I hope for him...
For me, I came to know, that my embrace of the suck, was a life long strategy for living which enabled me to be invisible in my own life, even as I flitted from here to there always a being in motion, always working so hard to manage it all. When I finally said, “I just can’t do this, any of it, anymore,” I set myself on a new path to freedom that I would not give up now for any amount of fucking anything.
I am not giving advice here to my friend who gave me today’s topic. I do not know what she should do. It is her life and she is going to have to figure that out for herself...and I know how hard that is and how much it hurts. I am here for her, standing vigilant as she comes to terms with her own hug of the suck.
I can only share that I embraced the suck until I just couldn’t take it anymore. That all I felt was the suck, and it was pulling me under even as I dashed around living the life and doing the stuff and showing up where and when I was supposed to, being cheerful all the while.
All I can share is that the day, I said to myself and no one else in particular, “I can’t do this anymore, so I just don’t care what happens next, I trust that whatever benevolence carried me this far, shall have to take the wheel, I am fucking done.”
That was the day that my life began anew. That was the day that the sucking sound began to dissipate and today, it is only a faint murmur in my mind.
“Most things will be ok eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you will put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.” Cheryl Strayed
Sometimes, embracing the suck is the only thing keeping you stuck...