I think that I have always felt a certain level of aloneness. Always feeling like I am on the outside looking in. And I have come to a place in my life where I don’t desire to change it anymore. I am ok with it. I am finally able to accept that I am not a joiner. I am not a person who really wants to be at the center of everything. I am better when I watching from the sidelines. Some part of me so wants to be at the epicenter but a larger part of me feels the need to pull back, hold back.
I think when I was a kid, alone was a place that was so painful because of all the sad that I felt. Being alone made the sad worse. So I developed this almost alter-ego who never sat still and was never, ever sad. I was angry for sure, but not sad. I just didn’t do sad. If someone hurt me, I was angry not sad. If we moved and I had to start over making friends again, anger or denial were operative. I only allowed myself to be sad when someone or something died. Then sad was ok. But I didn’t grieve. I just moved the fuck on.
It has been brought to my attention recently that sad and grief are real feelings that deserve expression just as much as any other feeling. And it turns out, that I am not really so good at expressing them...which I think has left me feeling alone. It is hard to connect with others when there is a lifelong level of sad and grief that hasn’t been expressed and just sits right there, blocking connection with others because it comes out as anger.
I will provide a painful but critical example:
We have had a hard relationship. He is a trying kid. Always pushing, rarely satisfied. We struggle. We fight. He tries my patience. I have believed that he was the problem for an embarrassingly long time. But circumstances of my life have shifted and I have been doing a lot of work recently with sad, alone and grief. Seriously not my choice but these three keep showing up and since I am stuck at home in a pandemic, there was nowhere to run, nothing I could really use to distract myself from dealing with them anymore. I was home, they found me and they kind of moved in.
So I did the work to find out why they were here, and mostly I focused on how to get rid of them. But what I have learned is that they have been here all along. Huge elephants in my living room that I have psychotically been avoiding. But turns out, they have been here all along, taking up space and air that my family and I needed but couldn’t get because we had these three giants issues holding court if you will in our lives.
It took a lot of courage, but I decided to deal with them. I have found out that I get sad-mad. Most of my anger comes from a place of hurt. I am rarely angry because of anything that is pissed off worthy. I am almost always angry because I am sad. I never knew how sad I was all the time until recently. Let down, disappointed, hurt, left out, bereft...these all culminations of sad which for me, meant anger.
Once I figured this out, I realized that I was full of grief. So many reasons. So hard to process. I wanted to run, but again, there was literally nowhere to run. I did run back to Lane and that was an important thing to do. Because I saw that once again my solution for pain was to seek out a situation or person that would in fact provide me more pain, not less. I went there for comfort and some misguided sense of love, and instead found grief sitting there with a box of chocolates and flowers...turns out grief has been trying to get my attention for a long time.
I wish I could tell you that I was all done with it but that is not how sad and grief work. They are part of life, everyone’s life and they ebb and flow on their own timetable. Perhaps they might become more predictable like the tides but they always do what they do when they do it.
So my son and I have had a hard time and I am ashamed to admit it but he was the recipient of a lot of my sad-mad. That was just how I related to him but recently something shifted. He has done some work, I have done a fuckton of work and that has resulted in our relationship changing.
We had a heart to heart a couple of weeks ago. And it turns out that he understands sad-mad pretty darn well. Turns out that he feels that way himself a lot of the time. Turns out that he is grieving some stuff too. We have been able to allow all the hurt and disappointment and loss to be expressed which has resulted in both of us being less sad and predictably, less mad.
I have always loved that kid but our relationship has been hard and I will be honest, I have avoided it when I can. But because of both of us have been willing to allow sad, anger and grief to just come out into the open, it has opened us up to this most amazing current change in our relationship.
We have a place to talk about our disappointments, our pain and our hurt. We both feel able to be vulnerable enough to allow the other person in, to bear witness to our inner most feelings. And that has resulted in a huge shift in our relating. We are being more tender together. We are listening to each other and valuing the other person’s position, feelings and thoughts. I see him with new eyes and I love him more than I did before. I also like him more because I think that I like myself better. I think we have both cleared out some of the sad and the mad and that has cleared a path for both of us to be more authentic and loving towards each other.
I am not sure if it is a gift or not, but I can see the sad mad all the time now and I don’t try to push it away like I used to. I see when I am trying to use it as a shield to push others away and keep myself safe in my aloneness. Intimacy is hard. Intimacy requires great risk. And it requires one to not allow sad, anger and grief to be exploded all over the place in traumatic reactions to really old shit that is only tangentially related to what is going down today...
Alone, sad, mad are the harbingers of grief. Necessary to feel in order for grief to move through your life and not get stuck. Blocking relationships and love and trust and joy. I have come to see that the most important thing I can do and teach my children to do, is to grieve. Life is full of grief - from the tiny disappointments to the giant, life altering losses. Grief’s juxtaposition to joy is permanent. If we are living, we are grieving and there needs to be a channel for both, one for my joy and one for my grief. One not more important than the other. Because if I don’t find a way to grieve, I will forever fuck up the joy.
Today, I feel joy with my son. We hug, we laugh and we touch in ways that we never have before. We are talking, we are relating, we are loving.
And it is contagious...because last night both my daughter and my son came in to tell me that they had a really good talk in the hot tub. Both them wanting me to know, secretly of course, that they connected with each other and talked about some hard things. And I have to believe that that conversation was possible because we all have been dealing with and learning to express our grief instead of just getting all pissed off about it all the time.
Grief heals. Slowly. Painfully. But I am learning that grief teaches me where I love, and how I hurt. And only if I know, can I share that with others. Teach them about me, and learn about theirs.
And I think I have finally learned...you cannot outrun grief, you cannot happy it away or anger it away. Because in the end, you will be standing alone in the middle of a family or friend group and be surrounded by love but only able to experience the pain.