copyright: Karen Larsen photography

Well…here I am, me and the sacred paper, always here, always available, always blank and clean and new…..a fresh start. It feels good to write…to reach down into my soul and pull out the feelings that have been hiding under the smile. Kind of like slipping into your favorite pair of old jeans….they are ratty, and tattered….but they always fit and they just feel right. So you haven’t thrown them out yet. Your comfort pants…. It has been so long and so much has happened to us in the last three years. I don’t even know where to start. I have been crying for four years.

I am tired of crying. Tired. I have many, many things to cry about and I am not going to spell them all out for you. They are private. But I am tired. I can tell you that. Grief is stinky… in, it is always there. It never takes a vacation or goes away. It never poses as happiness…though it can be masked in indifference. I have to allow myself to have it, but then I have to back away from it and take a break because it is overwhelming and exhausting. I think it is over and another tidal wave hits me. No, I am not talking about those gentle waves that tickle your toes. TIDAL wave ….SNEAKER wave….hits you OUT OF NOWHERE wave….KNOCKS YOU ON YOUR BOTTOM wave….makes it HARD TO BREATHE….that kind of a wave. I am tired of four years of those waves. More are coming. I KNOW more are coming. How many waves can one person really manage? Really?

I have made major changes. I have quit eating garbage…things my body does not really tolerate. I have increased my exercise…like to six days a week. I am drinking more water. Still not enough, but more. I am sleeping well. I am taking care of my physical health. I know that is important or I would not be even attempting to swim in this ocean of grief. I would be drowning. I am not drowning…I am swimming–even if I only dog paddle, or sometimes just float on my back.

No one really sees it.

I think that is the hard part. I look like I am functioning, and for the most part I am. I am not hugging the floor yet. That is also coming, I know. You don’t need to know how I know, I just know. Their (other people’s) expectations of me are normal for how I was functioning. But the grief I am experiencing, necessitates that I do less, so I can feel more…which is hard for them. So on top of all of the sorrow, I have to manage changing relationships and other’s expectations, and then disappointments that I do not meet their desires. And I do not have enough energy to manage their feelings about it, which is good, because those are not my responsibility anyway, but it is still annoying, and I feel the pressure.

I have increased my ability to self-nurture. I take more time out to smell the flowers, to sit in the sunshine, to walk in the rain, to listen to the crickets and the frogs. I breathe more deeply. I have even been known to indulge in a fantasy novel or a movie of no consequence. I would not do that before….I was too busy. I need to spend more time writing. That is really where I find my solace. No one interrupts my thought patterns when I am writing on the paper. No one tells me how I should feel or what I should do or what I should think. It is not about them anyway. It is about me. With the paper, I can just sort it out…all of the feelings, and all of the things going on in my head and my heart that I am struggling to identify. Writing forces me to put it to words, and then it makes more sense to me.

It is really strange to have spent your entire life taking care of others and then to suddenly realize it is OK to take time out to take care of yourself too. I watched my mother burn out, as she never took time for herself…not until she left us. I thought I had been so much more careful to take time for myself so that I did not burn out or run away from my family. I actually did do that very well. But I did not give myself enough time or space for grief. I packed it all away in an iceberg in my heart and just kept it sitting there, packing on more grief as was necessary for functioning. Now the Lord has said, Uh Carin… is time to melt that iceberg. If you want to be truly happy, we have to melt it. You have to look at the feelings, allow yourself to have them, work through them, and let them go. As the feelings calve into the ocean and begin to melt, here comes the wave…..and again, I cannot breathe.

It takes a long time to melt an iceberg.

Periodically, my body revolts by breaking out in shingles, or having a huge desire to sleep for no reason, or to stuff my face with carbs and sugar. Those are my clues that I am holding onto my feelings instead of learning to let them pass through me. It is really hard to unlearn behavior and to replace the negative behaviors with more positive coping mechanisms. I love talking about all of this in theory but the application is brutal and painful. I don’t think anyone is really ever prepared for the pain.

One of my boys, in their studies, called and said, Hey Mom….did you know that emotional pain follows the same nerve patterns in the brain as physical pain? Let that sink in moment. That means the emotional pain we have (for whatever reasons) is just as painful as say, breaking your leg. Those emotions HURT! If we say nasty things to one another, we are causing others pain. And the pain we have because of our own choices, or the choices of others, really does hurt us…..physically in our body, the emotion causes pain. But with emotional pain, no one sees it. If I was in an accident, and I had to relearn to walk, after my body heals, people will usually be patient with me because they can see and to a degree, they understand I cannot just bounce back to normal. But with an emotional break, or illness, they do not usually see it, unless it is also accompanied by drastic behavior. That is really unfair of us, to put that kind of pressure on each other when all we are trying to do is heal. Healing takes time. Almost as much time as melting an iceberg! It is no wonder that some of us try to just push through it and continue to work, go to school, be normal and when we cannot do that, we wonder what is wrong with us and feel like even more of a failure. But the truth is, we are rehabilitating and we cannot do what we once did when we were well. We need to be patient with ourselves and with others.

copyright: Karen Larsen photography
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