It’s funny how when you go through repeated misfortune, one darn thing after another, you can start to feel a sort of shame. Embarrassed to even mention your latest adversity to anyone. It’s like you have a Scarlet Letter on your forehead and that letter is a big, ol’ “L.” (That’s “L” for “loser,” in case anybody didn’t get that.) And that shame makes you want to go somewhere warm and dark and curl up in a ball. Or at least, that’s how I’ve been feeling.
Seriously…the other day, I was in our little walk-in closet putting Tom’s clothes away when I suddenly felt the urge to curl up in a little pile of his clothes (the man has a distinct aversion to hangers). I closed the door and sat down in Tom’s shirts and pants—my knees drawn up to my chest, my head down, and closed my eyes.
This has happened more than once lately. I call it “going fetal.” Of course, I’m too stiff and old to really lie down and curl up in a ball. If I did, I probably wouldn’t be able to get back up. It would be just my luck to have to call 911 to come rescue me from my fetal position. I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!
It’s funny, too, how when I start to write about it, I just can’t help but fall back (no pun intended) on humor. It is so much easier than talking about pain, isn’t it? And people love people who make them laugh. About a year and a half ago, in a post about the difficulty of writing about difficulties, I wrote: Why is it so hard for us to lay our souls bare—to expose our deepest griefs and yearnings? What are we afraid of? Why do I feel something close to shame when I talk about my sadness?
Well, I suppose everyone would answer those questions differently, but I think for most folks, one of the main reasons is simply a fear that people won’t like the broken parts of you. It’s a human need and hunger, this deep desire to be liked—no wonder we are so afraid! And the truth is, we’ve had “friends” that have turned away because we’ve lost our light-heartedness of late. One of Tom’s co-workers said to him the other day, frowning, “You’ve changed.”
Well, hell…yes. Yes, we have. In ways we can’t even articulate.
Too, I think most of us don’t want to encumber others with our own sadness—it can be such a heavy burden. So we put on a happy face and say “Fine!” when folks ask how we are. Like that Ogden Nash ditty: Don’t tell me all about your indigestion! “How are you?” is a greeting, not a question!
No doubt, too, some of my own reticence comes from growing up in a family where we hid our brokenness. It just wasn’t talked about. But sometimes there was no hiding the cracks. Like when my brother stole a car and was sent for years to juvenile jail (which was then called “training school.”) Or Daddy’s long stay in the mental hospital.
Of course, every family has its secrets and everyone has their troubles, but I have to say—we have had more than our fair share, especially in the last couple of years. And it takes a toll.
The latest for us, besides Tom’s knee injury and our long (and losing) struggle with Worker’s Comp is Tom’s two-day hospitalization last week after I rushed him to the hospital when he suddenly slipped, with no warning, into honest-to-God, bona-fide dementia. He looked down at his knee brace, which he’s been wearing for four months after tearing his meniscus and said, “What is that? Why is it on my knee?”
Of course, we thought he was having a stroke, and so did the doctors until they did a battery of every kind of stroke-detecting test there is. All normal. They kept him overnight before finally deciding that he had a strange and fairly unusual malady called Transient Global Amnesia.
Never heard of it? Me, neither. But I can tell you that it’s very, very real and very, very scary.
And, yes, I AM truly thankful that it wasn’t a stroke and that Tom is now fully coherent and the only obvious vestige from our experience are the big hospital bills that will soon be in our mailbox. But I feel like I’ve aged twenty years in the past two and I’m so, so very tired and sad and I can’t stop crying at the drop of a hat and I feel weird and detached from people like I’m looking at them from the wrong end of a telescope and I can see in their eyes that my weirdness shows and even my writing seems weird when I read it over and I’ll read my emails (that take forever to write) a million times before I send them and sometimes don’t send them at all because who wants people to see you when you’re crazy?
And, that, my friends, is why I haven’t blogged.
We’ve all heard folks say (about going through adversity): What doesn’t kill me will make me stronger. Well, maybe that’s true sometimes…but I can tell you that I don’t feel so strong right now. I feel puny, weak, fragile, and faint of heart.
But this where I am right now. And this is who I am right now, I reckon. Here I am. All my unraveling and loose threads and tears and rips right here for all to see. I’ve always told my children to be true to themselves and others, so I guess that’s what I’m doing. Being true. I also tell them that even if putting one step in front of another is about all you can manage, do it. No matter how slow or faltering the steps. I guess I’m doing that, too.
So here I am. Being true and putting one heavy, weary foot in front of the other. And I suppose you could say that I’m coming out of the closet, though every part of me just wants to stay there curled up, eyes closed, licking my wounds.
But life goes on and I must, too. And I have to trust that there are at least a few people out there who will embrace me and look beyond the wounds and scars, even when I am a stumbling, puny mess. And who will forgive me for not being strong.
Here I am.