Kindness from Sadness

“Something I’ve noticed…in my career and as a therapist…is that, people who’ve been through a lot, seem to have a look to them…you can just kind of tell. They all have that look” is what she says to me, her eyes glowing and serious. I had just relayed how I’d noticed the ways people react- a stiffening, or a gaze of uncertainty, unsure what to say. I had either been overly paranoid, reading into things too much, or remarkably perceptive- that session, my therapist confirmed the latter for me. I trust what she says, thinking about how many faces she’s seen and raw emotions drawn. I let her words sink into me, and I allow myself to feel reassured – and even a little proud – of my own intuitions.

You start to notice more after going through something that tears your life apart. As I grow up, becoming more educated and learning more about people and the world, I also know more about myself. I now know that I am and have always been highly sensitive. Through experience, the world around you changes because you change. You learn to discern subtleties in people- hue of the eyes, the meaning of a smile. Some people have a warmth, or innocence, or serenity, ¬†or something else that’s indescribable but nonetheless present. If there’s something in others that I see, then others see something in me, and I notice. We are mirrors facing mirrors.

I think of my own tragedy sort of like a boulder that’s been unexpectedly dropped into a still lake. When it happened, it created a tidal wave- a tsunami. Water and sand and pebbles were displaced as the giant rock was dropped in, and little pools of water formed on the surrounding shores. Even after the waves settled into ripples, and the ripples eventually subsided and dissipated, things were different. I am not the same. I’m different relative to how I used to be, and different relative to everyone who hasn’t had the same experiences. People pick up on things too.

I remember the way people treated me when everything was fresh. Obviously people knew very clearly (as clear as what I knew at the time, anyways), and were very much affected too. Fake smiles are unmistakable. It’s the eyes that always got me the most, though. Seeing something in you, and searching your own eyes for answers to questions of “what can I do? Are you okay? Will you survive?”. You learn that people feel useless, or guilty, or even angry if there’s nothing they can do in the moment to help.

I think about a passage from a book that resonates with me, and how it really hits home for me:

“But there is a kindness here, a complicated kindness. You can see it sometimes in the eyes of people who look at you and don’t know what to say. When they ask me how my dad is, for instance, and mean how am I managing without my mother. Even Mr. Quiring, the teacher I am disappointing on a regular basis, periodically gives me a break. Says he knows things must be a little difficult at home. Offers to give me extensions, says he’s praying for us. I don’t mind.”(A Complicated Kindness, Miriam Toews).

People, they mean well and are kind, even if it’s moreso for their own consolation. If that’s all they can give, it’s the best they can give.

 

 

 

 

 

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love letter.

When I dream of you, you’re still alive, but you’re not here. I haven’t seen nor have I heard from you in so long, and I’m confused- dumbfounded, really- as to why. It’s so cold and callous of you to have left me like that. I’ve finally reached you after all these years, and you’re so cool and calm about it. Long lost sister living in a different city. I finally found you, and you don’t so much care.

There were times growing up, later on, when we were older, that I felt like you didn’t like me. I don’t blame you, I guess. I wish I would’ve been nicer and a better role-model instead of being insecure and feeling threatened a lot. But I didn’t know, and neither did you. We were really just kids. During those times- all pubescent- you were secretive and did your own thing. You had your own friends and did your own thing, and being more older and mature (finally), I tried to include you. I wanted so badly for us to be best friends. No, it wasn’t that way when we were little, but I clearly grew out of that before you did. I can’t blame myself though. You were a teenager.

When I can actually remember, I cherish the times we hung out. I remember when we went down to the park in phase six, wearing our big hoodies with our dark hair up. You brought Skye the dog- your dog- with you. It was windy as hell, just like it always was in that town. Around that time it was cool to take pictures on a disposable camera (as if we could afford a digital one anyway), so that’s what we did at that park. I remember we had fun that day. You weren’t withdrawn, and I wasn’t angry or sad. We just had fun. I think I still have that picture of you at the top of the playground, leaning against the fireman’s pole, with a wry smile and your dark doll’s hair framing your face. I snapped the photo from the ground, and so you’re above me.

I don’t know what went wrong. All this time and I still can’t comprehend you being gone. I’m so happy for the good times, but in my dreams the bad is expressed. I always feel abandoned or even disowned and wake up feeling sick. It’s a sick that pervades and permeates every corner of my life. If only you knew what it was like to live this kind of life- one eye open and your head on a swivel. Just in case, you know? I’m anxious a lot and sleep isn’t the same. The worst is the slowness (how things move so fast).

I wish I could tell you what happened. I’d tell you how fucking much I miss you and need you. It’s a hole that hasn’t been filled and can never be. I’ve wrecked relationships and can’t form new ones because everything is tainted now, like how a drop of ink just spreads into a glass of water. But that’s how it is, and I’m trying really hard.

I try to fool myself every second of every day by not thinking about you (or mom or dad- but this is about you this time). It’s sort of like damming back a river- eventually that shit’s going to leak through in some way. The agony that I keep frozen during the day (so that people can tolerate me) comes out at night when I’m too tired and in my dreams. So there you are, cold and uncaring. It doesn’t matter that you haven’t seen my in years as that was your intent. You’re indifferent to my presence while I’m burning inside. What can I do though, but sit and burn, as I’ve been doing. I can’t bring you back, and you can’t see me. I can feel you though, in me, and remember you through my love for you. Sister- with your black doll’s hair and your soft features, your coolness and that knowing sparkle in your eye, your warm energy and rare sensitivity, your you-ness that can’t ever be described fully but only felt by those who knew you- I feel you and I love you, and I carry you with me every single day.

Hard Things

Sitting down I’m bent over, one arm across my middle, other arm bent, with my phone in my hand up to my ear. I stare at my lap, half-listening, mumbling “yeah,” and “mmhmm”. She’s rambling, yet concise, filling me in on the details of her day, her week, and her month. She had called me during the weekend of the latest anniversary and left me a lengthy message telling me she’s thinking of me and that she loves me but that I need to take care of things- take care of the ashes. Except she framed it in her own way that she does, telling me that she’s been setting her intent to the universe that they would be brought home. My mouth tasted sour. I hadn’t called her back until today.

She asks me what’s new in my life- do I have any new friends, do I have any new special friends? I laugh a real laugh and tell her that I always have new friends, but no, no-one special (and that I’m okay with that). I don’t really know what else to say, so I talk about the trip that I have planned later this month, and that the weather is so nice here but so dry. There’s always new stuff around here, but nothing really changes, is what I’m trying to throw down, and I’m positive she gets it. I sit there, more hunched over now, anticipating that question again.

Having to do hard things is all part of this. I tell myself that in the same way you would tell a child it’s okay to be sad sometimes. When I think about doing those hard things I’ve had to do, and the hard things I have to do in the future, it feels like metal on metal. It sounds like I’ve bottomed-out in a shitty parking lot. It’s a pain that will never really go away, so I grin and bear it anyways and carry on. We shall overcome.

My brain’s adapted, I think, and changed, so now it seems I process things bit-by-bit. The process is sequential, and each small hard thing needs to be isolated and dealt with on its own, because the whole would be phenomenally overwhelming. Take things as they come not to get bogged down and heavy. Having to live this way is not by choice. It sucks. Life sucks. Everything and everyone sucks. But not all of the time-when you have to be in pain, suddenly good things become better, and you start seeing magic in the previously mundane. Maybe that’s a consequence of growing up though, being able to see through the rain. Grown-up or not (I think not), I have this feeling that my experience has amplified my gratitude. As some law of physics turned cliche goes, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. You experience intense pain and all the while long for the hurting to stop, and as terrible or horrific the experience is, a voice in the recesses of your mind tells you it’s momentary and this too shall pass. No matter how bad it gets, you must tell yourself to LISTEN because that small voice is right. Keep pushing; punch through walls. Come out on the other side and you’ll feel the light. Revel in it.

We talk more about nothing, and I feel uncomfortable. Why does this feel awkward. In the end, the question doesn’t come (at least not directly). We hang-up, and I feel like I’ve swallowed a large pill, the discomfort finding its way into my esophagus. I’ve successfully avoided this conversation for now, although I know it’s future appearance is inevitable. I think briefly about all of the things I’ll have to do to get it done. Phone calls. Flight-booking. Time off work. All of that practical stuff. Then, seeing people I haven’t seen in years, people who were like family growing up when we lived back there (home). Their presence will evoke a lot in me, I know. Then, seeing relatives and being uncomfortable. I’m worried the whole saga will be not an experience, but a RE-experience, one that I really don’t want. I’m getting ahead of myself, and decide to put it on the shelf for later (I do that often- it’s a roomy shelf).

I get ready to go for a run- a welcome medicine- to shake it off. The sun is bright and hot and I can feel myself start to sweat immediately. I feel happy out here, and I feel deep appreciation for where I live and the decision I had made three years ago to move here. I had thought naively that I was through the thick of it, and I resent having to deal with more. Part of me also feels intensely guilty for avoiding for so long, but I now know how to counter that with the rationale that few people have (or maybe no one has) been through what I have, and what would anyone else do in this position? I squint into the light and remind myself that this all can be broken down into smaller pieces that can (and will) be dealt with individually. The reality of this is the discomfort and the hurt, but that each small piece will be momentary. Just hard things, and that’s okay.