Anytime, I’d ever experienced a devastating loss, or even major discomfort, I managed to escape it: with alcohol or other substances, with cigarettes, or sex, or working too much. I contemplated and planned suicide. I moved. I traveled. I ate comfort food. I got more college degrees.
I might have let myself feel the feelings long enough to get really uncomfortable. Then I would engage in another form of escape.
Throughout this year, many people have either complimented or admonished me because I’m working so hard. It kept not feeling right but I couldn’t quite say why.
Last night, it became clear. Yes, I have done what could be called a lot of “work” as my ex and I have moved through this separation and into divorce. It doesn’t feel like work to me. What I’m trying to do is not run away.
Because running, in one form or another, is a natural way of being to me, I have needed support to stay put and feel my feelings. For me, that has included going to divorce recovery class, 12 step meetings, meditation instruction, grief group, therapy, and writing this blog. It keeps me as much in the present moment as I’m capable of being right now. Sitting in a room with other people who are going through what I am, whether it’s divorce, recovery, or the grief process, allows me to stay. I’m not contemplating suicide or getting wasted. I’m just crying because I’m sad–because I’m letting go of dreams I had for my life with this other person.
Maybe what he and I get ends up being greater than I ever imagined. But I’m not there right now. I’m here, in the part where we’re seeing lawyers and therapists and deciding who gets what. It sucks. And I’m letting it feel sucky. Even though I wonder if my friends are tired of hearing it, if you’re tired of reading it, if I should just be over it already. I feel some pressure to just put on a happy face and get over it already. But I’m not over it. It’s not over. It’s close, at least the paperwork part of it. And I think I’ve gotten so much sadder in the last couple of weeks because I’m about to attend the equivalent of a funeral for my marriage. I don’t know how I’ll feel when that happens, or after. Maybe fine. Or still sad. Or some combination of many feelings. But I’m not trying to figure out how I’ll feel then.
Pema Chödrön opens The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness with this: “There’s a common misunderstanding among all the human beings who have ever been born on the earth that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable.” I’ve been engaging in that coping mechanism my entire life. I’m ready to stop.
So my intention through this divorce process, with this blog, with what could be called the “work” of this year is that I’m feeling my feelings as they happen–so that they don’t sneak up on me later. I don’t way to be grieving my marriage five years from now. And believe me, I know what prolonged grief looks like. It’s sneaky. It hits you when you were having a perfectly good day. It gets played on the radio. It whispers an olfactory memory. Then you’re prone and breathless with lack of oxygen because the loss is so immediate and unhealed.
When one of my deepest loves and greatest advocates died in 1990, I was lucky I lived through it. But I only did it by not actually being in or with myself for years. On the tenth anniversary of his death, I was still writing poems that contained the same raw grief I had experienced when I first received the news of his passing.
So, I’m feeling the sadness as it’s happening this time. And the surprises. How I’m less lonely and angry now than I was in my marriage. How I actually like being single. How all that tightness and pain in my chest for most of this year is leaking out of me.
I found this quote tonight from Joanna Macy, “The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.” I feel that opening happening, slowly, not in some flash of enlightenment but from the commitment to just be with the feelings as they’re happening– to not escape.
I’ll keep letting you know how it goes. And if you’re tired of reading about it, you can take a break, or ask me to write a post about something you’d like to see addressed here, or just let me know how you’re doing. And if you’ve tried this not escaping business, I’d love to hear how it has worked or is working for you.
Image by MWCrane13