The Rain Never Steals from the Sun
I’m going to post a photo of cat puke as my Facebook status or maybe just my broken air conditioner. I’m tired of the parade of adorable smiling children, close ups of flowers and panoramic shots of mountains and oceans at sunset. I’ve had it with the never-before make-up shots of smiling and single women trying to be age-appropriate and sexy saying “notice me,” – all of which I have posted, in the last month if not the last week.
Not today. Today I want photos of zits on the nose, spinach in the teeth and clothes worn inside out or stained. Today, I want to hear complaints about cramps, constipation or pus oozing from a cut that just won’t heal.
Today, I’m wishing when my grandmother was battling with and dying of ovarian cancer I had taken more photos because it was during that time that we got closest. I saw her not only without make-up but also without masks, facing something brand new as a vulnerable, scared and brave human being.
It’s not as though Facebook is at fault. My own photo albums and digital archives are skewed. There are photos of my daughter at one-time events but none of her brushing her teeth or reading a book, which are daily routines. There are 1000 smiling faces for every irritable one and none of someone sobbing in grief over death or heartbreak which of course are common. Every couple looks happy. There are no photos of bickering lovers of teens making faces at the adults giving unsolicited advice.
My journals are filled with complaints, worries and rants while photos are unrealistically blissful. The truth is reality is the see saw of back and forth or the center which both sides share.
So many times everyone, upon greeting is “good” or “great.” Yet, even at the grocery store you see people huddled up carriage to carriage ten minutes into real conversation whispering about the child on drugs, the parent in diapers, the partner in rehab or the house in foreclosure.
Maybe, at parties there could be the solemn section for people who are ill or sad or facing uncertainty. It could be the place where people could say, “Listen to this nightmare,” or “I’m dying to snort again,” or “The love of my life got married today,” or “I’m sick of chemo.”
With truth being spoken, people would start smiling, telling jokes and feeling lifted by the connection of camaraderie rather than trying to force small talk or pretending to feel abundant and grateful when they don’t. I’m not advocating for therapy during parties or endless negativity. But for those of us who spend too much time holding pain above our heads and complaining about the strain in our shoulders and arms might it be easier to acknowledge the weight of true experience or find safe places to put the burdens down?
In my early twenties during college, I went through a cluster fuck of trauma, loss and confusion. Within two years, my grandmother battled ovarian cancer and died, a friend committed suicide, my sister met our biological father on the street in Boston after he had abandoned us two decades earlier. The man I called “Dad” who was more abusive than paternal lost his fight with lung cancer and his burial unearthed an avalanche of emotions and memories. Basically, I was a “hot mess” before the term was even coined. It was hard to focus on dates and handing papers in on time.
I remember wanting to find a support group for people in pain. I envisioned a 12-step group in any city or state available daily where I could pop in and hear another admit, “I’m in agony,” or “I have no idea what to do next.” It seemed revolutionary at the time to believe such a thing could exist, that difficult emotions could be claimed or spoken and even tears expressed. I wanted there to be a place where it would feel safe to be a PIP (person in pain), where it would be o.k. not to be peppy or all put together because I wasn’t either of those things.
I wish I had learned earlier to be brave enough to ingest and digest my experiences rather than worrying that they would consume me or contaminate others. I’ve spent lifetimes it seems swimming against the tide hoping the pull of the moon would shift the direction rather than changing my own position. I didn’t know the water would push me to shore if I would trust it not to pull me under.
Is it only sensitives or introverts or people in the midst of transition or trauma who hunger for deeper communion? Do others find it at their churches, in their families or behind the covers of books read in private? Or maybe it’s not an essential need for everyone but it is for me.
I have wasted energy fighting with my own experiences or emotions, wondering what life would have been like if X, Y or Z person, place or thing (including myself) had been different.
My daughter, on every birthday is both happy and sad. Turning five, she would say, “I’m gonna miss the number four.” Turning ten, she said, “I really liked the number 9.” Sometimes I’d worry she was going to be too much like her mother. Was she going to measure every drop in the half of the cup not yet full? Was she going to grieve what was leaving rather than celebrating what was coming? What if she were as serious as me?
But always, always, she would get attached to her new year and number. Always, like me a few weeks into a New Year, she would figure out how to inhabit time. I finally see the wisdom in allowing, honoring and recognizing the feelings that come with losses, the mixed emotions that are in transitions. Some people are moved on arrivals and others at departures. Does it matter one bit as long as we are brave enough to journey and travel?
Can we accept our own nature and the range of emotions and experiences and expressions? I’m forty-six and still feel I am always remembering to do just this?
I won’t post a picture of cat puke but I will notice the damp coolness of today’s rain, remember that listening to the wind rustle the leaves outside my window won’t steal one ray of tomorrow’s sun. In fact, do you ever feel more grateful for your health than after a flu, migraine or surgery? Isn’t the same true of difficult emotions and experiences?