We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
~E. M. Forester~
Recently, I found myself in a social situation, feeling quite uncomfortable with both the people and the conversation. I wanted to absolutely scream at the small group, talking about the trivial, making mountains out of mole hills, and choosing a passive aggressive negative path instead of one based on the premise that our time here is limited.
I tell you this, knowing I am far from perfect, freely admitting that I too talk about the trivial, and make a few mountains from time to time, and tell someone else how I feel instead of the person who needs to hear it. I am working on it, but I am flawed, and that is okay.
So, why in the heck did this particular conversation bother me so much?
It was something about children. And, like a huge slap, I felt it all over again. The dull ache in my chest, the uncomfortable gurgling within my stomach. The feeling of loss. I was physically warm, my sweaty palms revealing my anxiety. I felt “The Rub,” something I wrote about after losing my son Stephen in 2009. My view of the world has been forever changed, and I just don’t fit in the same way I used to before.
Not that I think that is a bad thing. The internal work I’ve done in the last 4 years, 4 months, and 9 days has allowed me to grow. I wish I did not have to learn the lessons of life in quite this way, but I feel proud of how I have walked this path of grief, how I have opened my heart and my life to others, and devoted my life to telling people “you’re going to be okay.”
But, to my surprise, the rub was still there, waiting for the moment to present itself, letting me feel the abrasive hurt of loss and loneliness. The Rub wanted to make sure I did not forget that life will never be the same.
It’s not like I didn’t know it. It was not a surprise; I’ve been living it. And, although I have realized that life will never be the same, I have found a way back to happiness with gratitude.
So, I thought I would share this post I wrote in January, 2010 about “The Rub.” Maybe there are some of you, like me, who are still figuring out the ebbs and flows of loss. I share it to remind both myself and my readers that even during times like this, when the rub hurts, when we feel so different, we are never alone. We walk together.
I share it to let you know that you are feeling the rub because you have grown as a person. And unlike the rub of your pants after a few extra pounds, this growth is a good thing.
I’ve always been a girl who marched to my own drummer. Even when I was younger, and wanted desperately to fit into whatever group I thought would prove my worthiness, I knew my internal song was somewhat different. Marching to my own drummer does not describe it adequately. It felt more like I had my very own band. In my youth, I used to feel uncomfortable with my uniqueness. I looked at my differences as a negative rather than a positive. I lamented about those differences, changed the differences, and masked the differences. Essentially, for a long time, I swam against the current of my own life.
As the years passed, and I had safely made the passage from youth to adulthood (fortunately, I’ve yet to grow up), I let go of most of these hang ups. I created my own life, made peace with some things within it, and once I started to make the right choices, I began to hear the beauty in the music of my own drummer. So, imagine my surprise as I found myself, after all this self-work, questioning where I belong in life these days, in the big picture. It has been seven months since Stephen died. For much of this time, I have quietly lived a life of reflection, trying to simply inhale and exhale without the crushing pain of my broken heart hurting too badly. It is a life focused on my husband and son, and for the first time ever, I feel like it is a life on purpose. I write, I work, I do laundry, I reflect on where I came from and where I sit right now. It is life stripped bare, and it is simple to understand. I like it that way. But, with the passage of each month on the calendar, I step back a little further into “real life”, whatever that means. This is where “The Rub” comes in. This weekend, we were out and about, with hockey and life. As the weekend wore on, I could feel the fatigue from socialization. I was talking to people, and I could feel myself feeling, well, a little bitter, maybe even a touch angry. I was a little overwhelmed with the “regular” conversations, talking about the games, or wins or losses, or the petty annoyances of life. This has nothing to do with the other parents or what they were saying to me. More than that, it is what I found myself saying, in an effort to be social and make conversation, rather than be the grieving woman sitting quietly in the corner reading my Pema Chodron book. I was pissing myself off. And ladies and gentlemen, that takes talent. It was as if I was watching myself step back into the minutia of life, the regular. The life where we complain and moan just for something to do, where we talk about the easy things, what’s on TV, who you’re cheering for in the Super bowl, upcoming travel, play time. The life where we take the silly stuff too seriously and the real stuff too lightly. The life where we will lament for weeks about a coworker who gave us a “look” one day at a meeting, but we will not allow ourselves five minutes to contemplate why we have this underlying feeling of sadness, or anger, or fear. I was upset with myself because I felt myself falling back into it. And that felt awful. I was having this whole internal struggle about who I am now versus who I was seven months ago. Brady took me outside and we talk for a bit about how I am feeling. I was lamenting about why I was so different, why I couldn’t be just comfortable to step back into my regular life. And, as he began to speak to me, I realized I had married a guru. He called it “The Rub.” As he explained it to me, we have been living this very stripped down life. Every day, to survive, I focus on what is good and the love in our world, and the positive that surrounds us. This is not optional for me. This is not a gratitude journal I purchased after watching a self-help DVD on how to transform your life in thirty days. This is gratitude that I aggressively search for, much like Indiana Jones searched for treasure in one too many sequels. My gratitude is not found easily some days; it is discovered with faith and determination. It is found with choice. The Rub happens because I could feel the old life rub up against me, but I’m not that person anymore. And, I can never go back to the way it was before. Now that time has passed, and we are back into the routine of life, the rub is more pronounced. Regular life rubs up against us with more frequency and intensity, and we feel compelled to respond to it. It is much like oil and water trying to mix. What I felt was not anger or bitterness; it was the rub, reminding me that the person I have become since losing Stephen is different. And, as much as I thought so in high school, different is not a bad thing. The Rub is telling me, ” Don’t forget nor deny all that you’ve learned, the knowledge is too important. Don’t fall back into the same thought patterns. Figure out how to make the lessons part of your new life.” Today I am thankful for The Rub.