It’s Not All Puppy Dogs and Roses

bad_day22Life. Sometimes it sucks. I have a bad day. Or I’m in a lousy mood for no particular reason. What the hell is wrong with me?

Lately I’ve been beating myself up for not being happy all the time. If you’ve read some of my recent posts you know I’ve been feeling down, unmotivated, confused, afraid and ‘trying’ to accept that. My success rate is pretty dismal. Truth be told I’ve been resisting it with every fiber of my being.

Why?

Because I have a belief I’m supposed to be happy all the time. Or at least as often as possible. And when I’m not happy, I should be actively working to shift my mood so I can be happy again. Working at happiness. That sounds fun, right?

It’s not.

There’s a fine line between healthy positivity and neurotic obsessing. I should know. I cross it regularly. And when I can’t be positive and happy and in love with life every minute of every day, I beat myself up. I compare myself to other people who seem to have it altogether. But I had it all wrong.

As Bridgette Boudreau wrote in her post My So-Called Emotional Life, “Happiness in its healthy state is a passing emotion. Its role is to show us when a particular thing or event is joyful and then it passes. Happiness is not intended to be a static state.”

Whoa!

The down times don’t mean I don’t have a good life or I’ve chosen the wrong path, or there’s something wrong with me, or whatever other meaning I assign to them. They’re just a reminder I’m human.

When I constantly strive to maintain a state happiness, anything less feels like failure. I don’t blame myself entirely…I had some help. Everywhere you turn the message is happiness at all costs. We’ve created an entire industry around it. It’s called advertising. Turn on the TV, listen to the radio, read a magazine, or even my favorite genre of books, self-help, and you’ll hear someone touting happiness like it’s the end all be all. Buy this product, take this pill, get this job, go on this vacation, find the perfect mate. And on and on it goes. The message is your goal should be happiness…24/7.

And I bought it. Hook. Line. Sinker.

As Bridgette goes on to say (and I’m paraphrasing here) the real goal is peace…no matter what emotion you’re feeling. What a relief!

The last month has been difficult. And even though I’m not on top of the world, I am feeling like I’m slowly coming out of this. That’s the way it usually goes. My friend Donna reminded me, “Maybe you just needed to rest.” She could be right. I certainly did alot of that over the last month. Maybe there was some emotion I needed to feel, that I wasn’t allowing myself to have. Maybe there was no reason at all. I’d love to say I’ll handle things differently next time. That I won’t fight it so hard. That I’ll realize it will pass. But I can’t say that with any amount of certainty. What I can say is I discover a little more each time I go to that dark place.

Slowly I’m learning whatever it is I’m feeling–happy, sad, afraid, joyful–I can just be with it. Invite it in. Make peace with it. And let it go on its way when it’s done with me. I don’t have to hold on so tightly. It will take some practice. I will forget. And then something will remind me. Isn’t that what life’s all about?

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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.

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Closure…It’s Not What You Think It Is

Clo·sure Webster’s dictionary defines closure as : an often comforting or satisfying sense of finality <victims needing closure>; also : something (as a satisfying ending) that provides such a sense. Dictionary.com describes it as a bringing to an end; conclusion. But I call bullshit! This has not been my experience. When you lose someone you love; due to death, divorce, a break up, there’s nothing satisfying about it. And there’s certainly no conclusion. Maybe the hope of getting closure someday keeps us going when we might otherwise give up. I suppose that’s a good thing. But I don’t think closure exists…at least not the way most of us look at it.

I’ve been thinking about closure alot these last months. Ever since the man I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with walked away and my heart was broken beyond words. The ‘solution’ I am often presented with is closure. Well-meaning friends and family members often say, “You just need closure.” Or, they’ll tell me something negative about him saying, “Maybe this will help you get closure.” Apparently, no matter what the circumstance or how deep the pain, all you need to do is get closure and that matter will be behind you forever. They make it sound so easy. It’s not.

Most days come and go without tears, but not without thoughts of him. I get up, I go to work, I live my life. But then something out of the blue sparks a memory. I hear a song, or a line in a movie and the pain comes flooding back. Before I know it I am consumed by the longing to see him again, to hear his voice, to touch his sweet face. Often those journeys into darkness are completely unexpected. The other day I picked up a book off my shelf thinking I’d sit down and read for a while. Inside the front cover was a folded piece of paper. I opened to it find a print out of an email from him professing he would love and adore me forever. He didn’t. And just reading those words all these months later brought back the pain of him leaving as if it were yesterday.

There are also times when it’s a funny memory. I was at the grocery store recently and suddenly felt the urge to start drumming. You can imagine my confusion since I am not, nor have I ever been, a drummer. It took a minute, but then I realized the song playing ovehead was also on the video game Rock Band. We used to play that game until the wee hours of the morning. We had our own ‘band’ and we were on ‘tour’. He was the guitarist, of course, and I was the drummer. I wasn’t very good at it, but we had alot fun! It was our thing…something we did together nearly every time I visited. I laughed out loud in the aisle when it hit me.

And then there are the times when I wonder if the Universe is messing with me. Has that ever happened to you? I was driving through Eatonville the other day. This is the town where we met…were we went to high school together. I have to drive through town on my way to my parent’s house. He was already on my mind as he often is when I drive past the high school. As I was sitting at the four-way stop in the middle of town, I looked up and realized the car in front of me had Virginia license plates. That is where he lives and where I was going to move. Virginia is where we were going to build a life together. I just looked up to the sky and sighed. Really? There are 49 other states; why Virginia plates? What does that mean? Or is it just a random coincidence? I still don’t know what it means, but don’t believe in coincidences.

To be honest I was starting to think something was wrong with me that I couldn’t get to that ever-illusive state of closure. I felt like people wanted me to get over it already and move on. Maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough. Then my mom loaned me Jerry Sittser’s book, “A Grace Disguised.” It’s the story of a man who lost his mother, his wife, and his daughter in one fateful car crash. He talks about loss in such an honest, real way. And reading his story reminded me that while my life goes on, and so does yours, it will never be the same. You can’t go back. Losing someone you love leaves a hole in your heart that nothing else can fill. That’s not to say you won’t be happy again. But you’ll never stop missing them; they will always be a part of you.

I have to admit I still get angry sometimes when people tell me I need closure. As if that’s the magic pill that will make my heart stop hurting; the memories stop flooding back at the slightest provocation; the longing to see him again fade away. I just don’t think closure is the right word. I think the word we’re looking for is acceptance. You can accept the fact your loved one is gone. But that doesn’t mean you forget them. And I don’t think you should. The memories will always be there; some sad, some happy, some just downright weird. But I think acceptance brings peace…a little at a time.

So here’s my advice on loss. You can take it or leave it. It’s your choice. Let yourself feel the pain. Remember that person as often as you want and cry or smile or both. Don’t fight those feelings because you think you shouldn’t have them. This is not about wallowing or feeling sorry for yourself; though you may feel that way at times. This is about being real. The experiences of your life are as much a part of you as your fingers and toes. The pain will come and go. There is no closure; no magic moment; no satisfy ending; no conclusion. The person you love will always be with you; in your thoughts, your mind, your heart. Life is a story that goes on and on. And they will always be a part of it.

“Even the saddest things can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead.” ~Frederick Buechner