Maximum Capacity Aliveness

A grieving person is sad, sometimes. However let me be blatantly honest about what the world can feel like following a trauma or loss: dull, grey-scale, lifeless, numb, scary, foreign, and lots of work. The feelings come and go at different times but leave such residue in the well that I forget how the water should taste. At some point I decided to officially make the claim that this is adulthood; that adulthood is primarily characterized by pain or “trudging”. After spending the first portion of my life determined to reach a maximum capacity of aliveness, the single most depressing thought I could ever think is: the best part is over – and I thought it.

It’s hard for me to write this because I immediately want you to understand that my days are filled with good things; one might even say that by some standards I’m living my life to the fullest. Not by my standards. I am not alive like I once was and I have felt like a stranger to myself in many ways. Though I pass the buck to adulthood, it’s not what’s to blame (sorry to ruin a good excuse for many of us). We all must move on from past versions of ourselves, but to forget ourselves is tragic.

I lost my mom during a time that I was adventuring, growing, and learning. I had experienced some highest highs – traveling India – and some lowest lows – relational confusion. With her death went my memories of what those things felt like. I could picture moments from my past but could not empathize with myself. It was a total disconnect.

This week, I unexpectedly experienced a trigger that pricked a pinhole in my mind, allowing a rush of locked-up thoughts and feelings to come back to me. It was perhaps less metaphysical than it sounds, but some group of wires in my brain was reattached. I felt my past; it was hard and confusing, and such a gift. This “awakening” of sorts reminded me that I am made up of more experiences than those surrounding and following my mom’s death. It revealed to me that I have unfinished business in my soul that needs attention, which holds the key to so many frustrating roadblocks I have faced. Needs and voids that are independent of death can be easily covered up by the grief experience, and so the quest to fill them can be futile. That’s what’s tough – defining the boundaries of grief.

Perhaps it’s not always something as dramatic as blacking out after a trauma that creates disassociation within ourselves. Maybe it too easily happens with time. Maybe we call it adulthood so that we don’t have to look back or dig within ourselves for answers. Perhaps feeling past wounds hurts so much that we have to block out the good too. It does hurt to remember it all, let me tell you, but it is nowhere near as painful as living with a stranger under my skin.

I guess my purpose here is to offer a vulnerable piece of myself in sharing this experience, since vulnerability has not been easy for me while emotionally dry. Maybe it’s also to ask some questions. Do we abandon ourselves by choice? Do we choose to forget what we looked like most alive because it hurts too much? Do we forget because it would take such painful work to carry that self into our present situation?

I must say, I’m terrified that I will again lose this feeling of connectedness; that I will forget to keep asking myself these questions. However, I have never been so grateful for the reminder that maximum capacity aliveness is worth fighting for.

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9 thoughts on “Maximum Capacity Aliveness

  1. Wow, great post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Very inspiring. I was 39 when I lost my mom, already well into adulthood and a parent myself. I felt her loss for myself, but more for my kids, especially my daughter, who would never know her wonderful grandmother. Since my mom died, I’ve gotten lost, disconnected, and come back again many times. I still believe that my mom was the glue that held our family together. So much has changed, and sometimes I let myself think about what life would be if she were still here. A lot different. There are things that have changed that I don’t like, but have no control over. I’ve had to teach myself to live again, without my mom. I’ve had to teach myself not to dwell on the negative and what I’ve lost, but to look at all that’s around me. Yes, there are times when things bring back my mom’s illness or death in such a strong way I feel like I’ve been pulled back into the past again. I cry. I hurt. I let myself feel all of it, and then move forward again. On March 4th, my dog was diagnosed with lymphoma. My daughter asked me “why did Kodi get cancer?” I said I don’t know, it just happens. A reminder of my mom’s cancer. Ten days later, Kodi was gone, another reminder of how cancer kills. But now I try to live because I know that’s what my mom would want for me. Thank you for writing such a thought-provoking post. Take care.

    1. Hi Kathy, it’s always nice to hear from you! I really relate to having to teach yourself to live again – well put. Time does not heal wounds, it is so much up to daily decisions and thought-processes to heal wounds. You are always an inspiration, thanks for these words!

  2. Thanks for sharing this beautiful article and I think I spent already an hour reading everything including the comments.

    I lost my mother when I was 2 and my father when I was 8 years of age. What hurts me the most is while growing up was to see a complete and a happy family. I envy their children of having them.

    I’m 28 now. I’ve been through a lot but all experiences I had molded me to a better individual and with different perspective in life.

    Your post inspired me to make a write up as well. I hope you don’t mind if I share it here too.

    http://www.carloisles.com/blog/the-feeling-when-you-lose-your-mother/

    1. I’m so glad that you could relate to this post, and I’m so sorry to hear what you have been through. I can sense that you are a person who is looking for the best in life, despite what you have been though, and I admire that. Thank you for stopping by and for sharing your own writing, I appreciate it. Take care.

  3. “…the single most depressing thought I could ever think is: the best part is over – and I thought it.” I can’t help but feel as if I wrote this myself. This post is where I’m at with my life. After my mom died, it feels like the best days of my life are over. Just like your post, I look back at the person I was, before all of this happened, and I don’t even know who that person is anymore. Your questions seem to mirror the ones that I ask myself now. “Do we choose to forget what we looked like most alive because it hurts too much? Do we forget because it would take such painful work to carry that self into our present situation?” I don’t know the answer to these questions, but in the aftermath I’m trying to answer them. When my mom passed away, just like yourself, I was trying to create my independence in this world; I was trying to define who I was. This makes it worse, doesn’t it? Like you said, you can’t even remember the type of person you were before all of this because it hurts to much; it almost feels like living you’re living in a completely different world. But you’re right, I do have keep asking myself these questions. Like you said the “maximum capacity aliveness is worth fighting for.” And you’re right, it is. I really appreciate this post. I took a lot from it. It was very brave of you. Thank you!!

    1. Hi Lawrence, thank you for sharing your story. I think it does feel worse to lose a major influence in your life during the time that you are discovering yourself… it can feel like you are starting out at square one again. The confusion can be even heavier than the sadness sometimes. I don’t know what the magic ingredient is to find “aliveness” again; all I know is that if we give in to the confusion we will never find it. I thought that after 5 years I would have something like a list of 10 tricks to pull through grief. I don’t. But I feel like, as I crawl back into the light, the only thing to be certain of is that all the confusion and square-one-ing has to happen – but it isn’t “it”. Some days will feel hellishly like the best is over and there’s no way life will find you again, but keep trusting that it will reveal itself, one day. Take care Lawrence.

  4. I can’t tell you how much your blog means to me. I lost my father one year ago today, and feel every word of this post very deeply. Thank you for sharing your journey. You inspire me and reassure me that how I have been feeling this year is normal, and that there is hope for a better tomorrow.

    1. Liza, I am so glad you can relate to something here. It’s reassuring for me as well to hear that others are working their way through the same journey. There is something very healing about knowing that others relate. Thanks for stopping by, take care!

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