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.