1halffull's Blog

Feel it first; be strong later….
July 28, 2015, 5:03 pm
Filed under: Change, Emotions, Strength | Tags: ,

Today is one of those days that marks endings and beginnings.  Not for me, but for my daughter-in-law.  It’s her last day at work in a place, for the most part, she has loved.  It was both a difficult decision and yet a seemingly easy one, all things considered.  She took her time with it and ultimately came to one conclusion – it was time to make the change, to move to the next level – and so she is.  But even though the decision is made, that doesn’t mean there isn’t sadness over leaving what has been good.

This morning, I wished her a happy but sad last day at work.  She responded that she was having a sad morning but trying to remember all the exciting stuff on the horizon.  My response?  Let today be today.  Let yourself feel it.  It’s better if you do and that’s okay.

BAM!  Like a gunshot in my own soul, that comment went off because, while I totally believe what I told her, I’ve rarely afforded myself the same opportunity to ‘let yourself feel it’.

It started when I was just a child.  My home life went pretty much awry and I started having to be someone else, someone much older than my childhood would wish for.  Always doing the right thing, always taking care of everyone else, squelching every feeling, always holding back, never letting it out, taking care of everyone but myself with no one to take care of me.  It was very frustrating.  I held in a lot of feelings, actually most of them, except the smile plastered on my face so no one would know.  I learned to pretend pretty well.

As I got older, that didn’t change.  When my mom died, my grandmother, who lived with us and was part of the ugly party, squeezed the back of my neck and told me I had to be strong for my dad’s sake.  (I still have a weak spot in that part of my neck where everything I’m holding in still goes – ouch!) So I pretty much had to hold it all in and smile while I was melting inside.  It was a terrible time.  After the funeral, I ran to my neighbor’s house – someone who was a grandma herself – to hide out because the sound of everyone laughing and talking like nothing had just happened hurt so much.  I just couldn’t stay there and be strong any longer.

When my dad died, a month after our son was born, inside, I was struck down, laid low, immovable.  But outside, I had to be strong steelfor everyone else, get them through.  I went to the funeral home the afternoon of the family viewing long before anyone else and asked to see my dad.  The director, who was a friend of our family – and most of the local families – didn’t think this was a good idea.  I remember telling him I had to do it so I’d be able to help the rest of them through it.  He let me in.

Later, when we all went back, dad’s mother (another grandmother) from whom he’d been estranged, came in wailing.  It was horrible, especially in light of previous behavior.  I was so furious with her; yet I held it in along with my own anguish.  Next morning I warned her that should she do that during the service I would personally come drag her out of the service because no one needed to hear her fake wailing.  If I had to be strong then she could not be ridiculously emotional.

Calling hours were limited to an hour before the service.  Dad was laid out in the receiving area.  There I stood for an hour, looking at his lifeless form, hearing the comments of the guests as we greeted them, holding in for all of dear life so I could ‘be strong’.  When it was time to close the casket, all I wanted to do was throw myself across him and scream for all that was now lost – never seeing my son, never playing with my daughter again, never teaching them how to fish, no more chasing them around the living room, oh just so much lost in one moment of time!  It was unbearable and yet I was expected to bear it and be strong.  It made the coming months very difficult and I did have to see a counselor for a while.  But old habits die very hard.

Since then, I’ve spent a lot of my life ‘being strong’ when all I felt was weaker than ever before.  The ingrained attitude of strength is okay to a point, but, my belief is that when forced upon you to the limit of never being able to express your weakness, it is extremely detrimental.  It’s important to feel what you feel and to let it out appropriately; turning it inward just makes you sick.

So, people, my advice to you is this:  whatever you’re feeling, embrace it, examine it, see if there’s anything to be done about it.  If so, do it; if not, let it go.  Then be strong for others by helping them learn to do the same thing.   LLHHKK