The pendulum of experiences in these last 12 months (both personally and professionally) has shown me the darkness and beauty of life. I’d be remiss to say that this year didn’t show me an incredible amount of grace and delightful moments amidst the pain.
Oh 2019, what a year filled with contradictions: I felt the most alone, when I was surrounded by the most amount of people. I found love when I was at my darkest moment. I received the most generosity when I least needed it. I gained sisters when I lost one. Family gained a whole new meaning when my mother passed. I became adaptable when dealing with my own rigidity. I found wholeness when I was broken. Lastly, I decided to start living, when facing my mother’s and my mortality. Often times I get entrapped in my analytical ways, and evidence-based thinking to define life and the lessons it provides. I would start delineating its features, its valleys, and troughs, which often undermined its substance. That method was truly pointless. This last year I entangled myself in a futile exercise of unraveling the variables that constituted life. The coping mechanism of 2019 was intellectualization and rationalization. A mechanism that made me forget to look around and see the paved roads that surrounded me. Roads that revealed I have been on the sideline… ( if that makes any sense..anyway)
As 2020 creeps around the corner, I am letting go of trying to define every experience, and I am choosing to be “more” present. I am going to start living a little more, feeling a little more, loving a little more, risking a little more, laughing a little more, cooking a little more, sleeping a little more, drawing/painting a little more, and dare a little more. Simply put, I am going to let the waves of life carry me instead of attempting to control it. Anyway 2019, it’s been real.
Grief/pain is like a horrible ex; a bitter one at it. Just when you thought you finally moved on, and replaced it with something much more peaceful… it irrationally keys your car and slashes your tires. There you are stranded, trying to detach yourself from this endless pull and tug with an ex that just won’t leave you alone. An ex that wants to be front and center. It pops up at work unannounced demanding your attention. It shows up at dinner with friends, while you try your best to pretend it’s not there. Any reminder of your ex puts you on edge, because you are reminded of its power to make a scene. Worst of all, for whatever reason it refuses to loosen its grip. So let’s talk about it… (not the Kübler-Ross stages)
I was told by many that, “grief gets better with time”, “Time heals all wounds”, “You are so strong, you’ll get through this”, “Life goes on”, “Your (insert deceased person) wouldn’t want you to be sad”, “God never gives you more than you can handle”, “I know EXACTLY what you are going through”, and best of all “ If you need anything, call me”. I think these cliches and platitudes are well intentioned, because ultimately (the alternative) saying nothing is worse. Saying nothing (not to be confused with actively listening) almost immediately screams you don’t care about this unfathomable loss. However, these aforementioned statements fall short because they are centered on the person and not the griever. I believe the term used to describe what I’m trying to relay here is “conversational narcissism”.
I’m not a trained sociologist/psychiatrist/psychologist but here is what I gathered from my very informal literature search. Ted Baeur put it beautifully in his article published in Medium: “ Sociologist Charles Derber describes this tendency as “conversational narcissism.” Often subtle and unconscious, it’s the desire to take over a conversation to do most of the talking, and to turn the focus … to yourself.”
I get it…Listening to someone’s pain can be unbearable especially when we live in a culture seeking only “GOOD VIBES”. It makes it easy for the phenomenon of conversational narcissism to creep in; “insert a trite statement” meant to cheer you up. The person embodying it may not be a narcissist, but the inability to relate subtly leaves them reaching in their repertoire of overused statements to become a “helpful sincere” friend. I wholeheartedly believe that sincerity is in fact there, however more often than not it is not helpful. What typically occurs is a gulf between the griever because ultimately they may not want to be cheered up. Most importantly, the space the griever is in is entirely valid and human! Here are examples of what would be more appropriate …“you must feel like your pain will never end” instead of “time will heal ”…or…“Tell me what’s the hardest part for you?” instead of “Be strong”/“You’re so resilient”…
… SO for those of you are currently experiencing (or experienced) pain/loss; here’s what I’m telling you: “I know life has dealt you a terrible blow, and living with this new reality is incredibly hard… seemingly endless even. Trying to keep yourself balanced in a space that doesn’t recognize/validate your grief is not ok. I may not know exactly what you are going through, but I can imagine the devastation you feel. You do not have to act like you are ok, or pretend you don’t miss what you’ve lost…Listen to me… I see you…. I see the pain you carry in your eyes, a look of … desolation. A look I recognize behind the many masks you carry…A look that few recognize… I’m right there with you too… trying to reconcile love and loss…”
That sneaky b*tch called grief/pain… she/he/it sure doesn’t discriminate, that MF…
In a world that often reminds us we aren’t enough and highlight our shortcomings; I want this blog post/space to do the exact opposite.
You, yes you! There is so much talent and power that lies in you. Your very existence is miraculous. You are the perfect genetic mixture of beauty and creativity. From the texture of your hair, the shape of your nose, the softness of your lips, the frame of your body, and to the tone of your voice… As they say, “you bad”! You were not designed to make people comfortable with your thoughts, your journey, or your being. Just as you are, you are enough! You are enough (in case you didn’t hear me the first time); believe that! I believe that to be true for you, wholeheartedly!
Now that we’ve established how “bad” you are/is ;) ...Take time and imagine what greatness looks like for you. Start believing that to be a reality. There is absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t happen for you. You deserve it! Start believing that you deserve all the goodness and greatness that life can offer. Because…well why not?
Some of you will say "life is no picnic," or “I’ve made so many irreversible mistakes” to deserve any good. Trust me, I know where you are coming from all too well. Do me a favor and name one person in your circle who hasn’t made a mistake? If you know someone who "hasn't" ( side eye) ; they have a lot of "living" to do! Look, you have to be kind to yourself; you’re doing what you can. Life will throw curve balls; and worst of all, it is not a respecter of persons.
No one is immune to the rollercoaster ride called life. I’ve lived it, and I see it everyday with patients I care for. One minute the playing field is leveled, and the next, you are facing Mount Everest. Suddenly you are challenged to surmount things you've never imagined for yourself. The urgency of "life" can suddenly change your swag and confidence. You may even experience helplessness, guilt, fear, regret, and doubt as a result of it. It's normal. But owe it to yourself not to let these emotions fester longer than they need to. Before you know it, like an insidious cancer, it can slowly eat away at your intrinsic beauty, creativity, and ability to shine. So take it from me, let the emotion run its course. And when it's time, (the debris of oppressive thoughts weighing on your shoulders that paralyze you) dust that sh*t off. Life is tough, but it’s no reason to prevent your light to shine amidst dark moments. The cards you were dealt may not be the best hand, ( I’ve often said eff those cards, and eff those rules); and it shouldn't matter anyway because life isn’t a game of cards. Surprise yourself, and dare to be great … amidst the mistakes and chaos. Dare to strut your stuff like you deserve every opportunity that comes your way. It’s your time to shine. It’s your time to trail-blaze. It's your time to walk tall. It is YOUR time. So go ahead with your bad self, be you! Be great.. and shine!
- Dr. M. C.
"Often times, in the dark crucibles of life, the greatest gifts are born."