Welp. I was going to write something about pain, but… It just wasn’t gelling. Like seriously, this past weekend I wrote 4 different fragments of thought collections, and none of them were anything that I felt in my bones. I was on vacation with my friend Lindsay, trying to write, and suddenly turned to her and said, “This is not working. I think I maybe need to write something… gritty.” She nodded supportively and asked me ½ hr. later how my “getting gritty was going.” Yeah. I had nothing.
I have no success at "grittiness." It just looks like crazy eyes.
Yesterday I was in a patients home with no words, tears in my eyes, and barren comfort to give the daughters of a young mom who is dying of cancer. Last night I was sweating the emotion out of every single pore of my body in a hot yoga class. And today was like listening to the same song on repeat- another family, more tears, and eye contact with my patients hazel eyes that blinked to push back the medications that are her life raft on a sea of pain.
I thought that I had a lot of "gritty" stuff to write about pain, but when I stopped today for my lunch break I found myself thinking instead about all the falling down messy laughing and terrible karaoke that I’ve done this year. And I remembered that a year ago when I was talking with a friend about starting my job at hospice, I told him that my theory about how to handle this work was to “be emotionally honest with myself as often as possible.” A year later, I have thicker “thinker” shadows in my forehead and new crinkles under my eyes. It’s been a year of touchy-feely moments; adventure, heartbreak, growth, and moments of being 100% THERE in what I was doing.
I’d like to think that it’s been a year of emotional honesty, although, it was also pretty scary at times.
In August, I felt SO much emotion that it was hard to function. From my well of sadness and confusion, I said to my brother. “It’s just hard to see anything good right now.” And Michael grabbed my shoulders and said; “I don’t think it’s going to be like this for you for long.” And he was right, because a month later I was on a trail in the Peruvian Andes, letting go of disappointment, chasing condors and bringing rocks home as mementos.
The scariest thing about emotions is how big they are, and how small we feel to contain them. To contain so much sadness, pain, anger, joy, and love, seems impossible. But, somehow, letting them out has kept me from becoming bitter, from hardening over, from freezing. Henri Nouwen says that when we feel pain because of deep love, we allow the ground in our hearts to be broken deeper and deeper. So the pain and deep feeling are connected, and somehow it's worth it when we let the places we had hardened to keep ourselves safe be shattered. It makes no sense, the very pain of deep loving and feeling breaks us down and makes us more vulnerable to more pain and deep loving… The more we really let go and love, the more we have to keep loving. It becomes a way of life. And it kinda sounds like Jesus.
In 2013 I felt a lot, and it was terrifying but also beautiful. This year I’m going to keep feeling, and also practice telling that little voice of fear to suck it (I mean… Um, insert something appropriately ladylike here ________).
How’s that for gritty?