My dad died when I was a teenager, and I got used to referring to “my mom” as my parental unit. After awhile I started to call other people’s parental units their “mom”. I only remember that because I’d produce this awkward moment when someone in college would explain that their mom and dad was picking them up at the end of the semester.
This is happening now with the feeling of being married. At first, I could hardly bear to be around married people. It was as if I was sitting at a table with them with a limb missing, and no one was saying anything. Now, I come to the table as myself. I only noticed this one night when I was at a literary reading with a friend who was worried if the reading would be done in time to pick up her daughter. Later, she realized that her husband would have been done with his own event in time to get her. Not once over the course of the night did I suggest that her husband pick up the daughter. I honestly forgot that there was another parent who could pick up the slack.
I’m less than a year out, and I’ve forgotten about all that negotiation and communication that partners do. That was the life I lived, my whole adult life, and–poof!–in less than a year, it’s as if it’s all in some book I read. I’m so used to being solely responsible that this is feeling normal.
It may be normal, but it doesn’t feel good.
I’m sad. Sometimes at work, I’m plugging away, and a wave of sadness suffuses me and I stare at the screen, pleading my body not to cry, pleading with it to get back to work. But no, I’ve opened the door to the emptiness, and it opens up inside me like a gaping yawn.
Recently, I was defeated by a doorknob. I tried to do some household repairs on my own. I installed a new doorknob and the door got stuck in the frame because the new latch wouldn’t turn. I consulted some You Tube videos on how to unscrew a door’s hinges. I was on the floor with a crowbar, trying to remove the door. When that didn’t work, I took a hacksaw to the doorknob mechanism to try to remove the latch. Surrounded by a hacksaw and a crowbar and WD 40 and hacked-off pieces of doorknob in front of the implacable door, I felt trapped in a world where the doors won’t open and I just don’t know how to do this. I tried to walk away from the problem and found myself collapsed in tears on the landing of the stairs. There is no walking away from this.
I’ve deleted a few posts and written numerous drafts that I don’t publish. I like to document my progress here, but I don’t want to overshare. I’m doing all the things I should be doing, and appropriate progress is happening, but the more I move forward, the emptier I feel inside. My children are growing and developing and they are beautiful. I know that I have done good by them this past year. Decent house. Rewarding job. But the good stuff doesn’t fill the emptiness. I watch myself disconnect from caring people. Each time a person fails to recognize my struggle, thinking I’m making small talk and, oh! they have that problem too, I feel the veil come over me, hiding me from them. I turn more and more into myself, nurturing my pain, protecting it from the people who fail to see it. That sounds really unhealthy, I know. I have a sick relationship with this pain, but the pain is my only witness. As everybody else tells me that I’m “doing great,” me and the pain are only ones who share this terrible secret.
This post has taken a turn, hasn’t it? Don’t worry, I’m okay.
I’ve practically written an invitation to meditate, haven’t I?
Also, this is probably a good day to hop in the kayak.