I’m feeling very vulnerable these days, so much to fear – gun violence, political unrest, even the Zika virus.
I grew up in suburbia during the 60’s, where mothers let their children play freely outdoors , only calling them in come dinnertime. I was small for my age, but so desired freedom that I borrowed my best friend’s older sister’s bicycle. Now I had wheels! I tied wooden blocks onto the pedals with bungee cord so I could reach them. Certainly not fashion forward, but that was fine with me because now I was free to fly!
After school Karen (b.f. in question) and I would take the egg sandwiches that her mother had prepared for us along with her specialty, homemade Rice Krispie treats into the nearby fields and had a picnic. I felt free, happy and safe.
I don’t think I have felt safe since then.
Last week I surprised my roommate Lorraine with a getaway to celebrate her sixtieth birthday. I rented a teeny tiny cottage on the shores of Lake Simcoe that accepted dogs, so that Lucille too could enjoy the celebration. My bedroom faced directly onto the lake, where I woke to the soft lapping of the water. I, who have always had music playing in the background of my life, forgo music to listen solely to that soothing sound.
I took Lorraine to this quaint lake side inn near our cottage for her birthday dinner. We were having an enjoyable evening when she started talking about a project she is working on. She began talking louder and louder about the unscrupulous people she is being forced to work with, and how everyone is corrupt. Suddenly, in the middle of her diatribe, I began to feel extremely sad. As I sat across from her trying to stay calm I could not stop a torrent of tears from streaming. I excused myself and went outside to catch my breath and right myself. What tripped me over the edge? I’m not 100% certain, but just before I began to cry, I kept thinking:
I am alone and unsafe, and will be alone for the rest of my days.
I had a sense that her anger and her frustration with her colleagues, spilled over onto me energetically, making me feel alone and scared. I took a few deep breaths, told myself that I was safe, went back into the inn. I somewhat calmly told Lorraine that I really wanted to support her in this frustrating time, but I needed her to do her best and contain herself.
This conversation of course, was a variation of the hundreds we have had over the years, never to be resolved. I kept trying to make Lorraine understand that she is responsible for her energy, but I don’t think she thinks she is responsible nor does she want to be responsible.
I however, can and must be responsible for my energy. The next morning I got up early and took Lucille for a quiet walk around the lake. Thoughts about what had transpired last night were forefront on my mind. How can I feel safe? What would safety look like for me?
I thought about my days in the fields with Karen, and how safe and centered I felt. How could I recreate those feelings of safety here and now, and call up those feeling when needed?
My mother was not a nurturing soul, so going to Karen’s house and having her mother pay attention to me was immensely comforting. I have been looking for her comforting presence in all the women I date, but until now have sadly, only chosen women like my mother.
Could it be possible for me right now to cull up those feelings of safety? I tried to remember Dorothy’s kitchen where Karen and I would sit at the table talking about our day at school while Dorothy would make us those delicious sandwiches.
Yes, I could. I felt instantly transported back in time and could feel my breath lengthen and my shoulders relax. Okay, this felt great!! But while those memories made me relax, I still didn’t feel safe. What was missing?
Oh shit! I need to feel my grief. Pushing my grief away since childhood, had made me perennially perky, which left me feeling exhausted and numb. This pushing away of my grief had led me into relationships with women like me, who chose not connect to their pain.
That is why I felt so alone with Lorraine last week. In her need to release her stress and anger about her work, she wasn’t connecting to her grief, just to her rage. I in turn, felt the need to tell her how bad and inappropriate she was in sharing her anger. Now it was my turn to not feel Lorraine, but just my own anger. I was afraid that if I felt my grief, my grief would consume me, because my grief felt that enormous.
I walked along the shore still crying,thinking that it was time. Time to feel my sadness and yes grief, about Lorraine and the trail of women before her, starting with my mother. So much better to feel sad, than the nothingness I had felt for years.
I let my grief wash over me and through me. I didn’t have to do anything, or say anything. I just had to feel, and keep on breathing.
I did and I am, still.