A week ago I was preparing to go with my husband on the longest vacation we’ve ever had. The kids did not get to come along, thereby making it also the longest time we’d ever been away from the kids. This was also the first time either of us had been to Central America. (Wait a minute —
does Mexico count as Central America? Nevermind.) We’ve both travelled plenty over the course of our lives, and international travel is something we both enjoy, but it’s been a long time (ten years) so I felt a bit rusty.
There are other areas of life where I’m rusty, areas that need more attention. Something I’ve realized though? This past year has been filled with new experiences. I tend to associate “new” with “good” but as most of you know, Dear Readers, this year the new has been most decidedly NOT good. With the advent of my dad’s illness all the new has been really, really bad. Really bad. Worse than bad. In less than a year I watched my dad age before my eyes as his body was slowly overtaken by cancer. That’s a really painful new thing to experience. That’s something that makes my stomach churn and my breathing shallow. Never before has “new” been so awful.
It makes me realize that I’ve been living a charmed life up until now. And I knew it. I wasn’t calloused about it, and I was sympathetic to hard situations people experienced but it was as a spectator. I was aware that other people struggled, that there were hardships in the world. I appreciated the lack of drama and general positive vibe of my life. There were hard days, of course, but those didn’t threaten to become the rule; they were the exception.
In Costa Rica, there were sensory experiences that were totally new for me. Things that people living there must take for granted (as we all are prone to do when we’re around something all the time) were things out of a Dr. Seuss book for me. Vibrant colors and combinations practically bowled me over with their intensity. Sizes that dwarfed their houseplant cousins back at home. Extravagant beauty that bordered on garish to my Northern, reserved Midwestern sensibilities. It was like someone finally speaking their mind after years of holding back. It was wonderful.
For example, what the heck are these things? Check out these crazy things:
See what I’m talking about? And the photo doesn’t even show the intensity of their color. They’re crazy!
The new of now is a long road of learning. This thing has a wicked curve and it keeps knocking me on my butt. I’ve always associated my biggest emotions with positive ones: love, excitement, joy, anticipation. These have served me faithfully, and have shown up frequently over the years. Even another big emotion, anger, has been something I knew how to handle, learned how to address and release. But grief, sorrow, mourning, loss — these are intense emotions that are new to me.
I realize that makes me sound like an emotional toddler, and I suppose in some ways I am. I refuse to give extra nobility to these new emotions. There is nothing greater about these “negative” emotions than their positive counterparts. They’re just different. They’re difficult for me, but I’ve started to wonder if some people major in certain sets of emotions, getting shame mastered, for example, while neglecting security. Have I had more time invested in happiness and not been forced to take time learning to manage bereavement? Can you even learn how to handle it until you are forced to experience it? Isn’t it a bit like parenthood, which you can read up on but can’t fully grasp until it’s really happening, in real time, in your life?
The new stamps in my emotional passport are ones I wish I didn’t have to collect. And if you’re travelling in similar areas, let me say sincerely, I’m so sorry. This is so hard. This is so exhausting. We will get through it…but it won’t be on any convenient,predictable timeline. And that sucks on it’s own, and that’s not even counting the loss itself. That’s a loss of control and emotional order to our lives. But that’s the way it is for us now, so rather than fight against it, maybe we should conserve our energy for the long months ahead. Remind me of that when I forget it, which will probably be next week or something, okay?
Are you an old pro at difficult emotions, one with traditionally negative connotations? If so, what do you think about a tendency to excel at some emotions at the expense of others? And if you’re like me and someone who tends to lean towards the more pastel color emotions, is that your natural makeup or a conscious choice? I’m curious to hear your perspectives!
This was supposed to be a link-up with Five Minute Friday and our new-ish host, Kate Motaung. I accidentally threw the rules out the window by writing for much longer than five minutes. Whoops!