In a comment made on my post Children Need Their Fathers…Duh!, D.A. Wolf of Daily Plate Of Crazy mentioned our “happiness’ culture.” This got me thinking about the quagmire that anyone in the midst of trauma finds ourselves in. We all know the platitudes. We know that everything works out in the end and that a good attitude is key, but we also can’t repress and deny the genuine pain and dis-ease we experience when faced with huge life changes that include upheaval and loss.
Probably the primary triggers of my acute phases of depression have been my realizing that I have failed to stay positive and graceful, I have failed to provide a utopian environment for my children, I have failed to “manifest” all that I desire for my children. This sense of failure is an abusive vacuum that in an instant sucks all hope and innovation out of me. I have learned to recognize when it’s happening and immediately shift my focus. Still most days I ward off feelings of inadequacy not just for failing to create the stable life for my children that I had envisioned but also for failing to buck up cheerfully and be a TEDxTalk sensation by now.
If these are precious moments to cherish, how do I reconcile that I must spend them doing so many things that I have to do, but don’t want to? How do I reconcile that I’m human, that I am plagued with insecurities and fear despite my awareness that those are useless traits that crush my spirit? For now, I keep seeking balance; to express my truth, to try to find humor, to honor the pain that both I and my children experience, to exercise regularly (essential), to force myself to remember what feels good, what I like, what inspires me. I have worked hard for and am very lucky to have two children who openly and articulately express their feelings and sometimes it’s not pretty. Often I wonder if it wouldn’t be better for them to shut the hell up and move forward. It would certainly be easier on me. But, I know that denial and repression breed more insidious and evasive internal beasts.
So, as I try to accept my own range of feelings, I get lots of practice doing so for my kids. I don’t talk them out of their sadness or disappointment, just listen and understand and occasionally and very gently present another perspective. But, damn, I sure would like to be done with this limbo, this slow burn, this endless unraveling and provide some semblance of a stable upbringing for my kids. The clock is ticking as their childhoods whiz by and I can’t keep up. But I know that panic and negativity will make it harder. Breathe, do what I can and be as present as possible in the moment, for better or worse. Oh, and laugh!! Laugh at the absurdity! Even in the most traumatic times, there can be humor! In my case there is so much funny!!! Just takes some time and distance to recognize it and write about it. More to come…
You are just lovely to mention me, thank you. As I’ve only begun reading you, I’m uncertain where you are in your separation process, but it’s a terrible, painful, disorienting time for most of us. Likewise the divorce itself (depending on your circumstances not to mention your state of jurisdiction if you’re in the U.S.). But I firmly believe that if we have children it is our responsibility – first and foremost – to do whatever we can to help them through. It may be a fairly short-lived initial adjustment period. It may take a year or two. There will be issues – again, depending on your circumstances and the participation of both parents in their lives, civilly – that may occur at future points, when a child needs one or the other parent more at a certain stage, and he or she simply isn’t there.
You work through it. Or more accurately, for some of us, you get through it.
But my personal feeling (as you’ve rightfully understood) is that our culture that is so insistent on the positive face and the quick fix does us and our children no service. We expect more of them than they can process (claiming they are “resilient”), we throw ourselves into new relationships (repeating mistakes or feeling safer when coupled up – or simply trying to kill the pain or void we feel with someone who is nice enough but with whom we shouldn’t envision a “permanent” relationship). More than anything, we turn in on ourselves, taking all the blame for not being coupled up, not being a good parent, not being a this or that when what we are being is human, but not able to express it.
I might recommend this if you haven’t read it. You’ll note there was considerable “conversation” over the topic. http://dailyplateofcrazy.com/2010/08/29/the-problem-with-positive-denial-is-denial-marriage-divorce-positivity/
And the one “divorce” book I read – actually many years after the official legalities of divorce were over for me (official, which isn’t to say the dramas didn’t continue)… Stacy Morrison’s “Falling Apart in One Piece.” Gorgeously written, completely relatable, and wise beyond anything else I’ve read when it comes to expressing the all-out emotion and confusion of the experience of a marriage breaking up. She doesn’t pretend everything will be pretty at the end; she does understand her own lessons as she learns them. There is an intelligence and grace in that which is the basis for being responsible and caring to your children and yourself, and moving through (not on) the adjustments that we cannot and should not deny.
Thanks again for all of your input. I’ll check out the link and the book. I’m a few years into this so I’m doing alright (at least compared to the mess I was for the first couple years post split).
It SO pisses me off when people say “kids are resilient”. I wonder then, should I just bail on them too if they’re so resilient?? Not that would but, it’s not consolation when my kids are suffering to know that the general consensus is that they’ll be fine regardless. But, I have really tried to put my energy into finding a balance between accepting the sad/hard feelings and moving forward.
My kids wear me out and inspire me. I wish I could make it all better right now. This is life though, and it’s messy and we have it so good in so many ways. Again, grief and gratitude are not mutually exclusive.
You’re on your way!
I have only just begun to write about the long, painful, hilarious (at times), motivating journey that I call MY divorce. The road is bumpy as hell, with super highs and unbareable lows, but when you get to where you are going, all of this will make it so much better.
Hang in there and remember, there are no rules how to feel, how long it’ll take and what is right or wrong. ~ Sarah ~
Thanks Sarah! It’s taken me a while to get to writing about all of this. I’m not even through the actual divorce part yet but I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.
I look forward to reading about your journey and hope you’ll stick around to read more about mine.