I saw an interview with Carla Malden today. She’s been a screenwriter and is now talking about her recent book, “Afterimage: A Brokenhearted Memoir of a Charmed Life.” Her website says the book “delivers a fiercely personal account of her battling the before and surviving the after of losing her husband to cancer.” I cried through the interview because I understand how awful it must be to lose someone you love to such a unrelentingly cruel disease. I also cried for myself because listening to her today has helped me begin to put into words (that others can hear) the abyss I’ve recently fallen back into.
Oprah might say that by wanting to talk about it some more, I’m falling prey to negative thinking and allowing it to squeeze the life out of me again. That I’m drawing the negativity back into my life. The only thing that’s squeezing the life out of me is the very real notion that if I do make my issues a public part of who I am, and start talking, my worst fears about being misunderstood may come true. And that’s the opposite of what I want or need.
I think it’s strange that the list of things we are allowed to talk about over and over again gets cut so short. For example: it adds to the discussion when we discuss how hard it is to find a significant other. The talking about it and hearing how others search for answers and cope, is about giving and receiving strength and support. It’s about being seen and heard and knowing that you’re okay inside your own skin, as well as knowing that you’re not seen as an outcast by others. When a kind of life experience goes public and takes it place among other life experiences — whether those experiences are inspiring to others or just heart-wrenchingly sad and without immediate clear paths to health and happiness — what does the most to promote healing is the process of speaking up without fear of being relegated to the realm of silence because you dared.
It meant a lot to me that J.K. Rowling kept putting Voldemort’s name into Harry Potter’s mouth. Why can’t we speak the names of things that scare us? Why do so many people either turn away or try to obstruct the very thing that begins the healing?
When I could afford a therapist, she listened to me and really heard me. Because of that, I know I’m not a horrible person. I was just someone who lived through one of life’s many difficult situations. But as I hear more stories of life (so many different stories from so many different lives) from new friends and acquaintances, I find myself stepping back more and more because I’m reminded of my own story, and I know that it won’t be welcome in the discussion.
A while back, a blogger that I don’t know much about wrote something in a comment to another blogger and left a link to a post they had written about a sensitive subject. I was afraid to read it because the discussion was bringing up painful things for me, but I read her views anyway. She felt as though her opinion was the only one with validity and that those who viewed the subject from a different angle were simply misinformed or stubborn. She was talking about feelings. Human emotion. And in her answers to my comment about my own pain and pain that I’ve witnessed from others that doesn’t fit into her box, she made it clear that she viewed my polite disagreement as a challenge, or worse, an insult. I realized that she was wedded to her point of view no matter what, probably because it was the view from the path that healed her from something. I couldn’t find anything in my quick perusal of her About Page and blog to help me know what she had come through so I could at least understand her, but I knew that further attempts at conversation with her would be toxic for me.
Getting better doesn’t look the same on everyone. All the paths it can take share important aspects, but things rarely get discovered, talked about once, and then tied off in a healing bow. The talking can look very messy, and sometimes too lengthy from the outside looking in.
I wrote a long draft a couple of days ago about where I’ve been, but I don’t suppose I should ever put it up here. I need to talk and be who I am, but it may be asking for trouble because I’m not sure that 800 pages, much less 2,000 words, would make what I went through clear to anyone who might hurt too much if they listen. My story may be so different from theirs (or share so many similarities) that they might experience it as an offense. Stories like Carla Malden’s are easier to listen to despite their immersion in the pain of watching someone you love suffer and then losing them. But those who truly understand that kind of story would never think to silence someone who lived through it and needs to talk about it a little more. Not all the time of course, but be able to talk about that part of their life when it comes up, because they lived it and it’s always a part of who they are. No matter what a person’s story is, sometimes letting out a bit of that excess pressure is all a person needs to get back to the possibility of the life at hand. This post is my messy little prayer that everyone who needs to, may find that comfortable space among people to let out some of that pressure. I know I’m not the only one who needs it.