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Another Afterimage

Photo by Vincepal via Flickr

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.

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21 thoughts on “Another Afterimage

  1. i am very touched by this, and all i can say is; when i was 30 i fell into a depression so deep that i would not see anyone lest they realize what a nothing i was. i think this is the price for anyone who understands that questions are all we really have…and answers are all that fools have. please continue your most worthwhile pursuit. your cyberfriend.

    • Thanks, Tony. My first impulse is to hide, but everything I’ve learned in life says that’s not the best way to feel better. Thanks for seeing me and understanding, and for becoming my cyberfriend. Some of my cyberfriends are the only real friends I have so far.

  2. Food for thought here, but I’ve wondered if you were going through a rough patch because I wasn’t seeing as many posts from you. I was a bit worried but only knowing you through blogs and emails made me hesitant to cross over more personal boundaries. Feel free to email me anytime you want. And remember that you are putting into words what many feel but do not have the courage to face, let alone share. Personally I don’t believe healing happens in silence. Maybe it starts in silence, in those quiet moments, but at some point I think it needs to find a voice of it’s own, whether that’s out loud or in our writing. Thinking of you.

    • I agree with Lisa. I also noticed less posts from you and wondered if you were just busy with the book or going through something. It’s difficult to know in this arena (blogosphere) where the boundaries are. You come to know parts of someone through their blog, like them, cheer them on in their successes and uphold them in their struggles – even if it’s just in print.

      Like Lisa, I extend the hand of friendship :). E-mail me if you would like to chat.

      I never expected to fine friends in this place but am happily surprised. I’m sorry to hear about what you’re going through and agree that speaking your pain helps relieve the interior pressure we all feel. There is no right time to stop talking about a problem, until you are healed and we all heal at different rates. Hell, just yesterday, I was crying about a problem that is now 10 years old. Some wounds are hard to heal. Some never do and you just learn to live with them.

      Sending you peace and strength.

      • I got slammed with some crap right after I started the book, and these things are eating up my time as well as stifling my abilty to think about constructing a new world to the best of my ability. And I have a lot of difficulty with being stopped from doing what I know I need to do. It sets me off. The memories of why it sets me off make me want to do what I should have done then, and talk, talk, talk. I so completely understand crying about a problem from ten years ago. It’s like you said, sometimes the cuts are so deep you have to be okay with being cool most of the time because they’re just not going to go away completely. Thanks for listening, Coco.

    • I’m sure I don’t have any personal boundaries that you would even think to cross. I may not answer every question, but I’ve learned in my life that it’s a privilege to be sincerely asked. Thanks for reading this, Lisa, and for your offer. And for understanding that I might need to write some things ‘out loud’.

  3. I hope that writing out a bit of your thoughts and feelings has helped you in a way. Just writing out your draft, even if it is never seen by anyone else, hopefully gave you a small sense of relief, if for just a brief time. I’m hoping you get back to your comfortable place real soon. Have a great day my friend.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Mark. I’m one of those people who has been so isolated and shushed in life that just writing things down feels like more isolation to me and brings no relief. It’s like thinking in my head. It’s still being completely alone and cut off. I never thought I was an exhibitionist, but I’ve been told over and over again not to feel what I feel, that my opinion doesn’t count, and that I should be quieter and quieter so I don’t have to be heard, as if hearing me is something not worthwhile or somehow wrong. I’ve been told not to whisper for so long that now I’m resisting the urge to scream.

  4. I agree with Lisa. Healing requires some sort of support system, whether through talking with others who have gone through something similar, or through getting it all out on the page. Surround yourself with nothing but positivity, and reach out to whoever makes you feel comfortable enough to talk about what you’re dealing with. Your blogging family is also here, whenever you need to talk to any of us!

    You are in my prayers; keep pushing forward. You are not alone!

  5. I specialize in messy discussions, Re, and I know I speak for all of us when I say that you are loved, that your thoughts and stories are always welcome. It’s true that some relationships are too superficial or fragile for confidences. But I’ve grown very attached to you over these months, so if there’s anything you chat about off-blog, please don’t hesitate to email.

    {hugs}

    • Thanks for the hugs, Averil. I thought I waited long enough to be able to answer you without spilling tears, but I guess that’s not going to happen. Thanks for being so nice to me, and for your kind offer. I feel the same.

  6. Have you thought about starting a private page? I’d hate to miss your posts (or assume I’d be invited, LOL) but it can be freeing to post whatever you want. Within reason, of course, the page can still hypothetically be accessed.

    I try to keep my alarm systems up and running, whenever someone seems toxic or seems to attack someone online, there is no choice to assume that they are either a nut or that they will apologize if they’re having a bad day. Being anonymous is no excuse to be a weasel. That said, I rarely share my thoughts with people that I have not known for at least a few years. So true that sharing painful stories can be a lifesaver. But they are still our stories and we should protect them and I am picky about who I share with.

    • Thanks for reading this one, Emmy. So far I don’t really think in terms of a private page because I always hope that someone with a similar experience will be able to find my words and know that they aren’t alone and someone understands. I’m afraid of being misunderstood because it hurts, but I’m also a little stubborn about the point of view that I can’t talk about certain things. That may the writer in me. I always feel that the things I write about are things I should write about. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.

  7. I’ve had a couple of acquaintances tease me for keeping a blog. They see it as nothing more than airing out laundry that doesn’t need aired out.

    In a way, I’m a little jealous of them. Their lives haven’t been full of the kind of suffering that stifles a person until they’re finally ready to let it go. They don’t understand how others’ words have touched me, or that my words have touched others. I don’t post this “just because.” Rather, I post it because I know someone else might take the comfort I did in seeing another person struggle . . . and then survive.

    I feel so much better having found a voice for so many of the things that tripped me up in my subconscious vows of silence re: them.

    So, yeah. I hear you.

    • Thanks, Deb. I’m always shocked by how many people are so uncomfortable with sharing. I get jealous of them, too, when I’m not wondering if they’re pushing down something in their own lives just to get around it.

      I know you understand. I know you understand the concept of what I’m saying and that if I ever do get my specifics out, you won’t judge me harshly just because your experiences may have been different. I want to share because I hope it helps people to really look and not jump to conclusions. I also hope it helps me and others to see that a wound can still be a tender spot, but you can survive and often thrive despite it. My own subconscious vow of silence nearly killed me because the silence was talking me into believing the opposite of what was true. Every once in a while, when I’m too quiet, it threatens to pull me back in.

  8. One of the key philosophies my father gave me was that no-one was better than anyone else and no man/woman is an island. Our personal insecurities are our own and contribute to our make-up – who we are. Not everyone has the confidence to share even a little bit for fear of being abused or having that knowledge used against them. BUt it is right to speak of your fears. They are real to you and as such are then real to your REAL friends. Sometimes taking that step to open up enboldens you and can even impart a sense of freedom. Share what you feel you can with who you feel you can. That circle will get wider as you become enboldened. And then with that confidence the strength to be who you are and proud. No-one is better than any other, as my Dad said, and no man/woman is an island. Hang in there, Ré.

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