There’s the saying “Life comes in waves.” “When it rains it pours” some say. And there’s my personal fave, “Up shit creek without a paddle.” In time, the wave (or the rain) (or the shit) will bring in a heathen of despair and suffering. In an instant everything can change, and suddenly we become enveloped by darkness. Despite it all, life resumes and we trudge along.
Things seem to be compartmentalized well with this thought process. When the rain or the shit or the wave comes we will dismiss it as such and push through it. Wear the smile, shave those legs, send those emails. Ignore the pain. Strength is a matter of resistance, a test that we bestow upon ourselves to see how much weight we can carry. But let’s try something different. Just for today, try not to manipulate the situation.
Shame, anger, and fear; the holy trinity of the universal human experience. The three things we are all born with is the very thing we’re taught to repress. Perhaps it’s all rooted in grief. Welcome the heaviness, let it weigh you down like a brick. Maybe this weight will be easier to bear than the one that forces you to pretend you’re ok. Don’t hold it together, don’t get a grip. Go ahead, blame the hand you’ve been dealt on the guy upstairs with the personality disorder and a pair of dice in his hands.
Thinking of tangibly describing anger would be to close my eyes and hold my breath until my temples fill up and my stomach hardens so that my whole body becomes stiff. Any discourse that involves talking me down just sounds like muffled underwater noise. I purse my lips to contain the madness, I don’t want it to escape. I will deny any voice of reason. I want it to breathe and grow, to manifest and take a life of its own.
Let your mind bring you down. Let those blurts that have nothing nice to say take a jab, and another jab, and another one that completely depletes you from the sliver of energy you have left. Sit on the floor because your body has no other solution. Let all of your ambition disappear in an instant. Give it up, flip it over, turn it to whatever comes first: anger, shame, or fear. Succumb to the grim reality; at this moment you are helpless. This life has nothing for you. You are longer the captain of your own ship.
I used to be good at seeing what was in front of me and deciding what it meant. I used to see grief and set it aside. I used to stand up to it and decide that it couldn’t be for me. I write this now in admission to grief, that I accept the days where I just can’t get by. I write this for the building in Miami that collapsed, for my first baby that now lives up with the stars, for my friend who lost her family in a crash, for my dad who is grieving the loss of his mom, for my friend who has been deemed “infertile,” for our panicked re-emergence into society, for the bullies on the internet that project their suffering unto others. I write this entirely for women. Grief is everywhere.
No one told me lines would form on my face and belly and thighs, grays would sprout in tandem with insecurities. My dad always tells me stories of his “glory days” but I was convinced I would never lose mine. I would serve him pity on a platter but I would remain unscathed, untouched by the physical display of accumulating years. My ego inflates. A dangerous pursuit; too much air and it pops. Aging feels like that. At your peak, it inflates. Then someone catches on to the fact that you are in your prime so they poke a hole and now you are deflating. Slowly regressing. Now me and the mirror are having different kinds of conversations.
Child #1 introduced my body to gravity, to extra skin, extra lines, to tolerating harsher pain. A new emotional shift that I still find myself getting used to. Sometimes it feels like my mind only operates to cater to him. A small victory is carving out time to do something for me (like writing this newsletter). The love I carry for him sometimes eats at me. I have to step up and stand-in on the days I just want to be a brick.
My belly is swollen with Child #2. Mentally I am subdued with panic, the blurts tell me I could lose this pregnancy like I lost my first one. My body is exaggerated with vascularity that reminds me it’s no longer here to serve me, but to the one that swims in the fluid of my womb. Pink stretch marks have shown up on top of the white ones. Our bodies have always told their own stories, in the most truthful way.
Relationships are such an unusual dependency. They will never be completely satisfying. We want the other to think highly of us, but as our scales come out, it only makes us harder to endure. Wisdom is enjoying the squeeze if giving it all to the other only to render half the amount we were anticipating. This falls true even with the relationship you hold with yourself. Why do you expect so much from yourself? What lies do you tell?
Let’s go to the depths of what women withstand:
The societal pressures of the home with the white picket fence. She can’t possibly get by without a husband. She can do hard things, but they must be endured alone. No one likes an angry woman. Do not disrupt the comfort of others. No one wants to see impurities poured out like red wine suddenly spilled on a white tablecloth. Wear the thorned crown of a martyr with a smile. Her grief will be minimized to nothing. Bottle up your shit. If she can’t suppress it, there are meds for that. I mean, after all, what would the man say?
Here’s an idea; Let’s change the script. Let’s burn it all down.
I believe we all fight every day to like ourselves, to be a little gentler on our person than yesterday. But when the darkness comes, we become avoidant. Push things down, brush things under. Ignore grief. The more you try to hold onto your identity the more it will fight you back and resist like a slug in a stream. Eventually, the demons will come down from the balustrades.
When you’re a brick that sits on the floor, you’re making room for yourself as you are at your core. At the center, there is someone who will eventually rise once the darkness loosens its clasp. When you can open your eyes and see change as a way to evolve. To slowly build a new form of consciousness that is unique only to you, that now includes compassion and empathy for the grief we all carry close to our chests. To have the holy trinity means that we love deeply, it means that we can still build a home despite the rain and the shit and the waves.
Let this revelation be something worth relinquishing, let it change you like a rapture. This could be your second coming. Shed your skin.
Sometimes, the light won’t shine through until we fully embrace the darkness. Come in. Our evolution awaits.
To donate to the Miami collapse, consider donating to The Chesed Fund. This fund will be directly dispersed to the families of the victims.
A poem about the art of losing, One Art by Elizabeth Bishop. It’s like a friend giving advice in the most beautiful way.
Cheryl Strayed’s newsletter post, Our Stories Survive Us. It’s something I come back to read from time to time. It is emotionally obliterating, raw, beautiful, and brilliant.
This essay, Why Is There So Much Silence Around Miscarriage by Jessica Zucker. A history lesson on why society expects us to grieve alone.
Instead of being a blessing or a medical necessity, a public-health concern or a consequence of a past misdeed, miscarriage is now often associated with just one word: “grief.” And for the generations that came before us, grief was often considered a private emotion. Our mothers and grandmothers didn’t grow up in a culture where openness and dialogue about pregnancy and infant loss was encouraged, and they lost the language to pass along to us. We were sent underground.
An essay by Lisa Taddeo on Being a Crazy Bitch that my writing teacher shared with the group this week. One of my favorite authors, an example of a woman who is carrying the torch on our behalf. I just started reading Animal, and can’t wait to get through it.
And lastly, please someone lock-up this man, or at least tell his publicist to take away his phone: