Saying No to Re-living Old Pain

Pixabay: Hans. Free for commercial use; no attribution required.I recently wrote about a friend’s suicide, an act that took place 21-years ago.  As I read a poem I’d written after his death, I sensed a character shuffling about the edges of my consciousness.  The character was carrying a cloak; a cloak of sadness, anger, guilt and despair, brought forward from those tumultuous days.

I realized this character wanted me to wear those emotions again.

It was as if this character believed there were proper responses to a suicide—no matter how long ago it had occurred—and knew the cloak carried within it acceptable ones.  Here, wear this, she said. In case of suicide, feelings of sadness, anger, guilt and despair are allowed. I was tempted.

The thing is, I didn’t want to feel those things. I looked outside my window and the sun was shining; flowers were blooming.

Donning the cloak-of-past-emotions would not change the past.

It would, however, overshadow a beautiful present with emotions completely unrelated to the now.

I didn’t want to relive those old emotions.

I had a choice. I said no to the character and her cloak.

 

Photo source: Hans on Pixabay

 


 

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A Friend’s Suicide Remembered

126_SuicidePainPoemOn Memorial Day weekend in 1998, an ex-boyfriend committed suicide. We had lived together for three years and had broken up less than a year earlier. Three weeks after his death, churned by emotions, I struggled to find ways to express the turmoil I felt.  I came across a poem I wrote back then; an attempt to describe the indescribable.

Reading it, I have memories of those days, of multiple characters in my head navigating their conflicting feelings triggered by his suicide: sadness, anger, guilt, despair. They were all part of the chaos.  At the time, I fully submerged myself in those feelings; their presence defined me. I didn’t see my emotions as the response of characters, but as me. I was the pain. I was the anger. I was the guilt.  There felt like no me beyond the emotions.

And yet, there was.  There always is, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

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The Long Red Reach of Costco

57_CostcoLabelI was attending a memorial service at a fancy San Francisco golf club. I had a few lingering friendships I’d held lightly onto from decades earlier when I’d lived in the city; those friendships that merit an annual birthday email and the once-every-few-years lunch. My friend’s wife had died in October and he was holding the memorial near the December holidays.

I had driven down to the city from my home an hour away in the wine country; a rural lifestyle that offered a mellow contrast to the more stylish and urbanized energy of the city.  With the short, dark, cold of the December evening, I had dressed warmly: slacks, top and a long black cardigan. Flat, non-designer shoes. On the practical side of the design-scale. My normal.

The cars in the parking lot were well-appointed, recognizable breeds: Mercedes-Benz; BMW; Lexus. My Altima felt overshadowed. As I walked into the clubhouse I was amidst a number of other folks heading to the memorial.

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The Lonely American Man

19_Hidden BrainI’m exploring characters. Ones within me are varied: selfish, generous, angry, happy, judgmental, forgiving, and more. There’s a wide range of characters I can identify, and I suspect there are characters deep in the wings I’ve lost touch with; characters that exist for reasons I don’t even know. There’s no doubt it’s good some of them some stay away; I also suspect it would do me good for others to come out.

This podcast from Hidden Brain is, for me, an exploration into men and their characters. We encourage the existence of certain “male traits” within the men of our culture, and we disallow others.  The episode is an exploration of how some characters that are present in young boys—friendship, openness, sensitivity and friend-love—are often destroyed by the time boys become men. There’s a powerful “masculine” cultural tide in which children are raised, a tide that can be difficult to swim against. Parents are “worried” that their boys are “too sensitive,” a trait that flies in the face of “masculinity” in the U.S.

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