Thursday, November 6, 2014

Growing Back Those Parts of You

This won't be a long post.  I am tired.  I have a soup that needs stirring.  I have calories that need working off from the big bad indulgent lunch I had yesterday because it was Wednesday and, you know, who cares about life?  So.  Cursory is what you shall get, love.

There is so much about grief that is unexpected.  How inexplicably good you feel some days, how wretchedly you feel the next.  How swiftly time passes yet drags its laden heels: months feel like eons yet somehow you still can't believe that tomorrow is Friday and wasn't it just Sunday when you were baking muffins and watching out the window as the snowflakes bulged and melted before they hit the ground?

I am even surprised sometimes by my own adaptability and resilience.  It makes me feel guilty--as if I am acclimating too quickly.  As if there were such a thing when it comes to simply surviving.

But I think what I find most startling about all of this is my loss of sympathy.

I am a deeply compassionate person by nature.  If three months ago you sat with me over a cup of coffee and told me of your sick dog or career hurdles or relationship vexations, I would have listened patiently, I would have felt for you, I would have offered words of comfort and encouragement.

But now whenever I hear stories of other's struggles, I mostly feel nothing.  Or worse, I feel contempt.  Oh boohoo, you dropped your keys in the dumpster, well my brother died.

I know this is a ludicrous reaction.  For many reasons, not the least of which because I know what that feels like--I have definitely dropped my keys into the dumpster before and it sucks--it is day-ruiningly frustrating.

Sure it's troublesome--I don't want to be a sociopath--but I know it's not permanent.  I try to cut myself some slack and remember that I lost a lot of things when I lost my brother and that, eventually, those parts of me will grow back and be mostly the same as they were.  And that's okay.

In the meantime, I am going to choose empathy.  It's not always easy and it's not as instinctive as it used to be, but it's important I remember that my hurt is not the worst hurt, that it's not a competition, that just because I am hurting doesn't mean that it's any less annoying for someone else when the washing machine overflows.

I am not posting this to be preachy or smug or piteous.  I am mostly posting this as a reminder to myself for the times when I need it.

So that's what's up with me.  How are you?


  1. I'm glad you wrote this, and it's something I've often wondered about. My brother-in-law lost his job recently and his wife was saying: "it's hard, but we all have our health, we're together..." - she was playing the "it could've been worse" game. I play the game too when I need a little perspective on what seems like an overwhelming situation in the moment but is really just an annoying little thing.

    There's a competition built into that phrase - "it could've been worse" - coping by comparison. It seems like a flawed practice because it teaches you nothing about where you go when you experience real tragedy, when you experience one of life's "worsts"?