Thursday, July 02, 2009

There is a season, human.

Well now it's Thursday morning. Another day in what I've come to see as the 'worst year in my life'. How dramatic. We get these concepts stuck in our heads. Last July, my marriage ended catastrophically and, for all the months and weeks after, the damage spread from the blast radius and daily I watched details fall like dominoes. I've tried to be more politically correct, saying things like "it's the most challenging year of my life, so far." Bullshit. It's sucked. I don't even feel like the person I started with.
Here's my point. Humans are funny, with these notions we get. How did I decide upon a year? Is this some period of time I chose to allow myself to be miserable? Does this mean that on day 366, I'll be all better?
Or does it mean that on day 366 I'll decide to be better? The two are quite different animals.

I called Neil and asked him to clarify something he's told me several times over the years, about troubles, and work. Did he mean that these things would resolve themselves through the work? Or that I would resolve them through the work?
He says it's the latter, for sure.

Reason tells me that "things' are not going to suddenly improve on any given date, because dates and clocks were created to coordinate human activities. Reason also tells me that human beings use dates and landmarks to help themselves navigate through all the messy events that make up the human curriculum. We like birthdays and anniversaries----or did we create those just to sell cards? I'd guess we use them to measure and mark because it's our nature to measure and mark. One only needs to look at music and art and sentence structure (mostly ignored on this blog) to see this is true.

Possibly I subconsciously chose this one-year period. I've come to realize these last weeks, as the date approaches, that it has been a year of mourning, I just wasn't seeing it, no matter how plain it should have been. Maybe I didn't want to.

Possibly allowing ourselves a given time period to process events is just what it seems, a tool for coping.
On the other hand, by using this tool, did I decide to be miserable for a year? Did I pull unrelated events, like losing Gurtie, under this umbrella of "the bad year", giving it more strength? Could I have put it behind me much sooner?

All that said, the date is coming up fast and I find myself anticipating it. By logic, I could decide to make the day today. But we're not entirely logical and I do believe there's some value in these rituals we share.
This asks for a bit of research and reading.

What are your thoughts on this particular odd bit of being human?


Miss Bliss said...

Ah...the worst year of my life, I DO remember that year. I know that I need, not only bench marks, but mile markers. Time helps me to gain perspective. Emotional recovery is such an organic and individualistic process that there is no way to gauge how long it will take. But the marking of time reminds me that I am still alive, I am still in pain, I am potentially in less pain than I was in, I am grateful to be alive to feel the pain and be slowly relieved of it. My mind and heart need the acknowledgment of anniversaries. It's one of the reasons that I appreciate rituals. The kind that reminds me that SOMETHING happened at this time of year at this time in my life and it left a mark. It helps me to stay conscious of my feelings so they don't blindside me. So I do things...light a candle, make a list, go to the ocean for the day, say a prayer...whatever works, whatever brings me a little peace.
I wish you serenity.

Katrina said...

I've always been struck that as a people we commend people for "being strong" if they face adversity without tears and public mourning. How often have you heard, "She was so strong after her diagnosis. I never saw her cry?"

We need to be far more accepting and embracing of the emotions that our souls experience. These emotions have purpose. We need to sometimes allow ourselves to just say, as you did, that "It sucked." No apologies.

This is the anniversary of the apex of a long illness I battled. It was at this time, 6 years ago, that I was at my lowest low. I haven't "gotten over it." But, I've learned to allow the emotions to come and go without dwelling on them. I let the tears flow...and then go on with my day. And I am now able to say that I got through it.

Holly said...

I think quantifying bad times helps us to look forward to them being better. This was the worst day/week/month/season/year/whatever. Once the time period has ended, we consciously or subconsciously anticipate life getting better. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't; we adjust our timeframe accordingly.

I have more thoughts, but no more time to type them. I have something to send to you though, so maybe I'll write it in a letter.

Neon said...

I have unfortunately had more than my fair share of hardship and heart ache in my life and as me and friends approach 30 they all mourn the passing of their 20's but I give out a whoop and say thank fuck for that my 20's sucked- my 30's have got to be better! (hahaha!) :D
I think it is very much human nature to stick a timescale on things like mourning and I view it as something very healthy. We need time to process what happens to us and I do not see it as a curse to ourselves but as a way of slowly healing oneself.
My life went very tits up two years ago and I also gave it a year and during that time every bad thing possible seemed to happen to me and I thought it cant get any worse than this, whatever next. But then you slowly start to pick yourself back up again and life does get back on track.

Allow yourself the time Lisa and remember for all the bad there is the good. you have built us a little community here and we are all here to listen and look out for each other and thats something to be thankful for.

3rdEyeMuse said...

honestly, I beleive the answer is actually all of the above. since I don't have a head to was philospohical at this moment in time, instead, I wish you the Best of the BEST year after.

Stacey said...

Oh boy do I remember the "worst year of my life." I still mourn it just a little bit every year around the same time, though I often am a week into it before I realize (once again) that this is what I now refer to as my "memorial 'bad week.'"

Whether or not it's human nature, it is what it is. Trying to force it to be something is not just amps up the crazy - like some kind of morbid copycat of the Joker's smile. Be mad, be sad, observe your anniversary. Humans are resilient creatures, but we still heal at our own individual pace.

Syd said...

It used to be traditional, when people did that kind of thing, to wear mourning garb for a year after the death of a loved one. It was permitted, even encouraged, to recognize grief existed and allow a public recognition of that.

But somewhere along the line, this "cult of the individual" got rather out of hand, I think: we forgot that allowing people to acknowledge the bad stuff might just help them get past it sooner or more easily.

After all, ignoring it or hiding it sure as hell doesn't make it go away--it just gives us one more thing we have to be wary of showing to the world, lest we be thought weak.

Dammit, it's the strong who aren't afraid to cry.

I also think that once a couple of unpleasant things happen in close proximity to each other, we become more sensitive to the negative...kind of like when you buy a car of a certain model or color and suddenly that's ALL you seem to see on the road. It actually becomes harder to see the good stuff when those morose-colored glasses* show up.

In other words, take all the time you need. Make a habit of noticing at least one good/pleasant/happy thing in a day, even if it's been a brutal day and the only thing that comes to mind is that at least the plumbing didn't back up. Celebrate the good plumbing!

And stop beating yourself up for being the kind of person who actually feels. You will recover...even if it takes a little more time.

*Not original--I read it in a book of school children's "bloopers".

Beez said...

It's just human to mark the time, to want to quantify it, otherwise the possibility of it being a forever thing haunts.
I'm glad you took the time to grieve- and chances are you will be taking some time again here and there. It really can't be helped, nor IMO should it be, because if it is it will erupt in ways that are much more difficult to handle.

Work, work through it, and bit by bit you will find lightness coming back into your days and nights. You'll laugh a little more often, want to weep a little less often and (from personal experience) find out that perhaps there really was a good reason for it- that you feel more yourself.

And then suddenly you will realize joy has come back into your life.

It kind of sneaks up on you.

Have a good year moving forward.

lisa said...

right. each and all of you. different situations, shared experiences, articulated well. thank you.
I like the image of joy sneaking up especially (thanks Beez)
And Neon, I share your view that we have a community here.
Hmm. If we keep putting our heads together, pool our varied skills, we might manage to figure a few things out.

Drinne said...

Hmmn _I’ve tried to respond to this three times now. All my answers are too long. Epically long. Best suited to parties on the back patio with fire pits and torches and rum punch with the conversation starting at dusk and going way too long into the next morning. So third time is the charm.

There are rituals of mourning and ritual of healing. There are deadlines that we set ourselves. We have to give ourselves release; we have to recover from shock. For things that are broken, families by death, bodies by injury there are plans for recovery and rehabilitation and quite frankly most of them are external.

But we are also governed by our own circadian rhythms, and they also tell us from the inside there is only so long that we can live with fright or flight, worry is a survival trait but you cannot worry continuously without your body thinking it’s in an unhealthy place and trying to get you the hell out of there – creating more fight or flight responses. Finally, when you are a parent you do not have the ability to find out how long it will take to heal on your own.

The year, annus horribilis, the period of milestones and checking in. It’s important; we mark our lives by it. We run our businesses by it, we school our children by it. Every year we celebrate that we can still perceive the universe from the day we arrived to interact with others.

It has been a year since IT happened whatever IT was – we all do that with our individual ITs. And we check in on the inside and see if we are surviving IT. Did IT go the way we expected in the aftermath? Can we go another year? Your yearly checkup, your anniversary, your birthday, other birthdays your personal rituals with your family, this was the first year after IT. Next year will not be, they will be the second year, you’ll have learned from the first year and adjusted. Not arbitrary at all when you look at it that way. It might not be better but it won’t be raw and new. The first year after will always be defined by IT and the next year will lose that distinction.

Almost all of our other life events know this and culture religious and otherwise has milestones and markers to have your community mark these things with you, marriage, death, birth, sports, school, even buying a house. But the dissolution of a marriage doesn’t, miscarriage doesn’t. I think they are both a kind of mourning but there are no rules and no marker posts and so I think we and our communities are never sure what’s appropriate. If you give yourself permission to mourn the loss of the shape of your life before last July, and some of that mourning includes keening and being miserable would anyone even question that behavior if your husband had died instead? No. You wouldn’t either.

In the Victorian era women like me who were divorced and remarried were referred to as Mrs. Blank, and invited to events under the same etiquette rules as widows. When we remarry we became Mrs. Blank Slate, and did not give up the first husband’s name. The reasons are surprising. It’s to afford the divorced woman the same respect a widow would get so as not to have society treat her as a spinster or a “failed person.” It was as pro woman as you could get in a rigidly marriage centric society. But the advantage was that all of “Society” supported a divorcee through a period of mourning that was circumscribed without making her a non-person. It would be very insulting now, because single women are people who may be part of society on their own, but that is really rather new in the sweep of history. Which we forget.

Damn, still too long. But I’m pretty sure I’ve waited long enough so that I’m not hijacking too much of your space since I’m so late to the party.

Lisa, it’s your internal clock and your external calendar, the only right way to do things is the way where your are still alive and your haven’t shut down to life or joy. If there is even a little bit of joy in your annus horribilis you’ve won, and it can never be this year again. There’s real value in that.

Drinne said...

BTW if it means anything a few weeks ago when it was the end of the first year I knew your work and then you, I looked backwards and saw that it was that that kept me from falling into the pit of a lost year.

I don’t know what my year would have looked like without having seen the Relics, or Blast Radius or the Poppets but there’s an abyss when the drama stops and you can sit on the gray ledge for a long time listening to Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb. It can get to be a habit. It was your work that shattered it. When Algernon's Poppet made me cry. Same year.

I'll probably mark the 1st anniversary of the day the Embarrassed Ambassador came to the House too, because he changed my life and life at the house in a very tangible way by making me happy.

If kama (not karma) works at all, you deserve some of that back.

Rubius said...

People have given much great advice here and many worthy words. I have nothing much to add.

Keep dancing Lisa, keep singing. Remember, love and life is all around you. You are made of strong stuff.

This always cheers me up or calms me down. Maybe it will help.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for barging in.

A year is our journey around the sun. It has meaning and power. If this past year was the year of passing and mourning, then this year can be something else and something new. Embrace it. Believe it. Name it. That's magic.

On the last day of The Year of Passing (or whatever you name it) maybe you will kill the year. Bring it to an end. Maybe you will burn it or bury it or drown it. And perhaps the next sunrise you will plant something new. Create something. To welcome the Year that Will Come After the Year of Passing.

Believe it. This can be the Year of Something Better.

A year is our journey around the sun.

lisa said...

Drinne: thank you. Algernon was made with love.

Rubius: You will always be my friend

anonymous: thank you for barging in. beautiful

DavidK said...

Hi Lisa,

Some thoughts -

Time is a uniquely human invention, at least in the sense that we quantify it into discrete units. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, years - all our own. I think we do it to provide order and to allow us to mark events of importance to us. We're always looking to make sense of things, even when there's no sense to be made, and our concepts of time are one of those tools we've adopted to aid us. That's something most people tend to forget - time's under our control. So, in essence, you set the interval that is meaningful to you - if you think it needs to be a year, then a year it should be. By allowing the delineation to exist, you provide it with power and meaning. Don't let it have any power over you that you don't want it to have.

On a personal note - my worst time was a little over 15 years ago. My wife and I had been married for about two and a half years. We had just gotten our doctorates, and were a week away from moving from Boston to North Carolina. She was diagnosed with breast cancer. Twenty-eight years old, less than three years into our marriage, we thought we knew how our lives were going to proceed, and then we found out that everything we thought we knew was wrong. Looking back, it is amazing how one simple fact cast my whole life in a completely different light. We had to deal with issues that re-defined how we thought about ourselves, our marriage, and our futures. The same issues that most people face eventually, but we had to do it a lot earlier than most. Everything worked out as well as we could have hoped for, in the end, but it wasn't a process I'd wish on anyone. I came out of it knowing beyond any doubt that I was spending my life with the right person, but having no idea how long that time would be. One of the hardest parts to it all was that I couldn't designate timepoints - "After THIS date, everything will be done and concluded and all of this will be behind us...". The lack of power over time was harsh indeed.

So, keep time in your power as much as you can, and remember that our designations of time are our own invention, so don't let them have any more power over you than you want them to have. You're stronger than time, and stronger than you know.

~V said...

I have a dear friend who says that some holes in our hearts are never meant to heal, we just have to grow bigger hearts around them.

I believe that we are creatures who crave ritual, and so we need to make rituals where there are none, where they are lacking.

You stand at the threshold between the old and the new, between the death and life of many parts of your reality and self.

Create your own rite of passage to mark this time (maybe on the threshold, maybe outside?)

This year has been like the Death card in the Tarot, it's transition. You're the one to chose what you will transition into.

It's horrible and painful, but (when you are ready) you can choose to grow your heart bigger around the hole.


kuroshii said...

i don't think a year is arbitrary either. besides the very eloquent explanations above as to why a year, i think it helps--at least, a little--to be told "this too shall pass" otherwise we'd fall to far into despair to keep on keeping on. but of course the very next question, when one is in great pain, is OK, WHEN?...just from past experience, watching other silly humans, and noting that it takes about a year for things like pain to start fading enough to notice.

also, that's and average. also-and, it's from when the bad stuff stops, not from when you're still in the middle of it. more bad stuff? clock is given permission to start over.