Goals · Grief · Life generally...

day two: secret bearer

Today was a better day than yesterday. For starters, I wasn’t in nearly as much pain, which was amazing. I really can’t overstate how much of a game changer that is.

(As an aside…how people who suffer with chronic pain issues do it, day after day after day? Going to work. Taking care of families. Having friends and hobbies. I have respect for them in a way I didn’t before all of this. It is so hard to try to be positive or do anything, when walking and sitting feels like knives…and I know my pain is a drop. in. the. bucket.)

I also think my improved mood has to do with this blog. Yesterday, when I hit “publish” on my first blog in over a year, I announced, “Guess what? 2021 is the actual worst, and this is why.” I felt liberated just naming the hurt in black and white and putting it out there, even if it’s never read. For the past ten months, I’ve been keeping this terrible secret about how I feel and why. Trying to ignore the grief of this experience that is not what I wanted. But now, I don’t have to keep the secret anymore. It’s not a burden I have to conceal. It’s out there. It’s named.

I hadn’t really expected that–the release, the relief of no longer being the Secret Bearer. (Though now that I’ve written that sentence, I have an image of some sort of bizarre medical/professional Frodo, which is inexplicably funny to me. A Ring that can make you disappear–even an evil ring–is way cooler than a fistula, by the way). I don’t know what I expected when I clicked that “publish” button…I wasn’t expecting to feel so much lighter, that’s for sure. But the weight that has been lifted, which I guess is one way of figuring out it was there in the first place.

And that is something worth holding onto when all of this is over: there is power in verbalizing and naming the Secret–the diagnosis, the issue with work, the fractured relationship, whatever. Putting it in words and making it public in some way–telling someone, writing it somewhere and passing it on–that’s significant. Life-changing, even.

Naming the Secret is taking back power. Now, my struggle isn’t a Secret. It’s just a plain old fact, like the fact that the days are getting shorter or the sky is blue. My Secret is something real: it’s a fistula and a crappy time at work. That’s it. It’s no longer some giant, amorphous monster or a mist that I was blowing out of proportion. It is strange how something can make you feel like you’ve got a seven ton elephant on your back while at the exact same time make you feel like it’s probably imaginary and you’re being irrational and making it up.

So, I feel like I need to pass this on. If you are a Secret Bearer right now, I’m here to tell you you don’t have to be. Find someone you trust. (Or start a blog people don’t read because you post too infrequently–haha!). But do it. You can do it. Voice the fear. State the fact. Take back the power.

Name the Secret.

Grief · Life generally...

day one: angry

Today was a rough day. I was in a lot of physical pain. I spent a lot of today just trying to talk myself through it–like, literally talking to myself out loud like a crazy person. In the quiet moments, you’d hear me saying things to myself like, “You can do it, Self. Only one more class,” or “You can do this, Body, you’re doing great.” I’m sure that sounds totally ridiculous, but that is where I am at. I am literally trying to coax my physical self to get through the pain to do my job. But good news. I made it through the day. I did it.

Today was also the first day I verbalized to another human being how angry I am with my work situation with VWT. I am too close to the situation to be ready to listen to people who are telling me I need to be compassionate and openminded…that VWT probably has good reasons for vanishing like that, for leaving me high and dry. I’m sure this is true, but I am not ready. I’m still treading water six weeks in and I just don’t have the emotional energy right now. Someday, hopefully, I will be there. But right now, I am just. really. angry. And I don’t want people to try to get me to see the other side. I am barely able to see my own side. I am so exhausted holding things together, trying to be everything to everybody with no thanks and no help…I am not emotionally able to see VWT’s position as anything but abandonment.

We tend to think of anger as bad. But I don’t think it is. Living in anger…well, that can turn into bitterness and that is definitely bad. Sometimes I think we end up at bitter just because we never felt like we had permission to be angry about it–I mean, they say anger is a really early step on the stages of grief, right? When anger is a step, it can be powerful. It can prompt us to change where we otherwise would not have done. It can help us do the scary thing. It can make us brave.

So right now, I’m banking on anger making me strong. If I’m still feeling like this in six months, we may have a problem. But for today, I’ll ride this wave.

But something good happened. I am creative. I am writing this right now. And that is something. I am determined to walk myself through all of these feelings–through the anger, through the sorrow, through the hurt–with my creativity as my God-given sword of hope. I do not have to wallow in the dark forever. I can move forward. Onward. Upward.

Faith · Grief

creation in grief

So. This year has been hard. Like…really hard. I’ve been plagued by health issues which, while not life-threatening, have been debilitating and, frankly embarrassing. (It’s one thing to tell people about your torn ACL or migraines. It’s another thing entirely to have to decide whether or not to tell your boss that you have an anal fistula as a complication of a Bartholyn cyst…).

So I say again: this year has been really hard. I cried a lot more than I had planned. At the end of 2020, with the promise of a COVID-19 vaccine looking like an increasingly likely thing, it seemed like brighter days were ahead. I couldn’t know that on January 6, 2021, I would walk into my gynocologist’s office and learn for the first time what a Bartholyn gland was.

That has been the defining point of my year. My autumn took another huge hit when a colleague (we’ll call them VWT) was suddenly gone without explanation, leaving me to do the jobs of two people with only a sliver of the information that would have made the process easier for me. The slow trickling of information over the past six weeks has left me feeling very abandoned, angry, and betrayed by someone whom I trusted a good deal. At the risk of sounding like a broken record…2021 has not been my scene. I have been barely clinging to a lifeline for the past ten months. It has not been easy. I haven’t been able to do so many of the things I long to do.

So. Fast forward to this weekend. I sing with a choir in my home city, and yesterday we performed a piece called The Sacred Veil–an intensely personal work about the love of a couple before, during, and ultimate surrender to ovarian cancer. And the lyricist, Tony Silvestri ,said something that touched me profoundly, “I think we really underestimate the role of creativity in grief. When you have trauma in your life, I think you need to create something–write a poem. Paint a picture. Bake something. Do something. Create something that you can pour your grief into and then put on a shelf and say, ‘There it is. I can let it go now.'”

And I think that is really A Word to me right now. I am grieving. I am grieving a loss of a year that wasn’t what I wanted. A year of watching people get what I longed for–a baby, a job, recognition, fresh starts–while I struggled just to keep my head above water.

So I guess that brings me here. To this place. To try to create through my grief. Through the anger. Through the disappointment. Through the loneliness. I know that God has been beside me through this journey, but maybe this is how He wants me to speak. To give voice to the pain and the agony and to look up toward the sunrise to a new dawn.