Coming Out of Mourning

Hey I think it worked!

The Descent

It’s been exactly 50 days since I wrote How to Mourn, and began my deliberate descent into the sadness hole, the can’t ever get out of it hole, the hole with no bottom. Instead of trying to climb up, as I’d been doing for fifty or so years, I decided to go in the other direction. Not to give up hope, but to lower myself down, to go exploring in the dark.

Today I woke up and I felt fine. I wouldn’t call it happy. It’s not like being all excited about something good happening. My lover didn’t come back. I didn’t win the lottery. I’m still getting old. No, I’d just call it peaceful. The ruckus in my mind is suddenly still. The stalemate over whether to go towards healing or go towards suicide is resolved. The reconciliation happened yesterday, after I accepted what I wrote about in yesterday’s blog, Am I an Adult Yet?

Take a break and read it if you want, I don’t feel like repeating myself. See, that’s Sharkey talking? Sharkey’s got teeth. I don’t have to cater to my readers. I respect my readers. They can decide what they want to read. They don’t have to cater to me either. I get to write whatever I want and everyone else gets to decide if they want to read it or not. I found Sharkey down there in the pit of despair. I found my teeth. How many times did I dream of my teeth falling out? You ever dream that?

Each blog I wrote since How to Mourn lowered me a little further into the hole. I never did get to the bottom. I just got down far enough. I’m not sure I can ever tell you what happened in there, how the mourning period came to an end yesterday, and I knew it was time once more to climb up, this time with a little child in my arms. I found her in the muck, and I found out that she does not want to be sad forever, but she needs help to recover from her wounds. She can’t do this alone, so I have to be the adult now, and help her. I found out that I want to be an adult. That may turn out to be the most significant finding of all.

For so long I thought being an adult meant denying your feelings and doing “it” anyway. I thought in order to be an adult I had to enlist and put on the stiff uniform— just forget the child and march on with life. No wonder the child of me was sad! No wonder I felt so rebellious, stuck in adolescence. At last I see — to be an adult is an integration of more and more skillfulness while keeping the authentic emotional child at the center of everything.

If I try to be upbeat when the child is sad, I betray the child. If I take up a fixed identity in woundedness, I betray the child. If I refuse to take the lead and be the adult, I betray the child. I’ve done betrayal in all of those ways. I just didn’t see how to integrate. Now I get it. It’s about me being all there. Full spectrum selfhood, from child — to adult — to Bob*. That full spectrum brings a sense of calm well-being, and still allows for every emotion.

Jeffrey Smith in his blog, How Therapy Works, says that during the course of a successful therapy, there comes a moment when the client realizes that the therapist is not going to be the parent. The therapist is there to help you find the parent in yourself, the one you always wanted. You need a tool set to be a parent. You need teeth. You need to be a good listener. You need to learn how to lead without dominating. Therapists can model this until we get it. I also happen to need Bob. I don’t know if everyone needs a Bob. But I would not want to be “the parent” and have no one above me. I could never leave therapy unless I had a Bob. That would be way too scary. It was scary trying to raise my kids before I knew about Bob.

So, Bob’s got me, and I’ve got my inner child, and everything feels aligned right. Daylight. Up we go. The world and its trees are waiting for us.

Up and Out

One of these days I can imagine that I will not need my therapist any more. But that day is not here yet. A few weeks ago a reader suggested that because my relationship with my therapist is so full of love, it must be making me codependent. I talked about this with her and she said her goal is to foster independence. I felt my heart sink. “Don’t rush me out the door!” I said.

“Don’t worry,” she replied, settling deeper into her chair, “we’ve got all the time you need.” That lovely smile again, those soft eyes.

I want to try to find out what happened to my girl inside the house of Mr. McCormick, the pedophile who lived next door. I can’t remember, but I can feel that she would like me to know. So that’s where we go next — into the closed off room.

It seems strange that the mourning period would be over before I even know what happened to her. But her despair ended when I took her hand. She’s allowed to be sad or happy or however she feels. Scared is ok. Angry is ok. I’m a big adult. I can handle her feelings. And I don’t have to handle being the adult alone. I have helpers. There’s another item to add to my list of what it takes to be an adult — the realization that you can’t do it alone. Adults need help too.