Inner strength

I was talking to a good friend tonight about someone we know who harbored a secret for 14 years and only started talking about it today. Yes, today. Fourteen years after it happened. And while the revelation was tragic and blew us both away, well, I realized that it explained a lot about this girl. In partcular, she had some very erratic actions and somewhat dangerous behaviors. It suddenly made sense that she had a lot of anger bottled up in her for years and that was the only way she knew how to cope with it.

And I related it to my friend and me. We’ve both recently faced (let’s be honest — are still facing) enormous amounts of stress in our lives. But we cracked long before this time. We buckled under standard amounts of despair. And thinking about the friend with the Big Secret, it suddenly made sense in my mind about us, too.

We tied our identities to what we did throughout our days. For years, we let our days spill over into our evenings, nights and weekends. We did it in an effort to ignore what was going on at home or maybe what wasn’t going on. Sure, we cared deeply about the daily-turned-nightly activities or we wouldn’t have poured our hearts into them. But we didn’t exactly have anything to which to look forward, outside of that.

And, that’s a contributing factor to stresses that develop in the environment over which we think we have some control. So when you encounter an average stressor or a textbook-case stress-inducing individual — in any situation — well, that magnifies their regularly scheduled level of intensity on your radar scale. Not that you couldn’t handle them under “normal” conditions. But when you’re carrying years of hurt and frustration that were never resolved, well, it’s like accidentally putting a stick of dynamite where a tampon belongs. Instead of absorbing the shock and dealing with it appropriately, it becomes the proverbial straw that puts the poor camel in traction.

And what you find are that your so-called coping mechanisms are only masking the pain that was never healed in the first place. My one friend gambled, the other picked fights (verbal and physical) and I, well, misdirected my vitriol as well. We should have risen above our situations and handled life with the grace of the women we are and not with the impulsivity that often cannot be undone.

In any event, all three of us find ourselves at a crossroads right now — we’ve learned how much the human heart can hold, and it’s a lot. And we sit and look at our lives and think about what we screwed up and what we could have done so much better, but we also need to be gentle with ourselves and realize that you can’t build a condominium on a cracked foundation — it becomes a Jenga tower of pain, just waiting to collapse as you try desperately to hold everything together. And, with all of us, the towers fell. Whether it was the towers in New York or the complicated layers inside our hearts, they couldn’t stand with a hole in them. Now, I’m not saying that the situation on Sept. 11, 2001, had to happen to teach us a lesson (although if it did, then at least some element of good came from that tragic day). But sometimes, maybe our own personal houses of cards collapse to force us to rebuild instead of putting Band-Aids on wounds that have been needing stitches for years.

In the case of this group of friends, and many more whom I haven’t mentioned, I think we’ve sufficiently ripped off the bandages and bled the wounds dry. And while the skin is raw, it is slowly growing back. And maybe the hurt just reminds us that it’s healing. And someday, I hope the ache goes away completely, although there will always be a fine, pale-pink scar to remind us how far we’ve come. I’m not proud of my scars (inside and out) — some days, I’m downright embarrassed of them. But they show me that I survived a lot and that I will survive much more, and that is important on days like today when I am not sure whether to welcome or dread what tomorrow will or won’t bring. But they’re my crosses to bear. And they each tell a story, usually not a good one. But I somehow always find the spirit to tell them anyway, in hopes that somebody will find themselves at the same crossroads and remember my story to change the direction of their own lives. Reminds me of this quote: “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

I feel like I fell off the boat entirely for awhile, and I also feel like I’m scrambling to get into the boat. I can’t wait to navigate it again — I can’t wait to see where I’m going to land. But I will tell you one thing, this woman’s heart might have broken and everything might have come out of it for all the world to see, but that just means there’s even more room in it and that it needs to be filled again. May it be filled by the “right” things next time around. …

On iTunes: The Zombies, “She’s Not There”

3 Responses to Inner strength

  1. Anonymous :

    Life’s perspective from a “hippie” folk songwriter. There’s lots of truth to this song I think. It’s beautiful whimsical imagery but true all the same. –John

    Both Sides Now

    Rows and flows of angel hair
    And ice cream castles in the air
    And feather canyons everywhere
    I’ve looked at clouds that way

    But now they only block the sun
    They rain and they snow on everyone
    So many things I would have done
    But clouds got in my way

    I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
    From up and down, and still somehow
    It’s cloud illusions I recall
    I really don’t know clouds at all

    Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
    The dizzy dancing way that you feel
    As every fairy tale comes real
    I’ve looked at love that way

    But now it’s just another show
    And you leave ’em laughing when you go
    And if you care, don’t let them know
    Don’t give yourself away

    I’ve looked at love from both sides now
    From give and take, and still somehow
    It’s love’s illusions I recall
    I really don’t know love
    Really don’t know love at all

    Tears and fears and feeling proud
    To say “I love you” right out loud
    Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
    I’ve looked at life that way

    Oh but now old friends they’re acting strange
    And they shake their heads
    And they tell me that I’ve changed
    Well something’s lost but something’s gained
    In living every day

    I’ve looked at life from both sides now
    From win and lose and still somehow
    It’s life’s illusions I recall
    I really don’t know life at all
    It’s life’s illusions I recall
    I really don’t know life
    I really don’t know life at all

  2. Funkalicious :

    (((hugs you)))

    You always seem to say exactly what’s on my mind and in my heart. Thank you.

  3. Dawn :

    Ah, I am a Joni Mitchell fan. I guess I shouldn’t tell you how many times I’ve played “River” during this blasted holiday season! 😉

    And Funkalicious, you and I are always on the same track of thought, even though more than 3,000 miles separate us. I’m glad you “get” me — I don’t share the lessons behind the stories, but I figure the lessons themselves seem to suffice.