Residing in a world engorged with societal expectations and preconceived opinions about every single aspect of the who, how, what and why of our existence is like walking a tight rope on the very best of Instagram worthy days.
Life after loss or trauma is like carrying an elephant across that tight rope that has now been greased. And no one acknowledges your elephant.
Many a day it can be a giant sloppy disaster. Maybe you navigate and balance your way across. Only to be completely spent on the other side. Maybe you say screw it and refuse to move at all. Paralyzed, stuck in place. Maybe you just jump, nosediving determinedly downward. Taking your elephant with you. Maybe someone pushes you, whether intentional or not. You fall swimmingly. Grabbing at the air trying to recover.
You never quite know what each day may bring. Sometimes your reactions to life are disproportionate to moments and events. Often you cannot predict how you will behave. Explaining yourself to others is near impossible. Finding the words to articulate your feelings is like digging for a precious jewel in the sand. Just when you think you’ve got something to grasp onto the sand sifts and the jewel is gone. Leaving you frustrated and exhausted. You may feel like you are endlessly treading a whirlpool or a current while navigating through the day. Some moments you may feel you are drowning on a crowded beach and very few are willing to rescue you.
Trauma and loss is a huge turn off to many people. The stigma is real, though many refuse to admit it. They don’t understand it. They can’t fix it. They subconsciously feel it is contagious. They don’t like to discuss negative feelings or occurrences. They don’t know what to say. They have their preconceived notions about how YOU should feel and for how long and how YOU should behave. If you don’t fit that mold, and you won’t, trust me there. Judgement, gossip, pity, unsolicited advice on repeat.
Awhile back in the trenches of healthcare I learned something. I am not sure when or who gifted me this gem. A heart versus head lesson. A living, feeling, action message.
You never know what is going on in someone’s world. Be kind. Do not take their outbursts or emotions personally.
I used to impress this strongly upon my interns and now my daughter. We really never know what walking in another’s path is like.
On the other side of my recent world rocking events I try to continue to live this way. I think I even have more insight into that truth. But I have never needed this compassion more myself when out in the world. I have been that crazy looking person crying in the grocery store, or cursing, or yelling and possibly all three. I had many an off day where I am exhausted from insomnia and my attention and memory are frazzled. Where I cannot be the social butterfly that I used to because I literally hate almost everyone. Where I need to just be allowed to be- whatever that may look like.
Please don’t attempt to diagnose me, suggest a medication or herb for me, shame me, cluck at me or compare the death of my brother and mother to your cat or your grandmother dying. It is in NO way the same.
In fact, if you have not walked my path do not tell me to do anything. Do not gawk at me as if I am some bizarre zoo animal. Do not pity me. Do not cozy up to me to get the juicy scoop on my trauma. This is not a Dr. Phil episode. And you are not Dr. Phil.
What you can do is call me, hug me, let me be quiet or allow my words to flow. I do not need your advice or opinion. And if you haven’t been where I have you really are not qualified to provide me with advice. Because you really don’t get it. And it is ok that you don’t get it. But acknowledge that fact.
I have been that person. The person who tells you from the top of Mount Morality what you should do and how you should do it and exactly how simple it all is to accomplish. Black and white. Open and shut. I was an expert at lots of things I had zero experience with. I was very capable of doling out advice. My listening skills, my empathy, my compassion were about as skilled as an earthworm. I am embarrassed to admit how terribly I behaved to friends and family who didn’t need any of that shit. My behavior was gross. They needed someone to hold space for them and love them unconditionally. I did not recognize or know how to do that for them. I deserved to be bitch slapped for all of my condescending prescriptions for other peoples’ problems.
Well I got that bitch slap. Guess when I learned that lesson……..
Oh Universe the sharpest of teachers!
You see, all that time I was preaching from the atop my high and mighty horse thinking so smugly how helpful I was to those in my circle I was isolating those I cared so deeply for and isolating myself. I was disconnecting. Rather than throw out a lifeline I severed it.
Be willing to be- just be- meet those hurting where they are. Sit in the discomfort. Hold the space. Do not create expectations or timelines for them. Create connection. Create safety. Walk that tightrope with them and for fucks sakes greet the elephant. Stop expecting. Stop judging.
Expectations can be such a relentless predator. What a joy killer when life’s pieces and people don’t match up to what we envision. How often does that actually happen? Next to never for me. How often do I fall short of the unrealistic expectations I place on myself? Every. Single. Day.
Perhaps we can just go into things with an open mind? Put a stake in that vampire’s heart, the expectation vampire. Take away that judge’s gavel? Then we can see the layers and complexity of how we are all rambling through life events at some points. We can bond over our losses and triumphs. We can be the net under that tightrope. Ready and waiting to catch each other.
What does feeling judged stir inside of you? Share.