One of the most excellent things about reading is when you discover a fictional character in a book who expresses something you have been feeling but haven’t been able to describe.
This happened to me the other night while I was reading the Pulitzer Prize winning book, Olive Kitteridge by the beautiful writer and author Elizabeth Strout.
In the book, I am introduced to Angie O’Meara, a middle-aged woman who plays piano in a cocktail lounge in Maine. She has had a few drinks while playing Christmas carols during her shift and out of the corner of her eye she sees a married man she has been having an affair with for many years. Angie is thinking about their rocky relationship and comes to this conclusion: “You couldn’t make yourself stop feeling a certain way, no matter what the other person did. You had to just wait. Eventually the feeling went away because others came along. Or sometimes it didn’t go away but got squeezed into something tiny, and hung like a piece of tinsel in the back of your mind.”
In my case, Angie’s insights don’t apply to my feelings about a man in my life. Maybe they will at some point but not right now.
No, right now Angie has put her finger on how I happen to feel about my place in life and she succinctly described my uncertainty about how to handle it.
Bingo! Light bulb moment!
I’m thrown off because Summer is my favorite time of year and I’m usually loving every single second of it. But this is the first summer after my wonderful father’s death and there have also been several other deaths of friends and family recently coupled with other personal problems. Particularly sad was the death of another family member who was a talented and special guy and he courageously fought a cruel disease for several years.
I try to get myself on a healing path but then I fall off. I try make myself stop feeling this way but no matter what I try it doesn’t seem to happen for me. I’ve been feeling stuck in a grief cycle for a number of weeks now and have been trying various ways to get myself unstuck. It’s been difficult to focus and I haven’t been able to think about writing.
Healing seems to have a mind of its own right now. It stops. It starts. It skips around and then I lose it for awhile.
I know it’s all in my head and that I do have the inner resources to get myself unstuck. I want to keep my heart open and appreciate all of my many blessings but I find I’m still in that place and I can’t seem to break entirely free of it.
What is this place? Wellllll, my beautiful friends, it’s been a mixture of weariness and stress, melancholy and fatigue, impatience and frustration.
It’s a place that kind of sneaks up and slowly enters your thoughts. That’s why I didn’t see it coming. It took awhile for me to realize that this particular mixture of feelings was hanging around a little bit too long for my taste.
I write about this place, this personal bowl full of gonzo feelings because I recognize that this kind of place happens to all of us at one time or another. I just happen to be here now but maybe you have been in this place too.
I’ve been going out of my way to talk to friends about it and just being able to verbalize my feelings has been a bit of a boost. I’ve also been tapping into memoirs and personal stories written by brave people who write about how they were able to create tranquility and change and healing while in the midst of personal turmoil and I have found them to be inspiring.
But still I am in that place and excuse my French but it sucks.
I’m a big believer in the idea that calling something what it is can be a way of taking that first step to change. I am ready to get out of this place but every time I seem to be on the brink of shaking it loose, something new happens to pull me right back in.
Enter Angie O’Meara. Wisely, she knows that I should just wait. Be patient with myself. Eventually my feelings, no matter how uncomfortable I am with them, will eventually blend into other feelings and even temporarily disappear because other feelings will replace what I am experiencing now.
The simplicity of waiting and focusing on what is happening now, today appeals to me a lot. I don’t need to think about plan the whole next month. I don’t need to think about where I might want to be this time next year. What I do need is to bring my attention to the now and keep my daily intentions simple.
When I was first in my stages of new grief after my husband died 13 years ago, I used to mentally get through the day by living in segments of 10 minutes. Truly I did this and it worked well for me.
Thanks Angie for reminding me that when I am overwhelmed that living life in small increments makes it easier for me to cope and bring some healing juju into my life.
How do you bring healing into your daily routine?