Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Falsehoods We Are Taught About Emotions

Stories are wonderful. They entertain us. They teach us. Sometimes they inspire us. And in the aggregate, they seem to program our minds to believe things that we somehow don't manage to learn are not true. Take the "happily ever after" ending, which isn't just attached to fairy tales, but to most stories in some form or another. Things get resolved. The characters go on with their lives, often without feeling the trauma of all they have gone through. It creates unrealistic expectations for all of us. What's wrong with us that WE can't live happily ever after, get past the hurt and trauma. Why doesn't love conquer all for us? Why doesn't something new and wonderful cancel and blot out the sadness or agony of the past? Sometimes it does, for a time, but not forever.

I've learned it's possible to be happy and sad at the same time, to go on with a good life and still feel grief at loss, to love my family and friends and still miss my dead son, to enjoy a beautiful day and still find myself with tears in my eyes when something reminds me of him.

We just returned home from a 23 day trip to South America. It was a fascinating trip, full of new places and things to see, time to relax, time to sightsee, entertainment, learning. We enjoyed it but even there we talked about Leif at least once a day and I found myself with tears in my eyes a few times, but usually not the deep sadness I felt so often before we left. I've learned that the best ways to keep that at bay are work and travel, being involved in something that engages the mind. Travel also takes me away from where Leif lived and all his things that remind me of him, and in South America I didn't see guys driving silver RX-8s, either.

We were ready to come home after such a long trip and looking forward to being here with our home, our own bed, Peter's cooking, and more exercise, seeing my sister and mother, and I was glad to be back. But, I was unprepared for the flood of emotion that hit me the second day. I was terribly sad for most of the day. I came home, driving into the garage, to see Leif's bike hanging up. In the house, all the things he helped put on the walls and into place, his photo on my desk, the memories of him driving up the driveway to come for dinner, the memory of the sound of him playing PlanetSide in his room or his music, the memory of him sitting at my dining room and kitchen tables, the letter from the IRS answering my inquiry about what to do with his economic stimulus check, the knowledge that in just a few days, he will have been dead for two years. How could it go by so fast? I still miss him with all my heart.

The worst of the sadness passed that day, and yesterday was a happy one, full of activities, beautiful Florida sunshine, and fun with Peter W. Today it's raining and something of a mixture.

We go on. We have to. We find some happiness and joy, but they sit side-by-side in our hearts with the sadness at his loss. Peter said on the trip that he thought I might never get over it.

He was right.
This photo of Leif was taken at a small temple in Thailand in December 1982. He was almost 8 years old. All his life he loved cats. What a terrible irony that as an adult his asthma was worsened by them.

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