Feel better–Now!

Something that has come through loud and clear in my life this last year or so is that when crappy things go down, I don’t like being rushed to ‘feel better’ about them.  It’s not that I don’t believe that good things can come out of bad.  I do.  I very, very strongly do.  But I don’t think that a person should be rushed into feeling good about that immediately.   I myself get very defensive and snarly when I feel rushed into feeling anything. 

This has been true with many of the little and big difficulties that I’ve walked through since Husband and I were married.  When husband left for basic training I didn’t like being told, “At least he’s not in a war zone,” or “Just think of how much stronger this will make your marriage.”  No.  I just needed to have it affirmed that it was ok, normal, and appropriate to miss my husband.

When we moved to Washington and I was lonely and depressed–partly due to the crazy hormones of pregnancy, I didn’t  like to be reminded that I should, “Bloom where I’m planted!”  I needed to feel the feelings of my life being chaos and know that it was ok and normal for me to feel off-kilter for a while.

When my Mom was diagnosed with Lung Cancer when I was six months pregnant, I didn’t want to be told that this trial had a purpose, or to simply focus on the baby.  I needed to feel the suffocating fear, and pain, and preparatory grief. 

When my Mom died I did not like to be told, “At least she’s in a better place now,” (but I want her here!  I am NOT in a better place!”)  I hated when people said, “Would you have wanted her to go on in pain like that?” (NO!!!  I WANTED her to have never gotten cancer in the first place!)  I wanted to vomit when I heard that, “God has a plan and sometimes we just can’t understand it.” (So it’s GOD that inflicted this pain–for some mastermind reason?  And I’m supposed to LIKE this deity?)

Reading a book that my wonderful and amazing sister-in-law sent to me has made things click as to exactly why I react so strongly to being pushed into feeling better. 

I believe it is because by rushing to the ‘good’ we try to deny the badness of the bad.  Loss, hurt, pain…  these are all things that we want to pretend don’t really exist.  If we can’t deny them then we want them at least to look as easy to live through as possible.  The truth is, they aren’t easy to live through.  They are hard.  They do hurt.  They can break you into pieces.  It needs to be ok for a person to feel that pain and brokenness, for true healing to take place.

I wish that it were more ok in today’s world–especially in Christian circles–to call Bad things, Bad.  It seems like Christians are especially afraid to call a spade a spade when the world crumbles.  Perhaps the thought is:  Doesn’t that show lack of faith?  Doesn’t that mean that we don’t trust God?  Are we refusing his gifts by not being happy about everything?  It has become so scary for American Christians to appear as though things aren’t ok.  The focus has been on “radiating the joy of the Lord,” for so long that we feel that if we have a legitimately bad day we are letting God down.  How heart-breaking that we gloss things over to ‘appear’ good.  Do we have such little faith in God that we think He can’t handle us or our lives when things are really legitimately terrible? 

In my circumstances this is what I can tell you:  separation from one’s spouse is not good.  It is bad.  It is unnatural.  It is hard.  The feeling of displacement and uncertainty that comes with moving often is not a good thing.  It is bad.  It is hard.  Cancer is not GOOD.  It is not a GIFT as some people want to make us believe.  It is a terrible thing.  At the best it is a successful fight for one’s life through difficult treatments that feel like they will kill you before the disease does.  At the worst it is a life-robbing, body-eating terror that can tear families apart and leave gaping holes in the lives of those left behind.  Death is not GOOD.  It is BAD.  It is hard.  It hurts.  The person who dies may go on to a better place, but those of us left are left hurting. 

As a Christian, I believe that the reason death is a reality is because sin entered the world.  Sin is bad.  The result of sin is bad.  In the end, the goodness of God triumphs over death and sin.  And I rejoice in that!  I do!  But that doesn’t change the fact that death is bad.  It is the abrupt interruption of a life that is supposed to be eternal. 

(And as an aside–I firmly believe that one of the reasons death hurts those left behind so much is that we are meant to be eternal beings…  and as such when our soul-to-soul connections are severed the pain can be and is excruciating).

Now I am NOT saying that good does not come out of all of these things.  Good has come out of each and every difficulty that I have mentioned here.  My marriage is stronger because of the inherent challenges of frequent separations.  I don’t take my husband for granted.  We cherish our time together.  This is good.  I have seen more of this country than I ever expected that I would.  I have met many wonderful people.  My outlook on the world has changed dramatically as a result of our family moves and highly transitional lives. 

My mother having cancer helped me to see how precious and fragile life really is.  It helped me to realize that none of us are invincible and thus I need to get my living done while I can.  It forced my mother, father, and I to tell one another how we really felt about one another.  It gave me the chance to offer the gift of my presence, my help, and my love when I was able to go back to help out for the last two months of my Mom’s life.  What a blessing it was to have the opportunity to give back to my parents a portion of what they spent 25 years of their lives pouring into me.

I am only beginning to see the birth of new good things that are coming out of my Mom’s death.  I am moving in a new direction.  I am learning how to feel.  I *do* have more compassion for those who are hurting or experiencing a loss of any kind.  The reinvention in me that grief requires is slowly happening and that reinvention holds hope.

But the fact that positive things can come from terrible things does not change the definition of bad to good.  No…  It just shows us the power of the redemptive love of God.  It allows us to see vividly that though darkness may come, it will not last forever.  When we are thrust into the cave of darkest darkness the light is that much brighter when it finally flashes into our lives again.  But…  that does not mean that we should deny the darkness.  The truth is that for us to really see the brightness of the light, we have to go through the darkness.  We have to feel it in the marrow of our bones. 

As wonderful as the promise that God works all things for the good of those that love Him is, the fact is, not all things are good to start with.  If they were, why would we need God in the first place?

So I submit that rather than rushing one another to feel good about the tremendously bad things that can happen to us in this life, we should instead take the time to feel in ourselves the pain, and sorrow, and grief of what comes our way–and to feel the awfulness with one another when it strikes those we love.  If we can walk together through the ashes, we can see together the birthing of new good things.  But if we rush through things, trying to make the bad seem good–the goodness will be counterfeit.  It may look shiny and hopeful, but without allowing ourselves to drag through the mire, reaching for the good prematurely may leave us with a handful of sawdust instead of the purely refined silver that comes from living through adversity.

Sometimes bad really is bad.  And it’s ok to say so.

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3 thoughts on “Feel better–Now!

  1. Wow, this resonates with me so much it is amazing. This is a really excellent post. I recently had a similar conversation with Eric’s parents’ pastor, when I was telling him about how one of the reasons that I’m not sure I believe in God and an afterlife anymore was that a lot of people seem to use the whole religious system as a cop-out. I’ve heard so many times, “I’ll take care of the Lord, and He’ll take care of me” (in reference to the amount of tithing one gives), “It’s all part of God’s plan” (in reference to everything that Eric and I went through), etc.

    People need to realize that sometimes bad things happen to good people, and there is no rhyme or reason to it. You won’t be “saved” if you give a lot of money or time to the church, or your community, or to charity. Allowing people to think that reading the Bible or going to church regularly or donating to one’s community will not keep bad things from happening to them–that is tantamount to lying to them.

    The pastor looked at the table, drew a deep breath, and looked me straight in the eye. And said, “Amanda, I also believe in the “Shit Happens” principle.” (See why I enjoy talking with this pastor?)

    So…Shit Happens. And it is ok to say that bad is bad. And anyone who tries to diminish what you are dealing with…well, they can go to hell (if it exists).

  2. I feel like I’ve found a home here…your grief is so evident but so too is the friendship and love you shared with your mom. I feel for you and am walking the same long path- I have lost both my dad and mom to cancer and miss them both so much, every single day- they have left such a huge unfillable gap in my life and it has really been devasating. ‘Adult orphans’ are often overlooked- I was in my 24 when my dad died and 30 when my mom died but no matter what my age, I am an orphan now. You write about something that people so often don’t want to talk about- please keep on writing and talking and I’ll keep on reading.
    Yes, shit happens and sometimes there is no explanation and sometimes there is no acceptance…just a knowing that we have no choice but to live with it, for now. It’s ok to be angry- I know that now.

  3. Last week I watched my mother writhing in pain, moaning, crying out, clutching her abdomen, eyes out of focus, staring at the ceiling, not making sense the pain was so bad.

    And I finally knew why my husband said I could not go through labor without trying some medication if it were available…it was just too hard for HIM to watch.

    That’s how I felt.

    And I think how others feel. We’ve forgotten how to enter into pain with others…we just want it to go away. For something to help us all deal with it better.

    A very well expressed writing on pain in life. I read a very helpful book once (though long and tiresome to get through at times) called, “Thank God for Pain”. Something along that line anyway. Did you know people with leprosy loses fingers not from a hideous contagious disease, but because they start losing the ability to feel pain, infection sets in…open sores, and mice can literally eat their flesh in their sleep? They never know what hit them…they can’t feel it to fend off blisters or mice. They injure themselves to death simply because they cannot feel pain. All efforts at buzzers on “hot spots” became so cumbersome that they’d ignore the buzzer. There is no substitute for the protective give of pain. I think this applies emotionally as well.

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