Bowing Down to the Altar of ‘Perspective’

I have been thinking some about something I notice in myself frequently:  I don’t seem to give myself permission to feel my feelings…  even when I have big feelings to feel over big things happening.  Case in point:  from the first month anniverary of Mom’s death on–heck, from the day of her diagnosis–I was feeling miserable and sad and scared but telling myself that ‘others had it worse than my life…  it could be worse…  Yes, it was hard, but it could be harder, and I needed to get on with the process of getting through it, or at least look like I had.’  I did it to ward off the blows that I feared would come if someone else said it to me.  I did it…  to give myself a reason not to feel???  I did it…  I’m not entirely sure why.

Even in this blog, I share my feelings…  Generally from the thought that well…  they’re there, and maybe if I say that they are there someone else will feel less alone.  But…  So often I offer up a caveat–The “I know it could be worse, and I know seven people personally who DO have it worse, and so I know I really shouldn’t complain or feel bad” clause.   

Here pretty (read:  way too) quickly we’ll start our 2nd deployment.  As I’ve said here several times, it’s a ‘short one,’ not even the length of a normal Navy deployment…   but still a long time to have your husband and daddy on the other side of the world.  Because it’s so short, I don’t feel like I have a right to feel icky about it.  In fact, some twisted part of me thinks I should be downright cheerful about it and go on like nothing is happening.  At the very least I should be maintaining my ‘stiff upper lip.’  But here is what I also know–and this ruins the stiff upper lip:  I’m still looking at months away from the man I love.  I’m still looking at a pretty long stretch of parenting-solo with two children under the age of three.  I’m still looking at letters and emails instead of hugs and kisses, and that aching feeling of wishing he was there to lay next to at night instead of stinky-breathed Chester that cat.  I’m still looking at anxiety (albeit far less because he won’t be surrounded by sand on all sides) about his well-being.  I’m still looking at the heartache of knowing he is missing precious time with his new baby girl, and his terrific two-year old.  But…  I won’t give myself permission to grieve that, to feel that, to hurt over it, because always in the back of my mind is the wife who is doing that for 15 months while her husband is getting shot at every single day.  I’m not saying I don’t grieve over it, feel it, and hurt over it…  Instead, I feel all the feelings that are unavoidable, and then feel GUILTY for feeling them, which only serves to make myself feel worse.  I beat myself over the head with the ‘it could be worse’ stick every time I have an emotion.  It gets a little bit tiring.  Also, it makes my head hurt.

I think it’s good to remember those who are in tougher spots than we are.  It’s even good to recognize that and give them kudos for it, but why is it that in my head I translate that into meaning that *I* can’t feel anything but flowers and roses about our own lesser challenges?  It’s all hard, and I offer even more full-fledged support to those in worse circumstances because I know how hard it is over here in my ‘swimming pool of easiness.’

It seems like the public face that is acceptable in any given less-than-ideal situation is the, “I’m holding up just great.  I  just made a 7-course meal, scrubbed the house from top to bottom and taught my 2 year old how to speak in Spanish, Russian, and Portugese even though the sky is falling in over our heads.”  So…  I seriously try to do all of those things, or at least make it look like I’m doing those things, even though all I want to do, and sometimes all I can muster, is getting the kids up, keeping them warm and relatively clean, and crying into a quart of ice cream.

The thing is, I DON’T want to complain all the time, to be only about complaining, to whine and be a Negative Nancy (and I so feel sometimes that this blog has that feel to it).  I want to be someone who sees the beautiful in life, who finds the good, who can make highly efficient fossil-fuels with which to power their homes out of the manure piles of life.

So I guess I’m trying to learn how to reconcile the real feelings I feel with that…  How does that reality flesh itself out?  How do I feel the real feelings without wallowing in a self-made pit of despair?

I guess I’m still trying to be the ‘shiny happy person’ that I claim to detest, and wearing myself out in the process.

This is why I get prickly about “at leasts.”  I know them all.  I have a 2 hour long feature length musical full of choreographed songs and dances featuring all of the “at leasts” in the world that I sing to myself constantly.

So…  why can’t I cut myself a break and give myself permission to feel?  Why do I bow down to the alter of perspective instead of facing my reality and feeling the feelings? 

Maybe it’s time to burn the altar… 

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5 thoughts on “Bowing Down to the Altar of ‘Perspective’

  1. Oh, Val. I am so sorry you’re feeling this way. I, too, do the whole “it could be worse” thing. Whenever I do it, I try to ask myself if me having it better in a certain area makes the other person’s life worse? Like, if your husband’s three-month(?) deployment makes another wife’s husband’s fifteen month deployment worse? Is your good fortune, so to speak, making her bad fortune any worse? The answer is probably no. Your good fortune isn’t having any effect on her.
    I did it too during my mom’s illness. Like, oh her cancer came back, but she only has to do radiation this time. Yah. Or… at least she got to meet my oldest, even if he was only six months when she died, and only knows her as my mom who lives up in heaven with God. You know, I get upset still when people talk about their moms watching their kids, or having lunch with their moms, etc. When my husband travels, I know she would have been so helpful. And you are probably in the stage when your kids are so young, and you just want your mom.
    BTW, I tried ot be perfect like that too. Don’t do that to yourself. People only show us what they want us to see. Everyone struggles with being a mom. It’s hard, plain and simple. Complain away on here. That’s what we’re here for. You need to get it out, and you shouldn’t feel ‘guilty’ for doing just that. I am going ot go have some ice cream now, too. It’s been quite a day. I know you can relate!

  2. There is always someone who is going to “have it worse” than you in any circumstance… it is all just a part of life. Don’t feel guilty for missing your husband… everyone does even if it is just for a day or for a year – your “loss” is no less meaningful than someone elses. Each situation is different. I had a friend come up to me and ask how I was doing the other day… she said, “I don’t know how you do it, my husband is out of town for the weekend and I’m going crazy without him. I feel guilty for missing him and needing him!” I told her not to feel guilty. My husband choose his carreer path, we knew deployment was part of that life. We might miss each other for a longer time – but that doesn’t mean that she can’t miss her husband. She sighed a relief and almost started to cry. So, eat that ice cream girl, take a hot bath and cry until you feel better. You have the right!!! 🙂

  3. I know exactly what you mean. I start to feel guilty for missing my husband, like I’m just somehow feeling sorry for myself. It is nice to remember that others have it worse, but I try to think that we’re all entitled to miss the ones we love, and to feel bad that they’re not with us, no matter how long they are gone for.

  4. Pingback: What I Thought I Had to Think « Dig Your Toes In

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