When sorrow hits us it often feels like a ton of bricks raining down upon us. The bricks wipe out everything we thought we knew and not only that, but the ground also shifts, and we can’t find where to put our feet. Our earth, that solid foundation we have stood on forever has vanished in an instant.
When grief rips us apart we have nowhere to turn. There is no safe passage back to where we once lived. There is nothing before us, behind us, to the side of us, underneath us, there is nothing left. We are alone with our deep pain and nothing, absolutely nothing we can think of can change that. We are living with a hell inside us that will not budge.
I recently had an experience while walking my little dog. She is a small, white, fluffy thing that I inherited. Before she came to me she had a history of being a rescue, which really means we don’t know what she experienced in her life prior to living with me.
So, in the past five years, I have taken note of her skittish behavior. She has been frightened by bigger dogs. I have always protected her by crossing the street or standing off to the side to let them pass. I used to just tell myself and others she just doesn’t like big dogs, and that’s that.
But lately I have seen her more vocal. Not at other animals, but in the house. Sometimes she will bark or whine or sing. She just has a lot to say now, much more so than before…
I was talking to a friend recently and she was telling me about something nice that happened to her. She gave one of her teachers a gift and in return she received a plate of homemade cookies. As she was telling me this story I felt this warm feeling spread across my chest. And I knew instantly it was the feeling of love. My friend felt love for her teacher and he wanted to reciprocate.
Earlier today my little old dog was sleeping next to me on the chair and she put her paw on my leg. Again I felt that spreading warmth wash across my chest and I knew instantly that I was experiencing a feeling of love.
Sometimes in our lives we feel exactly as we should. You know, that feeling from deep down inside us, when we feel alive, happy, and as if everything is right with the world. This feeling may only last for a moment, but when it occurs we can’t forget it.
You may also notice this aliveness when you meet someone that you connect with. It’s as if the other person feels you the way you feel you, and you both feel each other, and then—blammo, something great happens!
There are a lot of things we learn from our parents. Mostly we learn how the world treats us. If as a child, you were scolded, you might learn that the world is harsh. If you were yelled at you might become angry. And if your parents just expected things silently, but you knew you had to comply, you might become quiet too and harsh on yourself.
Psychologists often examine how people grew up to get clues about how we operate as an adult. And as a therapist I know this is always a fruitful search, and it proves helpful when I work with people addressing their issues while in counseling.
All of us at some time in our lives have received something good from someone who really knows us. Look back on your experiences in your life, especially the ones that formed you into who you are now. See if you can find those special people who you felt understood you. These are the ones who really know us.
All humans want to be accepted for who they are. But most of us have many experiences where people did not fully accept us, in fact many of us were formed by people who had strong opinions that clashed with ours. If you got in trouble a lot, this happened to you.
I was at a dinner party recently. The host, a good friend of mine is a wonderful cook. She had planned this meal with great care. But during the evening, before the meal was ready, she began to get increasingly uncomfortable. She was worried about the main dish and whether it would be cooked through. She was also stressed about a side dish that took too much preparation in the last minute. I could feel her panic, and so could her son.
Her son asked me if I knew what was wrong with his Mom. I knew she was struggling to make sure everything turned out right. But even knowing this and understanding her, it still didn’t help her child. He was worried that he might have done something, or that she was mad at him or something else was happening with her. He didn’t know what was bothering his Mother because she wasn’t saying anything either. This lack of understanding then left him feeling uncomfortable too.
This is a funny question, but I think it’s a feeling that a lot of us can relate to. I know if I look deep down when I am worried or unsure of something, I can probably identify the root of this feeling and it has to do usually with me and that something is often, “I am not enough.”
I don’t say this out loud, but I feel it inside myself. I feel less than and that might explain why I worry sometimes. This is very common. A lot of us wonder if we are enough. And the “enoughs” can come in all kinds of variety, “Am I smart enough? Am I attractive enough? Am I successful enough?”
I was thinking about a birthday in the family the other day. I remembered to wish that family member a happy birthday, and it felt good to do so. Then I remembered that even though I always remember this person’s special day, they never remember mine. And when I thought about being forgotten, I felt sad.
Then I thought more about it and realized that my family member loves me no matter what. This family member didn’t stop loving me when they didn’t wish me a “Happy Birthday.” There was no withholding of love from me. There was no deliberate act of unloving anywhere. So why would I have a thought about this person who just didn’t know something?
I was thinking of being little recently and I recalled the image of me and my younger brother. I was about 10 years old and he was about 7. We were pulling at opposite ends of our dog, a dachshund. It was something we did every night before we went to bed. One of us would begin the fight and say, “I get to sleep with him tonight! You slept with him last night.” The other would answer, “No, you slept with him last night it’s my turn.” And then the pushing and pulling would begin.
This went on night after night. I can’t remember how it ended or if I ever felt like I won. I just remember this is what we did. And when I recalled the memory recently I thought, “That’s love. That’s the chaos of love.”