Emotions: inside this crazy head of mine, I have a vast collection of them, all jumbled and heaped up against the walls in various shades and intensities. There’s the entire spectrum in there, ranging from the colorful Joy, to the stormy Anger, to the somber Melancholy. I have a full palate of emotions, although I will admit I have more of some and a lot less of others. Unfortunately, because I don’t treat my emotions any better than a child’s paint supply, some of them have run together and all are generally tainted by the stain of Grief. I was trying to think of an actual color but Grief isn’t a color, it’s like a texture. Sticky and wrinkly and it makes the colors off on everything else, like a bad top coat of cheap nail polish.
That’s not to say that Grief is always bad or such a horrible emotion; none of the emotions are inherently good or evil. They just exist and the way we respond and react to them give them life. When we mourn something or someone, the Grief helps define the other emotions we feel about our loss. There are healthy ways to grieve. There are unhealthy ways to grieve. It can also be ignored, but that comes at a price. That’s when it ends up congealing all over your other emotions, leaving marks and generally becoming a blighted mess everywhere.
I don’t just try to ignore my Grief: I try to hog-tie it with duct tape and shove it into a utility locker three counties over. I keep it bottled up, feeding into it and letting it fester until there’s no more room and the pressure is too much and then my Grief Mount St. Helen’s all over the place. More like Pinatubo. Hell, I’m pretty sure there is enough evidence to compare my trapped Grief with the supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park. And yes, I totally used Mount St. Helen’s as a verb. The resulting casualties are just as emotionally serious as the physical ones from a volcano: the Grief inflames Anger, Frustration, Sadness, and Hurt; it smothers Love, Gratitude, and Cheer; it destroys Happiness and the sense of being Content. In other words, it fucks everything up pretty damn good.
Grief scares me more than any other emotion. It’s my monster in the closet, the scary shadow in the dark corners of my life. It stabs me in my kidney so I can’t shout for help and then leaves me cowering on the floor desperately trying to staunch the flow of raw pain leaking out from my open wound. Grief tangles and encrypts my speech centers, rendering me incapable of using words to describe what the hell is going on inside of me. Is it any wonder that I set traps for Grief, to engage in preemptive warfare against the enemy? I’m not sure who started the fight but I know instinctively that I want to win because I’m competitive and rampant personification aside, I’m the human here.
I’ve been battling my Grief for years now. Mortal enemies locked in vicious combat, with me tucking the Grief away and it periodically exploding back into my life. Yay, stalemate. It latched on years ago in response to a single event and now I have no honest relationship with Grief when I actually need to have one. In mourning a lost friend, I need to grieve in order to overcome my very real issues with my own mortality and the nature of living. In grieving a lost relationship, I need to be able to take solace in my memories and to stop crying that it’s over and smile that it happened. In overcoming the loss of my cat, I need to take comfort that I gave him a good life and use that love to give our new cat a good life too. I can type it all out here and it sounds so easy, so simple, so doable. So why can’t I just embrace my Grief and move on with my life?
I’m infertile. It’s not something I like to talk about. It’s definitely not something that’s easy to acknowledge. My husband and I put off having one last pregnancy because reasons. It was not a mutual decision, instead a contentious one fraught with Anger, Fear, Worry, and their like-minded siblings. Resentment and I are BFFs after all this time and Chort knows I’m loathe to let it go anytime soon. A couple of years ago Resentment and I were at the point of planning to disconnect me physically from my relationship with my husband; the emotional connection had been left and long neglected in Resentment’s care. It’s not the best caretaker. I wanted another child badly enough I was willing to end my marriage over it. Let that crazy sink in for a moment. After a serious discussion, though, I was willing to give Tim another chance at being the husband I needed and he reconsidered his objection to another child and realized it wouldn’t be the end of the world. And then he left for Afghanistan. That was three years ago. After a year over there, he came home and I was ready to get knocked up. I had been charting my cycle while he was gone and I knew when and where and how to do everything to maximize our conceptual chances. This wasn’t my first rodeo; we had planned my second pregnancy for when Tim got back from a ship deployment and we were successful first time trying. Lightening didn’t strike twice. It also skipped the next few cycles. Someone Tim knew from his Afghanistan deployment and his wife announced their pregnancy. Hell, I swear a third of my Facebook friend’s list was popping prenatals and picking out names/onesies/rhinestone encrusted binkies. We tried like rabbits. We tried like dolphins. We tried like bunnies again. We tried like our very existence depended on it. I know my Happiness certainly was riding on it. Fail fail fail. Negative test upon negative test. I’m so glad the Dollar Tree sells those tests because I took a lot of them.
After many frustrating, tear-soaked months, we sought out specialists. I had fraternal twins naturally and I got pregnant on birth control with my oldest. Maybe it wasn’t me! But life was busy and finding the time and making the effort to get my husband checked out just fed into Resentment. Seriously, my Resentment is a competitive eater. Omnomnomnomnom. The problem wasn’t on his end anyway. Terribly boring rest of the story short, I ended up going in for a hysterosalpingogram, which is medical jargon for “cramming a tube up where your body doesn’t want it and injecting dye to see if your fallopian tubes are blocked but in your case since your cervix has a vendetta it’s going to bleed all over the place and cause the doctor to have to forcibly clamp said irritable cervix and then inject even more dye, making a really nasty TMI mess for a very long time.” In all the chaos, one of the way-too-many people in the room managed to take a gander at the x-ray thingy and made the pronouncement that my left tube was blocked, and maybe my right, but there was so much dye in there I could have hidden a giant squid and it was fouling up the results just a little. In the end, it didn’t matter. My left ovary works; my right one thinks eggs are too mainstream and pops out little pretty pearly cysts instead. One almost good tube, one good ovary: star-crossed lovers in the depths of my abdomen. My doctor flaked out on me and I shut down. The date was November 12th, 2013.
I knew Grief was stalking me. I tossed that sucker into a box, wrapped the box with chains and padlocks, dropped it into a trash bag filled with poison, duct taped that bad boy shut, and then slipped it into the Pandorica, which is the Whovian version of Pandora’s Box and way harder to open. I did my best to kill Grief. I did my best to kill all my emotions. Did you know that despite my best efforts, you can’t actually kill something that’s an intangible concept that only lives with the firing of synapses within our brains? Okay, I knew that too, but I’ve explained that I’m not the most rational bulb on the tree and so I tried to do the impossible. For over six months I’ve carried around the weight of the Grief death trap, which in retrospect is a far heavier burden to bear. All the while, Grief bubbled and fermented and plotted its revenge. May kicked my ass left and right and left again; I saluted her departure with two malted beverages and 7 shots of vodka. Events during my Month of Hell just added to the Grief I already had inside. Finally, though, my fragile prison proved useless Tuesday evening. It was an extinction-level event. ELE, if you’ve watched Deep Impact and remember that bit of trivia (it was pronounced Ellie and the reporter thought the Congress Critter was having an affair, not that we were all in deep poop). My poor husband was caught at the epicenter and bore the brunt of the impact. Turns out Grief had enlisted the underhanded efforts of Anger and Frustration, because they are in the same fraternity or something. I raged. It was pretty damn epic. It was also past midnight. I was ready to start choking it back down, but I couldn’t. So I cried. I let Tim hold me as I just cried and cried and blew my nose and mumbled incoherently while crying. I saw Grief standing there confused and bewildered and while Tim was hugging me I embraced my Grief. It was a revelation.
I still have grieving to do. I still have to learn to open up to those who love me, so that I may start to heal. I’m tired of fighting my emotions, of hiding them away so I don’t have to deal with them or deal with people who are curious, nosy, or otherwise wanting to know about my life and my feelings. Yes, I’m mourning the potential of the child I might never have, the loss of possibilities and interactions that another child would have had on me, my husband, the kids, grandparents, strangers 20 years from now. I am fortunate to have my family but I’m not afraid anymore to acknowledge that this is a very real pain for me. I’m still mourning the other losses that have affected me lately. I can’t keep bottling everything up inside, letting my unheeded Grief infect and affect my ability to feel Happiness, an emotion that is conspicuously absent in my junk pile of other emotions.
This is not going to be easy. Suppression is a well-formed habit, born of necessity and a general desire to not feel anything because I felt nothing but negative emotions for so long. I still have Resentment, because it’s parasitic and I can’t kick out my former BFF so easily. Some of my Grief unrelated to my infertility still needs to be locked away for reasons that are my own, but I intend to make that a temporary stay. Too much emotion is overwhelming for anyone: for me, it’s physically harmful. I will not let that Grief be a Vesuvius to the unsuspecting Pompeiians in my midst. It’ll be more like a controlled demolition. Maybe. This is all so very new to me and it’s almost as scary as confronting my own Grief. I will continue to try.
If you’ve made it this far, congrats. At this point I’m just trying to hit 2000 words and I’m awfully close. I’d like to take this opportunity to rant about the phrase “have your cake and eat it too.” Why is that a bad thing? Why have cake if you’re not supposed to eat it? I want my cake in order to eat it too. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having your cake and eating it too. There might be something wrong with wanting your neighbor’s cake, calling it your own, and eating it too, but we’ll play around with sexual euphemisms some other time. After we eat our cake.