I’ve been hiding this for some time and want to finally rid myself of its burden. I want you to know that everything I told you was true. But what I did not tell you was also true.
What I did not tell you was that when I am with you (but only occasionally), my thoughts whirl in directions I can’t quite seem to control. I tell myself how unworthy I am to be with someone I love so much. Could it be that my thoughts speak to my body? Because I then get overwhelmed with this ungodly pain filling up my chest, completely taking away my breath and my ability to be present with you.
But I hid this from you, pretending everything was fine.
I said the right things, made you laugh, and we shared many wonderful moments together. But I never allowed all of me to be with you.
I was afraid of seeing the disgust in your face, afraid of your pulling away, leaving me quite alone in the cold darkness, without you. I couldn’t bear the thought of that.
But what I was afraid of happening was what I was actually creating. I’m afraid of you pulling away, so I pull away because I’m afraid of you pulling away. It makes no sense. I’m so glad I told you this! I made it all up from nothing! There’s nothing to be afraid of.
So. Here I am. No more secrets. And all the more closer to you.
And to myself.
In the movie “Strangers in Good Company,” a group of elderly women slowly hobbled out of a lame bus, onto an isolated Canadian dirt road, and into their lives. The bus driver though younger and nevertheless mature and wiser than she appeared, injured her ankle upon exiting the bus. All of these women were stranded, alone, vulnerable, and dependent on a world for survival.
The movie was an early docu-drama which captured the story of a group of elderly women figuring out how to endure a seemingly hopeless situation. At first, I thought the intention behind the movie was simple entertainment – they said the darndest things which had me laughing out loud. But so much more was happening.
With canes and exaggerated limps, the women ambled away from the bus and toward a dilapidated and clearly abandoned house (a clear metaphor). Knowing they would be there overnight, the women got to work making do. This was a generation of women that made a home from scraps and making do was part of life. Each contributed in their unique way, creatively tapping into dormant problem-solving skills. They found themselves strong, resilient, capable and happy, perhaps for the first time in many years. They had reverted to an earlier version of themselves which the film captured quite nicely with pictures of their childhood, their marriage, a babies birth, graduation.
When the women were finally rescued, none of them looked relieved. I sensed that none of them (save the younger bus driver) wanted to leave a world in which they were completely accepted and a significant contributor. In this isolated countryside, they had meaning, purpose, importance, and real community. They were not being rescued; they were being sent back to where they were no longer relevant.
Irrelevance and Aging
What are your fears of aging? Does irrelevance sneak into your life today? Do you give up your power to those you believe know better about what is best for you? Or do you do that to others? Have you judged elderly people in the past? How do you want to be as you reach the last moments of your life?
How long have I been here, churning through my thoughts which ground away my resolve? When did it start? Ah, she said boo and I shut down to be alone with my familiar self-destructive thoughts. She wasn’t aware because I didn’t want her to know that she scared me. I didn’t want me to know that she could scare me. My body was unimpressed with all of it and screamed to be let out. I wasn’t listening.
With the unexpected punchline, you laugh with delight. Your friend is so witty. But when he repeats the joke to others, you don’t find it funny at all, and are actually quite annoyed that he would repeat it for the umpeenth time. This is a natural, human response, is it not?
But why do we laugh more and more audibly when we’re with others? Perhaps we have more control over our laughter than we truly understand. We learned how to laugh before we could talk. But if you observe human interactions around you, you’ll notice most people are laughing when there is nothing funny at all happening. According to Robert R. Provine, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland Baltimore County who authored the book Laughter: a Scientific Investigation, the primary purpose of laughter could be to trigger positive feelings in other people.
We don’t laugh at the same joke twice. Then why do we cry on the same sad story again and again? Again, it has everything to do with our thoughts and beliefs. (The article on Why We Cry offers much fascinating information on the science behind our tears.) You’re crying again about something you lost, something you wish hadn’t happened, or something you long for and but cannot have. What do these things all have in common? Wanting it to be different. How will crying change it? How will sadness change things?
From the Science of People, Sadness: The Science of Why We Feel Sad and Its Surprising Benefits
Humans depend on each other to survive. Sadness is the emotion that makes us remember that fact. Young children feel sad when they are separated from their parents and it’s that sadness that prompts them to cry and/or find their parents, potentially saving their lives. As people grow older, the sadness that accompanies separation is what drives people to continuously invest in relationships.
Almost to the end of my jog, my neighbor stepped from her front door out onto her lawn, and sent me a non-verbal apology for meeting my gaze. She put the miniature dog she was holding onto the lawn and it immediately darted to the far end of the yard, thankfully away from me. “Honey… Honey… Honey, come here. Come here Honey.” The expression on the dogs face said, “You are nothing to me…” As I passed the end of their yard, the women was running to the dog as her unending, useless pleas faded into my lasting memory.