The Bliss Blog

Had quite a revelation a few days ago, courtesy of my BFF Barbara Cohen. We were talking about a series of conversations I had recently with two other friends, Ondreah Johnson and Beth Nolan. Ondreah is facing the life-changing condition of cancer and Beth’s companion cat just died unexpectedly. Added to that, I officiated at a memorial service a year after his passing for Phillip Garber a long time friend/family member, yesterday. He was my son’s surrogate father who died a week prior to Adam’s wedding after a lifelong illness. At none of those situations, did I cry. It wasn’t as if I was consciously being stoic or holding back tears. They just weren’t ready to come forth.

When I got off the phone with Beth while en route home from Phil’s service, one of my favorite instrumental pieces came on the radio. Its title is Ashokan Farewell and was used in the PBS Ken Burns Civil War series. At the first note, the tears began to flow. Music has that power. So, back to the conversation with Barb. I asked her if she too found herself in that situation of not being moved to cry when it could be expected. She acknowledged it as well and that sometimes tv shows or commercials did that for her. It didn’t much matter, she reasoned why we were crying, just that we were able to have that physical release. What a relief!

I awoke just now with a dream that highlighted what might just be the root cause of this paradigm. In it, I was sobbing in the bathroom of a hotel after my sister (younger in the nocturnal movie than she is now in her 50’s) ended up on a stretcher being attended to by EMTs when she injured her leg and it turned out that there were ‘incidental findings’ once they examined her that required hospitalization. In waking time, she has had a few heart attacks, stents inserted, COPD and Diabetes. They were taking her to a hospital a good distance away and I was expected to go there on a regular basis. How, I wondered, was I going to be able to manage that along with my daily responsibilities and jobs? As much as I wanted to be there, I knew (at least in the dream) I couldn’t clone myself or bi-locate. Sometimes I am delusional enough to believe that I can do it all and be all things to all people. In bursts my mother who died nearly eight years ago, demanding to know why I am crying, since, after all,  “You are a grown woman.” Not my mother at all. She, who when I was a child and teen and would cry, would remind me to ” Cry and get it out of your system.” In retrospect, I realize that there was both freedom and structure around that guidance. Release and relief, yes, but also a sense that it was like a good poop that would clear out constipation. My mother would have comforted me and listened, holding space for the accumulated grief that I was experiencing. She was ‘the rock’ of the family who could be counted on, like her daughter, to be there in all eventualities and she would say that she would ‘fall apart’ afterward. Funny thing, I never saw her do that. I would remind her that ‘rocks crumble’. Instead, her calling me out on my tears was shocking. I stood up and explained everything that had been happening in my world recently, adding to it that on a daily basis, I sit with clients who pour out their own grief. Doing my best not to take it on, I do sometimes take it in. Needing to purge that out. Having been a student of dreams for years, I know that the night channel is reflective of what I experience during the day and that each character and object are aspects of me. My ‘mother’ in the dream was really my own harsh inner critic (my mother was rarely critical) developed early on to keep me on my toes and to prevent complacency. Such impossibly high standards I set for myself at times.

Added to that are so many years of accumulated grief over multiple losses, including the death when I was four of my beloved grandmother (my mother’s mother), my husband’s passing when I was 4o, (nearly 2o years ago), my parent’s deaths eight years (dad) and 10 years ago (mom), a series of health crises since 2013, (shingles, heart attack, kidney stones, pneumonia and now a diagnosis of pre-diabetes.) With each one, I took it all in stride, tearing up a bit and then taking the next steps to ameliorate the symptoms and keepin’ on keepin’ on as was modeled by both parents. I’m grateful that they taught me to be resilient AND I have become far too independent and self-soothing and sustaining.

Another revelation is that in relationships as the caregiver, I have not allowed myself to be taken care of unless I have been under the weather. So many years of learning to undo. I welcome someone who will shower me with loving care, nurturing willingly, offering the kind of attention I have craved, but held at bay. Someone who will be there as a safe witness to years of tears and then gently drying them, helping to put a smile on my face.


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