Bucket of Tears

How many buckets have I filled with tears for my family? Countless.  At first, it seemed I was crying more than not.  I cried the moment I woke up, I teared my entire commute to work, faced the window and wiped the tears away before others could see, I held my cry deep down for as long as I could in the office and when I couldn't hold it any longer, I cried in the handicap bathroom stall, I teared the entire way home from work, crawled into bed, and let myself sob as loud as I could because finally, finally, there was no one around to hear me cry.  I cried to no one.  I cried to someone.  I cried for nothing and I cried for everything.  I cried and found that I felt no better when I was finished crying, the way I sometimes do when I am stressed about the little things in life and just need a big cry to let the tension out.  I wasn't finished crying but my eyes had dried up and could no longer produce tears.  I cried inside without actually crying because my eyes could not produce my tears.  Good thing, I was running low on Kleenex.  I did what I could before it was time for bed, before I could retire in peace for some time.  I watched TV, stared at the ceiling, drowned myself in circular thinking, and drifted asleep.  I slept and I cried in my dreams.

With time, I cried less.  Still, I cried easily.  Hearing the "D" word when I least expected brought more tears.  Seeing intact families  in all their happiness made me sob.  I cried less but I was fragile, and almost anything seemed to rattle my calm.

A day would pass without my tears and it seemed strange.  Three days would pass without my tears and I would wait for the tears to return, as I knew they would.  With time, they visited less often.

Eventually, the crying stopped.

I write these words to let you know that I was there, I was filling buckets with tears.  I also want to let you know that the crying will subside.

It is okay to cry.  It is okay to let your parents see you cry.  It is okay to let your friends see you cry.  It is okay to let your children see you cry.  It is okay to cry in a public place surrounded by people you will never see again.  It is okay to cry alone.

How many buckets have I filled with tears for my family? Countless. Yet, one year later, I am okay.  You won't cry forever.  Eventually, your tears will let go and move on.

Deepest Sympathies On the Divorce of Your Parents

An associate at work asked me why I looked like I was about to cry.  She said I seemed out of it.  I hadn’t told anyone at work and no one seemed to notice that I was in a state of grief, mayhem and constantly on the verge of tears.  My parents’ divorce was not something to be discussed at work.  Business is business I guess.  Although, the new reality that faced my life at home hit me several times a day and interfered with my work completely.  I was able to make it to work and back home, back to bed, wake up and go to work again.  I have no idea what I did at my desk all day, sitting in front of my PC while my head was lost above, wandering a million miles an hour in a state of confusion to nowhere.  No one noticed.  I will call it autopilot, that thing within you that gets your work done without you being 100% there.

My thoughts were consumed with questions about my parents’ divorce and someone had asked me what was wrong.  Finally.  I know I didn’t give anyone a reason to ask me what was going on, I knew it wasn’t the appropriate place to throw my problems at others, it was a place to be professional or take time off, it was a law firm.  I had chosen the course of professionalism, although, I had nowhere else to go.  I guess it was the best option at the time, a reliable and stable place to spend ten hours a day.

I sat across my associate expecting to discuss the specifics of an upcoming trial and mid-conversation she popped the question, “what’s wrong?”  I ask others that same question all the time and expect a simple answer that deals with a headache or a bad day, something trivial.  You never expect the person to open up and flood you with a bucket of, “my life has been derailed, chewed up, spit out, and it hurts like hell.  I am lost. I don’t know what to do or what will become of my life.  I will never be the same person again; I just know it.  I am scared.  I have no one to turn to because my parents have mutated into some species that I can’t recognize any more and there is no one else I can trust.  I am alone. Etc.”

“What’s wrong?”

Without thinking I replied, “my dad left my mom and they are getting divorced.”  Simple and honest, it was my autopilot speaking again.  Phew.  The associate asked, “That’s all?”  I didn’t respond.  She added, “But everyone is going to be okay.”  I kept my reaction to myself and that was the end of our conversation about me.  We continued discussing the case.

She had asked, “That’s all?”  My associate walked over to give me a hug of reassurance and then slipped a stocking on her face and stabbed me in the back. No, my heart.  “That’s all?” As if my answer didn’t account for the devastation in my eyes.  Wait, does it?  My parents’ divorce is so new to me and I don’t understand if I am supposed to feel as crappy as I do.   More confusion, more guilt, more feelings that I am weak.  Get it together!

I don’t remember anyone ever saying, “my deepest sympathies.”  Maybe I only remember the comments that hit me where it hurts, the heart.  Still, one of the realities that an ACOD must face is that “dearest sympathies” are not a given.  There is pain, five stages of grief, confusion, anger, depression, and all the other hardships that accompany any major life-upset, yet there is no bereavement period or leave of absence.  There are no hallmark cards or user-manuals for the people around you to help you cope with this time of chaos and unknowns.

At work, when a family member passes away, the entire office is notified.  Everyone makes this effort to show patience and kindness towards the colleague that is suffering.  This is not the case with an adult child of divorce.  It’s not discussed and most people don’t know.  I wouldn’t want a firm-wide email disclosing my loss.  At the same time, firm-wide patience would have been comforting.

So many times I heard, “it could be worse, you will get over it eventually, go on with your life.”  Yes, I want to go on with my life but right now I am stuck here.  I am sinking. 

I am not asking for pity but a little standard-sympathy would be nice.  Perhaps the kind of sympathy that is just given because that is what you are supposed to do, without even getting too deep into what the loss really entails.  The kind of sympathy that says, “your pain is merited and I’m sorry you have to endure it.”  That seems professional enough.

What do you think?

How to Heal Your Heart When Your Parents Divorce

How to heal your heart when your parents divorce

This is something I asked myself constantly after learning about my parents’ divorce.  I was in shock and soon after, my heart was broken.  It was a vicious cycle of denial, anger, confusion, and false hope.  My insides felt chaotic.

After replaying every detail in search of a solution, I was close to giving up.  Which is what I was supposed to do and what I should have done from the beginning.  Or so they say.  Remember, my determination to make sense of everything around me was in my head.  I was fighting reality with my thoughts as if I could will the situation away by squeezing my brain hard enough.

There was a point when my heart began to grasp that the divorce was actually happening.  I tried to hold onto denial.  I was in the center of some balloon that had inflated around me and I didn’t have a pin to make it POP.  I desired, stronger than any craving or sexual urge I ever felt, to reach forward with a sharp shard of glass and break the skin of this situation into a million little pieces, step over them and walk away.  Leave the little wrinkled pieces of latex behind on a sidewalk for good so that a gust of wind might sweep them up and away, far away.

Letting go was very hard.  Accepting the reality of my family was exhausting.  Eventually, sadness prevailed.  I realized that it was no longer about the divorce; it was about me.  I lost control over myself.  I lost the ability to keep happy, control my mood.  I let myself sink into the couch and into a cushion of grief.  I didn’t want to move.

I had to heal myself first.

I remember the day I decided to take a proactive step towards healing my broken heart.  I imaged a heart broken into two.  Day by day I would work towards completing one stitch until both halves were mended back together.  It required time and effort. 

I decided to write things that would make me happy on a piece of paper and follow through.  I was ready to help myself, or at least try.  It was time. 

I wrote three things on that piece of paper:

Go for a run
Straighten my hair

Really?  Those were the three things that came to mind in an effort to induce a moment of happiness in my heart, a few minutes without pain.   It is easy to forget how terrible I really felt at the time but when I think about the three things I wrote down, I am able to relive the weight of that month.  I must have been miserable.  I think I was.

Baby steps.

I have that piece of paper.  There is no date but I will remember the day always.  I wrote those three tasks down without thinking too much, they felt random.  I wasn't ready for a careless night at some Brooklyn microbrewery and I couldn’t handle walking to SoHo to spoil myself with something pretty. 

In retrospect, my listed tasks point out what a hermit I became.  I stayed inside, had no energy to move and no desire to take care of myself.  I was tired and unmotivated.  I felt down and needed to get out, feel the sun on my face.  Still, it was a struggle to do so.

Sunday morning I put on running shorts.  Although I wore my sneakers around the house for several hours before making it out, eventually I picked up my ipod and made it out the door.  I had been listening to a lot of “you must be depressed” music, mostly Enya, songs I never listened to before.  They seemed to speak to my pain.  Embarrassing, I know.  I also listened to the Black Eyed Peas ask, “Where is the Love?” and it moved me.  But hey, I was vulnerable.  Then again, songs are as sad as the listener.  Not today.  It was time to move on, actually move back, to my running play-list, which was equally shameful, full of techno-trance and Kanye’s “Workout Plan.”  I had to get pumped.

I walked for a long time before my legs set off into that first sprint.  For the first time I felt the truth in all that yoga talk about the connection of mind and body.  My head wanted to run but my legs said no.  Damn legs.  Still, Yoga is not for me.

A few sprints had turned into a jog and just like that, I was running.  It was hard and it didn’t feel great but I kept at it, waiting for that twinge of happiness.  Nothing.  Then something.  It was something out of body and unplanned.  I don’t know what came over me.  I was alone, no one was watching and without any reason at all, I started to skip.  At first it was a slow movement; it felt unnatural.  I was shy.  How many years had passed since I last felt the sensation of skipping?  My legs moved autonomously and it felt good.  I felt light.  I burst into full out skipping, higher and higher, my hands swinging at each side to keep balanced.  How spontaneous!  I was skipping like a little girl.  Eventually, I was out of breath and so I stopped.  I laughed.  I laughed out loud, by myself, without anyone with me.  Without trying super hard to keep happy because deep down I was too sad to smile, I laughed inside and out.  I made myself laugh and it was genuine.

After my shower, I straightened my hair.  I certainly didn’t feel healed, but I felt good.  At least for that moment, I took a vacation from my grief.  

I had completed one stitch to connect the broken pieces of my heart.