In the Aftermath

I took one of those silly quizzes on social media yesterday. You know, the ones that ask “What would your Hillbilly name be?” or “What profession should your dog have?” This one was “How Many More Years Do You Have to Live?” I thought it would be a hoot, so I took it. (50 years and 6 months supposedly)

One of the questions was “Which body part do you think is your greatest weakness?” or something like that. It listed arms, legs, mind, and a few other things. I picked emotion.

Emotions have always been my undoing. They probably always will be.

Not that I am an emotional person. I have to be really really happy for someone to know it. And conversely, I have to be really really mad for someone to know it as well. My excitement over things is usually constrained to the comment “good” accompanied by a lopsided grin. I have learned to shut them off … because they matter too much.

In other words, they make my world it’s own private roller coaster.

I’ve been told harboring emotions like this is what makes people either go crazy or take drugs or become addicted to things. My lack of addictions must mean I’m either insane or weird, then. Unless writing or gardening can be called an addiction. Hobbies gone wild … but I digress.

The one thing in my life that can still throw me for a loop is going through any kind of emotional experience. For the first few days, the adrenaline sails me through whatever life brings, but after that, I crash and burn.

I mentioned this to a friend a year or so ago and she gave me the best advice I’ve ever heard. “Give yourself time to grieve.”

At first I thought she was kind of nuts. No one died, at least not this time. I mean if someone did die, I would understand feeling so down and blue. That’s expected. I argued the point.

Then she reminded me, for someone who is sensitive, whose emotions matter so much that they hide them from the world, every event that changes something needs to be given time for grief. That’s why we often feel so down just after some of our biggest accomplishments in life.

Those who rise the highest, fall the farthest … or so I’ve heard …

It seems to hold true in my life. Every award I’ve earned, every time I accomplish something I’ve struggled to do over time, every achievement has been marked by a period of utter and complete sadness where I either sit and stare at a wall or curl up in bed in the dark and hope no one will bother me. It eventually goes away and I return to normal.

But …

I always thought I was nuts. Win an award, go curl up in bed. Accomplish something new, hide in front of the tv. Somehow my image of how the world is supposed to work doesn’t include that scenario … and yet, that’s how I function.

So the most freeing thing in the world was for my friend to say, “It’s okay. Give yourself time to adjust.”

I’m in the middle of adjusting. Blech.

A couple of weeks ago, after trying for over a year and a half, I managed to write a good short story and then another and another. They just rolled out of me. That might not seem great to others but I’ve written novels without blinking an eye and poetry as well, but the short story had me baffled. Try as I might, technique after technique failed me. I’ve literally tried to write over 40 short stories in the past year … and not just a single pass at them. Editing, seeking critique, starting over … nothing clicked. But for some reason it all just coalesced in a single 876 word story.

I was elated. And so I wrote another and another and another. Then I took a deep breath, curled up in my bed, and wished the world away.

I’ve heard all my life that creative people are more sensitive, more emotionally driven. Some of the worlds best seem to follow that pattern, either acting out publicly or falling into a world of drugs and addiction … but there are others, too, like me that sink into a dark place and have to “adjust” to the new world around us, to our own new view on life.

But there are many others, perhaps the ones who have learned the secret of allowing themselves to grieve, that carry on.

For me, life will always be a matter of adjusting, day in and day out. I’ve learned to breathe a lot. Lol. And to remove myself from places I shouldn’t be. And then the emotions settle down faster and I can resume with my world.

I guess if there’s a time to achieve, there’s a time to grieve. A time to do and a time rest. A time to make changes and a time to learn to live with those changes.

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