Will You Still Love Me?

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Once upon a time I was a productive junkie. Just the thought of creating a to do list revved me up, charged my batteries, got me going. And the satisfaction of checking things off? Oh my goodness, nothing felt near as sweet as reviewing the day’s list at bedtime and seeing all the items marked through. Each tick mark translated into “job well done.” With enough tick marks, I could be sure I’d left my mark, made the day count, earned my existence.

That was then.

Now, I have to drag myself to the paper to create a to do list. Digital task management software proves too easy to procrastinate, too easy to slide things over to the next day, the next month, the next year. Plus the satisfaction level just isn’t there without the sound of pencil scratching across the words on the paper. Besides trying every journal known to woman, I’ve come up with all sorts of carrots to lure myself back into such a simple, definable, provable existence. One item per index card, color coded by category. Moveable sticky notes lined up by category inside a colorful file folder for each day. And the rewards? Oh my goodness at the reward systems I’ve created and laid out before myself.

But no go. Despite it all, I cannot recapture that sense of being a woman-with-a-daily-mission. It’s not the system. Checking tasks off a list no longer satisfies me . . . probably in large part because the tasks on the list no longer satisfy me.

I seem to be living in a state of generalized grief. Where I once prided myself on cleaning the house every single Friday so it’s be spic and span for the weekend, I have to force myself to give it a quick going-over twice a month. I set the roomba out in a different part of the house every morning, make up the bed (because there’s something quite nice about pulling back the covers, even if I do rather detest moving the decorative pillows back and forth), do the laundry, and call that enough. I don’t really grieve the to-do list driven existence. Not specifically, anyway, because I do miss that feeling of structure the to do list provided. I miss that feeling of accomplishment, that feeling of satisfaction.

I grieve things I haven’t even begun to articulate – I’m living the vegetable soup of grief and mourning. I grieve who I once was, who I could have been, who I am today, and who I might be One Day. I grieve for time squandered. I grieve things said, but mostly things not said. I grieve for my son and, in a different way, for my daughter. I grieve for the loss of my personal space. I grieve people I’ve lost due to death or miscommunications, misunderstandings, differing interests, or something else. And despite the fact that I’m an adult woman with adult children and though he died in 2000, I miss my Daddy like you wouldn’t believe.

And here’s the thing: I am fine with that.

I write about living in this state of generalized grief with great dread of the emails and phone calls that might come. Offers to pray for me, witness to me. Obviously I’m not a good Christian if I’m feeling like this. Others will want to cheer me up, urge me to talk to a therapist, tell me about what pills they are taking to feel better.

Here’s what I want to know: when did happiness become the ultimate desired state of being? Want to know the truth? I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve felt blissfully joyful . . . and that sorry showing has always been something that made me feel decidedly less than. Something I’m ashamed of. Something I ought to be ashamed of, given my circumstance in life. How dare me not be happy, know it, and clap my manicured hands.

Even with the to do lists and the structure they provided for me, I’ve had spells like this before. I’ve used every euphemism I could think of: I’ve been in funks and fallows. Had stomachaches, headaches, needed quiet time, all that. I’ve been known to run like hell, too. Escapism, I call it. Going out in search of distractions, leaving would-be reminders and wagging fingers behind, at least for a little while. I’ve tried. Lord knows, I’ve tried. Even when I didn’t put on makeup, I’ve put on my best, most cheerful happy face and did my best to make somebody else happy, happy, happy since I couldn’t always seem to do it for and by myself. I’ve run and I’ve hidden and I’ve denied in every way you can think of (though I’ve never even veered near the S-word) – not so much from the melancholy, sadness, depression, grief and mourning, acedia, or whatever, mind you, but from the shame, from the feeling of shirking My Responsibility, from the dread of hurting family, from the fear of being left alone because I’m no fun any more.

This time, though, I’m just sitting with It, sitting in It, this murkiness, this darkness as some might call It. And though it feels good to write this, I don’t mind telling you that I’m scared. I don’t just dread the folks rushing in to help, to fix me, to make me feel better. I dread the ripple effects this public display of negativity might have on my family. There’s still a stigma attached to not being happy, you know. At least around here there is. Will I need to sew every member of my family a special shirt emblazoned with a special version of The Scarlet Letter?

In days gone by, I feared parents wouldn’t let their children play with my children if they knew I was more sadful than joyful. I didn’t – and still don’t – want people examining my mother and blaming her for things done or not done in my upbringing. I didn’t – and still don’t – want to take a pill that will mask this, turn me into somebody else who, while the-new-she might feel foreign to me, will be found acceptable by others. I’ve lived most of my life that way without pharmaceuticals, thank you very much. I didn’t and still don’t want to talk to a therapist for a whole bunch of reasons we might or might talk about later.

So what if I’m grieving? So what if I’m sad? So what if I’m melancholy? So what if I’m living with acedia? Maybe grief is another lens to look through. Maybe melancholy is contemplation. Maybe sadness is a filter. Maybe acedia is a call to authenticity. Maybe mourning is another way to love.

I can still authentically be the life of the party – this is not the sum total of who I am. But it is very much me, too. And it’s not just the rainy weather talking here.

29 Comments

  1. Sandi Amorim

    I have felt that way too and like you, I often suppressed it. I’m a life coach after all, aren’t I supposed to be the one who knows how to get through this? 

    So I salute you for being with the sadful. Sometimes that’s the best place to be. 

    • whollyjeanne

      Oh, Sugar. Thank you for understanding. xo

  2. Merry ME

    I hestitate to comment, because I don’t know where it will lead. But I do want to thank you for articulating my state of being these days. I’m trying not to “should” my way out of it, to “embrace” it without turning it into a security blanket, to go where the sadness leads. Gotta say, “sadful” is a word I can totally relate to. And just so you know, I honor that place you’re in and by doing so I give myself permission to honor that place in me. 

    • whollyjeanne

      Sugar, your response brings tears from the deep interior of my heart. I”m intrigued with how you say you’re trying not to embrace it so that it becomes a security blanket. I’ll admit to wondering about that myself because there’s a certain degree of comfort even in the uncomfortableness. Instead of pulling myself out of it using sheer and exhausting force like I’ve done so many times before, this time I’m trusting my bones to guide me. Trusting my bones to lead me into and out of this in a healthy, wholesome manner. Thank you for being here in sadful with me, yet in your own way and for your own reasons. You honor me with your words and with your presence and with your dedication to authenticity.

  3. Jane Cunningham

    i trust you Jeanne.  I trust that you arein the right place and that whatever comes from this will be beautiful in the way that that sky is… jeez woman i do love you

    • whollyjeanne

      You hold me, Sugar. You witness this without scolding or cajoling. I do love you and thank you so very much.

  4. Teresa

    I love you, miss Jeanne, deeply, wholly, completely. And these butterflies I send don’t come with any requirements to suddenly be happy. Perhaps butterflies also mourn….
    <3 <3 <3

    • whollyjeanne

      Perhaps they mourn their short live and in that mourning, they live fully.

  5. Carrie

    I sit here in shared grief heart wide open. Although I barely know you my heart knows you and all I can say is I love you, all of you. Thank you.

    • whollyjeanne

      This means so much. So very, very much.

  6. Joyce

    This culture sells happy as a goal of life. Thank God. Someone brave enough to deal with it. Give me the struggle, the opposition, some obstacles. Let me fight. Let me matter. Let it be important that I once passed by here. Keep your happy. Or serve it up as an occasional side dish, but don’t sell it to me as purpose. I ain’t buying.

    • whollyjeanne

      You have been on my heart today like you wouldn’t believe. In fact, I was thinking about emailing you just a couple of minutes ago to tell you “my roof is leaking.” Figured you’d understand that in all its meanings and metaphors. I tell you what, I’d like to shoot whoever decided happy is the goal. I have my theories about how that came to be, but like you, I’m fine with the struggles and the challenges and the obstacles. It’s where the richness is for me. Just don’t try to fix me or make me “feel better” because really, I think those people are working a personal agenda. I’ve a feeling our next lunch is gonna’ be another good one!

      • Joyce

        Hope it’s soon. I can bring buckets.

        • Joyce

          Or not.

          • Joyce

            I think happy is part of the original lie.

            • whollyjeanne

              well said. i think so, too.

              • Joyce

                “Or not” was for the buckets. But you knew that.

                No agenda. Just previously acknowledged aversion to leaky roofs.

                • whollyjeanne

                  Ha! And I had sent a reply to your “or not,” but that’s when my computer ran out of juice. Just now see that my reply didn’t go out. Yes, I knew that, my funny wise friend.

        • whollyjeanne

          i hope it’s soon, too. i’ll let you know when we’re headed down again and see if i can get a spot on your dance card. sure enjoyed our last lunch. been thinking about that A LOT.

  7. Renae C

    Be sadful if sadful is what’s there.  You aren’t alone.  Sad seems to be the choice of descriptor for many of us lately, who “should” be something else.  I wonder if those of us who feel this way are resonating with something bigger than ourselves that is vibrating sorrow.  Not something to “fix” for sure, but just to feel.  

    • whollyjeanne

      Sugar, it sure feels like, sure seems like there are a lot of us, and I’m just tired of carrying this around. It’s exhausting to be Miss Happy Cakes when I’m actually feeling sadful. Yes, I think we are resonating with something much bigger than our individual selves. A deep, huge sorrow – you know, I even like that word, it has meat on its bones, substance – and instead of shoving it under the rug (where there’s hardly any more space for it anyway), maybe it’s time we honor it with space and conversation and ritual. Maybe just contemplation, stillness, feeling.

  8. angelakelsey

    Sometimes I think you’ve visited the inside of my head, even if you don’t live there. I am simultaneously schedule- and grief-driven these days, it seems, and it’s not comfortable. Thanks for laying out both sides. xo

    • whollyjeanne

      We do seem to live parallel lives, and I find great comfort in that. Not because misery loves company – because I’m actually not miserable – but because I can say things that you understand without explanation. Because you don’t find me crazy. And most especially, because you do not try to fix me. You’ve never once said “Wash your hair, you’ll feel better.”

  9. Barbara

    Thank you so very much for this post.  You have articulated words that have been running around trying to be made up into sentences that made sense.

    Blessings
    Barbara

    • whollyjeanne

      I thank you, Barbara, for being here as a witness and for standing beside me instead of scolding me and admonishing me to take a shower or go to walk or whatever else you can think of that might make me feel better. Witnessing. that’s key here.

  10. Mrsmediocrity

    Ha, yes, I have been thinking many of the same things lately…. when did happy become the only acceptable emotion? Life is filled with a rich tapestry of feelings, and if you go by what you see on the internets, most of them are only supposed to show when you look at the backside…out front, it should all be good and tidy and pretty.

    Me, I’ll take all the knots and mistakes and hidden stuff any day.

    Love you.

    • whollyjeanne

      Hear, hear, Sugar. You know I made my Senior Prom Dress, and much to the horror of my mother and her friends, I used the wrong side of the fabric for the outside of the dress. That’s one thing I still don’t regret.

  11. Meredith

    Thank you for refusing to hide it any longer. I may be all about practicing happiness, but there’s a good reason for my desire to practice it. Some times life just plain old sucks. Why there has to be something inherently “wrong” about sadness, I don’t know. It’s an emotion that everyone feels. And it needs to be expressed, just like any other emotion. You’ve done that very poignantly here.

    • whollyjeanne

      I think that’s my real rub, Sugar, the notion that there’s something inherently wrong with feeling sadful. I have no problem with happiness, I just have a problem continuing to feel “less than” because I don’t always feel happy. Always a delight to see your name pop up. xoxo

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