05 January 2019

Penumbra: "Dispute it like a man."

MALCOLM: Dispute it like a man.
MACDUFF: I shall do so;
But I must also feel it as a man:
I cannot but remember such things were,
That were most precious to me. 
Macbeth Act 4 Scene 3

I love how people to tell you to let things go, as if there were something wrong with you for being unhappy that you have been wronged. Or as if there were a switch installed somewhere (they never told you about) that triggered some ejection seat of grief and pain.

We must let things go. Of course we must. But to pretend they are gone, that they have been let go, before they have been fully felt, fully grieved, is a dangerous road to walk. Worse than deceiving others, it is deceiving ourselves. Wound? What wound?

When my mother died I was married and living in California. My wife neither said nor did anything to indicate that she was coming with me. She didn't start packing a bag, didn't say "let's go." When I got on the phone with the airline I looked at her with a questioning look, she turned away. I was actually in the car backing out of the driveway when she asked if I wanted her to come. Too late.

Before I had even returned from New York, she called me to tell me that her uncle was coming to town and wanted to know whether he could stay with us for a few days right after I got back. I couldn't believe she was even asking me to entertain people the moment I got back from my mother's funeral. I was stunned. In the moment I could either explode or say 'yeah, sure.' So that's what I said.

When I returned she never once asked me how I was doing, until after a month or so I was so hurt and angry because of this that I pointed out, not gently, how much this wounded me. After that she asked me how I was, dutifully and expressionlessly, every night. I was less than convinced that she cared what the answer was.

Though I didn't leave for another year, that was probably the end. Relationships you've invested a lot of yourself in are hard to leave even when they are painful.

I was no saint. She was no devil. Who would believe that anyway? Though she badly wronged me here, I had wronged her too at times, and made our situation worse. There were enough mistakes to go around, and more than enough pain. When I finally did leave, I think I wept the entire first 1,000 miles of my drive. It sure seems that way.

It took me years to feel my way through all of it, but tears were the way to start. Fortunately there was no one in the car with me to try to shame me for feeling this pain, to tell me to let it go or to dispute it like a man.