After all, I am a grief expert- and ever self-aware to boot.
Toward the end of last week, I learned of a situation back home, one that breaks my heart. It is unresolved and not my story to tell. We still wait. When I started my drive to Indianapolis for the Influence Conference, I got another update. I tried not to think I was in Indy for a reason, making it only a 3-ish drive home from there.
I prayed. I sang along to Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers. I tried not to think the worst.
It was well past 10 when I arrived at the hotel. I met up with my roomies Anne and Alia and they convinced me to go to a mom meet up, even though I'm not a mom. A distraction, a chance to meet people.
Just as we got on the elevator, another phone call came through with another update. Not the news we were hoping for. My friends headed over to the meet up while I paced the hallway, listening and advising. Most of all, trying to stay strong.
Because that is what I do.
It was late and my thoughts were less than coherent. My dear friend Amanda was there so I brought her and Anne up to date. They asked me what I wanted to do. Did I want to go home?
I wanted to be home but I knew I couldn't do anything there. I decided to wait it out, knowing I could go if things changed. It was a decision but this restless energy consumed me. I couldn't cry. I didn't know if I needed to cry, in spite of my overwhelming sadness. I was fully divorced from my own feelings, knowing only "I can't go there right now."
Amanda looked me in the eye as I blathered on and said, "you don't have to be strong for them."
"I know," I said, out of habit, my eyes unfocused.
She took me by the shoulders and forced me to look at her. "But do you know that? Do you? Because you're not looking us in the eye."
I laughed because it was true and she called me out and don't we need friends that will do that for us?
Saturday afternoon I called my best friend with an update and the moment I heard her voice, the tears began. She is my touchstone, my safe place. I don't know why my guard comes down only for her and a select few. This is the aftermath of years of professionally being strong for others.
I willingly enter others' pain but struggle with letting them into mine. I can give you an update but it is hard to give voice to my feelings. I want to protect you from the messiness of my pain. And even though I've been working on true vulnerability for a few years now, even though I'm aware of what I'm doing, I don't know how to change.
I realized I've talked about being in denial a lot this past year. We're mere days away from the first anniversary of Grandma's death and there's a part of me picturing her working on needlepoint at home. And yes, living out of state lends itself to a different sort of grief. But I wonder why I've chosen to only periodically dose myself with this pain.
Why have I chosen denial as my coping skill of choice?
Oh, I'm not completely in denial. I process the hard feelings on a different sort of timetable.
I'm tired of loss. My family has gone through enough in recent years and each new instance makes me want to throw my hands up in the air in disbelief and frustration.
I don't have any answers. I continue to pray for God's mercy. I hope there won't be another unexpected trip home.
I will try to believe I don't have to be strong for everyone else. Or even myself.