May 27, 2014

How One Little Novel Ties Into Just About Everything in my Life

Last Sunday I had one of those headaches that wouldn't go away no matter what I did. After doing a few chores in the morning I decided to take it easy the rest of the day.

It was the perfect opportunity to download and listen to The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. My friend Jess read it last year and had been looking forward to the movie ever since. When she told me about it, I immediately said I have to be her movie date and I would try to get it read beforehand. I prefer to read a book before seeing its movie if I can.

Jess told me the gist of the novel, that it's kind of a rough read (meaning difficult subject matter) but a really wonderful story. I was wholly unprepared, however, for the myriad feelings it would invoke within me, and how profound I would find it.

The characters are teenagers with cancer. I thought, yeah, I've been touched by cancer, but not as a teenager. I'm no longer a teenager, so, while this story might make me feel sad, it probably won't make me feel much else....

I know I'm not the only one who watches movies and TV or reads books and looks at how what she just consumed might have to do with her own life. What can be learned from this? It's not even deliberate. One simply draws the correlations in real time.

I don't want to reveal spoilers for those who haven't read The Fault in Our Stars, so I will be careful about what I say next.

To me, the way Hazel has her oxygen as a constant companion is akin to my bad eyes. Her boyfriend Gus could be Mark. I relate to the two of them as if they could be us. Another character in the book is blind. I can also relate to the parents of these kids simply because I am a parent who knows the deep and abiding love you have only for your children.

The biggest thing that GETS me is the perfection in how what living with an illness or disability -- and loving someone who is chronically ill -- is expressed. From all points of view. Whether you're Hazel, Gus, their parents or a friend. I could understand and empathize with it ALL.

It was overwhelming.

I nodded my head. I hid my head in my hands and sobbed. I gasped for air, much like Hazel in the book.

And when I started to cry (perhaps not where others cry), I made a conscious decision to let myself. As much as I wanted to suck it up and just keep reading, I knew I needed to use the excuse to have a good cry.

Because this is something I've been realizing lately: that I rarely ever give in to my emotions.

I like to think, as I sit here and write difficult posts, as I wear my heart on my sleeve and expose my truths for the world to see, that I'm sharing my most authentic self. I think that I am being real and honest about my life circumstances, not sugar-coating it, but showing everyone how to persevere with grace and gratitude, blah, blah, blah....

Well I call bullshit on myself.

It's not that I have lied. Unless you think of what one leaves out as "lying by omission". Of course there are things that are just too personal and there are still other things that are all mine, for only me to know and carry along my path.

But I do hold back....because it's really fucking heavy and when I write the tough stuff I sit here on this side of the screen and I can feel the hesitation emanating from you. I can tell that when you read posts about Mark's health, what we struggle with and how it makes me and/or we feel, you cringe a little.

And so I start to express something....and then I think, OK, that's far enough, that's all anyone can probably handle. I'm not blaming you, my lovely readers. No, I do it in real life too. I protect everyone. Including myself.

It was a recurring theme in therapy (I have stopped going for financial reasons).

I noticed that there was this one (maybe more than one but for the sake of the length of this post, one) sticking point with my therapist.

He kept reminding me -- over and over -- that it's OK for one to feel however they feel, that feelings don't have to make sense, to lean into the pain, even if it means being a puddle on the floor for a little while, and move through it.

I get the impression that after a year of counseling me, he still thought I was not fully embracing my struggles, admitting to what I truly feel, leaning into, admitting and moving through those feelings. That I'm still, at least on some level, pushing back against them, trying to not fully let them take over.

Or something like that.

Shell recently shared on her Facebook page that she sometimes, inexplicably, feels sad and just needs to curl up and cry. I was somewhat astounded by this. I asked her if she does -- actually curl up and cry, that is -- because I never do. She said she does. Huh.

And then this book about a love story between cancer-riddled teenagers, with it's oh-so-much-more-real-and-honest-and-true, raw and intense narrative than I have ever expressed here, hits me upside my heart and gut and leaves me....

A humble puddle.

Humble because I see now that it is all -- ALL OF IT, every damn thing -- a process. A journey. That even when I think I understand something (like right freaking now with this very long-winded post), there will always still be MORE to be understood. I will NEVER have all the answers.

So to you, whether you are an IRL friend or a blog friend, I want to tell you it's OK.

It's OK if you don't know what to say to me when I talk about the hard things. It's OK if you don't want to comment here, or if all you can do is type "hugs" or a :-). It's also OK if you don't get it. Not understanding doesn't equate not caring.

And to myself I say this: LET THE FUCK GO. Let yourself feel what you feel, cry if you need to and laugh at yourself when it's over. Be really real. If it scares anyone, that's OK too.

Okay? Okay.

Linked up with Pour Your Heart Out.

images found on tumblr here and here.

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