Posted on February 20, 2009
I’VE BEEN DOWN TO DIXIE
“I went to a cobbler to fix a hole in my shoe
He took one look at my face
And said ‘I can fix that hole in you.‘
‘I beg your pardon, I’m not looking for a cure.
I’ve seen enough of my friends in the
Depths of the God-sick blues.‘
You know I’m a liar.
You know I’m a liar.
Nobody helps a liar.”
I’ve long prided myself on my incredibly high pain tolerance. I laughed through my tragus piercings and hardly flinch when I smack my funny bone. When snowboarding, any pain I experience doesn’t even register, let alone affect me. Last Saturday afternoon as I ripped down the Coaster run, I let my toe edge dip into the snow before I was ready and completed two cartwheels with a heavy board and boots strapped to my feet. Surprisingly, the transition from my second cartwheel back to carving was seamless. Downtime was non-existent. That’s not to say, however, that I didn’t feel it the next day.
My resilience in the face of physical pain begged a single question of me the other day: “If I am so quick to bounce back, pick myself up and dust off when my body’s battered, why is it seemingly impossible to do the same when the heart is what’s ripped?”
Perhaps it’s because physical injury is tangible, often visible, and tracking the progress of healing is a much more practical process. We cut open our hand, the blood coagulates, inflammation begins, the surface of the wound epithelializes, soon after scar tissue develops and, if all goes according to plan, in time there isn’t even a remnant of the injury.
The same steps cannot be said of damage to our inner selves. The pain is not the same, subsequent emotions ping back and forth and up and down like a pinball machine and there is no cookie cutter-method to finding a cure. And even so, sometimes what looks healed over can break apart and open up, bleeding once more, starting the healing process all over again from square one.
Yesterday afternoon, as the sun was setting and casting warm golden light through the blinds, I sat in my therapist’s office for the second time in as many weeks. While I had much to say during my last appointment, I was much quieter this time around. She asked how I felt. I responded as saying “oblivious… and discombobulated.” Waking up each day and not knowing how you’ll feel moment-to-moment is disheartening and frustrating.
One thing I have been feeling a great deal of in the past few days is anger. As a child, it was never seemingly okay with my dad that I express anger. So many of the emotions we feel are labelled as “bad emotions,” but the truth is that they’re all okay – how they’re expressed is what’s most important.
Anger isn’t an emotion I’ve ever learned to express, but what I’ve noticed is the ways in which it’s seeping out of me lately. Snarky retorts to strangers who cut me off on the sidewalk and a death stare at a man who accidentally knocked my BlackBerry out of my hands on the bus yesterday are just two examples. While it’s clear that I’m trying to reveal what is – and isn’t – acceptable to me, I need to learn to express these sentiments in a way that won’t find me in a scrap fight.
My therapist suggested perhaps I look into taking up boxing.
It’s beyond cliché to say, but it’s tough to navigate life experiences like this without a manual. It’s a strange place to be, not unlike wandering a foreign city without a map and no knowledge of the language. I’m walking a fine line between encouragement through amazing personal growth and a dark place completely consumed with devastating sadness.
When black and white mix, there is only grey. Everything looks the same.
“To be lonely is a habit,
Like smoking or taking drugs.
And I’ve quit them both,
But man, was it rough.
And now I am tired.”
All lyrics from “Acid Tongue” written by Jenny Lewis; © Warner Bros. Records