With all the emphasis in the last decade on health, nutrition and exercise, there are lots of talks about your “core.” I’ve been thinking a lot about my core the last few days, but if you know me at all, you know it has nothing to do with exercise. I avoid that whenever possible. My core is about my beliefs and emotions. And lately, my core feels utterly shaken.
In Tim Allen’s Santa Clause trilogy, there is a cute elf named Judy who has taken over 900 years to perfect the world’s best hot chocolate recipe. She sweetly says, “Shaken, not stirred.” In this case, shaken is the secret dynamic that makes it all work. For me, shaken feels nothing like a helpful thing.
As I’ve been speaking, especially to college classes, I have talked a lot about how mental health professionals often develop their particular philosophies about life and relationships. It’s a dynamic thing that changes over the years with knowledge, experience and wisdom. God, the world, the universe keeps teaching you things so you keep altering and perfecting the way you approach your life and the things that happen to you. I’ve had some pretty strong alterations since Tim’s terminal illness and all that has happened since while putting our lives back together. And that is on top of the forty plus years of life that was lived before all that started.
The last few days, I find myself so challenged about things that I have felt so so so strongly about. Frankly, I’ve been scared about what it all means. Those close to me are listening and saying things like, “But that’s not you, Darcy. You are the one that taught me such and such. You always have said ______.” (Fill in the blank with whatever philosophy I spout off often.) And all I can say back is that I know. I know I’m contradicting myself. And no one is more unnerved by it than me.
I am well known for my “never-give-up” attitude. My tag line that I sign on every book is “Embrace it all.” All of it, the good and the bad. What’s the alternative? To stop hoping and trying? Unacceptable. A few months ago, I met a man who had just gone through his second divorce a year earlier. He had made a conscious, well thought out decision to not ever date seriously again. The only way to avoid being hurt, or hurting someone else, was to avoid the commitment altogether. It was air tight logic. I had to agree with him. But then I asked him, “What if it’s worth it? Look at the two beautiful children you have that you adore. Even if the end result is hard, what if it’s worth it anyway?” He was challenged and gave it some hard thinking time. He has still decided to just avoid relationships anyway, but I know he thought about it.
One of the toughest things I had to digest, was experiencing five months of a transformed marriage. Tim and I finally got it right and experienced the kind of love people hope for all their lives. But it was laced with the acute knowledge that it was happening because of a terminal illness. It was happening only to have it taken away in a brief time. But I embraced it. Better to have loved and lost, then to have never loved at all. I have always believed that. Truly believed it. So even knowing there was something cruel about it, I experienced the joy of it all.
I have been blogging lately about a change in the air. I have been working on changing some core identities in myself. I have been tasting the promise of spring, even while living through a Buffalo winter. The people that surround me have seen it. They tell me they haven’t seen me like this before. It wasn’t some manic dream-like thing. It was core. It was contentment and a sense of self that understood life in a different way.
Some circumstances changed unexpectedly and I find myself shaken. I understand sadness. I understand loneliness. I have always known loneliness is one of those really, really core things for me. I know myself. I have experienced hard changes many, many, many times in my life. I feel things extremely intensely. So I know the drill. Feels like I’m going to die. Feels like I will never smile again. But I know it will pass. I know I will recover. I know I will get up and try again.
This time has been different. I haven’t even begun to feel loneliness. It’s more like discovering there is another part of my core that I didn’t even know was there. And it’s been shaken before I even had time to get to know it. I know what I am going through now is not on par with watching your spouse die. Probably nothing will ever rival that. But I think having gone through that and then passing through three years of hard grief has exhausted me, aged me. Recently, I poked my head out of the hole and felt sunshine on my face. I felt healing and hope and something new inside of me. I was feeling whole again. And it wasn’t just healing from the last three years. It was bigger than that. Core stuff from my whole lifetime. Why did I experience that only to have it disappear again? With Tim I was able to see the cruel joke of it but still know it was worth it. This time, maybe because of everything else in the last three years, I find myself thinking it’s just too cruel. I would rather have not felt it if it was going to go away. For the first time I am saying things like, “I give up.” Perhaps this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. I mean I’m one damn, tough camel. I am strong. But hell, I’m not invincible.
One of the philosophies I spout off, is that you can’t have a goal that is dependent on someone else. You can desire, want, and wish for something that requires participation from another human being to make it happen. But a goal can only be something that you can achieve on your own. You have to possess the power to make it happen. It’s ok to want other things, but recognize that is some shaky ground.
If the healing and change I was experiencing was real, then I have to be able to find it regardless of any changed circumstances. The easy path back to the wholeness and contentment I felt involves other circumstances changing to make it happen. But I have no control over that. I can wish for it all I want, but that isn’t going to make it happen. So now what? Truly, I have no idea. My amazing support system has no idea. I think we are all kind of shaken. And all of us can hope for a change in circumstances, but again, that isn’t going to make it happen.
So here I am. Again. But with something foreign added in. Not sure what to do. Not sure how to act. Not sure what to say to clients because all my philosophies are challenged. Although I do know that I just need to be there with them on their journey. I don’t need to have any wise philosophies in place. Good thing. Because all I can do is be there on my own journey. I have no idea where the hell it’s taking me now. I don’t know much of anything anymore. But I had to get up this morning and keep going anyhow. I guess that’s all the knowledge I get for today. Maybe that’s enough.