Friday, June 15, 2012


It was while standing in my driveway one night last Spring that it became undeniably clear to me I was trapped inside my mind in the midst of circumstances bigger than me.  Shellshocked.  My closest girlfriend and I stepped outside for some air after dishing about life over some cocktails - a rare Girls' Night we had both earned.  I learned some things about her I didn't know, we traded old crazy relationship stories, and generally treated heavier subjects to equal doses of reverence and tasteless humor.  Even the most jaw-dropping lapses in our past judgment were credited for how they shaped us to date, and several implied "thank you Jesus!"es were sent up with both laughter and disbelief that those poor choices had not completely doomed us.  Thanks Be To The Universe for bullets dodged and whatnot.  It can always be worse.

After a lull, I knew what was coming next and even though my chest tightened into a familiar lead knot, I knew it was supposed to.  She said something to the effect of, "You have had a lot going on and you never really unload about it."  It shot me straight back to a memory of college, driving my VW Beetle in the Syracuse snow with friends.  Headed to a diner we frequented, my friend, Sal, randomly asked after the same kind of pause, "So what's the deal?  Your boyfriend of several years just dumped you out of the blue and you act like nothing happened.  You never say anything about it. I don't get it!"  I waved his thoughtful question off with a casual "what's there to say?"

The ex-boyfriend, the man to whom no other (even now) compares…….well, that is an otherworldly love that begets an otherworldly loss I will feel forever, softened only slightly by the fact he is still - thankfully - in my life.  It remains something I rarely speak of.  

But THIS.  This was my child we were talking about now, her struggle with severe depression, and the domino effect it touched off in our lives.  My lifelong habit of keeping a tight lid on certain subjects was not going to fly anymore.  I could not wave the question away. 

So, I started with what I could handle without my voice and mother-warrior armor melting, and described the biggest of the dragons I had been fighting in prior months:  Suicide Watch.  It was such a clear, cool night and I remember inhaling as deeply as possible, then watching my breath float dark, murky, impossible words up and out as I struggled to divulge a shortened but proper description of the Beast* that had invaded our lives.  To sum it up without diluting a terrifying experience that left me quietly imploding.   (*More on the Beast another day.)

That night, I realized my reluctance to discuss soul-wounding events is rooted in this:  if I can't speak and make you truly understand a difficult situation, I would rather not say a word.  Meaning, 'don't get it wrong, don't think too much or too little of it, and don't tell me how I should have handled it'......Huh.  While it may be a bit crass to underestimate someone who knows and loves you, some people just aren't good at listening intuitively and sometimes you're halfway into a really heavy conversation before recognizing it.  Then what? That scenario conjures - at least in me - a very unique flavor of cheek-burning shame I avoid at all costs.  Who knows why.  Something to work on.

That said, my friend listened and reaffirmed what I had forgotten in my weariness: that she is one of the most skilled listeners (and conversationalists) I have ever met and would handle the gritty content like a pro.  Naturally, we soon found our way back to cracking each other up.  That was a night I will remember for its revelations brought about by simply trusting and realizing that my strength is not defined by the ugly secrets I keep.  What's more, there is no extra mercy headed my way for maintaining silence while I take my lumps, nor less for speaking of them.  

We all experience (what I call) tiny deaths throughout our lives in the form of events that shock and abrade us at our core.  Things like:  having or witnessing a tainted childhood;  jobs we hate and have to stick with;  jobs we love and have to leave;  personalities we detest and are forced to tolerate;  people we love and lose somehow; people we love and purposely drive away;  relationships that don't work but are hard to leave; relationships that work magnificently but never get off the ground for foolish reasons; and those moments when we are forced to accept the difference between our imagined life course and actuality.  

So why write about it publicly? Why not journal?  Consider this:  Oh HELL yes, I will continue keeping many many things to myself, but there are also many that are okay to dissect openly.  Within these Little Deaths, there are new levels of consciousness, strength, and soul to be unlocked.  I can't see the sense in hoarding what we have individually learned if it saves someone else the trip, or at least prepares them for it in some small way.        

Whatever the situation, I am a firm believer that in order to survive this life you must give yourself a f*@king break and laugh about something mid-crisis; usually, the more inappropriate and irreverent, the more cathartic.  "Too soon!" might dutifully fall out of my mouth in response to a crude remark in a drastic situation, but only while I am quietly laughing my ass off…

…Which is partly where Laughing At Funerals came from.  The other part being, well…it has been known to happen. Listen, I have watched cousins unknowingly hit on cousins in funeral parlors, I have seen fluorescent orange sweatsuits worn to wakes, and I have witnessed with my own eyes the very loose interpretation of "casseroles" brought to the homes of the grieving, particularly in the South.   My Great Aunt Mary - a true and very proper lady -  taught me how to handle life's sad little circuses after my grandfather's funeral when she "accidentally" tripped & launched the contents of such a dish into the kitchen sink disposal.  "Oops!..."

I won't say it is always right to laugh, but it is almost always necessary. 

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