Someone once asked me "What if Joseph had chosen this life?"
Powerful question, that one. It definitely quiets my heart to think of it. Stops it for a moment, actually. Because here's the thing. Most of the time when I think of Joseph, it is soft. I don't touch it too firmly because let's face it - the lives we live don't allow for a person to grieve day by day. It is a private moment, nook-and-cranny kind of thing most of the time. But every now and then, when I am not at my emotional strongest, when something in life is making me feel weak and like a failure, my thoughts of Joseph take a dark turn. And when I pose the question "But what if he chose this? What if he chose you, Sheri?" I have to pause in that darkness. It changes things. It brings some light.
Why is it that I remember such great detail about the things I did wrong in raising him? The raised voice, the spanking that should not have been, the refusal for one more story (or even just one story), the harsh words, the internal irritation, the moments of bafflement, confusion and misguidedness that comes with being a parent. And I bring myself to wonder "Was he even happy?"..."Did he know I loved him?"....."Did I break his heart?" These musing lead me to a dark place. Or rather, deeper into a dark place, because I am beginning now to notice how these thoughts always come when I am already down on myself. It is as if it is not enough to chastise myself for a lack of exercise or a few too many potato chips or for being tired at the end of my shift. I have to get to that nitty gritty raw spot and douse it with salt. I am not very nice to me. I kick me when I am down. Often.
Being out of school has moved life around a lot and made room for a lot of grieving that I had unknowingly packed away when I started that journey. I really stink at allowing myself to be sad. I judge myself harshly for it. I don't like how vulnerable it makes me and I don't like how debilitating it is. I fill in the blanks for what everyone else is thinking and it is never something understanding or kind or gentle. There was a quote on a TV show Joe and I were watching last night in which one of the characters said "Grief is nothing but extended self pity". And my stomach lurched, because I know people out there really think that and frankly it is what I default assume most people are thinking. I isolate myself, efficiently and thoroughly. It is hurtful to me, to those who love me most and to my grief process. Why am I so mean to myself? I wish I knew the answer. But more importantly (because I am not sure the why would matter as much as this) I wish I knew how to stop. Whose voice is it in my head being so ugly? It isn't mine. I don't feel or talk that way, internally or externally, about other people. Just me. Why do I not believe in kindness in others? Why do I fret so much about making sure everyone else is not put out by me?
In any case, I am pushing myself these days, too hard apparently. As we speak I am on a heart monitor at home to measure out arrhythmias I have been having over the past two to three weeks. The doctor says stress and fatigue most likely, but we have enough family history of heart problems (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy to be specific) that I get the full work up. They are bad enough to have kept me home from work today and to have kept me out of the gym despite a driving desire to get back on that horse and catch up with my friends. And I am irritated. Seriously seriously irritated. I have given up coffee. Soda. WINE. (WINE, people!!) I'm taking naps and taking it easy and trying to ignore my cluttered and messy house. My body is making me slow down and still my spirit doesn't want to. I don't know how to do this. To be dependent. To stop worrying what other people think of me. To take care of myself properly. To be kind to me. All I can think about is how I don't have time for this and how angry I am at my body for not acting right. When the truth is, I have pushed it to this limit. Working nights. Not sleeping enough. Not dealing with my stress effectively. But I can't seem to say that to myself with kindness and encouragement. Even that is something to beat on myself about. Who is this person? It is time I find the real me.