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Chipping away

October 9, 2007

There is this thing built up inside each of us that is a mountain of disappointment, despair, sadness and guilt. As we age we do little things to chip away at it like take drugs, have sex with people we don’t particularly like because we want closeness even if it is only physical or we do things like bungee jump or sky dive (Gina, don’t do it!). I think we do these things to try to feel our life more clearly. Most of the time I think it just pushes us further away once the experience is over.

I remember clearly the first time I did LSD and tripped. I was in high school, maybe a senior or junior, I forget and coming down, in the dawn, the light of the sky filtering in through my window I felt the most powerful clarity I have ever felt. I wondered to myself why am I alive? What is my purpose and a deep sense that I must go an actively seek out those answers.

Then I fell asleep and felt really hung over and fried and tired. But that sense of amazing wonder at being alive and what that could possibly mean was very powerful. All of the hurt, the sadness and scary things seemed smaller as I allowed myself to feel bigger than all of it. Bigger because I wondered not if I had a purpose but what it exactly was. It was the first time I felt the wall I had slowly built as a child of divorce, 4 divorces in 5 years, fall away so that I could feel more like myself. More free. More able to walk ahead and not look down at the peril below but to move ahead and onward.

At first that wall feels very protective and safe. You feel so safe you don’t even notice it is there until something happens that makes you feel that heavy coat of shame, sadness or guilt close in around you and then it feels like it will suffocate you and not protect you from harm.

All of those extreme experiences we create for ourselves as teenagers, the drama, the ridiculousness of self-importance of young adulthood only act as glue to hold the bad in. Most of those experiences don’t make us better people but make us wonder if anyone really cares for us.

I felt it chip away more the day I had sex with my husband for the first time and felt that powerful true love, love of me, all of me, even though I was and am messy and stupid and loud and obnoxious. Also on the day we married and the days we had our children. I felt some bitter part of me crumble away and turn to dust.

Those are just a few special experiences that are trying to bring down a lifetime of bullshit so my pile still seems pretty fucking big.

I have noticed though that being at the hospital, seeing people, experiencing a bit of their lives is chipping away at the pile again and I can see how it could be addicting to always feel this. You walk into your patients room and they have had something horrible happen or have undergone some kind of scary surgery and are frightened and in pain. You see their families crowd around them and cry and worry.

I can look into my patients eyes and see them, really see them and sometimes, as corny as it sounds, I can see myself and feel myself more. I feel more than just a person. I feel bigger than it all. I feel every emotion I have ever had sometimes. Like when I took care of that beautiful neonatologist who was 34 and lovely and just had a brain-stem stroke and died. Being with someone like that is powerful and I feel grateful to give up my burden and let a little of my mountain go.

I can feel my life and not just occupy my life. Scary, but good.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 9, 2007 2:38 am

    Beautifully put. I wonder how you felt after you wrote this. Sometimes when I feel like I lay myself bare it will take it out of me completely. Good for you for being able to lean into life.

  2. October 9, 2007 3:17 pm

    the place you describe at the end is the place some of us (count me in) first got a glimpse of in those acide-freaky is-this-really-mescaline? explorations back then. a place of crystal pure aching and beauty happening at once, even though space isn’t supposed to accommodate more than one thing/feeling/experience at the time (acid sure knocks the feet out from under that theory!)

  3. October 10, 2007 2:34 am

    Thanks for this post. So many times I try to write or say just exactly how I perceive something, and I can’t quite get it out. Although I can’t say whether you did just the exact job you wanted to do, or intended to do, with this post, I have the sense that you did a nearly perfect job of expressing it.

    Your post gave me a lot of thoughts about what people might be trying to do when they use substances and become addicts; there are many in the addiction theory circles who think that addicts are making attempts at wholeness, not death, as people outside the situation usually perceive. So what you wrote gives some support to that idea. What, if anything, do you think of that idea?

    The other thing besides your clarity that surprised me in this post was that you said all of us have, “mountain of disappointment, despair, sadness and guilt.” It surprised me because I’m part of the “all” of the universe of people you’re writing about, and I don’t have a mountain of these.

    I’ll have to think about whether I’ve ever felt that I do have a mountain of it. I suspect not; but I believe you and I see a question mark standing right in the front of my consciousness now… you’re making me think. I wonder why you have a mountain of this stuff, and think everyone else does, too… should we all have that? Do we somewhere? How big is it? And so on.

    You’re kind of scary, cole… and amazing. Thanks for letting me visit. ~Eve

  4. October 10, 2007 1:00 pm

    You have no idea how much I can relate. But I don’t feel at liberty to open up that particular Pandora’s box and reveal my fumbling attempts at clearing bits of what I call my mess. Yet. So cathartic to see some of it expressed by other. By you. How does one get over all that anger/acting out/wreckless behaviour/life threatening situations that some of us put ourselves through as teens and young adults? How to forgive ourselves? How to finally leave it behind? I have no idea.
    But you’re right, feeling your life and not just occupying your life is a good place to start.

  5. October 10, 2007 1:32 pm

    Wow. You will be an awsome nurse. A nurse who cares, a nurse who understands.

  6. October 10, 2007 7:38 pm

    Those transcendent moments with your patients are altered states of consciousness I sometimes go into with certain patients, where you are all levitating a little bit in the fullness of the moment. Hospitals are good places for that, especially being a nurse, who gets to be there for many moments a doctor misses. This was a very beautiful and moving post. I love who you are Cole.

  7. October 10, 2007 8:37 pm

    You’ve achieved an acid high from nursing? I’m thinking that’s pretty fantastic!

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