I went for a walk yesterday and remembered times past. I grew up in Duncanville, TX, a suburb south of Dallas. I loved growing up there. I used to cross the cul-de-sac and knock on my friend’s door and ask if she wanted to come out and play. We would spend the whole afternoon and early into the evening making up games around the neighborhood, exploring the creek and getting dirty.
10 Mile Creek runs through Duncanville. We moved when I was in 6th grade, and I had the pleasure of having that adventureland in my backyard. With friends I would wade in the water, get my feet all gooey with slimy moss, look at tadpoles and small fish, and throw sticks and watch them float by.
My family got into the rollerblading excitement and we each had a fancy pair. We would load up in the car and make the short drive to Joe Pool Lake’s Dam. Mama would make me put on my helmet and sissy looking wrist guards and we would rollerblade up and down and watch the sun set. Even at that young age I felt the lure of the water. The sound of the wind moving across the surface, the gentle lapping of the water on the shore. Who cares if it was an ugly, dirty lake, it was water and I was happy next to it.
I watched Hunter Trek take his last three breaths yesterday. I can’t remember the last time I’ve cried this hard. Afterwards, Andrew said, “What do you want to do? I’ll take you anywhere.” And like a sea bird drawn to the water I found myself driving down old familiar roads that lead to the lake. I used to get in the car, roll down the windows, turn on music and drive up and down the bridges that cross Joe Pool. I loved the rhythm of the car tires on the seams of the bridge, duhdum, duhdum, duhdum. It moved the car up and down and created a soothing swaying motion.
When I got Hunter, he would make that drive with me. He would rest his head on my shoulder as the car swayed. I felt less alone in my thoughts, comforted.
As we were walking along the dam for the first time in many years, I was overwhelmed with grief. The old Ellen would have bought a pack of cigarettes, chained smoked them till they’re gone. The old Ellen would have done everything in her power to avoid the poignant emotion. Emotionally eat, drink, chain smoke, watch movies, check out. But this time I was all in. Every fiber of my being was soaking in the pain.
And you know what? I was kinda proud of myself. How many times have I prolonged suffering because I numbed myself to the pain? I avoided addressing the issue at hand. I poured myself into unhealthy outlets. I didn’t confront reality.
How do you deal with suffering? How do you deal with severe pain and loss?
I’m learning a new “go to mode.” My old processes were childish and self destructive. I thought I was protecting myself, but I was only prolonging the pain. ‘Cause lemme tell ya, confronting suffering in all its glory downright sucks. I feel a little queasy, I cry at random moments and a weight is heavy on my shoulders.
But this will pass. And the faster I confront it, I believe the faster it will pass.
A theme that keeps coming up for me it how much courage it takes to just feel. To acknowledge your emotions and truly feel them. Whether it’s suffering, extreme joy, anxiety, anger, discouragement, etc. To really feel these emotions requires vulnerability and strength. And once you’ve acknowledged those emotions, then what do you do with them?
Mama used to always say, “It’s okay to feel angry, but it’s what you do with that emotion that really matters.” So it’s a two part process, acknowledging the emotion, then moving delicately forward with patience, grace and hopefully love.
Time moves forward beyond my control. There’s no stopping it. With each day that passes, this will hurt a little less. I pray I have the courage to continue to confront my emotions and then move past them. Not let them control me, not numb, check out, but acknowledge and move on.
Yesterday, Andrew and I walked and cried and talked and remembered and cried. The wind passed over the water, stirred it up, and moved on. So friends, here’s to soaking it all in, creating waves and letting go.