June 30, 2005

Middle of the Night

All last week, when I was on the west coast, my body remained on east coast time. I would wake up at 4 am, ready for the day. I got hungry at all the wrong times. Then the last day, just before it was time to come home, my body switched over. So this week, my body has been on west coast time, which means lying awake at night, not able to sleep. It's an unusual situation for me. I can usually sleep anywhere, anytime. Caffeine and jet lag can cause exceptions to the norm.

My favorite thing to do when I am lying awake at night on a dark humid night, when the air in the house is well over 90 degrees and the electric fan in the window is making that horrible whirring noise, is to think about every mistake I've ever made and dwell on every fault I have. Okay, I'm lying. It's not my favorite thing. But it happens from time to time - all the brother issues come to the surface and the feeling of rejection is just overwhelming, and all I can do is cry.

I think these crying jags are normal, part of some kind of grieving process, and I don't try to stop them. But after two nights, I decided that I'd really had enough. There's a limit to how much time even someone like me, a born drama queen, can possibly spend moping around and feeling sorry for herself.

Last night, I decided to make a top ten list of the nicest things people had ever said to me. The rule was that they could not be straightforward compliments. They had to be nice things people said when they did not even realize they were being nice to me. I snuggled up to my down pillow and spent hours in the dark, thinking about all the wonderful people in my life who have been supportive at all kinds of times. I came up with way more than ten, and when I finally fell asleep, I had that cool flying dream that lets me know that things are okay.

Here are a few of the things from my list:

Years ago, I went to a conference in Atlanta with PoetFriend. We travelled together and spent most of the conference together. I was on some kind of hormone/adrenaline rush and spend hours talking to him, giving him stories from my life and coming up with all kinds of plans for when I was dictator of the universe. I made him stay up late every night listening to my ideas. At the end of the trip, I figured he was probably sick of listening to me. I was even sick of listening to me. But when we got to the airport, and they had to switch us to a different plane because of a mechanical failure, and they gave us seats that weren't together, he looked at his seat assignment and said, in complete sincerity, "We aren't sitting together?" He was actually disappointed that he wouldn't have to hear more of my plans for ruling the world.

A couple years ago, I had a difficult summer, dealing with all the emotions surrounding my relationship with my brother. Artist Friend spent hours reading my long rambling emails or talking to me on the phone. That was the summer I listened to Joni Mitchell's Blue over and over again. I'd call Artist Friend and he would listen to me patiently, and then he'd tell me stuff like, "Okay, go buy some blueberries and make a pie." Or he told me to build a kite and go fly kites at the beach. The funny thing is that his advice, crazy as it seemed, worked most of the time. When I saw him last fall, I felt bad that he'd had to put up with all my whining. "I know it's not fair," I said, "I am asking you to heal pain that you didn't cause. That is completely unfair." He looked at me and smiled. "But that is how healing works."

A while ago, I was working through some kind of issue in my life, and I start picking a fight with a friend, being kind of a jerk. When eventually, I apologized, he sent me an email that said, basically: "Yeah, you were being a jerk, but I love you anyhow." And that is really one of the nicest things anyone can say. I expect people to like me when I am being nice to them. It takes a real friend to like me when I am acting my worst.

Yesterday morning, I finally got around to dumping out the bag of stuff my youngest child brought home when he cleaned out his desk at school. One of the items was a crumpled chain, with each link representing a different member of his family. Each link had one phrase written on it, such things as helps me with piano or fun to be with. Blonde Sister, who babysat With-a-Why when he was young got the phrase loving. On my link he wrote: could not live without her.

18 comments:

liz said...

What a beautiful post. I'm sorry you were having a mopey time and so glad you could come up with a way to turn it around for yourself!

BrightStar said...

This is awesome. I love how you are so good with recalling details and writing them up beautifully. These made me cry.

"But that is how healing works." I love that. It helps me feel so much better. I feel like I often talk and talk about myself and then feel selfish about it later, and friends show me how they liked listening after all (or, at least, they didn't mind), and I had no reason to feel selfish in the first place.

And the line, about being a jerk, but loving you, anyhow... I think it helps me think about how to respond to a long overdue reply-letter to a friend whose feelings I hurt. She wrote a letter to me, telling her how I hurt her, but also telling me she loved me. I have not known how to respond. I have been thinking about how to respond for over a month. I think I'll start by saying, "I'm sorry I was such a jerk, and I'm thankful you love me, anyhow."

Yankee T said...

Classic jo(e). Great post. I missed you.

Musey_Me said...

Wow - With A Why is amazing!

Rana said...

I'm glad to hear you're finding your way back to your happier self. :)

The offhand compliment is one of the best. Especially when it hinges on one of the more awkward parts of oneself. I'm glad you shared some of yours with us.

PPB said...

Okay, first of all I just noticed that you have over 27,000 visitors n less than a year....now that's a nice thing.

Second, your son? could not live? can't even finish the sentence because it's choking me up.

St. Casserole said...

I'm going to try to think of nice comments from nice people the next time I have insomnia and want to cry. I love this post. Wonderful!

Dr. Sniffly said...

What a post - I think my eyes are feeling damp.
I can't say I've ever gotten blueberry/pie-related advice for healing rejection pain, but it sounds like it might work.

So did you find that talking it out, focusing on the family estrangement, did seem to help? Or could you just not help focusing on it at the time, even though it was making you miserable? I'm in a don't-think-about-it phase, even though I'm not usually good at that. But I don't know if it's good or not to be in such a phase.

jo(e) said...

Dr. Sniffly: I think it goes in cycles. Sometimes I need to talk through things with close friends, sometimes I need to just let myself cry and cry and cry, sometimes I need to just focus on something else. After I've been through a miserable stage, doing something physical -- hiking or flying a hke or making a pie -- does seem to help. Evry time the cycle comes around, usually triggered by some kind of rejection in my present life, it does get a little easier. So that makes me think the whole thing will eventually be healed.

And most of the time, I'd say that I really don't think about it. It would be hard to function if I thought about it all the time. The not-thinking-about-it phases are necessary for survival.

bitchphd said...

I too do that insomnia thing where I stay up and think about every embarrassing or evil thing I've ever done or said and want to die. Though I tend to go more for shame than for sadness, for whatever reason. Next time I'll try your method, because I agree: the nice things people say without meaning to be nice are the best.

Marcia said...

jo(e), thanks so much for posting this. I am so going to try this the next time I'm feeling blue. By sharing your stories here on your blog, you not only give us ideas on how to cope with the aches in our own lives, but you also share such wonderful stories of love that this world desperately needs. Thank you!

Phantom Scribbler said...

With-a-Why's descriptor for you makes me cry!

Mona Buonanotte said...

I love you for sharing all this, jo(e). Really beautiful and poetic.

RussianViolets said...

What a great idea and a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

That was a lovely post - thank you! And I'm glad you're feeling less blue.

- marisa

the reverend mommy said...

Beautiful.

Dr.K said...

I wish I had a great blogger name like "Dr. Sniffly" 'cause this is a sniffly kind of posting. Looks like you know some good people.

tom said...

Thank you, very interesting!