People always ask,
“How are you doing?”
It’s a tough one for me to answer.
People want to hear how you are doing, but the real answer is often too awkward to hear. They care. I get it. They want to know how to help. I get that too. People feel helpless when they can’t help someone through a difficult time. But the true answers would make both of us uncomfortable. Me admitting that things aren’t great and that moment, well… what do they say…
It puts me in a strange position. I want to answer people with what they want to hear. I want to take away their discomfort with the situation. “I’m great”. Or, my new favorite, because it shows forward progress, “I’m getting better”. I want to tell people, that I am immensely better. That my world has rightened itself. That the sun came out and I ran through a field of daisies and spun around in the sun. In fact, a big part of me wishes that those words were true, that they were my reality. But they are not.
The real answer would be, “Sh*tty” but does anyone really want to hear that answer?
Truthfully, every day is an extreme struggle to perform the most basic tasks. The bottom of the pain seems endless. It claws at me at all the wrong times and hides when I have the moments to succumb to it. It feels like I am steadily drowning in murky water and I can’t see the surface. How would everyone feel if I told them that terrible truth. I feel like I need to sneak away to have these tough feelings because of other people’s discomfort.
I am fearful to proceed with this, but I am reminded that when you feel fear, it is a sign that you are about to do something brave. I am about to be brave, but it is truly a façade because I know fewer people will read this week. Marathon Monday. Easter. April vacation. I am banking that people aren’t on facebook, aren’t trolling blog sites.
How can I describe it? I want to tell people how I am feeling. After all, isn’t that what this blog is supposed to help me do? To open up? So here we go. People ask and if they want to know, this is the best answer I can give. It is like this…
I am deep in an ocean. So very deep.
It’s a hot day at the beach where soda cans, once cold, hold condensation that drips down then wets the sand where they are embedded. The noonday sun beats down on my skin as I sit in the beach chair, eyes trained on child movements in five different locations across the beach. Watching for the strangers. Watching for extra pink skin and the need for the sunblock reapplication. Watching the swimmers. Making sure no one is being pulled under, stung by a jelly fish, hit with a boogie board. Unofficial lifeguard that I am at the beach, but really no matter where I am, I always guard. I watch them. I protect them. Mother bears watch their cubs.
The sun burns my skin. It is first warm, but then burning. knees are first hot. Hotter. Blazing hot. Then the sting. I can feel the burn. I should have put on that protective blanket of sunblock but it’s now too late. The burn is there. I have to dunk in the waves. I hate the idea of swimming in the ocean. The ocean, is full of the unknown. I much prefer the predictability of the pool. There is no choice though. I have to find some relief in the cold water. It is calling to me.
I feel the splash of water from the kids who play around me. It is freezing and almost unbearable. I shrink from it, taking a couple of steps back up the beach. It is hot on the beach though. Too hot and I know I have no choice but to head in the water. The water rushes over my feet and it is shocking but after it rolls over me a couple of times, it is painful but cooling. I have to explore it. I know that no matter how bad it is, I have to go into it. I tentatively take steps in. The waves become rougher and I can feel the undercurrent pulling on my legs as the water recedes back home. I resist the pull, but it is strong. Stuck in my dug in spot in the sand, yet being yanked towards the darkness. The water swirls around me and the waves fall on my legs, pushing me back as much as the tide is pulling me out. It is a fight to stay standing. I want to run back out. I want to get out of this situation. I want to sit on the beach even though the sun is blistering my shoulders, my knees are flaming red from the heat. The peace that I feel in my chair isn’t real. My body rages a war against the sun. It is a quiet pain though. Sure I will feel the sting later but for now, I can handle it. One that I can endure. The water is pulling me today. I have to be in it. I have to release it all even though it is threatening to consume me, body, mind and soul. I have to give up my guarding and pray for someone else to watch my kids while I go out. The memories full of laughter are back on the beach. The fun times of sand castles and play. The memories shared and cherished. The ones in front of me are dark and swirling like the water. Tempting me to forget all the others. The tears, the broken promises. The dreams that were destroyed with only a couple of words and a lifetime of lies. Why are they so enticing? Why do I want to dwell in them? I want to drown in them. The sweet memories pull and call to me but the darkness is too much. Engulfing. I walk forward. I step deeper. I am drawn into the silky darkness. I can feel the stones under my feet and know that the crabs will nip at my toes. I will feel pain from it all. It will hurt. I will yelp and pull my feet up, but there will always be more underneath that I can never see. More pain. It will come. It is inevitable.
The water is making goose bumps on my flesh and they rise all over my body. Splashing the water on my legs and wiping down my arms eases the cold sting. I slide deeper into the depths. It becomes darker. It pulls more on my legs. Up to my waist, up to my chest. I slip deeper into the water and the pull on my legs increases. The seeping cold on my skin starts to numb all feeling. I can no longer feel the cold. I can no longer feel the stinging heat. The relief is now everywhere. I am baffled by how the dark and the fear have slipped away and all my concern is faced towards the numbing. I no longer fear the crab pinches. I no longer fear the stones tearing at the skin on my feet. I want to dunk my head in it. I want to numb it all over. I want to not feel. I want to not hear the past and all that was special. I want to be engulfed by the dark, the pain, and not feel for a while. I hope that each time that I swim into it, I can come back up and tread water. That is the only way to survive it. I hope that I will always remember to walk back out.
That is my pain, my daily pain. It is a decision each and every day to dip my toes in the well of heart wrenching pain. It overcomes me every time I walk in it. I can choose to ignore it and sit on that beach, but the stings and burns of turning my back on it will be worse later. If I walk deep enough into it, I numb out. It is that consuming.
It is a daily struggle that is, for a lack of a better word, sh*tty.
So when you ask how I’m doing out of concern or pleasantry, know that I am going to smile and say “doing better”, but in reality, I’m just a girl at the beach trying to pick between two discomforts, both destined to hurt.