I know I have reasons to cry, really, but still I feel haunted. About a year and a half ago my mother and husband died two months apart. This was after several years of dealing with diminishing health for both of them, my mother’s deepening dementia and my husband’s deepening depression. Since their death I have dealt with a step daughter wanting to demonstrate that her grief was superior to mine, while continually asking for money. My generosity to a woman in-need backfired as she became demanding and emotionally invasive. And of course there was a myriad of paper-work and decisions and changes and challenges.
And then one year almost to the day of my husband’s death I was demoted at work without any explanation or criticism of my work. It is not unusual in many industries to step down from a higher position, but this change is different. I did not choose it. I was told not to be upset, and in fact helped craft a message that made it seem that this change was my choice. The reason’s I was given shifted and did not align with the stories or changes that followed. It became clear that I was the scapegoat.
This was more than a demotion, it was the end of a career. The next few weeks found me fielding questions about why “I had made this choice” and series of congratulatory notes from people thinking I had been promoted when they saw the title change. I had to explain the situation in a way that would not upset my supervisor should she hear about the conversation. The one time I was honest, she heard about it and called me into her office to chastise me. She wanted me to understand that she had actually saved me from a worse fate, and that I needed to be grateful.
I found myself staying in my office, avoiding people and places around campus. The last thing I wanted was for someone to ask me if the new job was awesome, which happened quite a bit. It was worse when people asked if I was happy with my choice and asked for details about the wonderful new work I was doing. It was beyond difficult to come to work and watch other people either dismantle or claim credit for my accomplishments.
So the year was full of loss and pain, but also full of blessings. After the death of my mother and husband friends and family and the Jewish community surrounded me and held me. My house was full of food and love for two weeks straight. My best friend stayed with me for three weeks, helping me clean out the house and rearrange my life. After that people continued to reach out and offer support. I took two bucket list road trips, and had a variety of adventures, including indoor sky diving, a wild zip-line, and sailing in California. I took care of my mental and physical health, and spent time with cousins who love me.
And yet, those tears haunt me, threatening to emerge without warning or provocation. Why would lifting weights or running on a treadmill make me want to weep? I understand why an animal being injured on TV would lead to tears, but why can a commercial or a song start the flood? And really, why are plane flights always a challenge?
I don’t have answers, just an acknowledgement that time does not heal all wounds, but it does take time to heal. I have learned that the time it takes to heal increases with the number of bruises and wounds we incur. And that betrayal intensifies any wound. I also know that hearts heal, that souls move on, and that there is always another sunrise. However the journey is not straight or predictable, nor is there a destination that marks our successful completion of the process. There are many guide books, but in the end we all take this journey in our own way, with our tears often leading the way.