Harmonious Emotional Dissonance

Life has been really hard for the last two weeks. Just one thing after another. The events mostly centered on my daughter’s family, but I sorrow when they sorrow. And, I was/am feeling my own grief from my own position in relation to the events and their consequences.

Additionally, because I offered to be available to assist them, the events were radically changing my life too. I asked for (and obtained) a different schedule at work, starting tomorrow. This new schedule means I will lose my treasured swim-at-lunch time and, in fact, I will not have time to leave the building at all — which is terrifying for my overall wellbeing. I have a good job and work with good people. But I have an interior cubicle. No windows to the outside. It’s a fancy cubicle, but it is still a cubicle –no sound buffering at all. I (and most workers) do better with an actual break. And, not only was I losing my lunch swim time, I was losing all options of swim times at my current facility.

I stepped down early, effective immediately, from a current volunteer position. I was thinking that I really need to also take a leave of absence from another volunteer position. But first, I just took a week off so that I could make a well-thought-out decision.

I started to panic. I felt like I was going to disappear as an individual. No swim. No volunteer work. No lunch away from the office. More time dedicated to being mom, mother-in-law, and grandma. As much as I love those roles, actually those aspects of one single persona, I was terrified of losing absolutely every other part of my identity, interests, and even health. Of course, I did not tell them.

How could I not help? They are my life. I have the ability to help them.

But, as panic started in full force, I cast around for another swim location and another gym. I have been swimming at a place that is also a gym–the new places would be split. I was actually starting to feel fairly excited about the two new options. I did a test swim Friday morning and loved it. I had a call in to the new gym but had not been able to set up an appointment, yet . . .

and then yesterday happened

Yesterday, my daughter and son-in-law were in a significant wreck. The car is totaled. They are banged up and shook up.

Honestly, it was all too much for them (and close to too much for me) before the wreck yesterday.

It is too much.

I took the leave of absence from the other volunteer position. I sent the email last night.

It’s kind of weird, though. It really is too much. It just is. But also there are these factors for which I am grateful. And somehow, I can kind of balance them both without either one of the feelings diminishing the other. The pain and sorrow and frustration are not swept away or made okay or set on a shelf or “happen for a reason” or are seen from an “eternal perspective” or are lightened by the gratitude. They are all still very terrible. As they should be. It is an honest feeling of grief and frustration and of being overwhelmed.

On the other hand, the gratitude is pure and unsoiled by the events they pierce with their light. To mix metaphors, they are anchors or touch points of steadiness. In the photo, they are the rocks in the stream of sadness (except I do not normally think of streams or creeks as being sad, but, in this case, the water is a good fit for how we were already encompassed about by the sadness and difficulties that were filling every nook and cranny of our lives).

My gratitude:

  1. I was here. I was home, here in this area, 1.5 miles from the accident when my daughter called. If I had not changed jobs, I would have been 1 hour and 45 minutes away as she sobbed, unable to reach her quickly.
  2. My grandchildren were not in the car. Often, my grandchildren spend the night with me on Saturday night. I run an accumulating sleep deficit throughout the workweek and I really need it to be Saturday night and not Friday night. But, my daughter called me Friday night and asked. My first inclination was leaning towards trying to persuade her to the usual Saturday night. But, they had lost power due to a thunderstorm (so no A/C here in the Southern part of the United States during the summer) and had no anticipated time of power restoration and they had fun plans for Saturday evening. I suddenly switched gears and agreed. Because of that, their 1-year-old and 3-year-old were not in the car with them during the accident. In fact, my daughter and son-in-law had just picked up breakfast and were on their way to my house to share a meal before taking their kids back home with them. Even though they did not have to go to the hospital, they are bruised and sore. The children would have had soft tissue injuries too and they would have been terrified by everything, including the fact that all of the air bags deployed. There was also no warning they were about to crash.
  3. I had car seats. For months, I have either not driven at all while my grandchildren were with me or I have switched vehicles with my daughter. About three weeks ago, I suddenly decided it was time I bought a set of car seats just to give me more flexibility. I decided this one night after they had spent the night and it was a rare absolutely beautiful summer evening outside. I would have taken them to a playground but I had no car seats at the time. So, I made the investment (they are expensive!). Because I had car seats, I could go to my daughter when she called. Also, later in the day, I could leave car seats with them.
  4. I had Imitrex. I get debilitating migraines. I had run out of Imitrex and the annual prescription was long expired. I had moved, changed insurance, and changed healthcare providers with the change of job. I hate going to the doctor more than almost anything in the world and will delay until my back is against the wall. I had been out of my prescription for months because of this. I only finally made an appointment because I missed a day of work and would have missed another day if it had not been a holiday. I woke up with a migraine yesterday morning. But, I had the Imitrex on hand and that was critically important so that I could keep my grandchildren here longer and let their parents go home and rest a little after the accident.
  5. Imitrex exists, it currently usually works for me, and I have decent insurance. I do not take any of this for granted. [Political rant: Functionally true access to healthcare for everyone benefits all of society.]

Harmonious Emotional Dissonance. The grief and the gratitude are separate entities. They do not blend well with each other despite being part of the same composition. Dissonant. Mixing metaphors again, they are a mixture, not a solution. Their discrete simultaneous existence feels natural and appropriate. Harmonious.

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