Building Characters

I just finished reading a new post by The Tawny titled Beautifully Designed. Tawny helped me start seeing a solution to a problem I have been wrestling with over the past few days and got my creative juices running. When these two things happen, the only thing left for me to do is write a new post on my blog.

First my problem. My daughter got laid off from a job she really loved and this has left her in a lot of pain because no one gets let go without it touching some nerves but it also brought up a lot of pain from a nasty situation that happened a few years ago. As a mother of adult children I know there is nothing I can do to make her pain any less, and this makes me feel really helpless because I want to kiss it and make it all better – like I could when she was little. It happened Monday and all week I have been feeling DARK. To be clear, my daughter losing her job isn’t my problem to solve, but the fact that I feel DARK and all my writing feels DARK is mine.

I have tried working on a couple of posts but have walked away from them because they feel DARK. I have reread some of my previous posts and they sound DARK. Why would anyone want to read my posts on the emotional and psychological impact of having a chronic illness when they are DARK and DEPRESSING?

So then I tried to figure out how to lighten up the posts I have been working on – maybe even make them funny. But having a chronic illness can make life pretty DARK and at this point in the progression of my acceptance I don’t want to sugar coat it. I have seen somewhat scathing reviews of books on coping that say “Just find the bright side.” or “Make lemonade out of lemons.” or “You will just need to deal with this.” There have been times when I have put those types of inspirational saying on my refrigerator but there have been other times when they make me angry. Sometimes they seem to overlook that we are on the dark side of a very huge mountain or the lemon we are holding is too big for us to manage right now, and we would deal with it if we knew how. Right now my daughter doesn’t want to hear any of the glib pieces of advise I could give her – that would make me feel like I was helping her but doesn’t. I’ve had to bite my tongue and it’s getting pretty sore.

Here is my dilemma: I don’t want to insult people by making light of something that is emotionally painful, frightening, and frustrating. But I also am a person who usually thinks life is really funny. In fact I have gotten nasty looks when I’ve made jokes about things other people didn’t find funny at the time. I also can be somewhat irreverent about topics most people are embarrassed to talk about  – and my friends usually enjoy this and egg me on, encourage me in my naughtiness. I don’t, however, joke about things like the holocaust or the devastation of having a chronic illness. I think DARK humor can veil a mean spirit.

Back to The Tawny’s post. She writes “In past blogs, I have written often about letting go of our old perspectives of the past and re-writing our life stories.”

Half of my own life work has been about helping people figure out the old beliefs about themselves and their world that are getting in their way of living life fully. My current goal is to help people re-write or modify their life story to include the changes that have to be made because of a chronic illness but to not let the chronic illness define their life story. Thank you for reminding me that this is what I did with my life and what I want to help other people do.

She goes on to say, “Our lives unfold like a good novel—but our lives can only be as good as we are aware of our character development and story line.  If we don’t know or believe there is a design, will we see one?”

I was drawn into the idea that our life story involves “character development”. Many people have agreed that I am a “character” and I have enjoyed letting my character develop as I have been aging. One of the blessings of getting older is that you no longer worry as much about what other people think. We still have a social conscience but we don’t have as many “shoulds” and “oughts” or “shouldn’ts” and “oughtn’ts”. 🙂 Thank you for helping me remember that I am a character in development and my life goal now is to help other people develop into characters that have integrity and foster healthy relationships.

I can live with the ambiguity of living with the darkness of chronic pain while at the same time laughing at all that is funny in life. Maybe I’ll start a series of posts on what researchers tell us about the characteristics of people who are resilient, fully-functioning, and have secure relationships in adulthood. They are characteristics that help us live in the light while experiencing the dark.

Here is the link to the entire post of Beautifully Designed.

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4 Comments »

  1. I think I can relate to what you are saying. I too walk the line between wanting to see humor in things but also expressing the darkness of life. I think when you find you’ve written something dark, it could be of interest to people as long as it is genuine.

    But at the same time, if it makes you feel better to just write it, it’s okay if you don’t want to share it. Writing is therapeutic, and sometimes it is the easiest way to help wrangle with one’s emotions instead of merely keeping it bottled up in our head space, even if it is just for an audience of one.

    Don’t let up on the humor though. We need both aspects, the light and the dark, to balance each other out to understand this crazy adventure of life.

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    • Thanks for your encouragement and insight, Nicole. You are right about writing being therapeutic. I have kept journals for years and every time I feel the darkness and agitation I know it is time to write. It is been fun to go back and realize that I have resolved so much through my writing.
      I have no trouble being transparent about myself and your comment made me realize that what I need to wrestle with is how to write about the dark in a way that doesn’t allow others to be voyeuristic but instead invites them into a shared experience. I want to invite intimacy because I believe it is our meaningful and healthy connections to others that heals. Does this make sense with your experience? I hope you and Tawny will have the courage to give me feedback as I write – especially if my writing doesn’t feel safe.

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  2. Great post and I am happy our blogs have crossed paths again! Sometimes it takes a little nudge from somewhere outside of ourselves to shift the perspective of the darkness of the now. I talk about this a bit in The Spiral and Benefits of Sharing blogs of mine from a few months ago.

    The Dark of which you speak happens less in my world in recent years and when it does happen, it doesn’t stay long. I find gratitude to be the elixer for me. Being positive is great, but the self help movement surrounding positive affirmations oversimplifies what it really takes to shift a belief system and cognitive/neural pathway in the brain.

    Even in my darkest moments, there has always been some light flickering from somewhere. It honestly makes me angry when I am all settled into my darkness for that time, to notice the light. Having a chronic, progressive illness to me is no longer about suffering. I do not suffer from the illness I have because I can choose not to. The chronic pain I have is very real and creates some very logistical issues in coordinating my life, but I choose to not suffer from it either. Some argue that it is merely a semantics issue to differentiate between pain and suffering. I believe I can be in pain without suffering from the pain. But only if I work with the pain and let it guide me through my day and my choices of activies. I argue it is a perspective issue not a semantics issue.
    Hugs,
    Tawny

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    • Semantics is just how we used words and their meaning. What counts is how we make meaning of what happens to us and this involves how we perceive ourselves and our place in our world.
      It sounds like your path has been very similar – we have found ways to modify our lives so we can be in control and have integrity. That has been one of my favorite words lately.
      Thanks for finding me and being a part of my life.
      Pat

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