Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tears and Laughter

When the heart weeps for what it has lost,
The spirit laughs for what it has found. ~Sufi aphorism

I can almost feel every one of you rolling your eyes. Laugh? Hardly, you're probably muttering. Your spirit feels practically dead. Nothing funny or joyful about that.
I felt the same way.
I was 14 the day my father picked me up at school to take me to the hospital where my mother had just been admitted after attempting suicide – a cocktail of prescription anti-depressants washed down with vodka.
I was so scared.
I worshipped my mom. She seemed so strong to me. Larger than life. Very, very brave.
I felt like a disappointment to her. A non-athlete to her ribbons and trophies. A shy bookworm to her debating club victories. A loner to her social butterfly.
Though she loved me, I knew, she didn't "get" me.
Five years before she washed down pills with vodka, she'd learned that my father had been having an affair, though he wouldn't call it that. He would call it a "friendship". With a woman at work who was unhappy in her marriage. (All this sounds so sadly familiar, right?) And he wouldn't stop being this woman's "friend", though my mother begged him to.
And since she loved him and desperately wanted to keep her family intact, she drank away the betrayal and confusion.
Not just the pain of my father's "friendship" but the pain of her entire childhood. A dead father at five years old. A cold and critical mother. A beloved aunt lost to suicide.
She also drank away my childhood and almost drank away her own life.
And though I could feel my heart was weeping, I didn't hear my soul laughing.
I didn't hear my soul laughing until seven years later. When my mother had sobered up (thank-you AA!). When she'd paid for my own therapy to deal with years of anger and my lost childhood. When she and I had reconnected as friends, in a way that few of my friends have with their mothers.
If I had known then – that my mother and I would be best friends for two decades before I'd lose her for real. If I could have heard the laughter then, perhaps my heart wouldn't have wept.
But I didn't. And it did.
Know this: We all have pain in our lives. Some of us are given so much more than we think we can bear. Some of us can't imagine our spirits laughing ever again. But our spirits know things our hearts don't. Our spirits know how strong we are, how brave. They can see past "events" to larger truths. They can see past things that happen to who we are. Our spirits, if we let them, can guide us into a future where the past makes sense. Where the lessons are clear. Where the pain has given way to joy.
It's possible. And possible is all you need to know to make it so.


  1. Elle - You shared an insightful quote with me recently. Your recent post -- ever lovely & insightful -- prompted me to think of a quote I heard recently from a fellow who prompted a lot of laughter:

    "I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it." - Groucho Marx

  2. Thank you for this post, it couldn't have come at a better time for me. I really needed a pick me up and this provided me that little bit of hope that happiness is possible again. Thank you for sharing!

  3. BRAVA!!!! That was so beautiful and in the best way of randon gifts from the universe exactly what I needed to read at this moment.

  4. Elle,

    you never fail to inspire and impress upon me (and countless others) that you will not give up on life, love and happiness. Your struggles in childhood and subsequent rebuilding of your relationship with your mom and later battle with the infidelities would be enough to make anyone say "enough. I've had over my fair share of heartbreak, I'm out of here" but you didn't. You stayed-you fought demons from all sides and genuinely I believe now that staying and processing and healing is the longest, hardest road to take but hopefully in most cases, the most fulfilling

    I know there must be bad days, every girl on this site has had or is having those days-days when the tears won't stop and the freight train of emotion thunders down the tracks and slams into you reminding you of what your best friend has done and how his actions produced a tsunami of grief, loss and betrayal. It's especially during those days that your words provide immense comfort for all us girls who share this most awful bond. You can articulate so well what we are feeling, thinking and hoping for and I thank you for this invaluable support network you have created.

    I have said before that I too hope to be able to contribute in some meaningful way. Perhaps when I am further along the road to healing or even down the path of clarity and self awareness. I have been helped so much also by Erica and Kim and they too are inspirational. It's only 9 weeks since my D-Day (my newborn is 12 weeks) and although my husband and I are back in our room and are facing all this dreadfulness together, there are days I just want to scream for the merry go round of "normality" to stop. I don't want to move forward when I still want to spend hours talking about the tiniest of details of this awful affair and to ask questions that I have asked a thousand times. I recognise that in order, at some stage, to move on and contemplate forgiveness, I must not wrap myself in a duvet of despair whereby I am suffocated by images of him with HER. She had infiltrated 4 months of my life (without me knowing) and that is 4 months too long. I want to be able to say "she is nothing. Surplus to requirements. A mistake that will never be repeated" of course, it's easy to say these things during the stronger days. The days that are filled with insecurity, grief, rage and despair give way so easily to playing of mind movies.

    I am hoping the days that are filled with memories of beautiful smiles from my children and loving words of reassurance from my husband will soon begin to overtake the dark days. I aspire to fill my world with light and hope

    1. Lucy,
      It's evidence of how something so painful can be come simply part of the fabric of an otherwise happy life... At the time, dealing with my mother's alcoholism was horrible. Now, with the benefit of her 25 years of sobriety before she died, I'm able to see how that experience taught me compassion and resilience and, in some ways, almost prepared me for the day that my husband confessed his sex addiction. When that time came, I understood it on a level that someone else who hadn't had a front-row seat for addiction might not.
      That's not to say I didn't have my "enough!!!!" days. But that I knew deep down I would be able to move through it and come out with my own integrity intact.
      And I've no doubt you're doing the same thing.
      I was barely able to string together a sentence when I was 9 weeks out -- and here you're writing lovely comments. Your own strength is inspiring and a reminder to all of us that, while we can't control what life throws at us, we can control our response to it. And choosing, as best we can, to face it with courage and dignity serves us well in the long run.
      And, of course, serves your baby.
      Regarding "forgiveness": it's a bit of a sticky point for me. I don't honestly know if I've "forgiven" my husband. I do know that I have compassion for his own struggle. I know that I don't hold him accountable for my ups and downs. I certainly know that the affairs really had nothing to do with me. I was collateral damage in his own self-destruction. But forgive? I don't really give it much thought any more.
      The day will come when the mind movies/images will fade. (An elastic band around your wrist that you snap each time you start to think of the two of them is a good reminder to stop. I used to just picture a big STOP sign every time I started to let my imagination run.) For now, sleep, eat, snuggle with your delightful baby and trust in yourself to move forward.



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