Of Dreams, Shelves and Tears

soupI had a marvelous dream this morning as I was on the edge of wakefulness. This man was cooking with me, in my kitchen. We were getting to know each other. He was a bright light, delightful to be around, relaxed and fun. I was trying to find a pot big enough to contain the delicious meal we were cooking, and they were all already in use. Then I remembered other cabinets in another room that had pots. I told him and we headed there.

"Oh, good, because I'd love to see what you keep in your cabinets; it can tell you a lot about a person," the man in my dream said, smiling.

We went into the other room and I started opening those cabinets. They were covered with dust, hard to open, and contained stuff I didn't need. They weren't full, but definitely had things on the shelves that could have been discarded long ago. And there was no pot. I felt surprise and sadness that the shelves were clearly so unattended to. But dream man said he had an idea that might work and we headed back to the kitchen.

At that moment, UPS delivered a package and my barking dog woke me up.

I was sad to have my dream with that man interrupted. I liked him. I liked how he saw my messy shelves and didn't judge me, how he still wanted to cook with me and get to know me. I liked how he was undaunted by my lack of a big pot and was determined to figure out another solution.

I got up, fed the dogs, cleaned the kitchen and made some coffee. While I worked, I listened to the songs that Spotify thought I would like - delivered to my account every Monday morning. They all made me want to cry. I wasn't sure why. I was still thinking about my dream.

As I poured my coffee and felt tears that wanted to come, I realized the truth of it. The analogy between my dream shelves and my emotional framework was unmistakable. Those shelves held my unexpressed grief. I'd stuffed it all down and acted like I was done. Done with the grief and the sorrow.

Well, I'm not. So much came up this morning, so many tears.

Tears that the relationship I was emotionally invested in was a house of cards. Tears that my daughter's father died too early. Tears that I have not been pursued, cherished and loved the way I long to be. Tears that I have not shared my bed with a partner I love for too many years. And that's just the beginning. Tears that our 18 year old cat finally had to leave this life. Tears that a massage client unexpectedly died two days ago. And in a broader sense, tears about the election, tears that so many amazing and creative souls have left us this year.

There are many reasons for my sadness. The reasons aren't as important, though, as what I choose to do with my sadness.

I've been numbing myself. I gained 20 pounds in the last 4 months. It has felt too difficult to get to the gym, too difficult to eat well and drink moderately, and too difficult to stop watching junk food shows on Netflix. If I was dating, I would also have been distracting myself with the search, the dates, and the always hopeful world of possibilities. Without the dating, it was the trifecta of instant gratification; food, drink and Netflix.

Why did I choose to numb my grief instead of expressing it? I don't know. It didn't feel like a conscious choice. Though a regular maintenance cry is something I know would benefit me, I am unpracticed at it. I feel such resistance to allowing my tears to come out, and they clearly need to. My shelves need to be cleaned. I need to make room for whatever may come, not continue to hold space for painful things from my past.

So I had my cry. A long, loud, unrestrained one, as I had the house to myself. I had the kind of cry where the snot coming from my nose was as copious as the tears coming from my eyes. I wailed. It was glorious, in a messy, open, vulnerable, guts-exposed kind of way. The messiness and pain of being a human animal was humbling and real. That cry unmasked my raw emotions in a way I have been trained by society and modeled by my parents not to allow, and definitely not to allow another person to see. Ironically, the awareness of how that training affected me was one more contribution to my grief.

Would I rather have been held in someone's arms while I cried? Yes. Absolutely. But it takes so much trust to go there with another person. I would be exposing myself completely, allowing them a front row seat to the messiness inside of me. I both crave that openness and fear the exposure. But I do not have a relationship that offers that in my life right now. So today, I grieved alone. Someday I will have that person in my life. But with or without them, it remains crucial to my well-being to let my tears flow, to express my sadness until the edges aren't as sharp and my shelves are a bit cleaner.

How do I feel now? Clearer. I am thinking more clearly and am less distracted by the constant urge to indulge in numbing behavior. Softer. Those places of sadness inside me were hard, inflexible places. Overall I just feel...better.

I think I'm going to put a regular reminder on my calendar to have a good cry.

I think I'll head to the gym tonight.

And I think I'm going to cook something delicious in a big pot.


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