Monday, July 8, 2013

Boomer, You're Choking Me!

When another person makes you suffer, 
it is because he suffers deeply within himself, 
and his suffering is spilling over. 
He does not need punishment; he needs help. 
That's the message he is sending.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

When my daughter was young and learning how to express her anger and frustration, especially with me, she was creative.  She brilliantly conveyed how mad she was, without ever saying a word.  She stealthily communicated loud and clear, "I'm so upset with you right now Mom, I can't even look at you."  Quiet in action, deafening loud in visual clarity, with a tiered escalation strategy illustrating her level of anger, all done through photographs - - of me.  On the dresser and bookcases in her bedroom were an abundance of framed photographs.  When she was mildly upset with me, photos that had my picture in them were turned around to face the wall.  Level 2 anger meant she placed the frames with my picture in them face down on the resting surface.  Level 3, well, you knew she was serious and really really mad - - to my recollection this only occurred once - - she removed frames and pictures entirely from her room and placed them in a nice neat pile on my bed.  So sweet.  So honest.  So human.  So kind.  So powerfully effective.   Today, I still giggle and smile when I think of it - - she always made her point. 

The challenges of living with active alcoholism are many.  As the spouse of an active alcoholic, over time, communication became one of our biggest challenges.  For me, I never knew what to say or how to say it, so it wouldn't spark a verbal attack in retaliation, be misinterpreted as a character judgement, or spin my husband's growing paranoia full throttle.  Conversations became superficial, lacking any depth, personal intimacy or sharing.  An emotional survival tactic (read Dear Diary).  Sadly as a result, a lot was left unsaid from us both; like honestly, sincerely expressing anger - - or better - - forgiveness. 

Throughout these nearly 8 months since Boomer died, for me, has been a time of grieving, emotional healing, personal growth, and spiritual expansion.  I've shared how Boomer's spirit and soul has stayed connected with me since his physical death, (read Three Words and Winds).  While in Chicago, I learned how much my grief work there wasn't just mine (read Perspective) - - I was, I am, grieving for two.  I'm grieving for myself and on behalf of Boomer.  Last week, it came to a head, and I desperately needed to channel my daughter's early strategies.  

Within one week, I had three people ask me about anger in relation to my bereavement.  "I'm not angy, I've addressed my anger.  I'm O.K." seemed my boilerplate response.  It was when my daughter told me that during the first nights after Boomer died, she and my friend who were staying with me found 8 empty bottles stashed in sofas, drawers and bags inside the house (read Bowing).  BAM!   Hello anger.   What I forgot about was the anger associated with present circumstances - - beginning with the fact that Boomer is dead.  I'm angry he died.  I'm angry why he died.  I'm angry my life with him is over.  I'm angry he never got sober.  I'm angry my daughter and my best friend had to discover what they did, and are now struggling with their own anger over understanding what my life was like and how sick Boomer was.   I'm suddenly on the offensive trying to keep up with all that is showing up.   

During this same time, I'm noticing a growing pain in my neck and shoulders, and scary pain in my chest.  I keep pulling with my right hand, seeking relief,  at the chains around my neck, one being Boomer's wedding ring (read Mood Ring) the other his St. Michael medallion (read Left Right).  The pain was chronic and intensifying.  I saw myself doing my version of Fred Sanford, regularly grabbing my heart with my left hand overcome by the pain.  The day after Anger arrived, I got what all the pain was about - - forgiveness.   Boomer's been trying to wake me up to address anger and forgiveness.   For both of us.  I didn't see it, hear it or catch on - - his only way to communicate with me was to increase my pain, my suffering - - because it was also his.  He was choking me so he could be heard. 

I never forgave Boomer.  For anything.  I didn't forgive myself.  Boomer didn't get to forgive me or himself either.  Without forgiveness our suffering goes on, and on and on.  The emotional even perhaps physical pain will go on without forgiveness.    Part of this bereavement level 201 I find my self in (read Turbulence), is around my ability to have acceptance of Boomer's death, progress in moving forward with my life, both stunted without forgiveness.   

I couldn't keep up journaling with all that was showing up, that I'm doing my work and Boomer's work simultaneously;  it was all consuming and my frustration grew because I couldn't keep up.  Now I'm angry about that.  One morning, I had a verbal outlash to Boomer, "Honey, I get it.  I understand.  I'm processing it all as fast I can, but I can't do it with you hanging around my neck this way.  I'm sorry, but for now, you've got to go!"  With that, I took off my wedding rings and the chains.  Then I looked at his pictures in the frames around the house, I was soooo tempted to go face down on his handsomeness (Dara suggested I temporarily stack all his pictures in a pile in his bathroom, I don't use it anyway.  That made me laugh)... instead I did a little rearrange, that worked fine. 

Six pages with three colums:  Anger, Forgive SMO, Forgive Boomer.  Bullet point-bullet point-bullet point.  Acknowledge the anger, then forgive it.  The was my catch and release to feeling better this grief cycle.   One day I had to carry my journal with me everywhere as stuff kept coming up.  I couldn't believe what was happening and how.  I knew I was on a fast track to making a major transition in my healing and that my current engagment effort was working because stuff would come up and by the time I got to the paper of my journal - - I had forgotten what it was.  I was now able to instantly wash it through.  I was feeling better.  My heart isn't hurting and the pain in my neck and shoulders stopped.     

I would be remiss if I didn't also acknowledge I occasionally get angry with Boomer that he's giving me all his work to do.    It's because I have the capacity to do it.   Boomer knows this.   I understand - - understand him, understand the disease, he knows that too.  This work I'm doing is for us - - it's a reconciliation of our relationship.  Reconciling how much we both suffered - - individually and together.  Releasing the anger, releasing the heartache, releasing the chaos.  Freedom through forgiveness, restoring our love and emotional connection we took such pride in.  Freedom for me to move on with loving memories, without being haunted by the disease of alcoholism.  Peace and freedom acquired through forgiveness.
For you Boomer.  For me.

Forgiveness is not always easy.
 At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, 
to forgive the one that inflicted it. 
And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.
~ Marianne Williamson

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