I’m an overfunctioner. I just learned that word this morning on the way to work while I was listening to Brene’ Brown’s Rising Strong (a must-read for anyone who considers themselves part of the human race).
I recognized my own tendencies as Brene’ was describing the person who “does” instead of “feels” in the face of grief. Good lord – the very definition of debi in times of sorrow! I push aside the horrible overwhelming feelings and “take care of things.”
But not only that, by taking over so much, I allow others to fall into underfunctioning. According to Brene’, when someone becomes an underfunctioner they fully feel, they allow others to do for them – all the things that I fight so hard against for myself. Underfunctioning can be a two-edged sword. It can encourage drowning in sorrow, depression. But, and this is a big BUT…
Underfunctioning can also be a blessing, one that I need to somehow embrace. I allowed, probably encouraged, my now incredibly capable daughter to be an underfunctioner during times of grief. And it burned her with searing pain at times – feelings she often didn’t know how to handle. But through the years she has figured out how to make a balance. She feels (so much more than I do) grief deep in her soul, accepts it and then she takes baby steps, bigger steps and finally walks boldly away from it. My grief follows me, haunts me, tries to rise above the surface and I just keep pushing it down with to-do lists.
As I was typing this, I listened to Joe Biden speak of not knowing whether he will run for president. I admire the man – he is feeling his grief and not embracing an overfunctioner’s attitude. He stated honestly, with heart-wrenching pain in his voice, that he doesn’t know what he will do, whether he will run for president of the United States. With only a few words, Vice President Biden laid his soul bare to the world. “True bravery and bad-assery” as Brene’ would say.
When will I allow myself to fully feel like Mr. Biden and my daughter do? Will I ever allow it? And if I do, will I ever recover afterward? I think that is probably what I fear the most.
But! I have an extensive support network and I’m intelligent and could navigate to health. Maybe I’ll truly convince myself of that and get there someday.
And Happy Birthday to me.
I moved out of Texas — a one-and-only time — October 10th of 2002.
I was back home by October, 2003 racking up 10s of thousands of Delta miles in the interim. (Also, thousands of rental car miles between Salt Lake City and Ashton, Idaho – one of the prettiest stretches of highway that exists.)
I missed my kids, my friends, my home, Texas… but I had been hell-bent to run from bone-deep grief. So determined, that I married a potato farmer and made that move to the farthest eastern portion of the Snake River Plain butted up against the Grand Tetons.
Jeff and I had a chemistry that was palpable. If that hadn’t been the case, I would have been home long before those twelve short months.
That year was a lifesaving gift. I made forever-friends and gathered family that I still consider family. My only regret is that I disrupted the lives of two sweet girls, Allison and Kelsey – for that I will always be sorry.
Why do I delve into this?…
This morning, I headed out to clean my garage… and my hands, of their own volition — free from any thought processes, started unpacking boxes from the Idaho move back to Texas. These boxes had been stacked in my garage all this time; I’d managed to shove their existence to the very back of my brain for 8-1/2 years.
So why unpack them today?
My guess is because my life will be entering a new adventure in the next year or so. I’m now engaged to one of the best men who ever lived. He loves me – sometimes I’m awestruck by how much he loves me. He loves me so much that I am for the first time in my life free to be ALL of me. And since some of this “ALL of me” is rather raw, I’m amazed he tolerates me at times.
My first husband, Gary, died almost twelve years ago. Jeff died more than three years ago. I still grieve for Jeff, and I will never finish grieving for Gary and the more than 26 years of full-to-bursting life we had together.
I’ve made mistakes on my long path of healing, but each mistake has taught me more about life, more about me. I’ll keep on making mistakes and keep on learning. Life never stops giving in that manner unless we quit receiving — this I believe with all my heart.
Well, the garage is cleaner than it’s been in years. Trash and recycle bins are brimming for Monday’s pickup. Boxes are stacked ready to go to storage. My hands are blistered, and this beer tastes great.
There remains one banker’s box from Idaho to explore. Maybe in another 8-1/2 years…
Now death is uncool, old-fashioned. To my mind the defining characteristic of our era is spin, everything tailored to vanishing point by market research, brands and bands manufactured to precise specifications; we are so used to things transmuting into whatever we would like them to be that it comes as a profound outrage to encounter death, stubbornly unspinnable, only and immutably itself.”
– Tana French In The Woods
Death truly is the only thing in life that touches each of us – there’s no way to avoid it. It may appear abruptly with no announcement, or it may linger on the doorstep indefinitely before entering and destroying the peace in our house. However it may enter our lives, it’s a rude interruption. And especially in today’s world. We’ve lost a lot of our coping skills as Tana French so eloquently states. We’re often insulated from death; nursing homes, hospitals, no longer several generations in one home, less infant and childhood death. Despite all that, we will encounter death, and if we don’t deal with it in a mature manner, grief can be debilitating. Continue reading