© 2019 Sue Patton Thoele
  • SuePattonThoele

Red Alert! Emotions Roiling…

Updated: Apr 10, 2019

Dear Friends,

I had my heart set on writing a MuseLetter entitled The Transient Bitch this time round, but life and death intervened giving me the opportunity to experience feeling like a bitch instead of simply writing about it.


Red Alert! Emotions Roiling…

I spent the months of May and June deeply involved in my dear friend, Jean's, final human journey. Jean was one of those rare individuals whom everyone liked. To me, she was a model, mentor, friend, chosen big sister, confidant, and laughing buddy. Being with her from the first shocking view of her cancer-riddled PET scan through the actual moment of death caused me to run the gamut of emotions. I vacillated between periods of open-heartedness--so meaningful that, for the first time, I absolutely resonated with Walt Whitman's statement I am larger, better than I thought. I did not know I held so much goodness--and times of soul searing rage toward a person who seemed hell-bent on obstructing many of Jean's final desires. I have not felt rage that intense for forty-five years.


Already strained by the unusual losses of the last ten months, my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual circuits apparently overloaded and blew themselves to smithereens. Any semblance of equilibrium evaporated, and I was left sitting amid the wreckage of my own well-being. My nerves seemed to reside outside my body, each feeling as if it had a severe sunburn or a case of bad road-rash. Everything grated on me, even my beloved little dog, Lily, and it took every smidgen of energy I had left to keep from acting as bitchy and irritable as I felt. Life was shrouded in dank, gray mist, and my attitude could be summarized in three words: I don't care.


Thanks to the compassionate, listening hearts and supportive words of others and big, fat dollops of (eventual) self-love , acceptance, and (gasp!) patience, I'm beginning to feel like myself again. When I told Gene a couple of days ago that the glimmers of light I'd glimpsed occasionally were becoming rays, his eyes filled with tears and he patted his heart. Which, of course, makes me tear up right now…


What I'm Learning

Because words are my playground, I came up with the acronym-- HUG --for what I'm learning from this weird experience. Not new stuff, by any means, but still useful, practical stuff that works for intermittent--mostly circumstance driven-- bouts of breakdown, loss of balance, and need for rebooting. (Please know that chronic depression and persistent I don't care feelings are very different things. HUG may help, but not cure, them.)


H -- Honor where you are.

Honoring means acknowledging and accepting the reality and, very possibly, the wisdom of what you are experiencing right now and allowing your feelings to unfold naturally.

* Honoring does not include slathering yourself with guilt and shame.

* Honoring does not mean denying.

* Honoring does not include acting-out in unloving ways to yourself or others.


U -- Utilize support that works.

Oddly, one of the most supportive things I did for myself during this strange

time was to watch countless reruns of Murder She Wrote. Somehow, Jessica's

escapades soothed me.

Sharing honestly with a few trusted friends helped tremendously. One, an expert

on grief, provided useful and pertinent information while others, who know and love me, reassured and supported me as only dear friends can.

* Utilizing excessive booze, drugs, and food usually doesn’t work. Actually,

excessive anything doesn't often work.

* Over-utilizing any one avenue of support can often burn it out. It's best to spread the support opportunities around.


G -- Gently, Gently, Gently

I know I beat the "gentle drum" incessantly but, the reality is, being gentle with ourselves works, beating ourselves up does not!

If I were you right now, I might be saying, "Wait a minute, weren't you a therapist? Didn't you work with Hospice for a long time? How come you didn't know what to do and do it right away?" Yes, yes, and I did know what I could do but simply didn't have the energy or desire to do it. All of the things I know to do, think, and practice on a good day simply didn't compute. I didn't care. It was as if my Higher Self had gone on sabbatical and taken my brain with it.


A Bright Note

Even in the darkest nights of the soul, splashes of light can usually be found. One of mine happened while I was sitting on our deck with my feet toasting in the sun musing about the way Jean's memorial service had gone in spite of the attempted interference by the object-of-my-rage. A little white butterfly flitted by and I said, "Hi Jean. It would be great if you could send me a sign that you were satisfied with the ways things went and are okay. Maybe a Monarch butterfly or a bird?" Within seconds, a huge white headed bird flew across the only patch of sky visible between the cottonwood branches. An eagle? One of our resident herons? No… Omigosh, it's one of the osprey from the nest a couple of miles away! Upon recognizing that rare sight, my brain registered a chuckling message, "It's as close as I could get to a puffin." Since Jean had a great sense of humor and puffins were among her favorite birds, the message rang true. I was flooded by feelings of well-being and gratitude and believe Jean was thanking me and letting me know she was doing great. Joyfully, I said, "You're welcome!" and felt the circle of care and concern, intensity and exhaustion, loss and sorrow, heartache and blessing, memories and missing, and love and laughter begin to complete.


Thank you for letting me share my musings with you. Being able to do so is a path to healing and helps me embrace Life's varied offerings.


May you love yourself gently and well.


HUG yourself whole, Sue



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