My family and friends seem to want me to be more angry than I appear. They want me to be upset about having to keep the dog for a few months, or possibly storing some boxes for a while. They’re angry enough to want to make a fight out of that. They think they’re angrier than me because i’m not interested in having that fight. The truth is that my anger, sadness, and pain is much, so very much, deeper than inconvenience and frustration. That’s what I tell them. Even as I say it though, I don’t really feel it. I believe it, I’m not lying, I just don’t really feel it. I’ve read about people feeling numb and I wonder if this is what I’m experiencing.
Still I worry… Why don’t I feel it? I am angry! Aren’t I? The two stories I’ve written below illustrate how I came to understand the numbness and my true feelings.
Just a Glimpse
I was pulling out of the parking lot of a department store on my way to meet up with a friend. In general I was feeling normal, even good, for most of the day. As I was advancing in the line to make a left turn an unremarkable SUV passed by. In it sat a man and a woman, each seemed to be about 5-10 years older than me. In the back sat a young teen-aged boy, maybe about 14 years old. The couple in the front was smiling in a casual sort of way and the boy had his head down looking at a phone or ipad or something. All-in-all a typical suburban family. Suddenly and only for the tiniest moment a thought entered my mind:
This will be what we look like someday.
But faster than this thought could connect with my mouth and cause a smile, it was overtaken by the lightning fast, massive force of reality. Before I could even complete my turn, just seconds after passing the SUV, I was in tears. Real tears! Not sobbing or crying out loud, I just felt the tears streaming. Even as I felt surprised at how quickly this deep sadness welled up and overcame me, it continued to hack away at my illusion of composure. My face twisted up in agony and there it was. I couldn’t stop it. I’d been overrun by grief. It got me. Just that fast. And all it took was the briefest glimpse of the life that should have been. This thought had been merely a vestigial fantasy, a tendril curling out into my mind from a source that had been brutally and sloppily torn out. The wound is still fresh and this poor, lonely, small thought had been left behind to rot. How many others like it are there I wondered? I suppose I will find them all eventually.
As the moment passed, another feeling surprised me. I was relieved. I was actually relieved at the realization that I’m fucked up enough to get emotional and lose it so easily and suddenly and without control. Why? Well, for the most part I had been feeling OK. I was actually worried because I wasn’t feeling much at all. Was I OK with her betrayal and abandonment of our family? No. Now I know that I am most definitely not OK. This means that I did love her, that I will miss her, our life together, and the life we were supposed to have. I know now that I am normal because this really is fucking me up.
Suffering While I Sleep
For about two weeks I had been waking up cold and sweaty. Not every night but nearly. Early on I thought I was sick. Then I thought something might be wrong with my air conditioner. I tried sleeping without the fan on, fan off, more blankets, no blankets, setting the thermostat higher, then lower. I tried drinking more water, less water, eating earlier, I even tried going to bed drunk once. Nothing helped. Then one night I awoke in the same sweating and shivering state. This time was different though; I remembered something. It was slipping away quickly right then and by the time I could write this I only remembered one thing. It was her. I’d had a nightmare about my soon-to-be ex-wife. That’s all I can recall now, but holy shit. I’ve never had a recurring dream that caused me to wake up in cold sweats, not ever. As I sat up in bed and made my way to the bathroom, I chuckled at that particular realization. I actually felt better when I realized that I’m dealing with some deep seeded and fucked up feelings. Relief. No shit. That was unexpected.