Wednesday, 9 August 2017

The Persistence of Memory and Coping...

I came across this video on one of my vague youtube wanderings. It came at a perfect time. I'm really intrigued by Professor Luc Bovens' philosophy, as it fits me much better than the whole optimistic delusion. Some time ago, my psychologist recommended the book "The Happiness Trap" and "The Reality Slap", I can't remember the author. However, it was while we were discussing positivity and whether it is always helpful. Sometimes we end up discussing greater philosophical questions - exactly what my mental health needs! My psychologist has been a member of cheer squad these past few years. She is very no nonsense, pragmatic and exactly what I need in a psychologist to keep my head above water. 

These past few months have been a flurry of inspiration and deep understanding, as I've began to make sense of all that has gone on these past few years. Not just to me bodily, but around me. A string of deaths, of some of the people who helped shape me in my early years. Those whom impressed upon me, taught me and made me laugh. That unspeakable feeling of being utterly torn apart by the grief that they are no longer of this world. Was their story complete to their satisfaction? Is it ever?  

As I looked back to other loved ones who had been gone many years - decades - and I was struck by the realisation that time fades your recollections. That static moment in time has passed. How profoundly sad I felt by the realisation that some of my strongest memories of them was of negative, angry, or regretful moments that leave me with a sense of deep shame. That isn't all I remembered, but what honour was I paying them by only focussing on the guilt, my guilt? 

I pulled out every memory I could, no matter how mundane. Wrote them down. What I realised while doing this consciously, was that it was the funny, the embarrassing, the quirky memories that emerged as the ones that help me ease that emptiness. I was remembering the person themselves, as they really were. Their images in my head had colour, richness and life. I was still remembering the pain of losing them, but for the first time in a long time, I could remember their individuality. Their voice, their manner of standing, sitting; their favourite book, flowers, music. The dish that they cooked better than anyone else. No matter how suddenly or terribly they left this life; the giant hole their loss left in my being; that wasn't what their life was about; who they really were! It wasn't their legacy, why did I only remember the pain? I have enough physical pain.  If I can ease this heartache in a way I can also honour them, perhaps I can keep them alive in my own way. 

I was coping enough before, but this flash of inspiration struck me deeply. I had reframed my grief, but in doing that I gained a completely unexpected result. I let go of so much baggage; was able to take risks of doing new things, outside my comfort zone. Outside the comfort zone was actually a glorious thing! Possibilities are endless when you dive in knowing it could all fail spectacularly! But it also  work in intriguing and incredibly insightful ways: more than just working out well, but completely beyond my expectations. I stopped worrying about what others thought of me because it was keeping me in that safe bubble-wrapped cocoon. I didn't want to live in fear, because it was holding me back. I still fear; most of the time I am terrified of making an arse of myself, making the wrong decision, taking too many risks. But having fear and being controlled by fear are 2 different things. I will always push beyond pain and limitations when something could be of benefit.

Control is important to me, gives me a sense of order when nothing else makes sense. It gives me autonomy, even if it is over something small. That is what I need to cope when shit hits the fans and nothing makes sense. And if nothing is in my control, likely it is a temporary situation that will present me with options eventually. It's not like it's the first time after all. Past experience has proven it.

I know what works for me. Other people perhaps aren't so annoyingly anal about shit 😉, but understanding this crucial aspect of the way I cope, made other things make sense again. What is outside of my control perhaps never will be anyway. I was more comfortable, balanced in that now. A negotiation between the rational and emotional. I'm not a self-deluded optimist, but a painstakingly chosen one. 

My glass is both full and empty, if only at different moments. I drink from it; it evaporates if I leave it alone. When I spilled my glass all over the table and my friend's handbag on Saturday, she filled my glass from hers and we both had half full. Maybe it was the second time my uncoordinated flailing limbs resulted in a spill... But goes to show that when your glass is 3/4 empty, having a mate or two around can help you fill your glass to half. 

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