Fair warning (as I have stated before about my blog…I share happy stories AND painful stories), as of this writing, this post has no happy ending.
Clock the Time
Perfect for me this week. And I hate it!!
I’m in the middle of the longest, most frightening period of time I have experienced in my 71 years of life. In reality, it’s only been about 7 days so far, but for most of the last week, time has “stood still”, you know, the way it can sometimes when it loses all meaning! But in the moments when relevance has slipped back in…hmm, it’s been 13 hours since I’ve eaten anything…the time passing has seemed like an eternity.
I’m having one hell of a time Choosing My Perspective!
It’s been a little like attending a childbirth…where the only important clocking of time is tracking the number of minutes between contractions, or the more important clocking the time issue, the number of hours of labor so far. I’ve attended so many births and in the latter example, I would be vaguely aware of crossing that somewhat subjective line, mostly determined by the Doc or Midwife. It happens when a labor goes from what will later make a good story-I was in labor for 16 and 1/2 hours to the…Uh-oh, this is taking way too long moment. I know that look, that Uh-Oh facial expression on the face of the person there to “catch” that baby…
All the waiting this week has also triggered some deep, internal philosophical debates about the passing of time and the theory about feelings/emotions I have always taught my clients.
My basic premise has always been what I learned early in my training and education as a Psychotherapist.
-Emotions are basically biological…a physiological response to some perceived trigger, real or not.
-Feelings are not right or wrong. They just ARE!
-We can’t control a feeling response…only what we do with it…what we conclude from it and how we express it.
-Ignoring feelings completely is not good for us. They are going to need expression eventually…and the longer we wait, the more messy, and out of proportion they can become.
So this week, I have been trying to practice what I preach. But I’ve gone completely blank.
I had an experience of this kind of Clocking Time a few years ago. It challenged my beliefs about if, how, or when to express feelings. In a routine physical, an enthusiastic young Doctor decided that I had what looked like a life-threatening disease. Melanoma. She concluded that it had probably already metastasized. The biopsies to confirm this would take 48 hours.
A long couple of days, huh? I did not want to give myself over to the looming panic, but I also did not want to ignore the waves of feelings that were coming up, threatening to wash over me tsunami-style. What a balancing act that was! Luckily, I also knew to trust my gut, and the hard-earned knowledge I had of my own body.
My gut didn’t believe it, so I “waited” as that clock ticked fairly calmly. And it turned out to be, of all things, just an “age spot”!
During that eternity, on the clock just 48 hours, time had very little meaning. But a lot of other stuff sure did. Moral, ethical, philosophical debates raged in my head and heart.
Should I tell my family? Don’t they deserve to know?
Hell NO! There’s nothing to tell yet?
Yes but I always do scary things like this alone and never ask for support. Shouldn’t I reach out?
For what? You don’t know anything yet. Just wait!
Ya but I KNOW how PTSD works. The sooner someone who has been through a trauma can feel the resulting emotions, the better.
Yes but, has there actually been a trauma? You don’t know yet.
I think I was able to survive that two days of time standing still because of that little internal voice that was whispering to me that I was fine. When my gut reaction was confirmed, I could feel a huge relief and then use that to turn the whole thing into just an anecdote. Thank goodness, I also knew to get some “there, there” from my closest people. Turned out it was not a death sentence after all, but I still needed empathy for what was a rather a grueling stretch of stopped time!
I know why this current period of Clocking the Time has me in such a state. Fifty some years ago my mother went missing. I knew she was in serious emotional trouble. She had attempted suicide just two years before and this time, I recognized that same dark, dark resignation and resolve the last time I saw her. But because I was only a teenager, no one in authority would listen to me. For three eternal days, I looked for her, more and more frantically as each hour passed.
My gut was right. And I was too late. When they finally found her, she’d been dead for 3 days.
Right now, we are 7 days into hoping to hear from (or about) my teenage grandson, who “ran away” in a very dangerous state of mind.
My gut is failing me. Strangely and frustratingly silent.
And it’s been the longest week of my life….