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Chapter 11: The Numbing

Perfectly Imperfect | The Middle | The Numbing | a book of the stories of my middle, and our own becoming | Sunset

By the time I was in the middle of my divorce, I felt almost nothing about it.

I felt almost nothing about everything.

Even the deep, beautiful feelings I had for my children were fainter then.  I was a ghost, floating, but not fully present in the flesh.  

It is a painful thing to admit, but by that time, I had sunk down into the deep.  In the place where the stamps led me, the place where my deep desire to be approved of led me, the place where denying your own knowing nearly chokes all the life out of you.

I grew up a feeling person.  Deeply feeling.  Sobbing at the end of movies, and falling in love every single chance I got.  Displaying visible anger and emotion, and quick to share whatever I felt, I always suspected I was a bit too much.  

Which inevitably leads to feeling like not enough.

I began my long journey to find the stamp of tolerant, even-tempered, understanding, compromising, peacemaker. 

And while I was always a peacemaker at my core, I was equally always fierce.  There is fire inside of me, and the passion that bubbles within is constantly set to a slow boil.  I always was and always will be on fire for LIFE. 

So the shedding of our own ability to emote takes time, and it takes a multitude of hurt.  It begins slowly, with, “you cry too easily,” and “you’re so emotional.”  It kicks in high gear when your emotion gets you a cold, blank stare or worse inside of a sacred relationship.  

By the time I was 34, I knew how to control my emotions.  Faced with any type of conflict, no matter how elevated, I was calm.  Totally even.  Stoic.  I prided myself on being able to remain level-headed, and to speak quietly while others screamed.

And while there is some goodness in the controlling of our emotions, there is some evil in suppressing them.  

Calm turned into quiet.   Quiet turned into silent shame.  Shame turned into doubt.  Doubt turned into fear.  Fear turned into resignation.  And resignation?

Turns you into numb.

I never understood the numbing people would talk about.  Some deal with the numbing from the time they are born.  Some find it after trauma in childhood.  Some find it later in life.  I found it when the world screamed for me to make my marriage work, and admit that it was me who was the problem.

You’re too emotional.  You just have to try.  You just have to do this.  You should be grateful.  You should stay.  Is it really that bad?  

I found the numbing when I was in the deepest of the pretending.  To stay, I had to numb.  To connect with anyone, I had to numb.  I was not me, but them, whoever that happened to be at the time.

And I felt nothing. 

I remember sitting in my car one day, for close to half an hour, letting the numbing sink in.  Numbing out so I could walk inside.  So I could stay.  So I wouldn’t go.

So I wouldn’t feel.

Sometimes, the numbing protects us.  It protects us for a time.  But slowly, and inevitably, it folds us into tiny pieces of ourselves, scattering us into remnants across the cracked floor, some specks falling through the cracks.  

Those pieces don’t ever come back, fully.  

The numbing begins subtly for some.  It did for me.  It became a part of my being, the ghost who held my hand and shrouded me from feeling so much pain.

But the shrouding took with it love.

And breath.  And fire.  And joy.  And LIFE.

We don’t get to choose which parts we numb.  There is no picking and choosing.  The numbing eventually takes it all.

The numbing can protect you.  But the numbing will eventually isolate you.  And the isolation…this is what sends us to the place beyond the deep, into the places where our thoughts tell us we would be okay with not waking up tomorrow. 

The isolation takes us into sorrow.

Until one day, by luck or grace or miracle, we speak.

We speak for ourselves even a small truth.  We speak one sliver of how we actually feel.

And for a split second, the isolation lifts, no matter the reaction around us.  No matter the chaos.  Someone is with us.

We are for one moment fleshed out again, breathing and walking, grounded in our own souls.

And if we are lucky, we sew a small thread to join our flesh to our soul once more.  The ghost doesn’t go away just yet.

She stays and we float together.  But there is a stitch now.  She can see it.  She can feel it tugging at her.  

She remembers.

She remembers what it feels like to feel.

She remembers she is still alive.