I read this definition of the word grief this morning, and I realized this is how I feel much of the time:
A sense that something has been taken, a longing for feeling, given the answers to life but unsure of the questions. A school yard without children.
I always feel this incredible sense of dread, and I have no idea where it comes from. It’s almost as if, deep inside, I expect something bad to happen every day. Did I get so used to those things as a child that some sort of ‘muscle memory’ has been enacted, and I constantly think, no matter what, that the worst will occur?
A friend of mine said, “You’re probably not depressed, you’re just grieving.”
But . . . about what?
For many years now, I’ve felt as if I’m sitting in a car and there’s no ignition. Or I turn the key, but it doesn’t start. Maybe my starter’s broken. I can’t figure out how to get it going. And cars are what I do. I love working on them. I know why. I like to fix things.
Since I was a child, I’ve been trying to fix things– people, relationships, things that can’t be mended. From a young age, I was fascinated with cars and how they worked, and I wanted to know how to fix them. You see, a car is a simple mechanical thing. Sure, there are complications, like wiring harnesses and sensors, but when you push that aside, it’s clear that a car is much more simple than a human mind, and certainly easier to repair than a damaged psyche.
Growing up in dysfunction, I learned to be self-sufficient very quickly. As some of my friends joke, I was “born forty” with an overdeveloped sense of responsibility. Sometimes I have to bite my tongue to keep from getting involved in things that appear to need fixing. I naturally fill the role of the moderator, smoothing out disagreements and trying to find the most logical solution. Yet beneath this carefully organized exterior is a grieving, screaming child, sobbing and begging to be released.
This is forced vulnerability, giving that little girl a place to vent. When I write, it helps.
So far, I have attended three ACA meetings– Adult Children of Alcoholics –and I feel a sense of dread sinking over me, a deep-seated fear, because I know I’m getting closer to finding that ignition, to discovering what’s wrong with my car so I can start it.
It’s hard to feel feelings when you don’t know what they are, when you’ve been trained to suppress them. Mine boil over into panic attacks, and I can’t seem to differentiate one feeling from another.
I can define things with words, and know intellectually what something means, but–
I’m still trying to fix my car. One day soon, I’ll figure out how.
My starter must be broken.