Posted by: Louise | November 22, 2011

on tea & busy sorrow

I started writing this post nearly two months ago. I keep getting stuck. It is supposed to be about perspectives or ways of looking at things, or change or something. I don’t know. I couldn’t (still can’t) find a way to write it that doesn’t suggest I’ve got it all sorted. Because I don’t, not at all, but I seem to be very good at suggesting to others that I do.

You are so calm, Louise.

I get this all the time.

What would it be like to lose control, have a melt down? (Not the exact words, but the general gist) my therapist once asked.

It just wouldn’t happen, I asserted.

I witnessed someone have a breakdown once, a long long time ago. It has stayed with me (that young woman standing on top of the bar at a big public event, shouting wildly at everyone) partly, I am quite certain, because she was “letting go”, letting it all go, and I don’t know how to do that.

I don’t do mania, I joked at work the other day. And then shortly after told my friend how I had spent Sunday (that precious day off) swapping around the study with the Giraffe Princess’s bedroom, up and down, up and down the stairs with books and bedding and clothes and furniture – Eight hours, it took. The Giraffe Princess wearily calculated. I have three craft projects on the go simultaneously, rarely sit in front of the telly without my phone or laptop or one of said craft projects. I haven’t had time to read a book since the summer and am going to bed later and later. My friend nodded with a knowing look. If you want to get away with what you say about yourself, don’t have a friend who is a therapist.

I don’t do mania. Ha! It would appear there are many different types of mania. I don’t do the out of control version, but seem to be quite accomplished at the hamster on a treadmill kind.

I mentioned my self-inflicted busy-ness to another friend and told her I am aspiring to stop for cups of tea during the day. You don’t see that much on gravestones, she said. Here lyeth Louise. She was able to stop and enjoy a cup of tea.

I aspire to drink more tea.

Drink more tea and breathe deeply.

So all this pondering of new perspectives comes in the midst of this, in the midst of excessive busy-ness, daren’t stop busy-ness. It certainly doesn’t come from a place of calm groundedness, however serenely I have decorated my hamster’s wheel.

I’ve been lucky. Nothing really bad has ever happened to me.

Not me, obviously. I could never say that. But others do… all the time.

And in that statement lies so much (and we could take lies with both its meanings here because so much is contained within that statement and so much of it is lies). It says so much about our attitude to life. Life is about the good stuff, the nice stuff. It is unfortunate if the other stuff gets in the way of life. It is unlucky. And there is judgement in it. Because, if life is about the good stuff, then if bad stuff comes along, well, that is not how it is supposed to be. What caused the bad stuff? It wasn’t part of anyone’s plan….

Once upon a time K and I decided to get married and have four kids, two girls and two boys, three living and one dead. I don’t think so.

…There is luck if it is ‘all good’. With that is the suggestion that it is bad luck, or a less than successful life experience, if bad stuff happens. Or maybe that is just me and my ever present inner judge. Whatever it is, in that statement is the suggestion that the best experience of life is the one where bad things don’t happen.

If I peel away all the layers, at my core is sadness.

That one was me. I did say that. “Really?” a friend said, shocked by the pathos of this revelation.

Yes, really. And it is true. That is my reality. This reality wavers between self-pity (Why me? Why me?) to resignation to acceptance? Acceptance, not that my daughter died and life is moving on without her, but acceptance that sadness is now my companion. Under the layers of busying here and there and tidying and making and rearranging and more busying and more tidying, under all those layers is sadness. And that is how it is and that is how it should be. My daughter died.

It isn’t lonely sadness. It sits there with love and wonder and excitement and anger and hunger and satisfaction and frustration and more love, but it is there, playing a blinder of a role at my core.

And here is the shift in perspective. To have this sadness, to live with this sadness doesn’t feel like a less than successful life experience. It feels like an honest life experience.

I never did anger. Our family doesn’t, not proper healthy, get it out, clear the air and move on anger. We are experts in passive aggressive or the slow seethe, but you don’t dare speak it. Anger just wasn’t allowed. Did that make me a better person? One of the most useful offerings I was given when Laura died was when my minister told me (over a cup of tea) that to deny my anger was to deny a part of me that God had created just like every other part of me. I needed to hear that so badly. I needed permission to feel.

Another shift in perspective. Anger is ok. Anger is human. Anger is necessary. Anger is honest. I have a lifetime’s inexperience with anger to make up for. My anger skills are under developed, but I am not afraid of my anger anymore. It is a part of me. It feels honest.

I think the shift is really in the value I place on our my emotions because value is definitely placed on them:
Happy = Good.
Sad = Bad.
Placid = Good.
Angry = Bad.
The best experience of life is the one where nothing bad happens? All is happy?

Mostly, I am beginning to think, life is sad and happy. We gain. We lose. We love. We lose. We feel. We hurt. We are certain. We doubt. It cannot be one without the other. I know love more because I know loss more. And whilst I love and live and even appear happy somedays, sadness will now always be at my core.

That is life.

And because I love this I am sticking it here again. An excuse for me to watch it over.

amiina/Lee Hazlewood – hilli (at the top of the world)


  1. This post is really interesting, I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. I think that my usual rambling comment kind of got ‘stuck’ somewhere and, interestingly, I am now commenting nearly two months after the fact.

    If I peel away all the layers, at my core is sadness. This has been echoing in my skull and, thanks to Angie’s spoken word blog project, I hear your voice saying those words. And I think that I agree. To me, this is honest, an acknowledgement of reality. The sadness at the core isn’t lonely, the sadness is quite rich, accompanied, but I (myself) am lonely. If that makes any sense? But . . . . my daughter died. And I feel at one remove, set apart somehow?

    And although I have often felt my problems stem more from an excess of feeling rather than from the ability to contain my feelings, I find myself staying up later and later with a television and a laptop or a television and sewing or a television and ironing. And I don’t make a cup of tea for myself either.

    Your sequence of equations gave me pause. Interesting isn’t it? A happy, placid life is . . . good? And we are supposed to judge ourself and our reactions and emotions against that as a gold standard?

    Hmm, perhaps two months wasn’t long enough as this comment still doesn’t really make a great deal of sense!

    • It makes perfect sense, Catherine, in the same way that I read back over this post a few days ago and thought that it didn’t capture half of what I wanted to say. I wasn’t sure if what I wrote made any sense. But then I don’t have it sorted and I didn’t want to come across as though I did, so maybe it comes across exactly as it needs to.

      And I think this sadness would be so much easier to bear if it didn’t come with the feeling of ‘one remove’, if it were just allowed to be a part of us – allowed by others that is.

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