This Does Not Mean What You Think It Means…

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on

One of the many things I have realized this year is that I don’t believe I’ve ever truly experienced grief. Or I’ve never allowed myself to experience grief. I truly feel this is hard for me to say accurately. I didn’t experience grief when my mother died in 1998 because we had a terrible relationship. I know I didn’t experience it then because I didn’t feel it. The normal mile markers for grief don’t apply to me…

Certain wires aren’t connected for me. My dog passed from old age just about one year ago. Unfortunately, this was expected because she was 16 years old and in deteriorating health. I have two different examples of death, one a surprise the other expected…still, no grief. Every male client I encouraged to cry in my office would likely view me as broken in this particular instance. Writing all this out brings me to a similar conclusion. I don’t mind being “broken” in this particular way. I am able to view this personal peculiarity from a slightly more objective and dispassionate standpoint than most.

I know of a few things that could cause me terrible grief. But they have not come to pass and they may never happen. I could choose to mourn a few events that have occurred in my life. But even this is not automatic. I would have to think hard about this, honestly. Still not feeling too much of anything. It’s like trying to match definitions to words rather than truly experiencing the words.

I could mourn the fact that friends I was so close to twenty-some years ago have very little in common with me now. I could mourn the busted relationship with my mother, but it was always busted. I would have to turn this on it’s head a bit. My beautiful and insightful partner would likely tell me to mourn the lack of a mother relationship vs the “mother person” herself. I’m positive she would say a variation of this. This also makes far more sense to me. I can take a stab at that maybe…

My dog passing in January 2020 was sad, but again she was suffering so this was a thing that happened when it was supposed to. I miss her, but not feeling grief so much. I’m relieved she is no longer suffering. I wonder how I was able to deaden myself so effectively? So far, this entire page is me fumbling in the dark room looking for the light switch so I can find my grief. I haven’t found it yet. It may not be in here…It’s just a big empty room that grief never occupied. I have come to the conclusion that I have some disconnected wires.

The last 2 years have been tough. The last year especially. I recently wrote I am not the same as I was 9 months ago. I’m not anywhere near where I was two years ago. I can vaguely recognize that man, but he didn’t do things the way I want to do them now. Should I grieve for the angry motherfucker I used to be? All the rage from the unrecognized ADHD seems pretty clear now. It was a mystery to me despite the diagnosis. The ADHD was pulling my strings the whole time and I didn’t see it until two years ago. I could mourn the fact that I’m not exactly who I thought I was. My anger, sensitivities to various things, the way I learn, all influenced by unacknowledged ADHD.

It was mildly terrifying when I realized my brain was unable to track information like most others. I was 49 when this really hit home. I had arranged my professional and educational life in such a way I could avoid my cognitive blind spots. As the hero of my own story, I was protesting against unnecessary paperwork and administrative details. It wasn’t that my brain couldn’t track it easily in a timely manner. It wasn’t that certain tasks still seared me like a red hot poker from years of frustration in the classroom. I didn’t set out to be unorganized or different. I didn’t set out to lose notes on open book tests so I could fail them and then find the notes 20 minutes after class ended. That kid was always going to have trouble in grade school. High school was somewhat better, but the maladaptive patterns were already ingrained. Then there was how ADHD impacted my athletic endeavors growing up. The anxiety that comes from double and triple checking everything because I can’t always tell if I’m doing it right can be overpowering. I had to tell myself a certain story and the only eyes I can see with are my own.

Photo by Deden Dicky Ramdhani on

None of that was what I thought it was. You’re smart, you’re gifted, you’re lazy, you’re always bored. You thought I had an attitude. I thought you were going to break my balls about the same old things. Why would I want to learn anything from you? I forgot how terrifying it used to be for me to learn new things. For a while everything new in school felt like a prescription for failure. While I don’t feel that way generally, a curious set of circumstances reconjured all of those negative feelings over the past two years. I had the pleasure of reliving some of my most unpleasant feelings from grade school as I was turning 50.

What now? Still haven’t quite found the grief yet, but oh well. I am so much wiser now due to my exposure and vulnerability. I never would have said, thought. or conceived of such a thing two years ago. Exposure used to be what happens when you make a big mistake. Exposure means you got caught sleeping. Except that isn’t really accurate for me any more. I can’t be that guy anymore because I see through the facade. I also see why that facade was necessary. What about the concept of vulnerability? Vulnerability is what you work your ass off to eliminate. Except that it’s not. That is not it’s intended purpose.

This is quite a turnaround. However, I’ve checked all my pockets, including my jeans in the laundry, and I still can’t find grief. I walked away from the familiar because it was ruining me and I wound up in an emotional blender. Now I am out of the blender and I feel and see things from a considerably different perspective. I feel and move differently in the world now. I am just discovering and using this new skin. Was I ever hypersensitive? Maybe. But that’s not an easy way to be and the outside world made me pay for that as soon as I left the house. Back then I don’t think anyone realized that was an ADHD symptom. More to the point, I don’t believe anyone cared.

I still have not located the grief I set out to find. I have more semi-objective observations that come from thinking and observing behavior, but not grief. The feelings themselves still elude me. I understand it is in my best interest to experience this, but it appears it isn’t quite time yet. We poison ourselves to escape our feelings. We have been taught they are obstacles and impediments. But they are neither of those things. They are warnings and indicators of specific results and they must be heeded. I will get there, I have just become too adept at hiding those feelings. Wish me luck and thanks for reading. I will tell you how it goes.

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