December 4, 2012

Working with Sadness

My body feels creaky. My lower back aches. Yet my osteopath and massage therapist find no structural or muscular issues. This doesn't surprise me. My sacrum and belly are reacting to strong emotions--to deep-seated sadness. Sadness I've held all my life.

When I was five, my mom was diagnosed with bi-polar condition. When I reached high school, mom additionally struggled with severe anxiety and worry. Now, my mom struggles to walk. All my life I've wanted to save her--to take away her pain; allow her to see and embrace her beautiful soul; to give her strength and tools to cope. All my life. 

Through therapy, writing, and meditation, I arrived at a place of peace with my mom. I knew I couldn't change her, affect her actions, or save her, but I could love her, treat her with patience and compassion, and listen. Yet even in this place of peace, my insides feel torn apart again. All the sadness comes back as we place my mom in a nursing home. It feels like the final frontier--this could be my last chance to save her, but indeed I cannot. And that makes me sad.

As I make my transition from safe career to soul-filling (unknown) career--as my heart sings and I see the beauty in myself--my mom transitions to a nursing home; her final stop in a life filled with difficulty. Is this juxtaposition ironic or meaningless or telling? I don't know. But it has a powerful pull on my emotions. Does it honor my mom that I'm spreading my wings in a way she never could? Or is that question just another route through which I hope to save her? 

I often think about choices--the choices we all have, even in times when we feel boxed-in. I think of the choices my mom never made. I think of the choices I have made. Perhaps there's nothing here to ponder. I know she loves me unconditionally; she's unwavering in her support of her daughters. I know I love her; I see her kind heart. And, really, that's all I need. So why is this so hard? Why do I feel such strong sadness and pain? Perhaps precisely because of that love. And the complicated nature of relationships and life (and death). No easy answers when working with sadness. The sadness will stay for a while; I'll work with it; eventually my insides will feel less raw.

And, in the meantime, I'm beginning a new path. My mom can't walk, yet I feel like I can fly. And such is the circle of life.


  1. Joy,
    My heart aches for and with you (and your family) as each of you embark on this new path. There is no neeed to have everything figured out or to seek out answers. They will come as you continue to honor your thoughts, feelings and needs.

    Something I've learned from you:
    Simply "surrendering" to your inability to save your mom can open you up to new perspectives, new ideas and new ways to care/support/honor her (even in the midst of sadness and pain). You aren't surrendering your hope for something better, nor are you surrendering your love and commitment to her-- you are just surrendering your desire to control an uncontrolable situation. And sometimes letting go of that desire and replacing it with what is here right now can take even a little bit of suffering away.

    I admire you and your willingness to share during this difficult time. Sending love up to you!

  2. Stephanie is spot on...kudos. Another thought...I think when someone lives a compromised life, all of their life, it feels normal. It feels safe. Your wish to save her comes from what you realize is possible from your personal experience. Hers is different. To love her might be all she needs.

    More hugs to you, Joy!

  3. Deep thanks, my wise and supportive friends!

  4. It is the sadness of what "might have been." In this particular instance it is so sad because what IS is so very, very much less than what MIGHT HAVE BEEN; like the difference between stone age medicine and modern medicine. Life is just very difficult for many people.

  5. By the way, the picture selection and progression is wonderful in this piece.