I have this incredibly horrible habit of pulling myself away … of freezing up with this indescribable fear … when good news surrounds those I love.
It’s not that I’m bitter about their happiness, or jealous of such good news. If anything, I am typically very excited for my friends and family. I’m absolutely overjoyed with their wonderful news.
But the thing is, it never seems … at least in my humble opinion … that I come off as sounding genuinely happy whenever I congratulate the receiver of such good news.
To me, it’s an awkwardness that I can only compare to expressing sympathy for the passing of a good friend’s aunt or uncle … I realize how important this family member was to my friend, however because I may have never physically met this family member … never really knew this person … I just can’t quite understand how much this death will have affected my good buddy.
Nevertheless, that clumsiness is socially acceptable. That feeling of ineptness is considered “normal” in most circles.
Whereas the ineptness I feel whenever whenever I attempt to express my happiness for my loved ones … Well, it’s as if I lack grace. Or elegance. It feels, although not purposefully, as if my smile never quite reach my eyes … as if the light bulb in my brain is permanently set on dim. It may appear to others that I am only “blithely” expressing my happiness for my loved ones, my friends. But that, I can tell you, is not the case.
In full disclosure, I do feel a bit of sadness. But this sadness is not directed at my loved ones. It is truly a sadness just for me … and is directed for myself alone.
I know I’m rambling incoherently here. And I know that despite the utter happiness I feel for my friends and my loved ones … I continue to have this emptiness in my chest (or in my uterus, as it may be).
I know, as Dr. SIL so eloquently stated, that another person’s biggest joy could very well coincide with my biggest grief. And I know this is the reason I find myself pulling away from those that I love during the happier moments in their lives.
I know all this. And logically, I also know that I’m allowed to feel such sadness for myself … to pull away during those snippets in time … all in order to move forward and away from my grief, and so I can remain strong in the face of my own personal demons.
But … it doesn’t stop me from continuing to feel the guilt. And this logic doesn’t stop me from feeling as if I’m such a horrible person for feeling the things that I do. Or that I’m downright being plain selfish by having such thoughts of sadness for myself, any myself alone.
And it certainly doesn’t help that society follows that same train of thought … that sadness in the midst of other people’s joy is neither polite nor socially acceptable.
That … that “social nonacceptance” is the basis for my irrational fear whenever good news is sprung in my direction. This is why I freeze.
Because quite frankly, I’m not sure if I should be honest with myself and allow myself to feel the way I do. Or if I should just “shut up” in order to remain socially acceptable.
Either way, it’s happiness mixed with a little angst. A bit of joy mixed with pain. A little sunshine with the rain.
And a whole lot of frustration and isolation (self-inflicted, of course) to boot.
8 Replies to “Joy and Pain”
Hey Em – I think maybe this is your normal, even though it may not be socially normal. Everyone is different and we’ve all been shaped by our life experiences. Maybe a goal would be some balance between allowing yourself to feel what you feel, but not allow others (besides your loving husband) to be impacted by your being honest with your feelings. Maybe it will be easier to balance now that you are in Chicago. I’m just rambling here, not sure if any of this makes sense. So how is it going with hubby in town permanently?
I tend to lean toward the over-exaggerated excitement in order to make sure I get my point across. I’m pretty sure that’s socially akward, too! ((hugs))
I understand this. I have a terrible time with “feelings” and “emotions” (like the quotation marks? I DO) and when people express them, I get a little weird. My knee jerk reaction is to make them laugh. Not a good thing.
It’s a silly, simplistic idea we have of the heart: That it can only truly feel A or B at one time. But we always are wound up in a whole net of complicated feelings. I don’t think you have anything to be ashamed of. You hurt. You don’t want to, but you do.
On a completely different note, dim sum! I’m so jealous.
I think sometimes people don’t understand that you can be many things at once. And that being sad for yourself doesn’t take away from the love and excitement you have for them. I think that those people you love should understand that. I hope they do.
I get it Emily, I truly do. We are so complicated — our depth makes us capable of all sorts of things at once. You just need to do what is good for your heart my friend.
Oh and P.S. — it reminded me of my brother’s news of the second child –it took my breath away and here was this person who I loved more than anyone — and he wanted me to embrace his news with love and excitement — and my heart was so tightly closed — all I could do was tell him the truth — I am happy for you– truly, this is just a very difficult time for me. Saying it aloud made it easier for our relationship I think….
Some things in life are just bittersweet. I’m truly happy that my friends get pregnant and have children – their victory is my victory. But it also reminds me of what I don’t have. So I have to acknowledge that it makes me sad that I can’t share those type of experiences with the people love and care for. But I still deserve to seek my happiness in other ways, through other paths. There’s no perfect way to feel.