Surprised by Sadness

16 11 2010

Taylor Hall- Where the Magic Happens

Last weekend I was a staff facilitator at our annual CLE Fall Retreat where our Northshore practice makes the trip up to the Dekoven Center in Racine, Wisconsin for a time of personal growth in a safe, secluded, and sacred space.  Spanning the first weekend in November I learned and grew in ways I could never have imagined and was able to share that surrounded by a community of support.

After dinner on Saturday as I sat in the leaders meeting, wave after wave of sadness came over me and before I knew it I was sobbing in front of a room full of people I admire and respect.  Though I tried to close the floodgates by taking shallow breaths and looking down, I knew that there was no stopping whatever it was that was coming up.  Initially all I could feel was a tearful rage and had no idea what else was lurking just beneath the surface.  I was tense, angry, scared- but mostly in the moment I had the urge to kill.  I sat there in my chair, fist clenched, mind racing, heart pounding, and eyes swelling.  I wanted for the whole room to stop, for the whole world to stop, and for all of it to just go away.  I knew that that wasn’t going to happen, I knew that whatever was coming up I needed to experience.  I grabbed onto my supervisor’s hand for comfort, support, and safety.  As I did so, my feelings switched from rage to pain and once I put my armor down, each word that was being said was cutting through me like a knife.

As we processed, I was no longer in the leader’s meeting, I was back at the dinner table in my family.  Feeling lost, alone, scared, and wounded I would mentally retreat.  Each night at dinner I was braced for a fight yet could never have told you that at the time.  It all felt normal to me, just the way things were.  We said we were a nice family, and our words would have matched it too, but our actions did not.  There was a game going on underneath the surface, one of superiority, competition, aggression, and shame.  Words were words yet the tone behind them was condescending and mean.  This game didn’t feel nice.  And not having a better way to take care of myself and the upset I would feel- I would bury my head in my plate, rarely come up for air, and eat way more than any little kid should.  I could feel but not directly express the dichotomy at the table.  I was a chubby little kid who used food and extra weight to stay insulated and isolated from his family.  I learned to deal with sadness and pain by eating; my strategy was to avoid inserting myself in the conversation and risk being hurt by always having my mouth full of food

In handling an upsetting situation at the retreat, the leader, Rich Blue, took the very protective stance around my colleague Kathleen and I that I wanted to feel in my family.  I recognized in that moment my profound hunger to feel safe, to truly feel that I would be okay no matter what else was happening around me.  I had never been so in touch with this hunger than I was that night.  It was painful the ways in which it wasn’t met, and so liberating to see that that is available to me even now.  I recognized that what I longed for growing up was for someone to just pull me aside and let me in on the game my family was playing, some sort of warning to let me know what to expect.  I lived in the fantasy of what dinners and family time could be like instead of stepping into the reality of what they actually were like.  Now that I am learning how to more accurately describe my pain and experience of that pain I am more willing to live in the reality of what life is actually like and am willing to use that upset as motivation to change instead of justification to stay stuck.  Though at times it takes me great prodding to get moving and grow, this experience of feeling pain, expressing it, and living to tell the story afterwards has been one more notch in my belt of personal growth and self-discovery.

I hope to have many more notches!




3 responses

17 11 2010
Sue Blue


Thanks for sharing this. What a beautiful description of your experience.


17 11 2010
Andrew Mercer

Thanks Sue, I’m sad you weren’t there to experience it as well.

23 11 2010
Surprised by Success « Ask Merce

[…] my last entry I was surprised by the amount of sadness I carry around and have access to on a daily basis.  I am […]

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