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Making Sense of the Pieces

This has been a really hard month for my extended family. [Deja vu. Haven’t I said that recently?]

Yesterday morning I had some insight into why I personally am struggling so much with the unexpected health crises of my family members. (You know, beyond the normal reactions one would expect from life-and-death situations.)

I realized that I am taking feelings, reactions, fears, hopes, reliefs, and thoughts from a number of experiences in my past, and conflating them all into one big immediate THIS is what I need to handle NOW.

In reality, I need to cope with each issue individually. I don’t have to deal with THIS all at once – I can take each piece one at a time. These smaller pieces, when added all together, truly equal THIS big thing. But I need to process the pieces that make the whole, rather than tackle the whole all at once.

For example:

  • I have childhood emotional trauma from visiting a great aunt in a nursing home and not understanding the magnitude of issues the elderly face when confronted with it for the first time on a grand scale.
  • I have (what I thought were resolved) issues with my dad’s angioplasty surgeries and heart attacks over the past approximate 20 years. (These have been occasional, not continuous, problems during this time.) I have come a long way since the first scare, but this month has shown me that I really am not yet ready to accept the idea of the eventual death of my father.
  • I have fears of unexpected and uncontrollable accidents because of two aunts and a niece who have experienced traumatic deaths.
  • I have anxiety concerning strokes because of my grandpa, father-in-law, and others.

This is the emotional place from whence I am trying to deal with the major upheaval of this month.

So yesterday morning when I recognized that I was combining everything into one huge event – rather than the smaller, though admittedly significant, events they were/are – it was an epiphany. I realized that if I slow down and consider each piece individually, not only will it be more manageable but I will be able to make better sense of the whole.

Also, viewing the whole as a multitude of pieces, rather than as one big chunk, will lead to more internal peace – and (hopefully) to an eventual better acceptance of the fragility of mortality, as well as a clearer understanding of life eternal.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Chrysula February 18, 2010, 6:27 pm

    Michelle, I think your realization is profound and applicable to pretty much every element of our lives. The old analogy of eating the elephant comes to mind. One bite at a time. What a metaphor for so much of our lives. And what amazing self-awareness and insight to put all those pieces together in the midst of some very traumatic experiences. Sending prayers and love.

  • facethemusic February 18, 2010, 7:22 pm

    A very insightful assesment,Michelle. It’s not always easy to think so clearly right in the thick of it like that– so kudos to you! And really– it applies to life in general. No matter what the struggles are, when there are several going on at the same time it can be overwhelming. Good post that can help everyone!

  • Michelle D February 19, 2010, 10:11 am

    Thanks, Chrysula and Tracy. It was either find some self-awareness or go crazy with the fears and concerns and hopes!

    You guys are right: Life is full of these yo-yo effects and they can easily become overwhelming. We need to find coping mechanisms that will help us navigate – realizing that some events and some days are just simply going to be harder than others.

  • Michelle D February 19, 2010, 10:14 am

    I am in a much better place emotionally and mentally since I had this epiphany! :clap:

  • Alison Moore Smith February 21, 2010, 11:56 am

    Great insight! And practical.

    One of my kids is overwhelmed with all the many things she’s dealing with — all at once. And sometimes all it takes to regain control is to physically LIST every single thing that is on the agenda. Then it’s more manageable and you can start working on one SMALLish bit at a time.

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