The Art of Feeling

A few weekends ago my family held an estate sale at my grandparents home. A home they spent over 30 years in and where so many of my childhood memories took place. My grandparents are still with us, but are no longer able to live in their home and due to financial reasons, the house had to be sold.

Since my husband and I won’t be able to head back to Washington for a visit until after hockey season, I will never get to step foot in the house I spent so much of my childhood in again. I wish I would have known the last time I was there to take it all in. I wish I would have had the foresight to go into my grandpa’s shop and soak in the smell, his projects and the items he collected from the past that meant so much to him.

The things that remind me the most of my grandpa are cowboy boots, suspenders, pearl-snap flannel shirts and the amazing smell of his shop. With only an 8th grade education, he eventually ran a successful plumbing company for as far back as I can remember. Before that, he was in the army – a paratrooper in the Korean War whose job it was to rescue POWs. His stories have always fascinated and frightened me since I was little. One in particular about having to jump from an airplane in the middle of the night and landing in the ocean. He watched friends die – getting tangled in their parachutes and others being eaten by sharks. The older I get, the more I can’t imagine some of the horrors he witnessed. He was also an iron worker who helped build the huge Boeing buildings in Everett, WA. My grandpa was my hero.

Being so far away, it’s easy not to think about these things and focus on other things. It’s easy to focus intently on raising Greyson, being in a new city, and running my business. But our minds are remarkable, and things we don’t want to think about have a way of slowly working their way to the forefront of our thoughts. Chris is gone a lot with hockey and sometimes the loneliness for home and family is so incredibly palpable. I long to be able to watch my sweet niece grow, spend time with my family and for the indescribable view of Mt. Rainier on a clear and sunny day.

I couldn’t sleep a few nights ago (nothing new – along with anxiety comes many sleepless nights) and I was watching Garden State – a movie I had not seen since college. I don’t even want to count how many years ago that was, even though it seems like yesterday.

While in college, I naively thought I so completely understood this movie and what it meant to grow up, leave home, and come back to face painful childhood memories. I listened to the soundtrack on repeat, believing the songs were like a soundtrack to my own life. But the fact was, I only lived an hour away from home in Seattle and had no idea what I was doing with my life. I was a hot mess, but having the time of my life. As cliche as it is, ignorance is truly bliss.

As I rewatched this movie, I started to slowly identify with the main character. And much like Zach Braff’s character, I’ve spent a good chunk of my life ‘numb’ – either blocking out painful events (for example, the night I briefly mentioned in my #MeToo post, or my biological dad leaving and abandoning our family) or medicating myself so I don’t really have to feel those big feelings. This was a new realization for me, and it hit me like a brick wall. When was I going to let myself accept and process these things instead of shoving them down into the deep hole of denial.

I sat in the bathroom after the movie ended and just cried. I cried hard and for a long time. I cried, mourning the loss of childhood places and people that made me feel safe and loved, I cried about being so far from home and away from my family during the holidays – again for the fifth year in a row, and I cried for the innocence that was lost in the event I wrote about in my last post. My heart broke into a million pieces with each tear that slid down my cheeks. For so long I’ve gone along with the mantra ‘fake it til you make it’ but sometimes we need to take a step back and just be real with ourselves. It’s ok that some things hurt and it’s ok to sometimes simply not be ok. We can’t heal and grow until we push through these events, we can’t become our best selves by pretending bad things don’t and haven’t happened.

Thanksgiving to Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year, but this year I can’t seem to shake this longing to be back in the PNW for the holidays. I think this is the first time I have accepted that things can’t go back to the way they were. I can’t go back to being the little girl watching black and white movies with my Grandma during our slumber parties, eating banana splits and circling things in the Sears catalogue I wanted for Christmas and I can’t go back to being the college girl who had no idea that some people you trust are capable of really horrible things. The only thing I can do is to work through the pain and move forward and I can’t wait to see what MY best self looks like. In the meantime, I’m going to focus on giving myself the grace to feel – I’m saying goodbye to the deceiving comfort of numbness and welcoming what is to come with open arms.

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