This post was typed early Saturday while I stayed up to keep an eye on Dad. Just an hour or two after I finished, he passed on. I haven't edit the post except for the addition of this paragraph. It will be something I go back and read over and over during the coming years, but its personal nature may not be very interesting for my readers. I hope you all understand.
I'm not very good at expressing my feelings. Wait, strike that. I'm not very good at talking about my feelings. Sure, I understand the purpose of those discussions, and I certainly know the importance of them, but when it comes down to it, I just can't get the words out.
Lately, this skill has been put to the test. With all the highly emotional stuff crossing my path in the last couple of years (infertility treatments, pursuing adoption, the loss of my grandfather, and the apparent impending loss of my father), I haven't had any short of important feelings to share. The problem isn't having these feelings, it's expressing them.
With infertility and adoption issues on the forefront of my priorities, I think a lot about the prospect of parenthood. I think of caring for a baby, I fill my head with ideas of what I will do for fun with my son or daughter, I try to plan those little teaching moments that make all the difference, and I picture what he or she might look like the day our baby is finally placed in our arms. I know guys aren't usually seen as the ones with 'baby fever,' but I'll admit to God and everyone that I'm infected. In fact, I'll tell you just how bad my symptoms are.
1) My wife accuses me of being a baby hog. You know, like ball hogs in basketball. I get to the baby first, and I hold him/her too long. More than once we've left a gathering, only for me to find out that Katie felt like she completely missed her opportunity of baby time. And it's all my fault, because I'm a big, fat, smelly baby hog who can't share the baby with my wife.
2) My family says I'm the favorite play buddy for all of my young nieces, nephews, and cousins. I don't know how true this is, but I see where they get it. I just love playing with them, whether it's the 3-month-olds or the 5-year-olds. They get so stinking excited when you do something stupid for their entertainment! And with the younger ones, you can do the exact thing time 40 times in a row before they get bored with it and stop laughing. I'm telling you, doing stupid stuff in front of kids is a huge opportunity for increased self-worth. If you're not doing it, you're missing out!
3) I cry about really dumb things. Seriously stupid, unimportant, virtually meaningless things. My cousin asked to say the mealtime prayer? Tears. A 4-year-old stranger reaches for his dad after he yawns or stubs his toe? Tears. My nephew asked me to read The Little Engine That Could, but when he got bored his older sister wanted to listen from across the room? Tears. Yes, this actually happened today when I got to the "I think I can..." part. She got the abridged version.
The last part is what gets me every time. Increasingly over the last 2 years, when I get emotional, I get choked up, and when I get choked up, I can't speak without my voice cracking, getting squeaky, and sounding generally as far from manly as you can get. It is a very real concern.
I've had the same problem more and more as I have to deal with sickness and death. I'm way too macho to succumb to my pitiful squeaky voice, so when the emotions hit, I tend to say nothing. Literally nothing. I try to communicate my thoughts through implicit yet subtle nods, smiles, eyebrow raises, and any other movement that has no concrete meaning.
I have yet to figure out how to fix my communication issues, but I have learned to find catharsis. When I can't express my emotions through the spoke word, I look for other ways.
The first method (and probably most obvious to this audience) is writing. I fell back into writing the day after my grandad passed away. I had seen him just a couple weeks before, and we didn't have anything left to communicate. But, I missed his last day then heard details from the family about the closure they felt from being with him. I wanted to find that closure, so I ended up writing about him. I didn't have a medium in mind, I just wanted to write. Since the Newtown school shooting had happened earlier in the week, there had been a comment that "those kids needed a grandad in heaven, so God sent them Bill." It stuck in my mind so strongly that the amorphous, unplanned piece of work came out in the form of an open letter to the victims of the shooting. I felt relief and peace, and the more I looked at the 'letter' the more I hoped it would reach one of these victims, that it might communicate directly to a parent of loss that my just sent a great guy to be a heavenly grandad to their recently deceased children. I didn't have a blog at the time, so I posted it on Facebook. I never heard whether it reached the intended audience, but the sheer volume of positive feedback pushed me back to writing. This blog is actually my only medium right now, but now it's like my couch sessions with a shrink.
The second is running. For a few years I've gone through seasons when my first response to stress is the need to go for a run. I'm sure it seems counter-intuitive that a form of exercise that produces a constant form of stress and exertion would actually relieve stress, but it really works. When I run, I get out of my head for a while. Or do I delve deeper into my head? It's hard to say which it is, but I think it's both. There's a strange combination of meditation and distraction that happens during a run. I occupy my conscious thought with the details of the run (how my legs feel, if I need water, how close I am to optimal training pace), but I'm left without the distractions of small talk and Facebook news. My mind is left free to run through the real, meaningful topics of the day. I start to salve problems relating to my personal relationships and internal struggles. Quite often I come back from a run with a new outlook on a complicated problem.
The third is just plain and simple distraction. It doesn't work well, and it's easily the least effective and least healthy on this list. When I don't have the motivation to do anything else, I simply turn on the TV or turn to Youtube. That's right, i turn to brain rot. It doesn't help me solve my problems or express my emotions, but at least it lets my mind rest for a while. I mean, who couldn't use a little bit of (literally) mind-numbing entertainment from time to time?
Maybe someday I'll master the art of talking through tears, but for today I think I'll just keep writing, running, and rotting.
Always moving forward(ish),