Pain is a funny thing. Sometimes it hurts more to see the people you love in pain, than it does to actually feel the pain yourself – even if you’re feeling pain for the exact same reason. Are you with me?
There are a couple of distinct moments in my memory where watching someone I love in pain has made my heart ache more than I can describe. Some of these experiences have been more acute than others, but the ache is a distinct feeling of helplessness. During these times I would wish that I could just fix it and make the pain go away for them, or at least take some of the load off of them to make it more bearable. As we all know, life just doesn’t work that way.
I feel… a lot. I feel things deeply in my core. If I hear a News story that irks me, it can bother me for days or sometimes weeks. I really have to work to let go of the things I can’t change or control. Eric, on the other hand, is much better at intellectualizing things that are upsetting. He feels them too, but in a much different way than I do. He doesn’t tend to put himself in the shoes of strangers he hears about on the News. Some might say that I have a constant flow of feelings, sharing them with every person I cross paths with, whereas Eric keeps a lot of his feelings to himself, only allowing a few close people to see them when needed.
This past year and a half raising Maddy has really exhibited these differences strongly. I talk about our situation, blog about how I’m coping, and share almost everything with anyone who is interested. Eric, on the other hand, keeps his perspective of our experience closer to him, thoughtfully making decisions on who he needs to talk with.
Thankfully, at some point along the way we came to an unspoken agreement – we each allow the other to do what we need to cope, even if it’s not the way we might choose to deal with the situation. Each others choices might sometimes put the other in a spot that is somewhat uncomfortable, but we know that we are different, and that in order for us to move forward, we each need to do what works for us (within reason, of course). Neither of us trumps the other when it comes to how to deal with this.
We cope differently. I throw my pain out into the world, hoping that someone might be able to catch a little piece of it, lightening my load. Eric keeps his pain closer to his core, allowing specific people the opportunity to slice a little away from him.
Whether it is a result of the different way we cope, or just part of the nature of being human, watching Eric hurt is way more painful than hurting myself. He can go days next to me, where I’m falling apart at the seams, and he is somehow managing to keep it together. But, I know to expect it, there always comes a day when he is the one falling apart at the seams and I’m at a loss of what to do for him.
The things I want to do for him, I can’t. I can’t make it so that we can sleep well at night. It doesn’t matter who wakes up with Maddy when she gets up one of the several times in the night. She cries, loudly, and it often wakes us both. I can’t give him the answers we both so desperately want. I can’t make it easier for him to concentrate at work (heck, I am having the same struggle). I can’t take his worry about Maddy’s future away. I can’t keep the house clean and organized in a way that would make our life feel less chaotic. I can’t create more time for us to accomplish all that needs to be done. All I can do is love him. I want love to be enough, but sometimes, it’s not.