From the receiving end, condolences can be a right pain. Often it is not that people are trying to cheer me up, but trying to get me to appear cheerful, because appearances are important. If only we could express feelings as we felt them, we would not bottle them up. Someone crying on the bus is doing everyone a favour, by modelling authenticity. Would that everyone could be so brave.
They might be trying to console themselves. It’s not so bad really, they say. You will get through it. Well, your vicarious pain at my suffering is not my concern. It will hurt me far more than it hurts you, because I am the one involved, however wonderfully empathetic you are. I will attempt the way you propose that I get through it, but I am aware of possibly insurmountable difficulties with that course which you are not.
Some might be enforcing the “right” way to feel and respond. Cliché feelings. My feelings are far more complex than that. No, don’t tell me what I am feeling. That must be very painful for you. Well, no, actually right now the adrenaline’s kicking in, and it feels good.
Some tell you that they faced a similar situation but they overcame it. A nose or a chin is such a tempting target. I am terrified, and my inner critic is having a field day. I have failed, failed utterly, in part because I have always tried to fit in and keep to the rules rather than following my heart’s desire, and now I am being punished for it. The World sees me as worthless, just as I do.
I am not sensible. I wonder if the Quaker concept of the Inner Light, or Richard Rohr’s God within, applies to me. There’s that bit inside each person which is their Guide, which will show them the true path if only they act in accord with it. Well, Licia Kuenning was certain of her Inner Guide, and look how that ended. My most powerful inner voices are the sensible bit, which tells me what I should do, and unfortunately has no power to motivate me whatsoever however hard it chides, and the inner teenager. Don’ wannoo, she says. Actually, there are things she wants, which are not sensible at all, and I wonder at them.
What I desire makes no sense to me, except that I desire it. It only makes me happy for odd moments. Oh well, I make that choice. I make it. It is my choice. I choose that.
And I was staring at the thing which I must do, thinking, Oh God, that’s dreadful- and the idea popped into my head how to rewrite it. So I did. It’s not dreadful in quite the same way, now. It may be the best I can do, at least in this mood.