Alex Dedicke, MS, MT-BC, LCAT works as a therapist with children and families in SPCC’s Family Trauma Intervention Program (FTIP). He is very, very interested in the ways that people on both sides of the client-therapist relationship manage the reality of suffering for themselves.
Coming Home Heavy: The Weight and Brilliance of our Uninvited Guest
This is the face of it; eternal, inhuman, and uniquely yours. It will wait for you behind the wheel of your car; in your doorway, a moment before you turn the key; at the bottom of the bathroom sink; in your favorite mug, before it is filled. It hums and murmurs in your ears just before you wake up. This is something you are trained, coached, well practiced in seeing. You know the signs and sigils, its wandering, patient, insidious ways.
Unfortunately, you also know quite well how to cope. How to steel yourself, how to get by. You have wonderful reserves of love and energy to draw on. You have the support of enough caring others to carry you through. This is why you never have to face it, really, head on and without deflecting it away. You draw on your reserves automatically, unthinkingly, as if they were endless – and, yes, they almost are. There is a reason for this; although you are warm, you are sensitive and loving and self aware, you are also a survivor: you are viciously efficient when something needs to be done to keep you safe.
Oh of course, of course you are. And something always needs to be done to maintain things safely, to remain okay. This is why you are never standing before a mirror, quietly watching – the way you watch others: with compassion, with your vivid, holding eyes, with truth and closeness and clarity – when your mask slips, slacks, opens; when it reveals the face of it: your face.
Suffering is infinite. Shh. Yes. Infinite.
Luckily we are not – we are blessedly, wonderfully finite. Our circle and our candle is small. We do not hold all the suffering there is and we will not. Not ever. Not even if we run around as fast as we can on our strong little legs, shining our light everywhere, no. We will never illuminate all of it. Not by a long, wide, yes, infinite, margin, no. Never. There will always, always, always be more.
Some of us try – no, well, all of us, really. We all do the best we can with this, with suffering. We bear it as well as we are able. Some of us illuminate more of suffering than others; it comes to us or we go to it, we invite it or it comes uninvited. These are details. The point is it is Here, and so are we, and it is So Much. It is bigger than we are.
Even if we burn as bright and hot as we can. Even if we squint and squeeze and pull ourselves up, muster everything we have; even if we feed our flames, kindle other candles, roar ourselves into a towering inferno and spread ourselves like wildfire from here to the horizon – try to burn it into ash, into nothing, to obliterate it, to destroy it utterly, to unmake it, it is there: enormous: bigger than we are. Hotter. Heavier.
Maybe you come home to chaos, maybe to comfort. Maybe you feel lost in it. Maybe you feel calmer and safer than you think you deserve, here, in this world with so much suffering. Maybe not.
Maybe you are with family. Maybe you see it in them; maybe you don’t see it, and that reminds you all the more of how heavy, how large it is.
It is there; it is with you. You are its face.
You will begin to feel the enormity. You will try to breathe, to think sensibly.
Still it doesn’t go away. I mean the ENORMITY. You try to look away: nope. It is there, too. Everywhere you look.
You feel heavy, angry, hopeless, sleepy. You feel resentful, hateful, done. Apathy. Good. That is as it should be.
This is corrective. It is a reminder that you are human; you are a living being here in this universe. You are not an angel or a candle or a towering inferno. You are just a human, a being as overwhelmed and sad and wounded and terrified and helpless as every other human you’ll ever meet. That’s fine.
You know what to do. You do it every day for others. Sit with it. Breathe. Listen. Accept suffering: do not deny it, run from it, try to minimize it or explain it away. Be with it, simply, without trying to undo it – and if you do try, that is fine, too. You are there, with it, you are there. That is enough.
It is enough. It is already done. Because you are here; because you do what you do, because you are alive, because you are reading this. All this means that you have already decided: you have already done it, over and over and over and over and over again. And you will be with it, the suffering, the sufferer, even if it is yourself; you will be with it until you don’t have to anymore, you already know this, yes, you do, you will, and you have, because you have already decided, because: you are not the person who turns away.