Grumble Hallelujah on the Kitchen Floor
As I lay on the kitchen floor—my body rocking with sobs, my mouth telling my husband, "I hate my life"—it never occurred to me to pick up the phone and call a friend. To tell someone that the life I was living, in which rug after rug kept getting pulled out from under me over the past few years—my parents divorced, my husband's business tanked, our debt rose, health issues loomed, and our marriage sagged under the weight of it all—was nothing as it was supposed to be.
In fact, I was mortified when my husband rounded the bend and saw me there. Crying and hurting is something I do best alone.
So I was surprised to find Amy Dickinson write this in her 2010 memoir of life as a single mom, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: "I wanted two things when I first learned that my marriage was ending. First, I wanted it not to end. And second, I wanted for others to share a complete and interior knowledge of my heartbreak, followed by demonstrable grief."
Is that true? I wondered. Are there people whose first inclination amid heartbreak is to tell others? In person?
Even though my heartbreak and disappointment were quite different than hers (my marriage, for example, was not ending) I couldn't imagine wanting to tell a soul.
And yet, Dickinson—a.k.a. "Ask Amy," the syndicated columnist who filled Ann Landers's wise shoes—laments that she could not share her grief. "While there might be tiny streets tucked away somewhere in London where this sort of behavior is both possible and tolerated," she writes, "they remain like Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter novels: attended by witches and warlocks and mysteriously hidden from view for the rest of us."
Though I've never lived in London, I believe my middle America neighborhood is much like this. Maybe it's because I grew up being taught to always respond, "Fine, thank you. And how are you?" when asked how I was. What I took from this well-meaning, good-mannered advice was, "No one wants to hear your problems, Caryn."
And a few more "witches" and "warlocks" moved in to block the streets where I could speak.
All through the years of being disappointed with life, I spoke very little of what was going on. I was ashamed. Scared. Confused. For being angry with God, angry with my family, and generally hating my life. I kept hearing the voice in the back of my head say no one cared about my problems. And then, another voice, that my problems were not real problems at all: Look around the globe, Caryn! People are suffering! Starving! Trafficked!