… you think you should.
I recently had an appointment for an eye test at my opticians and it just so happens the opticians is near to a house I once lived in with my ex-family. I lived in the house with my ex-wife and my ex-children (who are all well and alive adults now and not missing me one little bit as far as I know). It’s roughly 20 years ago since I lived both there and at another house as a married man for 13 years. When I was married everything about me was ‘married man’ and for almost 8 years after I’d left the marriage I still felt like ‘a married man’ despite the fact the woman-I-wanted-to-be-married-to-for-the-rest-of-my-life-and-was-still-in-love-with had taken it away from me deliberately and with great pleasure.
So here I am 20 years later sitting in the optician’s waiting room just down the road from the house in which the most important and dramatic moments of my life so far had played out. As far as I knew none of my ex-family actually lived in the area now but as I closed in on the optician’s office I started to get upset. I had this urge to go walk past the house and take a look and remind myself of what I’d lost to see if I could face it all over again and be OK about it but I was failing. What if I actually saw one of them? How would I cope?
All the feelings relating to my lifelong dream of having a ‘wonderful, Waltons-style family’ and the tortuous agony of watching it crumble – being invested but not being allowed to be involved in my marriage – came flooding back. I’m sat in the optician’s waiting for my eye test knowing the house where the life I started but got finished by someone else is just up the road and I feel pain in my stomach and the urge to lie down and curl up in a ball on the floor. I miss them so much. Miss them miss them miss them. Miss the potential family we could have been. If only there weren’t so many misunderstandings (which there weren’t, to be honest, the only person who didn’t understand what was going on at the time was me).
And then I get this unemotional self-talk message: ‘they don’t give a sh** about you and the only reason you’re having this feeling is because you think you’re supposed to. The only person suffering as a result of your 28 years of struggle is you because you think you should. You think mourning for a lost family is what ‘good’ people do and this is your ‘mourning response’. You think if you don’t mourn it probably means you didn’t care and that means you’re a bad person’.
Thirteen years of marriage followed by 15 years of trying to build a decent relationship outside of the marriage with my children while their mother systematically disconnects me from their lives and then having my children as adults telling me they’re going to be abusive to me and there’s nothing I can do about it if I want the relationships to continue and then five years’ ago I end the whole thing and wish them well … I came here just to get an eye test but instead I get ‘mourning adventures galore’ because at some subconscious level I believe I should keep putting myself through it because it’s what good and caring people do and we all want to be good, caring people don’t we?
And it stopped.
Although I couldn’t directly identify the original ‘should’ thoughts – maybe because I’d created them some 30 years ago and they were buried in my subconscious – I understood the message:
‘Stop – this is your grieving and mourning process and no-one else’s – you should not offer it to these people – they don’t know about it and wouldn’t care even if they did’.
And it feels OK. We feel what we feel because at some point we thought we should – maybe it’s time to think differently now?