The quarterback snaps the ball, and, darting first to the right then the left, suddenly puts his head down and goes straight up the middle of the field, plowing through the opposing team members like an icebreaker through Arctic waters.
It makes a good metaphor, you know? Life hands us the ball, a situation we didn’t know we were going to have to face. We can’t just stand there; life demands we move. And time moves us whether we wish it or not. We cannot throw that ball down, it will rebound into our hands. If we try to duck to right or left there are opposing forces waiting to trip us up and to lay us down to the ground, to pile on us in a mound. But those forces also loom at us from the road ahead as we can see it, and we don’t have any easy alternatives.
It’s a very human response, wanting to avoid pain and suffering. However, there are those events we simply cannot avoid in any healthy way. YIELD! the crisis demands, and we must, or the hardship and suffering will follow us and haunt us and be dragged out far longer.
There are several ways we try to avoid our suffering:
Alcohol and drugs. You may have seen the story from more than three years ago of the friend whose doctor placed her on an addictive sedative and left her on it for eight years. The addiction didn’t give her time for the pain to go away; it held that pain at the ready for a more sober occasion, it actually compounded that pain to her grief and adjustment. “Gina’s” story does not have a happy ending: nearly three years after I wrote that post, she was found dead of alcohol poisoning by one of her children. Beautiful and stylish, funny, brilliant, enormously talented . . but it wasn’t enough. She was absolutely certain she couldn’t cope with the situation she was living with. She tried so hard to avoid hurting, at all costs, but there was never a full payout to be free. And in the end, her avoidance method killed her and left her family coping with the collateral damage, in its wake.
Relationships and sex. We were lonely in our marriage, and the fear of unending loneliness is huge. We also have to recognize that the very disordered marriage to our SSA spouse left us feeling unattractive and disordered in terms of our own value. Consequently, when we start dating again, when other men pay attention to us and put the moves on us, it’s a heady experience. The energizing rush of a potential romance is a welcome relief after living in an emotional desert. But the hormonal rush of sex masks a multitude of problems. It covered them in our marriage for a while, and to a degree. Now it’s easy to use “romance” and sex to hide from our fear of being condemned to a loveless life. But we need time to heal and to find our own integrity, and a hasty relationship can be as bad, in a different way, as our mixed marriage to a gay man. I briefly remarried an alcoholic Peter Pan who was, in the end, as selfish and disinterested in me as DH had been. I recently met a woman whose second husband was a serial womanizer. This is something to protect ourselves against.
There are other forms of escape: Work. Absorption in our children. Church. Injudicious and uncontrolled spending. Fantasy and daydreams. Anything that is good in our lives and a good in itself (imagination is a very good thing, for instance) can take on inordinate importance, and gives us a false sense of being protected from our reality or a respite from it. We have to be circumspect. Always.
Because some things in life — and grief and loss are among them – cannot be escaped. There are no shortcuts. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. One has to go straight up the middle of the field. The only way through it is straight through it.