This week, I took my kids camping. By myself. For the first time ever on my own.
When my marriage ended, I didn’t take any of the camping supplies because they were all at the back of the basement and because I didn’t have the energy to dig through it. And I didn’t want to bring any of the bad-marriage-juju camping supplies.
So I bought all-new supplies. I planned. I wrote lists. When the time came, my little 2010 Tucson was filled to the brim. We made it there. I hadn’t practised erecting (haha! erecting…) the tent at home, so I had a couple of head-scratcher moments at the campsite, but we got the tent up, the bedding down, and some food in our bellies before we settled down for the night.
The next day, my sister and her kids came out too. We spent lots of time on the beach, all got blistering sunburns, laughed, got frustrated, rested, and ate a few roasted marshmallows.
I also felt a ton of feelings. Without all the constant distractions of daily life, you get a lot of feelings bubbling up to the surface. Generally feelings are the collateral damage of daily life, as we are often unable to fully deal with them in the moment. Usually we’ve got a whole bunch of other piles of shit to deal with and so we brush the feelings into the corner. This is fine.
We obviously can’t sit in the kitchen feeling the feelings when the oven’s on and the kids are fighting and there’s a knock at the door. Sometimes we come back to the feelings, but often they float away and we forget about them.
Until we can’t forget about them anymore. They come back up and, without anything to run interference on them, they demand to be felt.
The thing that struck me during this trip was how different my feelings felt. Post-split, my feelings had a hopeless tinge, a teeth-grinding, hand-clenching desperation that felt unsolveable. This summer, the feelings felt more like feelings: involving one part of me, but not dictating my whole existence.
I realised that this is healing. The screaming, edge-of-your-seat pain at the initial injury subsides into a dull throbbing as the wound closes itself. Then, as the scab forms, it gets itchy again. You start to feel it all over again, but differently.
The wound never goes away, not really, and the feelings probably won’t either. As our physical wounds scar and remain, so do our emotional wounds. Although it may feel like we should be “over it” by now, feeling the wounds again may actually mean that they are healing.
The key, I think, is to understand that there is no linearity to any of this. The best we can ever do is to go along with the course our feelings lead us on. Even if we end up feeling that hard tear of fresh grief, we can trust that it’s part of the healing process.
It’s gonna be just fine.
Featured image was created by the author using elements from canva.com.