So I’ve had a pretty interesting summer. One daughter got married, others got their patriarchal blessings and my son got the priesthood and that’s besides my baptism. So why do I feel like I do?
To begin with, I had two months of having my son to pal around with. We did all kinds of “guy stuff” and really had a ball all the while getting to know each other better. Then, as with all things, it ended; time for him to go back home a few states away and back to school, football, etc. So again, why do I feel like I do?
So I began doing what I’ve been trained to do all these years of psyco-stuff and that is to do some self-analysis; break down what I’m feeling to its constituent parts and analyze. This is what I’ve come up with:
What am I feeling?
When did these feelings start?
– When I dropped off my son for the last time.
– When I went to church for the first time in six weeks without him.
When was the last time I felt this way?
In a few words, what is the root reason I feel this way?
– Actually, one word: Attachment.
And that is the process my mind goes through whenever I feel something for the first time and this feeling of attachment is a first. So let me go back a little ways to try to put this all into focus.
In my childhood, I learned that one way to protect myself emotionally is to have the ability to cut people out. This is one big reason that I can meet friends from my youth and not really have much of a feeling for them. To give an even worse example; when my children were born, I felt the joy of having babies in the home, but I never really felt that overwhelming attachment to them. To me, they were a responsibility, where to others, they are an extension of their parent’s beings. Even when I was married, I would look at my wife and it all felt so disassociated. So I lacked that natural skill to become attached to a person, even a family person.
When the time came where my children moved a few states away, I missed them, but I didn’t really feel a whole lot of grief over it. In my mind, it would be the same type of relationship I had with my parents. They’re there, but then they are not. No hard feeling, just that we’re on separate life tracks. Again, no really attachment.
But I knew something changed in me when one evening I looked out at the ARP group and I really felt a love for all the men there. That’s not exactly empathy, there’s something else, there’s a different how and why.
Well, here one answer:
Ether 12:27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
There is no improvement we can make of ourselves without the hand of God. I truly believe that. If the scripture that says that if we obey the law, we get the blessing (D&C 130: 20-21) then it stands to reason that this law extends to every single person on the face of the earth and beyond. It explains to me how really bad people I have met in past group therapies can turn into good people because as they began to strive to better themselves and treat others honorably, they got the blessings that are tied to such acts; God made those weak things strong. So as I strove to obey God’s laws, strove to be of service to other people, strove to build people up, I received the gift of being able to love others.
But this doesn’t answer the question of why? Why do I have to have these emotions? Why is it that the more I learn to behave, the more I feel? It just seemed unfair. Emotions have always been a negative for me. If I felt it, I did my best to drive it away. This is why I became addicted to stuff; to suppress these emotions that I didn’t want. So by the time I imploded my life, I was pretty dead inside. It took many years of back and forth to be able to feel alive and, more importantly, not be afraid to feel that way. I became better at coping but the habit of suppressing my feelings and emotions was an addiction unto itself that was almost impossible kick. Eventually, I got to the point that when I felt something new, it became not a terrifying experience, but a curious one. Something as simple as a feeling of friendship was a curiosity I analyze to death.
It wasn’t until I had a friend suddenly pass away that I really learned what it was all about. I won’t go into how I learned this because it’s a very sacred experience. Suffice it to say that I learned that emotions are a gift from God, they bind people together and they make life beautiful. That in-and-of-itself was an extreme eye-opener to me and instantly changed the way I viewed emotions. It’s still a curiosity, but I’m not scared of it. Matter of fact, whenever I get angry I relish the chance to break it down and really discover why I got so mad. No, I don’t go looking for things to get me angry and yes, I do apologize to the person I got mad at but feeling has become fun. I know, it’s strange.
Back to this past summer: this is why that out-of-the-blue new emotion became a source of analysis and curiosity to me. But there is one difference; where I said before that feeling became fun, this one is not. It doesn’t scare me, but for the first time, to this extent, I really, truly and deeply miss my children. And it hurts.
Am I depressed? Maybe. Am I sad? Yes. Do I feel the sting of separation? Most definitely. Will these sad feeling last? No, they won’t. But it’s a necessary part of life to feel these things, just as it is to feel happiness and joy. And for me, it’s necessary to feel this sting so that I know that I can have a healthy connection with someone and not be driven back to the habits of the past in a desperate attempt to try to escape it.
So yes, this is progress because I now know that I have the skills to not only cope and live with sadness, but to, in an odd way, enjoy the feeling.