The last few weeks, I have felt like sandpaper, inside and out. I know I’m a little depressed, as this month marks the beginning of the anniversaries. We plan a scuba diving trip, we find out we’re pregnant, we cancel the scuba trip, we lose the baby, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. The pain and depression the miscarriage anniversaries bring to the forefront feel like sandpaper on my soul. Everything scratches and chafes until I feel completely raw and overexposed. That feeling makes me, in turn, abrasive to everyone around me, loved ones included. I know I’m angry, and I know that I am taking it out on innocent bystanders, but I am largely helpless to control it. This results in further disaster and even more sandpaper scratches all around.
I’m not at all saying I am not responsible for my irritable actions; I know I’m usually wrong when I’m “acting out.” But I now have far greater sympathy for the “devil made me do it” defense. It is not fair to punish anyone else for my pain, yet I continually find myself in that exact situation. There are days I could strangle coworkers with relish, and road-rage is an understatement. Over the last year I have gained growing control over the rage part of grief that is so easy to fall into. To me, anger is the easiest of all the accompanying emotions to name and experience for several reasons. It is perhaps the easiest negative emotion to identify, and it is simple – clear even. Sad and depressed seem to feel more complex or at least more faceted than anger. Anger is also the easiest to redirect – you can be angry because someone cut you off in traffic without admitting that you’re angry at God or yourself over the loss.
The same things that make anger the easiest to acknowledge also make it the most dangerous one for me to deal with: I don’t have to identify its source to express it. Sandpaper begets sandpaper…
In spite of the pain, there are some benefits to sandpaper. Grief is initially all rough and jagged edges. I’m no expert, but from experience I know that the timelines are different for everybody and every situation, and the rough, jagged edges come and go in cycles. But the constancy of the emotions does eventually take the edge off of them. Now I CAN say, “Okay, I am sad because this situation reminded me of Hannah. I need to write or call someone to talk or stop and breathe before I go into angry mode and/or depression.” (And yes, I do use “and/or” in my internal dialogue; I think it’s a geek thing and/or I like to leave my options open.) I don’t think the pain really goes away or even lessens all that much. I think the repeated exposure teaches us how to accept it and move on with it, sanding off the peaks and valleys until there is a smooth, beautiful surface.
Sandpaper begets beauty as long as it is properly applied. This is a lesson that I am learning at dunce speed – I should be wearing the conical hat and writing it on the chalkboard several hundred times. I know what the sandpaper does to me; why do I ever rough anyone else up when I’m feeling badly? I, of all people, should be applying salve to the wounds around me instead of inflicting them. I’m trying. I am at least becoming more mindful that most of the time there is an underlying cause to a lot of the rudeness we all encounter. Some people are just rotten, but most of the time, we are just sandpaper burns in search of a little balm. My goal is to apply it liberally from now on and leave the sandpaper to work on my own jagged edges.